Leeds Win Makes It A Solid Start For Saints
Monday, 18th Oct 2021 10:29
At the start of the season I looked at our opening 8 Premier League fixtures and thought that we might struggle early doors, but now with the final game of that run out of the way, we can look back on a solid if unspectacular start to the season.
After the defeat at Chelsea the knives were out for not only Ralph Hasenhuttl, but the owner and literally half the squad, indeed anyone that some of those showing their ire could think of.
Little allowance was give for the fact that we had taken the club who were top of the Premier League to the 83rd minute before they could get a winner and that only after we had gone down to 10 men, it seemed to open a torrent of abuse.
The two week break after that game only fuelled the fire as there was not another game up quickly to give the team a chance to show they could turn things around.
But as I said at the top of the page, the opening 8 were always going to be difficult, in the corresponding games last season we got just two points, a draw at home with West Ham and ironically a draw at Chelsea, the other six were defeats.
Historically away trips to Everton, Manchester City & Newcastle usually end in defeat with only the odd draw every now and then, Wolves had won the last two visits to St Mary's prior to this season and we haven't beaten Manchester United at home since August 2003 when we won 1-0 with a last minute James Beattie winner, a run in the Premier League of 6 defeats and 4 draws prior to the game back in August plus a couple of losses in the FA Cup.
In fact if we add in the two other defeats since moving from the Dell, that means we have beaten them at home just the once in 20 years, ironically we have a better record against them at Old Trafford in that period.
So these 8 games were always going to be tough, we would play 3 of last seasons top 4, plus West Ham who finished 6th, Leeds in 9th and Everton in 10th, only Wolves and Newcastle appeared winnable on paper.
I thought back in August that if we got 5 points from those 8 games, it wouldn't be a great start in terms of points to games ratio, but if we look at the opposition it would be better than average against these sides.
The truth is we competed in all of these games, at Everton we lead at half time and only lost the game late on as we tired, the next four games were draws and in three of them, United, Man City and West Ham they were good well fought out points, only the Newcastle game was a little disappointing, but we still had spirit to fight back and make sure we didn't lose.
The Wolves defeat was perhaps the one that most hurt, we dominated the game and should really have got something out of it, but we fell to a sucker punch from a side who parked the bus , this one was a disappointment.
The Chelsea game as mentioned was a toughie that saw us predictably with our backs to the wall against a side who were European Champions League winners last season and topping the Premier League this, it was going to be tough, yet we battled back hung in there only to see JWP sent off and then unable to stem the tide, there was no shame in this defeat.
Then came the Leeds United game on Saturday, this was always going to be the game that would decide whether our opening 8 games were going to be a little disappointing, steady or solid.
We went into it on 4 points, just about what I would have hoped for back in August, defeat on Saturday would have left us on 4 points from 8 games, not great looking at the table, but we would have got some of our bogey games out of the way and something to build on.
A draw would have seen us end the weekend on 5 points, again not great when looking at the League table, but what i would have thought of as the par score at the start of the season.
But we didn't lose and we didn't draw, we won and that gave us 7 points, more than I would have predicted and it suddenly made the premier league table a lot better looking.
I again concede that it is still not great viewing, but we have to take the opposition we have played into account and from that perspective it has been a solid start to the season and we now have something we can build on.
Of course we do have some disappointment in it, there were games that had lapses in concentration that cost us points and missed opportunities up front, but overall I think that 7 points from "These" 8 games can give us a lot of confidence going forward.
Of course we miss Danny Ings, but that was a situation beyond our control, it didn't make us a selling club, it didn't make us a club without ambition, it merely made us a club that cannot have the buying power and more importantly the ability to pay wages, according to the media Ings would be on around £30k a week at Villa than he was on at Saints, that equates to around £1.5 million a year extra for Ings.
That isn't about the Chairman throwing money in to pay the wages it is about the fact that Villa get 10,000 more fans than us each week, over a season that is £6 million more in gate money, it pays for 4 more star players than we can afford, we can scream about Gao all we want, but the stark truth is we are competing against some clubs who have bigger fan bases than us and that is reality, the Saudi Arabians bought Newcastle for the fan base, then don't want to be Monaco playing in a small stadium to low attendances, they want to be Manchester United with 60,000 in the ground.
But I have digressed, there is much to be confident about from these first 8 games, we have a bigger squad and can cope with injuries more than last season, we have several youngsters stepping up to the mark, Tino Livramento & Mohamed Salisu look to be quality.
The foundations of a decent squad are there, we just need Danny Ings goals to be replaced, from this perspective last season that meant 12 Premier League goals and this is what is required from Armando Broja and Adam Armstrong, can they between them score a dozen or more alongside Che Adams.
But all the hard work in the opening 8 games means nothing if we don't kick on in the next 11, these games are the ones that will really define our season and take us to the half way point.
The next two see us take on Burnley at St Mary's and we need to ensure that we beat them and put space between us, then Watford who we sit above on goal difference, these are the games we need to get points from to push us up the table and give us confidence.
We then face Villa at home, that is another that we can win and the return of Danny Ings will vamp up the atmosphere, follow that with Norwich away and we win that and we could find ourselves in or around the top 10.
A few toughies after that with Liverpool away, Leicester at home and then Brighton visiting. followed by three games against clubs from the capital in Palace away, Brentford home and then West Ham away to take us to Boxing Day and the mid point.
The first 8 games were never going to define our season, to summarise they have shown we have a decent side and we can compete, the next 11 will decide whether we can compete for the top 10 or be mid table.
It is time for positive thinking, the situation both on and off the pitch is what it is, no amount of ranting about Gao will change anything, we will either plough ahead as we have done and survive for as long as we are in the same boat as half the league or everyone else get's bought out by Saudi Princes etc .
The issue isn't completely about money, it is about having a strong football structure and building solid foundations, Brighton fans were calling for Graham Potter's head last season, now they are 4th in the League.
But it should be noted that their first games were a lot easier than ours, opening wins against Burnley & Watford could have gone either way and were pretty much as expected, a defeat to Everton saw their first challenge failed, Brentford away needed a last minute winner Leicester were in poor form when they arrived at the Amex but the Seagulls had some luck and won, the last three games have seen draws.
Their season started with only 2 sides in the top 10 last year, the exact opposite to us, they took their chances, now we need to take ours.
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #16 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes, and this time instead of an international break we played yesterday evening, and now have the luxury of sitting back and seeing what’s going to happen around us in the league table. A gritty display last night saw the U’s fight back from a being a goal down, with Freddy netting his 8th of the season, helped in no small measure by an inch-perfect through ball from Alan Judge. Whisper it, but with (at least) 30 competitive matches to go to the end of the season, Freddy’s average of 0.4 goals per game would actually see him reach that mythical ’20 goals per season’ figure – not bad for an Ipswich reject 😊.
When Saturday Comes #15 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes, and finally the U’s return to the league programme after what seems an age as a result of our international break. The Forest Green match has been rearranged for 21st December, the last Tuesday before Xmas, and it will no doubt be a chilly night on top of the hill overlooking Nailsworth. Originally billed as a 7pm kick-off, it seems to have been pushed back to 7.45pm now – better make sure before I set off on the short drive for that one. Talking of short drives, bravo to our U18s winning 2-0 at Swindon in the FA Youth Cup midweek, to set up a mouth-watering home tie against Arsenal in the 3rd Round.
When Saturday Comes #14 by wessex_exile
This week, When Saturday Comes the U’s find themselves on an international break and a weekend off for the WAGs to get in some Christmas shopping. Just as well too, given the U’s have inconsiderately eased past AFC Sudbury to deny them the customary FA Cup Second Round break in December to do likewise. We wait to hear who our opponent will be at the JobServe – it’ll be either top of League One Wigan Athletic or Cameron Coxe’s National League parent club Solihull Moors, who replay at Damson Park on Tuesday evening. Incidentally, Solihull Moors may be part of history being made today, with their match at Meadow Lane already expected to easily top 10,000, and may break the record attendance for that league, which currently stands at 11,083 when Bristol Rovers faced Alfreton Town in 2015.
When Saturday Comes #13 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…will we still be in the FA Cup? I heard somewhere during the week that the U’s have been eliminated from the FA Cup by non-league opposition more times than any other league club! Remarkable really when you consider that many non-U’s associate Colchester United with the greatest FA Cup giant-killing of all time. Following tonight, we travel to Portman Road on Tuesday night to see if we can stay in the Pizza Slice Trophy. Regardless that it is a much-maligned competition these days, surely that’s motivation enough for our tractor boy contingent?
When Saturday Comes #12 by wessex_exile
A relegation six-pointer already, seriously! Grim news so early in a season which had such promise, but that may well turn out to be the reality when the dust settles in May. On the eve of All-Hallows Eve, I’m wondering whether the U’s will have served up Trick or Treat by 5pm this afternoon. Plenty has been written over the last week by supporters, the press, even the Chairman about the protests during and after the Sutton United rocky horror football show, and whilst everyone has the right to voice their opinion on the club’s fortunes on and off the pitch, that doesn’t give anyone (even the Chairman) the right to be abusive – it’s not big, it’s not clever, and if anything it undermines the validity of that opinion.
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