Can Saints Get A Top 10 Finish ?
Tuesday, 23rd Jun 2020 09:06
This season has been a strange one for Saints, but the fact remains that after the first round of the Re Start games have been completed we are still in with a good chance of a Top 10 finish and that would be something remarkable.
I have always said that going forward Saints are a top 10 side, but our problems are that defending we are bottom 2, this is not something new, over the past three years we have failed to land a central defender who can hold the back line but more than that organise it.
But for all that, after the first tranche of games in Project Restart, although we lie 14th, we are only 3 points off of Arsenal in 10th place and 5 away from Tottenham in 8th, even Sheffield United in 7th are not an unrealistic target given that we have to play them at St Mary's on the final day of the season, so that 7 point gap is not insurmountable.
So 10th place is well within our grasp and perhaps higher.
But I am a realist, we are where we are because of the problems mentioned earlier in defence, that is not suddenly going to change, at Norwich we could easily have been 2 down in the first 15 minutes, at the back we were all at sea and appearing to be practising our social distancing with the Canaries attackers.
This was one of the occasions that we got away with it and this is going to be the issue in the final 8 games, can we get away with it more times than we don't, the final four games before the suspension, saw us lose three of them, all to lapses in concentration and individual error and don't mention the Wolves game that saw us blow a 2-0 half time lead.
I know the old adage is that these things even themselves up over a season, but this really isn't the case, we have been the architects of our own downfall, this hasn't been about bad luck it's been purely our own poor defending, not just the back four but sometimes others.
So the fact that we are still in the mix can give us hope that a top 10 finish is attainable, away from home our form is good and the teams we are playing are not in the best of form themselves, Everton is usually not a good ground for us, but it is a place where the lack of fans will help us, as it will in the trip to Manchester United a few days later.
Watford will be a tough one as they are fighting for their lives and Bournemouth could be as well, but they are not games we should be frightened of.
The home form has been the problem all season, but perhaps there is a chink of hope here, there are several reasons why it has been poor, not least the issues I have just mentioned, but these issues have been made worse by the pressure from the crowd.
It is not the crowd's fault that we play so badly at home, but the crowd can affect results, it can be that extra 15% that snatches a victory or costs you a defeat.
The majority of Saints supporters have been good this season, the initiative from the fans in the Itchen/Northam corner has meant at times the atmosphere has been good, but there is still that air of negativity and that can be worse than shouting abuse, it has made some players scared to try anything in fear of losing the ball or giving it away, as when they do there is an audible sigh or worse.
This doesn't help and erodes confidence, many can't help it, over the past few years we have talked ourselves into this apathy, we need to snap ourselves out of it and this can only be of help to the team.
So bizarrely I think it will be an advantage for us to play at home without a crowd, I think we might see the team play with confidence and without fear and we could go from having the worst home record in the division to being fortress St Mary's in the final part of the season and if we do and maintain our home form then we will be looking upwards.
The acid test is going to be on Thursday when Arsenal visit, they are far from the team they were and are in a period of rebuilding, if we can win this one then we will have momentum and could be well placed to travel to Watford and push ourselves into the top half of the table.
I am not counting my chickens, as I have said, the issues still remain and one thing that has been proved over the last couple of years is that the solution to the problem is not at the club, but needs to be brought in, that doesn not mean to say that Jan Bednarek & Jack Stephens do not have a future at the club, it is just that as a pairing they are not good enough.
But we can get away with it at the back sometimes and if we can do that more than not, then we may just look back on this season for it's final quarter not the first.
Photo: Action Images
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