Saints Next Five Games Are Crucial Wednesday, 9th Jan 2019 09:27
Saints travel to Leicester knowing that their next five Premier League games will either see them starting to pull clear or in deep trouble.
The key in a relegation battle is to keep your head, keep focused and not worry about what the other teams are doing and from this point of view Saints season is still very much in their own hands even if it doesn't seem that way sometimes after what looked a decent point at Chelsea also saw us drop into the bottom three.
Sometimes you have days like that though and that point at Stamford Bridge was unexpected and very much a case of a bonus point, if everything had gone to form in the New Year's raft of games then we would have been 3 points adrift, instead we are only two and now have the chance to start to show that all the hard work in training is paying off.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has made a solid start to his Saints managerial career, his first six League games in charge have seen him pick up 7 points, that's 1.16 average per game and that is solid mid table form.
The record looks even better when you consider that three of those six were against Big Six clubs, games where we were expected to get zero points and we actually gained 4.
In this run 1 in 2 games were against the Big Six, in the remaining 17 fixtures that ratio is now over 1 in 4 and that has to be a plus point.
But the Premier League runs on fine margins, the Austrian's first game in charge was a good performance at Cardiff ruined by a defensive error, the story of our last two years, if we had drawn that game then the table would look a lot better we would leapfrog Cardiff and be out of the bottom four.
But we didn't and we aren't, we can only look forwards and not backwards and the next five fixtures are now crucial.
Leicester A Everton H Crystal Palace H Burnley A Cardiff City H
Having mentioned that Hasenhuttl's points ratio is 1.16 a game if he maintains that we will have 35 -36 points and that would be tight but possibly would see us stay up, ideally we want to see that ratio increase and this five game spell is a great opportunity to do that.
From the top en of the scale we could win 4 out of the five and if we did that we would be within a couple of wins of safety, from the bottom end of the scale though a failure to take at least 6 points could be catastrophic and leave us looking at another great escape season.
We need to try and start this run of games well, ideally we would take 4 points out of the first 4 fixtures, it doesn't matter which order we take the points, but if we could get a minimum of this then that sets us up nicely for 3 games which are well and truly six pointers.
A home win against Crystal Palace is essential in my opinion as staying up is not just about beating the bottom clubs but beating mid table teams as well, it is one of the home games that with respect to the Eagles we should be looking at taking three points from.
Avoiding defeat at Burnley would also be a good result although a win would be better and then perhaps the most important game of the lot Cardiff at home.
In my opinion the bottom three will come from the following clubs, Huddersfield & Fulham I think will go down and then it is one from any of the following five clubs, Cardiff, Burnley, Newcastle, Palace & of course ourselves.
Palace have already made great strides in recent weeks especially with their win at Man City and that has pulled them clear of the pack behind them, they will be looking for a couple of wins quickly that will take them to safety.
I think Newcastle will join them so that leaves the question whether another club can push on quickly and make the relegation dogfight a little tighter for the clubs down there.
We have to be favourites to do that, we have to play all three of the other bottom clubs at home, we win all those games and we are safe barring a complete collapse.
But being favourites and winning games is not the same as getting the points on the board and we have learn't some hard lessons in the past two years and indeed this season, if we are to do this with ease then we need to get a central defender in during this transfer window and we need to do so fast.
None and i mean none of our central defenders have shown that they are of the quality needed and this has to be addressed, the draw at Chelsea glossed over the fact that although we defended stoutly and resolutely Chelsea still saw the whites of the goalkeepers eyes on four occasions and should have scored, Gunn saved us on three and the linesman's flag on the fourth.
This is our achilles heel and it hasn't been addressed properly since Van Dijk left and it has cost us dearly.
Personally I think Wesley Hoed alongside a decent experienced player would be our best bet although Ralph doesn't seem to agree with me, Bednarek is raw and needs experience alongside him and a leader.
So we go into this run of five games without that leader, Claude Puel coached us to 8th place with Yoshida & Stephens at the back by packing the midfield and protecting them with the end result we rarely attacked with numbers and stopped scoring goals, Ralph doesn't look like he will play that way, so we need to get someone in .
As I said at the beginning we are capable of winning three and drawing two of these fixtures, do that and we are on 27 points perhaps two wins from survival, but on the other hand if we lose three and draw two then it is going to be difficult to stay up.
These five games are crucial, but then again so is buying a central defender !
Correct analysis of the Puel 2nd half of the season - we had to set up to protect our defence. Our defence has been obviously lacking a leader since then - it's all very well buying players who'll develop into good players, but you need to have some quality and leadership in place for them to flourish.
Yoshidas absence for the next matches certainly more than underlines our need for another new CB, but I unfortunately I don´t think we will get one. We will probably have to do with the centerbacks we have got (until´ Yoshida is back): Bednarek, Vestergaard, Hoedt (those 3 cost us in all close to 40 million pounds, and the budget for new CB´s has therefore, unfortunately, long been spent...) and - recently returned from loan - A. Jones. I expect Hoedt to be moved on this month, so that leaves us with the 4 others. We will probably shuffle between playing 2 and 3 of them at a time depending on the opponent. Yes - we are, and probably continuously will be, a bit thin in that department. But we seem to be even thinner in the attacking department, so, if we buy one or two new players it will probably be attacking players. This is the reality, I´m afraid. Not that I´m at ease with it...
On the positive side Josh Sims is back! (And Hesketh and Alfie Jones). We can definetely use Sims speed in RH´s tactical plans, if he is up to it and in good form.
Besides, let´s support RH´s ´new` pool of players, of which Hughes overlooked most of them:
M. Obafemi Y. Valery A. Ramsay T. Johnson C. Slattery M. Barnes
KRIsaint, I do hope Sims can add something, I liked the look of him a couple of years ago, but sadly he seems to have gone backwards at Reading and peraps ill be proved wrong, but if he cant get into a poor Reading side its hard to see him getting into ours
Sonic, this next few games has no room for muddling, too many teams are playing one another, if we muddle out a draw or two against Cardiff and Burnley chances are one of them will have pulled away from us
Nick, every game is crucial now - 17 games to go and 20 minimum likely needed - that's more than a point a game which we have failed to achieve in 21 so far.
Sadly, I can't see it happening and we will rely on others to keep us up. Doubt we'll get anything from the Kingpower. Vardy will find a way past Stevens at some point or other in the game and our makeshift strike force will struggle.
We literally have to win at Leicester, nothing else will do. Leicester though will respond to the criticism that they received from their Newport game and I think that result has made it even more difficult for us. I would imagine Vardy will be back unless he is carrying an injury.
Saintbrock, if 20 points are needed then that is almost exactly the points per game ratio that Hasenhuttl has achieved so far, we all know that we have a dodgy defence but the hope is that if we can get that points ratio in a transitional period whilst we are getting fitter etc and injuries as well as half the games being against top six sides then things can only get better.
A1079 says we have to win against Leicester, thats far from the truth, if we lose then we have 16 games left to get 20 points, Leicester and Everton are the least important of the fixtures to win or at least not get beat in
@ SaintNick , Yeah, I´m also wondering why Sims didn´t seem to have had a bigger impact with struggling Reading, but - after all - he did play in almost 20 games for them. Maybe he wasn´t used right....? And there came a new manager, right?, Gomes or something, who nullified all loan deals, including Simsy´s, because he had totally different plans with the team? I hope and think Sims will love what has happened at Saints and believe in his chances. He has something that RH is looking for. In abundance: PACE. :-) Also, I heard that Alfie Jones is a pretty decent CB, who used to captain the U23s. Can You comfirm that?
It seems RH does not fancy Hoedt at all. Otherwise RH would have had him in his match squad by now, which he - so far - has not. But You never know. Maybe he suddenly gets a chance - and does well. Personally, I´d like to see him have another chance - unless a club suddenly moves for him and are willing to pay what we paid for him in the summer of 2017, in which case I would sell him and probably use the income for buying attacking personnel (and, if there is money enough, take a CB in on loan).
The next 17 games are crucial in my view . If we don't sign a couple of good players in key positions there is no way we will 'pull clear'. I expect it will be a close-run thing but we should stay up. I suspect it will be a bit like last year with Huddersfield playing the West Brom role. Hopefully we will play the Saints role rather than the Swansea or Stoke one! Six wins will probably do it and we have at leat 10 'winnable' games so why not? Under Ralph it feels a lot more possible.
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We need to get back to our strongest first team ASAP , simple as for me
Against Leicester we are without
Ings, Bertrand (prob), Yoshida, PEH and Lemina (prob) so almost half our first choice 11 plus Obafemi, Gallagher and Austin if he is banned as options off the bench.
If that carries on for long and if we don’t sign any replacements in jan and we have weakened the squad selling Gabbi, Davis etc then I’m worried.
It’s more important to get them back in those 6 pointers ahead and with half a team out can we expect much at a wounded Leicester, with a lot less players out and with Puel no doubt still having a point to prove ? Gonna be tough but you never know.
RH is a work in process. Only when he's finished will we see whether he's delivered a cartoon or a masterpiece. We must sign a hardened battling defender this month whatever he does, otherwise his picture will contain plenty of smudges.
Re the various comments about Josh Sims. YES - he made a real impact in those few apps. last season, but Mark Hughes is the type of manager who likes to use his "most experienced " players (which is why we got Hoedt every week ) whilst shipping out the likes of Sims, Hesketh and Jones from the U23's.
Josh Sims was unlucky to go on loan to a club that was struggling - and got worse - and a change of manager made it worse. Looking at past "loan-outs" we've made it always occurs to me that clubs often look to fins an extra b*m to sit on their bench rather than looking to improve a youngster who might only be a short-term loan. I read reports that Reading fans were very enthusiastic about Josh's early games but when Reading started to crumble, he ( as a loanee) was the one of first casualties.
The trio I mentioned above have far more U23 experience than some of the youngsters that RH has used of late, so let's hope they get their chance now that they are back. I read that the extent of Jake Hesketh's injury is still uncertain, but he is still more experienced (better) than Slattery, who got his debut last week.
I hope you are right Nick about Hasenhüttl's points take average. The last thing any of us wants is for Saints to return to the Championship, quite a few of us on here might struggle to ever see them in the PL again.