Saints V Cardiff City The Verdict Monday, 11th Feb 2019 09:02
Yet again Saints concede a goal in the final minutes and this one seems like the end of the world, but it isn't !
I delayed writing this Verdict for several reasons, the first being that I like many was gutted to once again see us throw away a goal in injury time and in such a vital game.
The second was that I wanted to wait a little, let my own emotions calm down and look at it rationally, on Sunday I saw many knee jerk reactions on social media, yes this was a disastrous result, but it is not a fatal one, some people have lost sight of all that Ralph Hasenhuttl has done and are using this game as a barometer for the whole season.
I get accused of all sorts of things at times if I put up a view that does not coincide with that of the popularist one, but I try to look beyond the easy options and look at all the evidence, I was hopeful that the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl would bring an end the era of bedwetting and usher in a new positive one, but it seems I was wrong, some people have short memories, the Koeman years are now looked upon with rose tinted spectacles, many forget the constant criticism that went on back then against the board, certain players and even the manager, I had hoped that this had now gone, sadly after our first defeat in 5 Premier League games it hasn't
The issue as in every game has been poor defending and in 3 of the last 4 games we have conceded goals in injury time, the last two games have especially hurt us in that they have cost us 3 points, the table would look a lot different with those two goals not conceded.
Without wanting to sound smug I have spent two years pointing out our deficiencies in defence, earlier in the season the scapegoat was Wesley Hoedt, with him gone nothing has really changed, we have taken a big big gamble in letting Hoedt go and not replacing him and so far it has not paid off, but the only table that matters is the final one.
Some even blame Gao for this defeat and demand he get out of the club, anyone get caught up in the queue of prospective owners stretching down Brittannia Road after the game ? I thought not neither did I !
We lost this game for the same reasons we have dropped points in others, lapses in concentration and poor defending leading to conceding goals we really shouldn't have.
But we did concede these and we can now not change that, I don't think that Ralph Hasenhuttl has done much wrong since his arrival, but I think he did get this one wrong, personally as I said in the preview, we needed to change the goalkeeper and a central defender and I was proved right.
I also thought we lacked the delivery that Matt Targett has given us in recent weeks, in a short period of time he has rocketed to the top of our list for assists, Ryan Bertrand did little wrong, but his final ball was not of the quality of Targett's in recent weeks.
But Ralph Hasenhuttl isn't the first manager to get it wrong tactically from time to time and he won't be the last, as I have always said it not about what you have just done it's all about what you do next.
This was not a great display but it was a dominant one, we had 67% possession, 14 attempts to their 6, 7 on target to their 3 and it's that last stat that tells it all, 3 attempts and 2 goals, their keeper was man of the match ours watched their injury time winner trickle in, defensively we seem to keep switching off at key moments, having snatched a late equaliser and being in possession we give an awful pass straight to Cardiff to allow them to break and catch us is complete disarray, that is just not acceptable.
I have been pointing out our defensive frailties for far too long now, often mine has been the contrary view to the popular one, I have pointed out the free headers given over the past couple of years and the poor marking, but been told I have something against the player and it wasn't his fault but someone else's.
Football is all about players who can change games, it's about those who perform well at key moments, I look at those who do that not those that flatter to deceive.
We are still in the relegation fight but we are far from finished and in better shape for it than we were a year ago, this was our first defeat in 2019, let's put it in perspective, there are five teams above us within 3 points, we are not cast adrift.
What this defeat has shown us is that we need to guard against complacency, that cost us for their second goal, that the FA Cup break is very welcome in that in gives us chance to get the injured players back to fitness, Danny Ings probably won't be fit for Arsenal away but he will hopefully be back for Fulham at home and that is the crucial fixture of the next month, as will hopefully Stuart Armstrong, Michael Obafemi and Mario Lemina.
The key though is not to let this drag us down, stay with the team and be behind them not against them, I'm sick to death of being surrounded by those whose default support of Saints is not "Come On Saints" but "Oh No Saints" or "For f*cks sake, Saints/Hoedt/Stephens/Targett/ Ward Prowse/Vestergaard/Long/Austin/ Elyounoussi or a host of other names and scapegoats, the fact I can name so many should tell us all something an make some stand back and consider whether they want to support or abuse the team.
I am not having a go at anyone hear just pointing out something I have noticed in watching most of the Saints matches home and away this season, the bulk of our support is superb and the numbers we turn up in is still good, but last season a toxic atmosphere dragged us down, I cannot argue that there was some good reasons for the discontent, and certainly the first half of this season.
But now we have a good manager, he is learning his way in the Premier League, he has worked miracles so far, we need him to work a few more so are you behind him or against him.
Now is the time to stand up and be counted, I know where I stand and that is I am a supporter of Southampton Football Club, I go to games to "SUPPORT" !
You are right Nick we do have a good manager but we don't have a good board. This owner and board have failed to back the manager in the transfer market and this showed on Saturday. It was criminal not to buy a new striker and centre half in the transfer window. We have been crying out for a new striker for over 2 years. With Ings out injured what are we left with Long who cant score, Austin who is to slow to score and Gallagher + Obafemi who are not experienced premier league scorers.
I like your assessment. The worrying thing for me is that Hassanhuttl sounded like a broken man after the game. And I can understand why. His mantra is 'We don't lose, we learn'. However, we're clearly not learning because we keep on making the same mistakes. Therefore, we're now losing and not learning. I'm a big fan of Jack Stephens because he is a footballer as well as a defender but he is now making so many mistakes he is a liability. When you've equalised at the end of a game you've got to be satisfied with that because it feels like a win. So why is he playing a short ball to a player that is marked? The ball should have been cleared long. The mentality is all wrong and Hassanhuttl should have been able to address that by now. It's worrying that he hasn't been able to.
The only surprise is that there was no surprise at all about this result. Sensing this outcome, I stayed at home.
I will stay at home now until the ownership clarify exactly what it is they hope to achieve by systematically stripping away the few talented players we have and trying to sell us the bullshit that a team full of Academy players that could not stay in the top division of PL2 is good enough to keep us in the PL proper two years later.
Tad like a burial service - the Stephens giveth and the Stephens taketh away? When will they learn in injury time to punt the ball mightily to the other end of the ground? From what we witnessed there was a lot of pressing towards the Cardiff goal but a remarkable lack of wanting to actually shoot at goal from Redmond and Hjolberg?
Nick you are right to have paused until this morning before writing the article, many of feel the same way, it is necessary to calm down and take stock. Lord Lucan is also right that the manager seemed demoralised after the game but he is going to have to pick himself and the team up and learn the lessons. He spoke true when he said that if you defend like that then you won't stay in this league but that isn't the whole truth. If you fail to score despite most of the possession you also won't stay in this league, and that is what we did. Sorting out the defence is in my view the easiest bit here - we have the players to do it, bringing back Yoshi to stabilise the back four and teaching Stephens to maintain his concentration should be enough.
The problem in my view is the lack of a decent striker. I've been wondering for a while why the midfield still persist in the annoying habit of tracking back as soon as they are two-thirds of the way up the pitch thus allowing the opponents to get back into shape and I am beginning to come to the conclusion that its because they are not seeing the strikers getting into a good position to make it worth their while to pass forwards. The number of goals we have scored from midfield or defence tells a story here. Ings, Austin and Long are all very fine but they either can't score and they can't last a whole game. That is the difficult problem to fix. It may be time to bring on some of the Academy or younger strikers, or perhaps even experimenting with young Valerie up front?
To concede stupid last minute goals is incredibly frustrating, but let's face it, on Saturday we were heading for a desperately disappointing one-nil defeat anyway until Stephens' late equaliser. If the defence and goalie are going to be (justifiably) criticised for Cardiff's winning goal then surely the midfield and forwards should be similarly chastised for the previous 92 minutes?
Yoshida missing from your list of scapegoats Nick, I suppose you won't even qualify him for that. That position in the team still needs more serious review than any other. One of our numerous quantity of central defenders needs to be able to marshall the others, and this may get addressed now Yoshi is back. The fact remains that after being BEATEN at home by a team that WAS in the zone, we are good enough to go down. From my point of view, and that's as self -proclaimed leader of the optimistic realist party, I really thought that having managed to steer clear of said dread zone, we would stay up. This was not a miracle, but avoiding relegation is now increasingly looking like one. Oh, and yes, I don't blame the manager, but do blame the board for gambling to get us in this mess, and it is a bit rich when these oafs refer to the player's game management. Krueger's removal of his 'friend' Reed is now looking more like a desperate face saving failure and penny pinching exercise. Anyone who thought that was the solution is sadIy deluded. Regrettably, we don't have the expertise for further forays into the transfer market, and it is wrong to expect Ralph H to do it all.
Vanmans, you are incorrect about the board, they have run the club in a good way to make it sustainable, in modern football there is too much throwing of money around like confetti, they backed the board last January and we threw away £20 million. Ralph Hasenhuttl made it quite clear in all his interviews when asked about the subject that we had targets, that we would only sign them if they became available at the right price we would not panic buy.
There is a plan in place, the manager seems happy with it and feels that he can get the club to safety without new signings, yes there are injury issues but the only one that is repeating is Ings.
I dont know what people expect from a board, gone are the days when anyone outside of the Big Six plus perhaps Everton throw in big money for transfers, clubs have to be self sustaining the Championship is full of clubs who have overspent.
SaintBrock, you have such a great ability to predict these results I assume that you are a very rich man through betting.
How have the board systematically stripped the playing squad look at all the big transfers out very few were actually sold at the clubs insistence. Lallana & Lovren all demanded to go to Liverpool, Schneiderlin & Wanyama were made to stay when they demanded to go, Clyne ran down his contract so we had to sell him or risk losing him for free, Pelle was an agreed departure after signing Charlie Austin, Shaw & Mane were offered big money and wanted to go and it suited us to take the transfer money. Then there was Fonte and his tantrums AS for Van Dijk the club did everything in its power to keep him, they made a statement of intent, yet still some point to systematic stripping.
Where is the systematic stripping, since Gao has arrived (He was influential before the deal went through we have barely sold a player
Jay Rodriguez £12 million- no one was arguing that he was not the player he was.
Van Dijk - £75 million Say no more
Tadic - £11 millionAgain planned and he had given us four years
Gabbiadini - £12-5 milion, his goal record taking aside his fist 5 games was no better than Long and he didnt suit our style
Soares- Loan out possible £10 million, no one was arguing and Valery looks more than capable
Hoedt - Whipping boy of the fans, assuming he does complete his loan deal
Davis, Carrillo, Boufal all have contributed little in the last two years.
If you want to be pedantic it is a new regime, one that has reinvested most of the transfer fees received back into new players, some of those signing havent been great, but that isn't Gao's fault and Les Reed carried the can.
So we have a new Chairman who is letting the club get on with things, most clubs would be grateful for that ask Newcastle supporters, we have a new manager, a new board most of whom have joined in the last 18 months.
Give them a chance, dont keep blaming them for what happened before they arrived
Entirely agree with you Nick. Haven't felt so gutted since the Wembley defeat to Man U. But...
Even before the game, there were plenty of games we needed to pick up points in to stay up, so nothing has changed there. And there are 5 other clubs in pretty much the same boat as us. As long as we can do better than one of them, we should be safe.
Ralph did seem dejected but he is still the man to keep us up.
Ralph had a bad day on Saturday. He should have taken off Long much much earlier and, I agree with you Nick that, Targett should have replaced Bertrand for the last half hour or so to add a bit of zip up front.
I am not sure that I believe in fate but watching Cardiff's final goal and the way the ball seemed to miraculously squeeze past everyone (Bednarak was a toe away from touching it wide) right into the corner, as if being sucked in by the Cardiff fans, I do wonder whether Saturday was always going to be their day.
Yes - good idea to cool down a bit before delivering a verdict on that performance. The key issue is obviously the centre of defence with Consigliere's well made point about attacking a very close run second. These are issues that have been around for, well...years now. It is essentially the Les Reed legacy. The decision not to strengthen in January (can't blame Les for that) seemed to be supported by the manager. I think we all understand that panic buying in January is a bad idea and that if you do buy you get a bad deal. The point is that this defence may well get us relegated and our attacking resources are not strong enough with Ings proving as injury prone as we feared. I would rather be ripped off by 5m in January and get a decent CB than go down and I would have thought that the club themselves would have shared that thinking - obviously they didn't.
As for Ralph - presumably he was just letting off some steam in the direction of certain players. I was briefly concerned that he actually seemed surprised that our defence is useless!! All our eggs are now most definitely in the Ralph the saviour basket. The fact that 99.999999999% of fans are now demanding Yoshi's return (Nick is the .000000000001 of course) says an awful lot about our problems - where Yoshi is in the pecking order tells you all you need to know about our CB strength/weakness....
On the question of Targett/Bertrand, there is certainly a good case for the former keeping his place. However, Bertrand is too good a player to miss out altogether. It has often been said that he could play in central defence - well, maybe now is the time to find out. At least he would bring a measure of composure. Mind you, remembering the last minute at Goodison last season, maybe that isn't the answer either...……..
Thanks for the article ,Nick, and thanks for the good comments. Before I join in, may I suggest that You copy this link and open a new tab in which You paste it into...., and watch the 5-10 minutes series of fresh manager quotes coming in a box in the right side of the screen, beginning with Puel´s comments on Vardy´s missed pen against Spurs. How, until now, nobody has got relegated AND bored to death because of THIS man is a miracle.
Over the last 3 games, our performances have not been the same Ralfesque showings that we have seen in previous games. We have been more content to press less, play at a slower pace, not put so many balls into the box and shoot less. Perhaps we drop to the level of the opposition ? I find this bizarre when those 3 games alone could have transformed our season with 7 or 9 points.
Ralf got his tactics wrong v Cardiff. They were by far the worst team to come to St Marys this season and we gifted them the win. Everyone knew that Cardiff would defend deep and we would be spending long periods on the edge of their area, trying to break them down or creating something. It was similar to watching us under Puel - lots of possession between the half way line and the penalty area, but nothing in the final 3rd and nobody wanting the responsibility to cross or shoot.
Why have 3 centre backs ? (not needed til injury time !!) Could have had 2 up top Why have so many defensive minded players ? (yes injuries - but this is Cardiff FFS) Why no crosses into the box ? (Long rarely in there anyway) Why so many (often backward) passes to Romeu - he is our most pedestrian player
We created nothing in the 1st half, despite the possession. We didn't have enough creativity, or always chose the wrong options.
2nd half was a bit better, but still such a lethargic showing with no urgency. We let Cardiff execute their game plan perfectly with their diving and time wasting tactics - we even helped them out quite a bit too. A first half goal would have put an end to that, but there was no urgency - perhaps we were complacent, as they were so poor in the 1st half.
Possession and chances mean absolutely nothing - it is GOALS that count !! We have said this so many times before - oh but we had 60-70% possession and had 10-20 more shots than them - do you really think Cardiff are bothered in the slightest about that ?
When Kevin Davies scored against Man Utd at the Dell in the 3rd minute all those years ago, we held on for dear life and defended the 'Alamo' onslaught and nicked it 1-0. People remember the result, not the fact that we had 1 chance and Man U had 30 odd.
We have a lot of work to do in Tenerife to prepare for our next wave of fixtures. Hopefully we will have a few more options available too, but I can't help thinking we have dropped a massive bollok over the last few games !!
From what I see is why we keep conceding in the last minutes is Jack Stephens is tearing around ball watching when a bit of composure to see the game out is needed. I like Stephens ‘ think with a quality bit of coaching could make him a very good PL defender , it’s not just him but he stands out because of the type of player he is
To be honest Nick I think you have missed your vocation. S F C should snap you up to work in their P R department.
The table doesn't lie and despite your well intentioned spinning, liability for our current position rests full square with the owners and their equally totally inept management employees at all levels throughout the organisation.After all it's not the fans that have got us to where we currently are is it?
Sadly no Nick, I am not a rich man from betting and gave up participating in your Prediction League a couple of years ago through an inability to ever call a correct scoreline.
What I do have in abundance is many years of experience of Saints failing to rise to the occasion when it really mattered. Saturday was just such an occasion and lo and behold they behave exactly as you expect.
You must be joking about player sales? The pattern is clear, sideline a player until he is really pissed off then put him back into the team briefly so that his mentality is no where near right to perform well so you can justify dropping him again; then start a whisper campaign (indeed Chinese Whispers!) of his disruptive influence in the dressing room and lack of effort in training and then move him on for a good fat fee when the opportunity arises and then sell it as being in everyone's best interest.
You are entitled to be in denial and good for you. I'm just in morning for the great club that we all love.
I know it was not the end of the world but it was built up as a huge game and we lost it and moved into the relegation zone again. We have taken two points from our close rivals where 7 points was thought possible. It is not negative to be aware of our situation. We may have moved forward from last season but it certainly did not feel like it on Saturday. I was fed up but certainly not surprised and now I am just worried. We do however have a very good manager who hopefully can use this result to motivate and if you are going to lose then to lose to a team that has been through hell like Cardiff has makes it slightly easier to accept.
Nick how can you say the board has run the club in a good way to make it sustainable? What has happened to all money made from player sales and the increased tv money? You only have to look at what Bournemouth spent in the transfer window when they only have an 11,000 gate income. How can they spend money like that when we get near 30,000 gate income and we have to sell to buy players? Staying up last season by the skin of our teeth should have been a warning to this board of ours. Ok players were bought in the summer but most of those were failures so more needed buying in January. We have needed a good striker for over 2 years. If by any chance we stay up this season we will need major investment in new players in the summer because a lot of what we have now are not up to premier league standard.
Nick, I admire your blind faith genuinely, but I can’t see us bettering three other teams right now. We can’t hold a lead (even for 2 minutes). In two games the last 2 minutes have cost us 3 VERY valuable points. You can’t defend the club for not buying a defender or goalscorer. “Wasting money” in the window isn’t an excuse either. We’ve known for months where we were weak, yet have failed to find adequate replacements. I cannot believe for one second Ralph would have been happy to accept that. I’m assuming he is just towing the line and is being let down.
Bottom line is simple. The manager and board expected more points from the last three games. Only 2 points from 3 games against fellow relegation candidates spells relegation. Nick has been on about individual mistakes at the back costing us points for well over 18 months now. HOW do you coach certain players at the back to be far braver and more to the point, keep concentration? With Ings and Obafemi injured, it remains a mystery why no striker was brought in. Even with these two forwards in the side, we were not exactly freescoring? We shall now find out whether this squad is good enough to stay up.... I have my severe doubts.
This result – more than any other recent results - appears to have brought out the extremes in our opinions. Either we are all good (a minor lapse) or we are sailing to oblivion in storm-ravaged ship.
I sense that the truth will be somewhere in-between, so a little bit of reality dosed with constructive criticism and optimism thrown in (we are – after all –fans of SFC) will probably give a clear picture.
Firstly, on the ‘sack the board for failure to invest in Jan etc.’ brigade: clearly a lot of emotion that is clouding judgment here. I saw some numpty on Twitter blaming Gao/the Board for failing to “buy Che Adams” in the transfer window. That would be fair comment if it wasn’t for the fact Birmingham made it absolutely clear they weren’t selling! This SFC Fan seemed to conveniently not let fact get in the way of a good rant.
Trouble is the January window is (for most clubs) only really for those who panic – or have enough spare cash to scratch a particular itch. SFC are neither this season. Compare that to last January when we forked an extortionate fee for Carillo, who didn’t exactly live up to expectations. That was panic personified: short term gain for longer term pain. We couldn’t afford to do that again.
We then must go back to the Summer: different manager, different DoF. We bought Vestergaard and Ings but did they really settle the problem? Trouble is, the answer is still ‘not sure’. Both come highly regarded but have not hit the ground running (one due to lack of experience, the other due to our familiar punt on a player with iffy limbs). Armstrong has shown signs of promise, but he needs more time. It’s not so much that the bet has backfired, but that it has failed to produce the instant results perhaps the club needed.
So, were Saints correct to offload so many players? To answer that, you have to ask yourself whether any of the players who left you would consider to be ‘game changers’. Hoedt? Nah. Cedric? Well he’s one you could rely on, but full backs are not really where our difficulties lie. Gabbi? Trend over the last few seasons indicated he wasn’t the answer to our goal scoring drought. Davis? Past it for the Prem. Etc. etc.
Point here is that we got rid of mostly fringe players. Our manager likes to have a pared down squad and he didn’t sell the family jewels in order to do so. Yet I get the point that it lays bare whether we have any family jewels at all...
And that’s where reality and optimism must align. Hass has assessed and seen potential across the squad. He’s got Redmond on an upward trajectory and that’s an incredible plus: Redmond has the raw talent to become a star player. Bednarek can also be placed into the ‘rough diamond’ category too – as well as Valery, Hojiberg, Obafemi and a number of others. JWP even! He has the ability to become a significant mainstay of the EPL – he just needed the right coach to bring that out of him.
But whilst this is positive, we are in a serious state of transition – and we’re running out of time. Being unbeaten in 2019 until Saturday is immense, but the fact we dropped points due to failure to convert chances/last minute defensive clangers has meant we have taken two steps forward and one step back at each time. Had luck (and some calm heads) prevailed, we could have been a far different position and likely to have seen more confidence and vigour returning to St Mary’s.
And so to Cardiff. It typifies everything I say above. Hats off to Cardiff; they recognised we play better when we have less possession, so they came to sit behind the ball and wait until our faults (lack of ability to convert chances) started to bring out the nervousness/lack of confidence that has built up over the past one-and-a-half seasons. Then the classic ‘rope-a-dope’ and suddenly SFC are panicking.
I feel for Stephens. He is another with potential, but I fear he’s been placed into a position where there is too much pressure for him to deal with right now. I don’t think CB is for him. You can see he’s trying too hard: trying to play the ball out calmly under pressure. But he should be sending it up into the stands before thinking that way. Clearly there is a psychological barrier now whenever the game goes into additional time at the end of 90. Teams know that. Cardiff knew that. Stephens probably knew it too much.
If I was Hass I would use Yoshida for now, whilst encouraging Stephens to bounce back. I just wouldn’t throw him under the bus again for a little while.
So where are we? We are massively better off than this time last year (even this time two months ago). Yet we are still a very fragile team that is being asked to find confidence and skill at a time where the pressure is intense. There are no new ‘players’ with supreme confidence and skill to bring in (and there never was to be fair – unless Che Adams was prepared to throw a sulk to get a transfer...) so it is about how we dig in and continue to grasp points and confidence.
I’m not prone to wetting the bed but I’m not into relentless optimism either. Just realism. And a passion to want to see Saints do the best they can in what is another difficult season.
the manager has to stop playing 5 at the back when at home nothing to lose everything to gain
when the team plays away not a problem but he must train the back 5 to play higher up the pitch not defending on the goal line we now have the right manager very radical just like big mac but it took him 3 seasons to get this right
No Yoshi? Oh, yeah, he IS to blame, right Nick? Just as Saints only lose games because they can't keep a clean sheet, the fans don't cheer loud enough, and my favourite: it's all part of a grand strategy by the board that we fans are too thick to understand.
Vanmans is spot on: if other teams with lower budgets are performing better than Saints, it is the fault of those running the Saints plain and simple!
Side note re: Newcastle-They were able to sign AND keep Rafa F*ing Benitez EVEN after getting relegated, whilst the Saints were getting turned down right and left by highly regarded managers and wound up with Puel, Pellegrino, and Hughes.(Which gives you an idea of our board's reputation amongst the managerial ranks!).Also they are above us in the standings, so i am not going to ask Newcastle supporters anything!
You could ask them their opinion of Mike Ashley Boondock. Newcastle consistently under-perform and if they were well run they would surely be a top 10 team.
Totally agree that our struggles have to be put down to the decision-makers at the club. None of us TUI contributors are geniuses (as far as I know) but we certainly know a weak defence and a toothless attack when we see it - and we having been seeing it for a very long time. Les Reed has gone, which is a start, but those who say we are doing better than last season need to look at the stats. MP was sacked with 30 games 28 pts. We now need a point a game from the next 4 just to equal that and when you look at the next 4 fixtures you may well think that 28 from 30 will be an achievement!!! I know that after Saturday I would take 17th place on goal difference at the end of the season. I wil, of course, change my mind if we beat Arsenal and Fulham...