Southampton At West Browmwich Albion The Verdict
Tuesday, 13th Apr 2021 09:20
In the preview for this game I suggested that perhaps a player or two might be rested to freshen things up a little and to keep a few players safe from injury, just about the only good thing that can be said about last night is that we seem to have come through it without injuries.
The problem for Saints at the Hawthorns was evident from the start, Ralph Hasenhuttl had put out his strongest team and it seemed that his payers all knew that and played with little enthusiasm for the game and had one eye on making sure they didn't get injured before the big game on Sunday.
In contrast West Brom wanted the game and played with heart, spirit and an energy that just about everyone in the team lacked.
It s easy in hindsight but the root of the problem was that we were too complacent, the changes I mentioned in the preview would at least have put people in the side who were paying to try and get in Ralph's plans for Sunday, most of those who started played like they knew that they would start against Leicester whatever the result at the Hawthorns.
But althouh most of the blame can be laid firmly at the feet of the team collectively for a lack of effort, it does run a little deeper.
At the back Jannik Vestergaard seems a shadow of the player he was before Xmas, he has gone back to the form he showed in his first two seasons at the club, if I am honest he and Bednarek are not a pairing that compliment each other, they both need a leader alongside them.
For the second Burnley goal last week Vestergaard was caught out of position and failing to hold the back line and be the last man, that happened again at West Brom most prominently on the third goal but also on several other occasions.
In any central defensive partnership there has to be contrast, one man is the attacking player and the other the man who holds the line and steps in to cover, in our pairing the covering man is Vestergaard, but he seems unable to be able to read the game, when a ball is played forward he is too often out of position.
It is a radical move but I would almost say that for the semi final we need to do something drastic at the back, Salisu does seem to be able to read the game, he was bought to replace Vestergaard a year ago, is it time for him to do the job he was bought to do ?
Perhaps this is harsh, but the truth is we just keep getting caught on the break and that leads to problems further up the pitch.
Theo Walcott has pace but he loses the ball too often, he can beat a player but then struggles to keep the ball under control and it almost seems that the final man he has to beat is himself , recent news stories have suggested that Saints are concentrating on signing Walcott rather than Minamino and the Japanese player seems to have lost favour with Ralph, but I would say in the few games he has played so far he has contributed more than Walcott has since the New Year.
So I stand by what I said in the preview, we should have started some of those hungry to play at Wembley, Che Adams & Djenepo came on, perhaps the likes of Jankewitz, Salisu and MInamino as well, players that have something to prove and something to play for, although of course Minamino is cup tied for Sunday.
So bad was this performance that our best player on the night was Moussa Djenepo the 87th minute substitute, he made more things happen in those final minutes than Walcott had created in his 76 minutes, he seemed determined to show Ralph he was the man for the starting XI on Sunday.
But for all of this after the dust has settled, this is just another defeat, the doom and gloom merchants need to save their moaning till the end of the season, we now have an FA Cup semi final, these don't happen very often in Saints history , since World War 2 we have had 30 managers, in that time Ralph is only the 5th man to get Saints to an FA Cup semi final, that is a sign that we are going in the right direction and that he is ultimately the man for the job.
Yes things have gone wrong this season, mostly down to the appalling injuries and it has been hard to just go from a bad run to a good one at the click of the fingers.
We are still a work in progress with several key areas needing dealing with not least an the centre of defence.
When I see knee jerk reactions like "Ralph must go" or "we will not get another point all season" then I despair of football, this could still be our greatest season ever, yet people still go on as if we are the worst team ever in the club's history.
Last night wasn't great, I am not making any excuses, but as I always say it is all about what you do next and our nest is on Sunday at Wembley in an FA Cup semi final and there aren't many occasions when I have been able to say that.
Last night did have some fatal flaws, but ultimately we lost because we lacked a fighting spirit, we know it is still there as we say it against Sheffield United and against Burnley in the second half, if we have it back at Wembley then this season might just get good or it might just end up an average one, with the state of football at the moment I would also take that.
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|saintmark1976 added 09:49 - Apr 13|
“we are going in the right direction and he (Ralph) is ultimately the man for the job”.Nick, if you truly believe this comment can I ask you a straightforward question, how long is ultimately?
Since I sat at St Mary’s watching Man City beat us at a canter just before Christmas the managers league record reads. Played 17.Points available 51.Points obtained 11.Goals scored 13.Goals conceded 36.
With a record like that and two 9-0 defeats within eighteen months,together with the longest run of consecutive defeats in the history of the club, does not all of the evidence suggest that Ralph’s has “ultimately” had his chance?
|halftimeorange added 09:55 - Apr 13|
I'll repeat this from my match report:-
If this had been a three course restaurant meal I'd have rejected the starter, called the chef out to ask for my bill to be cancelled and left. Trouble was I was at home and leaving there in a huff seemed pointless, so I stayed for the dessert which wasn't much better. Recently I pondered whether Ralph was really the man to lead Saints forward and I attracted a number of minus marks. After this (lack of) performance and after Ralph had publicly said that his selections were playing for their places at Wembley I'm still pondering. Has Ralph lost the changing-room or what? This wasn't just a bad show, it was a disgrace and all concerned should hang their heads in shame. And we all know that Leicester aren't WBA. Not sure if I want to take my seat for the semi-final - I will, of course but, with much trepidation.
|teamster1 added 09:56 - Apr 13|
You cannot pick and choose which games you are up for and which ones your not. Too many games this season have shown the same mistakes. Believe me we will struggle to make 40 points this season and the only reason we might stay up is because of Fulham’s position so let’s just pray they don’t put a run together. Last nip performance was a disgrace no two ways about it!!
|Hamnottingham added 09:56 - Apr 13|
1. It says a lot when the two players who IMO deserved the highest 'ratings' were our centre backs and we lost 3-0.
2. My son stating, "We must be the most inconsistent team in the PL." Prompting the question, which team will show up on Sunday?
|Centurion added 10:15 - Apr 13|
A good analysis Nick, as always.
I agree with you in that we may as well enjoy the semi final for what it is.
However, there are definitely major issues with the team and also tactics that cannot be ignored.
FWIW, i think other more astute managers, Allardyce amongst them (a wily old fox), know about our pressing game and that essentially we need to score early and dominate the first 30 minutes in which we score 2 or even three and demoralise the opposition. They have seen that when this was a relatively unknown ploy it worked well for us. It may have also been apparent that in the second half we dropped off and could not sustain the pressure. A good example was how Villa came back from 4 down, scored 3 and nearly a 4th. Therefore some of these managers have decided to press us right from the KO. This disrupts our game plan and highlights our poor defence.
IMO many Saints managers would have sussed out that we have been sussed and therefore change our tactics to counter the tactics now employed by these managers. My problem is that for some reason Ralph is reluctant to do this. The only game I think he did was the 0-0 against Chelski...a good draw and essential 1 point.
The question for me is why doesn't Ralph change things? Why doesn't he read the type of game and counter the opposition manager?
Is Ralph too dogmatic or is he flawed?
|wessexman added 10:21 - Apr 13|
Hand on heart Nick, HOW MANY times have you had to write a match report on yet another dire and gutless display over the last 3 - 4 seasons? I think the problem lies deeper than Ralph. Yes, at times he does not help himself. Last night we could all see we were in big trouble after only 15-20 mins but he did not change things until way after HT. But, for all our lording our recruitment, fact remains we have flirted with relegation for quite a few seasons now. We also have this dreadful habit of being off the scale when we put in a terrible performance. For the life of me, I'll never understand the club giving Stephens a long term contract. WHO sanctioned that? Our back four has been a problem since Fonte left. As you state, lack of leadership continues to manifest itself. We have been lucky we have managed to finish above the dreaded line and Ralph deserves a lot of credit for that. BUT, relying on 3 worse teams every season is not a viable strategy. We shall run out of luck eventually and pay the consequences.
|ElijahK added 10:58 - Apr 13|
Yesterday was one of the worst performances I’ve seen us give in absolutely ages! And things really need to change as some of these issues are with Ralph whilst others are not! As yesterday, honestly I don’t see much that he did too wrong other than not bringing on any subs until the 87th minute, along with not changing his tactics! But at the same time all the players were soo poor and it was mainly down to them in the end! But at the same time when you’ve only gotten 7 points out of 14 games you do start to have to wonder of whats best for the club, as yeah Ralph is a likeable guy and did get us top, but he’s also made us loose 9-0 twice and set a new club record for the most back to back defeats!
I mean for me I’d say that if we can get to at least 45 points by the end of the season and try to get to an FA Cup final, then I’d say give him next season as he’s going on about getting all this funding and such, but if it still doesn’t work out then, or we don’t finish anywhere near 45 points, then really things may need to change!
|WestSussexSaint added 11:04 - Apr 13|
If we beat Leicester on Sunday then this result will quickly be forgotten. Based on last nights performance though that looks like a big IF right now.
I was surprised to see how many of the players who have been pretty decent this season were so poor last night. Forster, KWP, JWP, Walcott were all guilty of poor decisions or poor execution. I would say the only player who I would give any credit to last night was Redmond, and that is saying something! At least he looked like he was trying.
Big week for Ralph coming up!
|allsaint54 added 11:10 - Apr 13|
Woeful, absolutely woeful. How to make WBA look a top 6 side. We can't blame the ref, VAR or injuries. Since December we've using this as excuses for poor results. We are just a poor team with average players.
At least no club will be buying any of our players this summer, unfortunately.
The defence will get the blame but thee space we afforded WBA between our defence & midfield was criminal. JWP & Diallo were nothing short of abysmal. If they were told not to tackle or run back they executed the instructions perfectly.
Walcott & Redmond in the same side is a luxury we can't afford.
Ralph's substitutions are baffling, with the game gone after an hour why wait until the 87th minute before making your 2nd substitution. Surely Tella &Jankewitz should have been given a decent run.
Can see another 9-0 thrashing at the weekend.
|SanMarco added 11:16 - Apr 13|
Shameful display by highly paid professionals. When an already relegated side can outplay us without even breaking sweat it has to tell us something - the thing that worries me is that that something may be a lack of quality. Should we have looked THAT bad??
The idea of resting players was about injuries, not about the idea that those selected wouldn't try. As articulated by many others, many times over recent months, we seem to only have about twenty minutes or so in us. If teams can keep us at bay for that short time then they are likely to win. The lack of intensity yesterday meant we didn't even get that 'good' spell until too late - and even then we were pretty half-hearted and actually managed to lose the second half even though the opposition weren't even trying to score!!
I don't accept the suggestion that we shouldn't criticize until the end of the season. The only good thing is that 3000 hapless souls didn't have to travel up there, watch that and then have to get home afterwards. Of course we will all be behind the team on Sunday, but we were behind the team yesterday and look what happened - choose what adjective you like, I went for shameful as my first word and my last is disgraceful.
|Flamingbankers added 11:25 - Apr 13|
Nick's beef with the defence seems strange (perhaps as obstinate as Ralph's commitment to his formation) when many think the Bednarek and Vestergaard have been the most consistently performing players this season. I think the real reason for such a poor defeat was the lack of a solid midfield, notably the loss of Romeu, who we seemingly can't replace. I believe Ralph should have at least given Jankewitz a try two games ago or perhaps given Salisu a go there. A defence can not defend without an organised midfield protecting the back line, you're simply asking for the impossible in the Premiership. Premier teams know the gap and weakness and easily exploit it - Brighton did it, Burnley did it in the first half and WBA did it last night and Leicester will do it on Sunday (until Ralph miraculously has a rethink). It's incredible to me that Ralph hasn't attempted to solve this, albeit with limited resources. The other point, as intimated, is the unwillingness of Ralph to change formation or strategy when necessary - after all plenty of managers have shown him the way this last two years, Potter and Alladyce not withstanding.
|LordDZLucan added 11:28 - Apr 13|
I think allsaint54 has hit the nail on the head. The defence looks all at sea because it is not getting the protection from midfield. During our excellent run of form in 2020 that protection was being provided by Oriol Romeu. Now that he is injured we are missing him big time. The priority in the summer has to be to sign another Oriol Romeu because he can't do it all on his own even if he stays fit!
|LordDZLucan added 11:30 - Apr 13|
Flamingbankers also hit the nail on the head as I was composing my contribution!!
|Boris1977 added 11:55 - Apr 13|
Ralph commented yesterday that Saints are too easy to score against. That is obvious. If we concede once we are likely to concede at least once more. It is the manager’s job to change it and if he is unable to then he needs to walk away.
I like Ralph and have resisted calling for change but last night’s game was another embarrassing but predictable outcome. If the players were not trying that says a lot about their relationship with the manager. A tactical change was called for within 20 minutes but was not made and the subs were much too little too late.
The uncertainty over ownership is a symptom of the problem and this needs to be sorted out asap. Over the summer the board need to be critical of the manager and the players and identify where the problem lies and act accordingly. This can only be done with a new long term owner in – not one looking to sell.
Most Saints fans on this forum and in general are very realistic about what we expect from Saints and the minimum is to put in effort every game. Last night, Brighton, Newcastle, the ‘ positive’ thrashing v Man City and the first 30 minutes v Burnley were unacceptable. This is why Saints fans are so annoyed/upset and embarrassed – we are not jumping on the odd bad performance we are talking about an existential overarching issue at the club – at our club. We have been patient and have generally gone with the flow of your healthy advice which has been to look to the next result not the last debacle. West Brom is the ‘next’ result and it has delivered the usual disappointment. I would love us to beat Leicester and get to the cup final but can anyone really see it happening?
We support Saints because we follow our local club not just because we want to win cups – although that would be nice. Supporting the club does not mean accepting bad performances without criticising. We get annoyed and voice our displeasure because we care. We deserve a team and board that feel the same.
|Farlow added 11:56 - Apr 13|
Totally agree with the previous two contributions,it was an ideal game to try Jankewitz
espescially,Diallo is no where near strong enough to be a central midfielder.I was
very disappointed Ralph did not change it at half time.To be outclassed by the second bottom club speaks volumes.
|Colburn added 13:03 - Apr 13|
As soon as I saw the line up, I knew what to expect from the game. A team of players who knew that if they performed badly, they will still be in the starting line up for Sunday. A team including individuals who would bottle half of the challenges to avoid injury, whilst keen, hungry players who needed and indeed deserved a run out, sat on the bench, becoming more frustrated with their lack of deserved opportunity to show their worth. This game was always going to be a battle and warriors like Adams and Djenepo should have started in place of Walcott (who was fire) and Redmond who bottled out of challenges too obviously in the first half but did improve with his link up in the second, but still not enough to make up for his first half 'effort'.
Sadly, Ralph will not make the changes he needs to for Sunday. He proved this at half time last night when he failed to haul off a couple, suggesting they have ten minutes to sort their mess. This was an appallingly weak piece of management which can not increase harmony in the camp and I would not be surprised if Ralph has lost half of the squad because of the weak and favourtistic decisions he has made with his preferred 11.
Redmond and Walcott have both had more chances than others and I am amazed to see that we are thinking of signing Walcott in the summer. We are naively falling behind the likes of Brighton in terms of recruitment and quality and its not difficult to see where we are going wrong. I'm also not surprised now by Ings and Bertie not signing their new deals.
I love Ralph as a human but I'm sad to say that he is another taking us in the wrong direction and can't see his own errors and weaknesses. He is too naive and not learning quickly enough if at all. Danny Rohl going has showed Ralph's deficiencies and the back room staff don't seem to be having any positive impact.
Finally, I will be amazed if there are the necessary changes made to the dude on Sunday, those who failed abysmally yesterday will be rewarded with a starting place after they apologise to Ralh this week, promising to be different on Sunday and Ralph will accept it, Adams and Djenepo will probably be on the bench along with Salisu and our slow, tired centre backs will have a tough time with Vardy and Iheanacho. Salisu should have played last night and Jankewitz, it could not have resulted in a worse outcome but the manager got it wrong again. We should have made the change after the Man Utd disaster and brought in Lampard or Howe.
|JoeEgg added 13:07 - Apr 13|
I cannot believe that I am reading again "this could still be our greatest season ever" from Nick! The only person who is making more wrong calls this season than Ralph is our friend Nick.
It has become embarrassing to watch the Saints. We had a strong team yesterday with an equally impressive array of talent on the bench. But Ralph clearly has his favourites as his team selection shows and I am losing patience with the man. Defending high up the field creates an enormous problem for the likes of Bednarek and Vesterguard but Ralph knows best. The fact is we do have some good players and by now Ralph should know how best and when to use them. I am disappointed to say that he appears to have learnt nothing from our 'best ever' season!
I cannot understand why Nick attaches so much importance to the Cup sem-final. Is that really more important to us than working hard , as the top priority, to repeat the real 'best ever' season we had so recently under Ronald Koeman, when all the top teams were scared of playing the Saints and we were so proud of our team?
If Ralph plays the same defensive 'system' against Leicester they have just the right players for exposing our weaknesses there. Surely we can compete better this weekend than we did yesterday but for me even the likely prospect of success in the Semi Final, cannot compensate for watching our team outplayed by a side still most likely to be relegated.
Well its too late now to go for Eddie Howe, who could surely have done agreat job at St Marys. So how about plan B? Spurs can take Ralph and we can bring in Jose!!! Then we really will be the laughing stock of the Premier decision!
|JohnT added 13:19 - Apr 13|
I only listened on Solent so maybe I got a biased view, but from the start it sounded lack lustre & got worse... I hoped we would improve in the 2nd half or at least see some changes, but no ... it just went on much the same apart from a short period. These are the same players that were almost unbeatable a while ago so it's not lack of ability just motivation
|Farlow added 13:46 - Apr 13|
Fraser Forster was not good enough before and we loaned him to Celtic he is not in
|dirk_doone added 13:53 - Apr 13|
Teams use the same tactic against us now. They double up on our right flank and we don't put another defender over there to deal with it until the second half by which time we've already conceded a couple of goals. Every time Walker-Peters went upfield, West Brom pounced and poured men down their left wing, and nobody came across to cover for KWP. Bednarek and Vestergaard are too static and if anything they tend to drift to the left, leaving even more open space on our right flank. When Romeu plays he gets back to help out but Diallo doesn't. Without Romeu to stop the attacks before they get there, we are wide open on the right sside of our half of the pitch.
|Dellwizard added 14:09 - Apr 13|
I don't think it is a coincidence, but when Ralph introduced the "playbook" the results have been quite disastrous since the New Year.
First team W3 D1 L11. B Team W1 D2 L7. 18s W0 D2 L8. I won't go into goal difference but that is just as frightening.
Both the B team and the 18s are bottom of their leagues.
I think there needs to be a re-think in our approach to games/tactics etc as it is totally obvious the playbook isnt working.
|PaleRider added 14:22 - Apr 13|
Time and time again they show what they are really made of - nothing! Simple truth - our players are just pathetic and gutless.
|LordDZLucan added 15:04 - Apr 13|
Dellwizard, an Interesting observation on the performance of our B and U18 teams. That does tend to suggest that players at all levels are struggling with the Ralph style of playing.
|deanosfc8 added 15:08 - Apr 13|
Keep calm you bed wetters! one more win from the next seven PL games and two more wins in the FA cup will be seen as our best ever season with a statue of Ralph outside St Marys holding the FA cup....
|davidargyll added 15:09 - Apr 13|
What complete tracesty!! Should have been 6-0!!
No more need be said, except that Leicester must be rubbing their hands with joy...!!!
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