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Comprehensive Victory ! But Caution Still Required !
Monday, 26th Oct 2020 09:02

The victory over Everton was the most comprehensive in every department since Ralph Hasenhuttl's arrival, but Saints are still a work in progress and although the foundations are solid, the building is not yet complete.

This time a year ago we were waking up to the reality that we had just recorded our worst ever defeat, at that time it was hard to find any plus points from the game aside from the fact that most Saints fans I had spoken to after the game still had belief in Ralph Hasenhuttl, luckily so did the club and although it has not been a smooth 12 months since that debacle, things in general moved in the right direction.

But back then there were those that took to social media to predict doom and gloom, relegation, the collapse of the club and worse, even a month ago after the walloping at home to Spurs made it two defeats in a row and 6 goals conceded in those games, as we went into what was a bottom of the table clash against Burnley the doom merchants were still out.

We won that game and the rest as they say is history and sitting 6th the World looks a better place.

Certainly it does on social media, most Saints fans are pretty sensible, indeed this goes across all teams, they don't take every event from one extreme to another, but some do and just as much as people were predicting doom and gloom as little as a month ago, now some are speaking in terms of challenging for the title !

Whilst it is good to have dreams, ambition is a better thing to have and those ambitions need to be challenging but realistic.

Yes we have the makings of a good side, but it is still the side we had a month ago that conceded 5 against Spurs, 7 of the starting line up against Everton started against Leicester a year ago, yes Ralph has worked hard to rebuild confidence and spirit and in this sense has performed minor miracles, but ultimately we are still a work in progress and we need to keep focused on what the task is, before we start talking about titles there are many steps we need to go up first.

The old adage is one game at a time and that is well worth keeping in mind now.

The real plus point from the win against Everton for me, was that we did it without several key players, aside from Kyle Walker Peters, none of our other three major acquisitions of the summer started the game for various reasons, we also had several other injuries such as Djenepo.

But although that shows the squad has depth, it's depth is not as deep as many and this has ultimately been the downfall of many a club in achieving it's aims.

So to go from hoping we would stay out of the bottom three five short weeks ago to talking of winning the title is not realistic at least not quite yet.

Some will tell me you have to think big, reach for the sky and you might get the stars is a motto that we heard a few years back, but boasting is not ambition, that is not Ralph Hasenhuttl's way, his way has seen us quietly get things done, his boasting will be done when something has been achieved and not before.

Good manager's are like that !

So before we talk about titles there are plenty of little steps to take, firstly to rack up 20 points before Xmas, doesn't sound a lot but 20 points from 14 games going into the Xmas period is about the same points ratio we have today.

Then the next points target is the 30 points that puts you on the cusp of safety from relegation, then when you cross the 40 point mark, you can start to think of top 10 and perhaps the Europa League.

When you get to April is when you start to think about titles, something we haven't experienced much of late.

But there are plenty of teams with the same ambitions as us to force their way into the top 10 and even the top 6, Everton were one of them, they have spent £80 million in the last transfer window and the pundits were saying they would spend that again in January if they were still in with a shout of the title, that is the clout we are up against.

In the meantime we need to do what Lawrie Mcmenemy did in 1983/84 season, quietly put a good side together and let the rest do the talking off the pitch whilst we do it on it come in from the back pack, not be looking over our shoulders.

Everton, Leeds & Villa fans have been very vocal in the past weeks, Leeds win over Villa was salivated over on TV and talk of Leeds getting into Europe bandied about, we barely get a mention for beating Everton, yet we sit with exactly the same number of points this morning.

There is a long way to go in this season and I make no apologies for being cautious, for me nothing has changed yet, one good result does not make us World beaters as much as one bad one didn't automatically relegate us a year ago.

We have to stay focused on our task, we still have the same squad that we had a month ago, there are still the same deficiencies, but Ralph has worked hard on them and they are now better, but they have to get better still.

So let's be cautious but quietly confident, let's leave the boasting to others and I leave you with one thought.

After our 6th game last year St Mary's was ringing to the sound of boasting, Bournemouth who had just won 3-1 where telling us very loudly that they were the kings of the South Coast and that we were going down, they were sitting with an almost identical record to the one we have today, 3 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats, goal difference of plus 1, the only difference was back then they had scored and conceded one more than us, they were also 6th in the table.

Ironically if we had won that game we would have been the team on 10 points and 6th, would that have made us a better team ? Would we have avoided that defeat against Leicester ? Maybe maybe not, the moral of the story is take nothing for granted, in this Premier League a season can turn over night.

Where are Bournemouth today, we can laugh now at their idle boasting and chanting, it was truly the best night of any Bournemouth fans footballing life, they thought glory was ahead of them and oblivion for us, yet it all went so wrong for them.

The Southampton Way has never been one of idle boasting that we are the bestest team with the bestest fans, we leave that to our friends at the other end of the M27, the Southampton Way has always been one of quiet confidence, knowing who we are, what we want to achieve and then doing it, we walk the walk and leave Pompey to talk the talk, we lost that a few years ago, but it is back now and if we stick to it then we will be successful.


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underweststand added 10:10 - Oct 26
YES - it was a very good result, and losing managers always have some lame excuses.
Without Richarlison they were a different side etc etc. Thank goodness that we scored both goals before the red card incident, otherwise everyone would be feeling sorry for them. Behind the scenes plotting with "the old boys network " may succeed in getting Digne off the suspension, but it was a very nasty tackle from behind and the truth is that Walker-Peters had the beating of several of their defenders on the right and they were desperate to stop him. "Accident" or not .. doesn't make it OK? .

YES - the Spurs defeat was the result of playing a high line, and with two slow-moving CB's we paid the price. Kane and Son have formed a great partnership and it works.
If Ralph has made the point strongly enough to them, it won't happen again .

The real question is - was that a one-off victory with Everton having " a bad day " ? .
Hopefully not. Looking at the upcoming fixtures ...IF we can pick up another 10 points by the 1st. December, then I'd say we have the makings of a good side. Only time will tell.

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erick added 10:14 - Oct 26
The team played with a mentality of a big team especially after scoring early. If we play like this against villa they have no chance. It is lovely to see goals coming from midfield. Romeu was man of the match. If we get a winger in January, seriously our goal should be better than a top ten finish.
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halftimeorange added 10:49 - Oct 26
Being a Saints supporter you can never let your expectations rise too highly but, on this occasion I think we are justified in wallowing in the pleasure derived from comprehensively beating high-class ambitious opposition.
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StEdmund added 10:49 - Oct 26
Three clean sheets out of the last four games can't be bad with terrible CBs (Nick?), and the others against Kane & Co and Chelsea? An optimistic start of a season for a change. Just don't let the moaners get you down.
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TimSaint added 11:46 - Oct 26
We are Saints. We all know what supporting our team is like, so let's not get carried away with a win against a top of the league team. Everton won't be top at the end of the season and we are quite capable of losing to lower teams (Newcastle and Burnley and West Ham all did the double over us last season), as well as beating top teams.

Of course the media love in was with Everton and the red card was 'crucial' for our win, but being honest, we totally outplayed them (off day or not) and fully deserved the win. I love the fact that the media pointed to Everton's absentees (Coleman and Richarlison) as to why they were so poor - forgetting that we were without Djenepo, Walcott, Obafemi and our new CB who has been missing all season !!

Even so, I still wasn't relaxed yesterday until injury time, knowing that a mistake could change the whole aspect of the game - but hey, that is supporting Saints for you !!

The summer signings have renewed and increased the competition for places, so hopefully everyone will continue to perform, even when RH decides to freshen things up occasionally.

We have 2 good games coming up - Villa (a) and Newcastle (h). We need points against them, to keep the momentum going for the games away to Wolves and then home to Man Utd.

I am happy with how things are going and do tend to look at fixtures and points in blocks - so the point at Chelsea and the Everton win kind of make up for the loss to Palace and the debacle v Spurs.

There is a long way to go, but I am slightly more confident this season than I was last. Let's reassess things after Christmas.
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SanMarco added 11:53 - Oct 26
To be fair StEdmund yours is the first 'moan' I have heard since the final whistle. This article intelligently sets out the pitfalls of both over-optimism and the reverse using that Bournemouth game as an example. Of course we were no more relegation certainties after Spuds than we are now Champions League favourites. The CBs were well protected yesterday and they weren't protected at all during the two halves of foootball in which we conceded nearly all our goals. Our clean sheets so far this season have come from whole team performances rather than superb CB displays. There are certainly some of us with a tendency to over-blame the CBs when things go wrong but at the same time we shouldn't get carried away by a couple of good performances. Yes - the CBs were competent, will be able to say that the next time a team really goes at us? - let's hope so.

PS Does Nick do this with apostrophes just to annoy us pedants (and perhaps those supporting a team with a certain sticky sweet nickname???)
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NYC_Saint added 12:26 - Oct 26
The NBC commentator here made the point that we “bossed the first half against Spurs and an error in injury time led us to unravel in the second” and that we probably should have beaten palace. Football full ifs and buts I guess. This was the first Saints game I’ve been able to watch from start to finish and they seemed so well drilled and deliberate. There appears to be really confidence in the two CBs from Romeu and JWP and vice versa in them, as such they are all making good decisions and never look frazzled when closed down. I though JWP was motm by a distance - he gets a lot of groaning in here for playing the the way he’s facing (often backward) but that is the plan to keep possession and you could hear RH praising him in the sidelines when you switch off the piped in crowd noise so he is clearly performing the planned task.

At he other end of the pitch, Walcott will keep Redmond and Armstrong on their toes - I think he should replace Redmond but I am probably missing something there as he got motm...
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felly1 added 12:42 - Oct 26
Since the Leicester game last season, we have played 34. Won 16, drew 6 and lost 12. Giving us 54 points.
Last season after 34 games, 54 points would have put you in 6th position.
Considering the previous two seasons where we looked certs for relegation with a toothless side bereft of confidence, and even the season before under Puel where we finished a fortunate 8th, we played slow insipid football and the majority of fans were happy to see Puel go.
Now we play fast attacking football with a manager who inspires the team and the supporters.
I do agree with Nick though. We still can improve and should never rest on our laurels.
A few injuries, an unsettled player.. ( please not our Danny boy), and things can change rapidly.
Mid table or above playing great football and a few big six scalps along the way and I'm a happy bunny.
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A1079 added 13:00 - Oct 26
Completely agree Nick. Lets take each stage and phase. First aim is to get to that 40 point mark, then 50 and may be so on - who knows, but keep quiet and do the business on the pitch. There is along way to go yet. Any sensible Saints fan knows that in a single game anything can change suddenly and the same goes with a season.
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Farlow added 14:06 - Oct 26
I agree with NY Saint,I am a Redmond fan but thought he was nowhere near MOM.
Full marks on a very professional performance all round.
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HythePeer added 15:47 - Oct 26
The manger has taken so long to work out who are the best centre backs and it's been staring him in the face all along. And finally he has abandoned sticking them on the half way line and forcing them into a foot race with wingers like rabbits they are never going to win. If he carries on like this Saints can beat any team in the league.
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TeamCortese added 17:54 - Oct 26
I understand one shouldn't get carried away with optimism but I personally think the team is light-years ahead of what Ralph inherited from the Puel, Pelligrino and Hughes era.

The simple reality is every position in the team feels solid. Apart from pace with our centre-backs--which potentially could be sorted by Salisu--and cover for Bertrand, and Ings we are pretty solid in all areas.

Danny Ings is a guaranteed 15-20 goal a season striker. We haven't had that since Pelle and Lambert. Che Adams is his understudy and will be knocking on the door in a year or so in leading the line. Our backups are okay. Obafemi needs to get his head down and get some game time on loan. Long will do a job and the academy lad N'Lundulu looks hungry.

I'm happy with our wingers too. Armstrong, Redmond, Walcott and Djenepo are quality on their day. Talent-wise Djenepo has the most potential but needs to get his head down and produce a minimum quality of performance every week. The same applies to Redmond.

Our midfield spine is very strong too. JWP has really grown the last 18-months and, despite being his biggest critic, I consider him and Romeu integral engines to our team. It'll be interesting to see what Diallo brings to the table too--especially if one of them gets injured.

Defensively JV and JB are the strongest at the moment but Salisu should be knocking on the door later in the season. Jack Stephens can also do a job off the bench. Our wing-backs are quality. Especially KWP.

Bertrand looks like he's lost a bit of hunger and probably needs a left-sided understudy similar in quality to KWP to challenge him. Valery needs to get his act together and grow-up fast!

Lastly, goalkeeper wise I don't completely trust McCarthy but I think he's decent enough at shot-stopping. My main issue is he doesn't know how to sweep as a keeper and his distribution can be somewhat questionable. Forster should be challenging him more. We all know what Fraser's capable of on his day.

For me, there's little difference between this team and the 2015/2016 team in terms of quality. The main difference is the central defence because of VVD. But to be quite frank VVD is a once in a generation defend for a club like Southampton. I don't think we'll see a defender of his quality for a long, long time.

I'm very impressed with this team and I personally can't see what else we can improve when it comes to challenging for a top 10 finish. We shouldn't forget we finished 11th last season! If not for our home form we could easily have made the top 10.

Another key difference between this team and the 2015/16 team is the team spirit. We have fewer individuals and a better system that plays to the team overall.

I will concede if Lemina didn't have his head up his arse then our centre midfield depth would be even stronger.
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Peterx added 08:58 - Oct 27
To me we don't have obvious weak points in our first 11 i.e. the one that played Everton and RH's tactics have improved in a major way from the first part of last season.

If we have an injury up front to Adams I also think Long is a a strong partnership with Ings and Theo is also an option up front. Losing Ings would be bad but I still think the Chelsea result last year show we can still operate without him to say avoid relegation.

Losing Armstrong is bad news, we never play well when he is not in the team. Theo can help change this though. Also with Diallo now we could also bring JWP forward to do a job in that role. I also think we could put Che there and Long partnering Ings or Long there (remember the pass to Austin against Arsenal). I also think KWP missed Armstrong's defensive help at Chelsea this season with Walcott not totally bedded down in the system.

Likewise but not to the same extent losing Redmond, as Djenepo has his moments but not as good a reverse gear.

Both JWP and Romeu have been immense but Diallo has not put a foot wrong in the short cameo's so far. So not so worried about defensive midfield and also think Stephens could step in to defensive midfield at a push.

We are covered at CB with Stephens and we also have Salisu obviously.

RB there is a serious gulf in performance between KWP and Valery. Not that Valery is that bad it's just KWP has been outstanding. An injury there and you sense RH might just put JWP at RB and bring Diallo into defensive midfield.

LB we suffered badly last year when Bertrand was suspended after Leicester and we only picked up when he was back, having said that Vokins really played well later last year when called on, but he is still untested.

To summarise, key injuries to avoid - Ings, KWP, Armstrong, Bertrand. We keep those 4 fit for most of the season and I reckon we can challenge for Europe.
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Scrappy2020 added 13:08 - Oct 27
A big plus apart from the result was no injuries,Redmond was poor early on but improved later,he needs a goal,before the lockdown he was out injured and our performances were poor,he is a confidence player but influencial,need to bear with!!
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