Watt View - Exposure of significant weaknesses so early a positive
Saturday, 26th Sep 2020 08:23 by Matt Watts
This week Matt explores the theory that it is sometimes better to have a poor start as it enables you to identify the problems and deal with them sooner than than later.
Despite the pain of Saints’ disastrous 2-5 collapse against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, its timing was probably a blessing.
As only the third game of the season - and second in the league - the fact it was not simply just a defeat but a capitulation forced boss Ralph Hasenhuttl to make some bold statements.
Although they came as no shock to everyone associated with the club - that the squad was too small and new faces were needed - admission from the manager publicly is all-important.
While the defence was ripped apart by the quality of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min time and again, the two would certainly not enjoyed such success if it were not for the indecision and lack of leadership on show at the back.
It is all the more difficult to take considering Saints looked promising against a strong Spurs side for half an hour and could have punished their opponents early on.
The abysmal second-half showing was, to me, a combination of both poor performances and the effects of a thin squad. High-performing Premier League teams cannot rely on academy products to fill the bench and expect immediate returns.
However, the fact significant weaknesses have been exposed so glaringly and so early in the season is fortunate and should be the trigger for a ramping up of activity in the transfer market.
It is truly concerning the club has had since 27 July to target and complete the necessary signings to give the club a fighting chance of continuing to progress in what is a constantly evolving and intimidatingly strong league.
The closure of the transfer window on 05 October is fast approaching and the club has so far made two signings, one of which was a negotiation that was already well underway in Kyle Walker-Peters and the other, Mohammed Salisu, a player who has so far been unable to feature for fitness reasons.
Given Saints’ vulnerabilities at centre-back, it does perplex me how and why the only addition in that area is a player short on fitness following injury and who Hasenhuttl himself has described as “more of a long-term project”.
Following last weekend’s defensive display, the manager may need to consider his short-term options as well if Saints are to avoid being savaged by some of the league’s brutal attacking forces.
I am all for solid financial management and stable foundations, but the club cannot avoid investing in the right and necessary playing staff because of concerns over past mistakes or balancing the books. They need to spend - wisely but spend nonetheless.
Costly errors of judgement have been made with some signings over recent years while others have not had the desired impact but, despite this, the club has to work simultaneously to bring in new faces while off-loading what it believes to be surplus to requirements - not wait.
To see the likes of Mario Lemina out on loan, Sofiane Boufal left out of matchday squads and Wesley Hoedt and Guido Carrillo on paid leave while the team slumps from defeat to defeat is frustrating when it is likely they are the primary reasons for the lack of action.
There is no doubt Hasenhuttl has worked tirelessly with his current squad since Sunday to try to address the failings. With Burnley and West Bromwich Albion up next, these games will give a sense of any impact that has had and where this current crop is heading.
All fans will obviously be hoping for a quick resolution to the problems and if it could be achieved without splashing the cash then I, for one, would welcome it but, over the course of the season, a sustained turnaround is unlikely without investment and growth in the squad.
Numerous names have come to the fore over recent days, particularly in the central midfield position, with Everton’s Tom Davies, Benfica’s Florentio Luis (who now looks set to join Monaco), Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury and Celtic’s Olivier Ntcham all touted.
Any of these options would be welcome additions and the sooner a decision is made to complete a deal and integrate players within the squad the better. My personal preference would be former France under-21 international Ntcham, who has made 132 appearances in all competitions with 23 goals along the way.
Hasenhuttl has also previously commented the club would be in the market for another attacking option should Boufal complete his move away from St Mary’s.
While, as I’ve stated in previously columns, I would be content with him remaining given his ability and as the club has already invested in him over a number of years, it is comforting to hear the manager confirm a replacement would be required as opposed to a reliance on youth back-up.
That could come in the form of £18 million winger Jovane Cabral who was linked with a move to Spurs earlier this month. Maybe the tricky 22-year-old winger could be the one to put the nightmare of those costly mistakes behind us!
Photo: Action Images
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