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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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SalisburySaint added 12:21 - Oct 18
Given that we only took 2 points from those 8 games last season, 7pts is a big improvement, and apart form second half at Everton and the Wolves game we've performed well in every game,

Now we just need to make a few more chances, and score more goals

Colburn added 12:37 - Oct 18
Very much a relief, more than anything. Lovely goal, great tackle followed by a wonderful pass by Djenepo finding Redmonds excellent cross field run and a pass just strong enough to give Broja his first Prem goal and us finally a win. I think this makes an ok start, if we win next week then a solid start is fair. One win in 8 isn't solid.

Having seen Ralph's comments on how critical he is of Redmond behind the scenes shows that previous fans criticism has been fair and correct. What I did see Saturday was how effective he can be in more of a central role rather than stuck out on the touchline. The most important aspect of the change in him was his sprinted effort to close down a Leeds player on the touchline in the last minute.. Fantastic. This is what is required and he deserves praise this change in desire and attitude. We all know his quality but he now needs to produce it in all aspects of his game as he did Saturday and there won't be a fan who isn't behind him. We'll done Redders.

Salisu, Diallo, Livramento and Perraud showed that our newer signings over the last year have bedded in well and that they and other youngsters can be trusted to do a job rather than being given 5 mins at the end of a game when everyone is knackered.
It was a weakened, poor Leeds team so anything less than a win would have been a disaster but we deserved the win and achieved largely without either Armstrong, Adams or JWP in the game, players who on paper look like ones we can't do without..

DellBoyWally added 13:26 - Oct 18
Yeah, was a decent performance against Leeds. All the comments about Utd being weakened by absences overlooks the fact that Leeds have been losing even with their so-called stars playing! So in that respect our 1 - 0 is disappointing. We still need more goals. We can't, and won't, keep winning with only the single score. I'd like to see at least 2 strikers up front, one of AdamA or CheAda with Broja who gives a genuine target man ala GP a few years back.
If Redders keeps that sort of form consistently then he has to play (and I apologise for having sold him a number of times!). Ibra Diallo brought a dynamism to midfield that we haven't had for a few seasons, showing up JWP's negative, backwards play. I'd much rather the youngster in there every time.
Burnley up next probably copying Wolves parked bus and time wasting. We need to over-power their midfield and defence with 4 3 3 or 4 4 2 with KWP at RB and moving Livra to RM and at least 2, maybe 3, strikers. Run at them all day plus use wingers for crosses to AB for AdamA and/or CheAd to feed off.
Please please please NO 1 - 0. 3 goals minimum should be our target

Sadoldgit added 13:52 - Oct 18
I wasn’t expecting us to get anything at Goodison so the only real disappointment this season for me was the Wolves match. Hopefully now we have got this monkey off our back and have Stuey back we can pick up a few more wins and focus on that instead of wondering when Eddie Howe is going to take over.

underweststand added 18:35 - Oct 18
As the media continues to remind us that Leeds were without their star players / big money signings, let's remember that Saints fielded a start side without; Ché Adams, Adam Armstrong, Jack Stephens, Stuart Armstrong and JWP - so I think we ought to call that one -"quits". We were much the better side throughout most of the game.

Saints looked dominant in the first 45 (with 12 shots) yet without scoring, but finally got the breakthrough in real style via a move; started by Djenepo, onto Redmond and finally gave Broja his first Prem. goal. A classic build-up sequence I could watch over and over again.

We were all glad for the first Prem. win of the season, but I would have felt more relaxed had it finished 3 or 4-0 and not had to endure a nail-biting finish.


KriSaint added 19:04 - Oct 18
Beat Burnley and its 10 points in 9 pretty difficult games = approved first 1/4 of the season and a quite settled, content squad and manager AND fan base.
But we have to beat Burnley first. Can we? Of course we can. Will we? That's an other matter. I really, really, really hope so.
COYS! <3

IanRC added 19:44 - Oct 18
Why wasn’t Llorente sent off for a tackle that was at least as dangerous as the one that saw JWP sent off against Chelsea. The PL appears to be fixed in favour of clubs such as Leeds, suppose Ralph can’t comment on it but we should.

wrathoftazz added 20:34 - Oct 18
OK so several points

1) how many wins have we had since JAN 1st? Exactly

This point is a direct result of the "knives" after the Chelsea game. Yes it is another season, but the fact remains the same.

2) yes we now have a bigger squad, but this is AFTER Ralph "streamlined" it in the first instance and made it public knowledge that he wanted a smaller squad to work with (we all know what happened then)

3) loosing Ings

I'm pretty sure that a -side step- was not what he wanted. If you look at how the team played, decisions made by Ralph and how many games we had won, I'm pretty sure that's why he left... he wanted to win games.. if he wanted championships, he would have waited. He knew Saints were a dead horse under Raplh.

Credit where its due, Ralph has fixed the defence.. no longer leaking goals.. but in doing so, has neutered the attack. If we can only score 1 against a really bad Leeds side, then we have no hope.

We need a change, ONE win in however long, does NOT make up for the dodgy subs, 2x 9nil defeats, worst record last season or bad start to this season.

SaintPaulVW added 09:23 - Oct 19
Got to take the wins where we can get them. After the necessary squad surgery, if we can get through this season, then barring any heads being turned, next season should see us competing for the Europa League places.

It does seem that aside from wonderkids like Tino players , particularly overseas and lower league, need a full season to bed in.

Hopefully this means Adam Armstrong will start to get up to speed late this season, early next.

We will be back in the player development cycle then and the inevitable sad departures can be balanced put with the next crop of good players coming through.

saint901 added 09:57 - Oct 19
That's a fair assessment.

We do need to add in the fact that some players (Stephens, KWP, Perraud) have been in and out of the team and because (in my view), RH is a little inflexible in his tactical thinking, he takes a little time - say a game or two - to adjust. Sometimes that goes well (Le.g. Leeds who were poor) and sometimes not (e.g. Wolves where I thought he persevered too long with an attack that was being blunted).

I would therefore like RH to consider bringing in some help on the tactical/coaching side. I don't want him to go because he will keep us where we need to be for the moment, but we need to build a solid mid table platform. The squad is good enough (or at least better than half a dozen other teams) and RH's tactics are mostly sensible at the start of a game. Like I said, I'd like him to be able to change tactics mid match but he seems reluctant and perhaps needs another voice in the coaching side to help him.

Beyond that we have to think about the long term strategy of the club and its owners. That's been an issue certainly since I went to my first match (1962). It's good to see a bit more transparency as to the big picture but unless there is something Mr Gao has hidden (like a sovereign investment fund), we're going to be playing in own own mini league against clubs without multi billion owners.

Perhaps that mini league is as far as our present squad, manager and owner can realistically take us, in which case our start to the season is acceptable. Win or finish high in that mini league and we are safe.


KriSaint added 17:14 - Oct 19
I agree on your Llorente comment.
Did anyone see McArthur kick Saka 5 feet up in the air with 0.00 chance of hitting even an inch of the ball in yesterdays a**enal - Palace game? Mike Dean standing right in the middle of it. Here is what went through Deans thoughts, I'm sure:

"Well, there was a stone wall red card, but since people give me criticism for sending too many off, and since I LOVE making MY OWN decisions, I will go for a yellow card".

This so called 'referee' is just so embarrassing. What will it take to get him banned from refereeing?

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