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Southampton At Arsenal The Verdict
Monday, 13th Dec 2021 10:36

This was another of those days when an hour before the kick off when the line up came out, you knew it was going to be a long long day, complain all you want about poor team selections or tactics but such is the polarisation of the Premier League it is all about those who have money and those who haven't.

When the team came out it brought home the gravity of the situation, all good teams have a strong spine and ours had been decimated with both experienced goalkeepers injured, Salisu & Romeu suspended and Che Adams injured, the latter three all crucial players this season.

In came 40 year old Willy Caballero a bench warmer for the last 7 years and not having played a competitive game in over a year, back came Jack Stephens and Ibrahima Diallo it was always going to be tough.

But for the first 20 minutes it was an even contest and you just had thoughts that we might just get something, but then came a 16 pass move that carved us open and you knew it would be a long day, but we still kept battling and Adam Armstrong had caused the home defence problems even before they had scored, but again on 27 minutes we got caught asleep and Odegaard headed in from close range with Bednarek and Odegaard stood watching, the Polish defender made it quite clear whose man it was.

The rest of the half was goalless and the concourse screens at half time showed that we had had more attempts both on and off target, yet we were still two goals down.

The second half was about battling and riding our luck a little, as the hour mark went by there was still hope that we might get a goal back, but those hopes were extinguished when Gabriel rose like an angel above his markers and Caballero came and didn't get there for a ball that was never his and we were 3-0 down.

The last 30 minutes were all about survival and although we rode our luck a lot we got through the final third of the game unscathed.

The real irony is that we had more attempts on target than the home side, 6 to their 5, yet 3 of those went it, what cost us the game was poor marking and a failure to be first to the ball and you can't blame the manager for that.

There has been a lot of ranting and raving again about Ralph Hasenhuttl after this result, but we were missing four players from the side who faced Brighton, three of them perhaps our best players this season, Arsenal were able to bring on a sub Pepe a player who cost them £72 million, more than our entire starting line up and that tells us something about the task that Ralph Hasenhuttl has at present.

He is at the club not to steer us into the top 6, but to keep us steady and still in the premier League whilst we go through a difficult time financially where the owner is unable to put in money and we are hampered by having to pay high wages to players who are not really contributing much.

We have to ask ourselves just who we would get better to replace him, perhaps Claude Puel, after all he took us to 8th and a League cup final 5 years ago, yet that wasn't good enough then, I'm sure we would all take it now.

This is why I don't rant and rave at defeats such as this, Ralph Hasenhuttl is there to do a job and he has a lot less resources than most of the other 19 Premier League managers, he is not doing the job on an even playing field, yet some judge him on that.

He has kept us in the premier league and indeed taken us to an FA Cup semi final and has done so with a passion for the club that has been lacking in every manager before him since Nigel Adkins , it is a sad day that some cannot judge him on the task he has to do and not one that at this time he doesn't have the resources.

But on Saturday he was down to the bare bones in terms of experience, he had lost the spine of his team, yet despite the scoreline we still competed, we never lost the fighting spirit, we kept trying to get back in the game and indeed could have up until the hour mark.

With Oriel Romeu Che Adams and Salisu in the side on Saturday we might well have given them a much closer game, certainly we missed them greatly.

I'm not worried about losing to Arsenal a side who have spent a lot of money and are in the top 6 and rising, i'm more worried about travelling to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, Adam Armstrong and Broja both limped off at the Emirates, will they be fit for the trip to Selhurst Park and indeed will Che Adams be back, that is something to worry about, yet I suspect that the Ralph Out brigade will not take that into account.

Photo: Action Images

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DorsetIan added 10:56 - Dec 13
It was clear that we had a weakened team and that we were up against a much better team in any event.

So it does raise the question, why start with essentially the same formation that we started against Brighton but with weaker players in many of the key positions?

As has become a recurring theme, we had a real go for 20 minutes, didn't score (or sometimes we score 1) and then fell away and eventually got beaten easily.

People of sick of Ralph because he's a one trick pony. Was it impossible to try to keep it tight early on and hold back something to bring off the bench?

Maybe Ralph's replacement would be worse than him. In which case we could sack him too. But the sense that Ralph is just not up to managing in this league from a tactical point of view is not going away.


halftimeorange added 10:59 - Dec 13
I completely agree. Whilst Ralph's tactics are, at times baffling, we have to accept that, currently we do not have the riches to put out a side that can compete above the lower reaches of the EPL. It's not all Ralph's fault and we have unearthed some decent affordable young talent which, hopefully will come through and help secure our status in the next few seasons. The one area where we slipped in the recent past is developing our own talent - the production line hasn't provided any stars. Saints haven't been able to move on since the Lambert/Lallana days and then too many overpaid average squad members. Until we have new owners with a real plan (a la Brentford) we'll just have to keep our support going and our fingers crossed.

Colburn added 11:02 - Dec 13
Yep, the Polish man was wrong, Stephens was marking Lacazette and Bednarek left too big a gap between him and Stephens, then blamed Stephens for not marking two players! Incredible and pathetic! If we had more chances and failed (again) then it is also down to the manager, he selects the players and trains them, he also buys them it seems so they are his choices and yet again we have failed. However it is the previous games we have really failed in and why we need a change of manager before we sleepwalk into the Championship. If you don't think Lampard will bring us higher in the league then you are brainwashed.. As you were when you tried to say Redmond is better then Danjuma... Who is now playing where...?
I don't actually blame Ralph for this defeat entirely. The ref was poor and VAR was corrupt as usual as we should have had a penalty with Gabriel a red card, but it is obvious that VAR is rigged for the elite teams. If someone wants to take legal action against me for this comment, then go ahead! Dodgy pens only settled every game for the big 6 who played.. What a disgrace of a farce VAR is....
The real problem is that we have not picked up points in the games we needed to and now we are clinging on to the hope that we will win a game which is beyond our capability with the current player availability.
I don't think this site will be satisfied until Ralph takes us down and it will still not be his fault. It a bit like saying the tenth booster jab is going to be the one which works after the previous nine haven't... Sleepwalking towards disaster..

onetowatch added 11:04 - Dec 13
Nick, I'm sorry, but I find your comments, towards those of us who feel a change is needed , are very condescending. Pointing out the obvious, in terms of where we are in terms of procurement in comparison to other PL clubs, assumes you are shedding light on the problem!! We all know where we are, and our expectations are realistic. What is not acceptable, after 3 years of RH tenure, are the repeated mistakes:
- playing players out of position( KWP is a very good right back. TL is good, but is having his worst spell....why not try him further forward?)
- waiting far too long to employ obvious talent (Why Salisu was on the bench so much last season is bewildering. Why Tella has not been used more this season....?)
- why are certain players never subbed, rested when clearly not contributing, when WE DO HAVE alternatives....
At the end of his first season with us RH stated he'd learnt an awful lot. Sadly, I don't think he has....yes, he certainly has a closer affinity with the club than we've seen from recent managers...but that won't be enough to keep us in the PL....

TripleNiemi added 11:05 - Dec 13
Wasn't at this one so will refrain from comment, but will all being well be at Selhurst Park all being well but am not looking forward to it. Ayew hasn't scored in an age and next up....Saints in town - the rest we can predict.

Brentford is massive and we really do need to pick up three points but unless we are 3-0 up at halftime it will be same old story as we don't turn up second half.

I know i will get slated for this but i really see no point in sacking Ralph as i question the outcome at the end of the season. That said, for me it's time to get out of this league as it is meant to be a 'competition' but the only competition is nowadays, how many goals we will get spanked by.

HythePeer added 11:08 - Dec 13
New tactics from the manager this time: give away 3 points in the first half.

IanRC added 11:40 - Dec 13
Unbelievable that he didn’t start Lyanco, Brighton referee did his part too giving Salisu and Romeu bookings for offences that usually go unpunished when against us. Agree that VAR use is deeply ‘selective’ but then the FA itself borders on the corrupt. Even the ladies game is going the same way with United ladies given a free pass into the top league whereas ours have to start at a much lower level.

TimSaint added 11:58 - Dec 13
We were missing half a team of usual starters:
S Armstrong

Did anyone honestly expected anything from Arsenal away with the team / squad we had available ? Absolutely not.

It was same old, same old. Did alright in first half, didn't score and gifted the opposition chances.

We now have more important games coming up away to Palace and home to Brentford.

Salisu and Romeu will be back for these and let's face it, they were badly missed on Saturday. Hopefully the likes of Adams and S Armstrong will also be back. We also have to hope that A Armstrong and Broja are not badly hurt, otherwise we will be relying on Long and Walcott for goals !!

There is a chance that Brentford's game with Man U will be off tomorrow, so they will be fresher than us for Saturday.

I wonder if the Spurs game will go ahead on 28th Dec. I guess it depends on their Covid status, but I haven't seen anything since reading they had 8 players and 5 staff that had tested positive.

davidargyll added 12:05 - Dec 13
The real question ahead of this game was whether our squad had the much vaunted “sufficient strength in depth” and “cover for all positions”. And for the first twenty minutes or so it seemed we did, we controlled the midfield and were passing the ball around well.

But then …

KWP had a rush of the vapours, decided to make an absurd run to intercept a pass he was never going to get to, left our left flank as wide open as the English Channel and bish, bash, bosh… one down and that effectively was that. Down went the heads, our shape went out the window, defensive cock-ups all over the place, arguments amongst the defence and, despite some excellent efforts on goal from AA and Tella, the final result was as predictable as the absence of snow on Christmas Day.

Without two of our usual back four, with Jack Stephens not match fit, and a dodgy keeper, were our defensive lapses really such a surprise? Put like that, you’d have to say no, but then you still would have thought that, with a full week to prepare, they might have done better. But for whatever reason - lack of tactical awareness, no tackling back, not defending to plan, unmatchfit players, superior opposition - for much of the game we struggled and moreover, if it wasn’t for the post, the result would have been considerably more of an embarrassment.

In summary, it was clear was that:
1. Without Romeu, Salisu, and AM/FF, we were poor at the back;
2. Up front, we had several flashes, but, without Che, with an Arsenal keeper in form and zero luck, our inability to score was underlined;
3. The midfield seemed to lose shape as the game went on, Diallo was pretty anonymous and JWP especially looked increasingly weary;
4. On the evidence of Saturday’s performance, we may technically have cover for all positions but the quality just isn’t there.

But now looking forward, with MS and OR (and hopefully Che and, you never know, Stuart Armstrong) returning next week, can we make a better fist of it against Palace? Surely we cannot be overrun as much as we were, nor have an oppo keeper in such good form, as at the Emirates, can we? Who knows, we do seem so brittle at the moment, but you can be sure that, regardless of the outcome of that match, our next home game on Saturday against Brentford will be key going into the Christmas period, especially as the crowd was definitely getting restless at the end of the Brighton fiasco…

PS. All this cr*p about getting rid of RH. And replace him with who? Eddie Howe -who a lot of people think is brilliant but I think is hugely overrated - has hardly made a sparkling start to his Newcastle tenure. Nor has Dean Smith at Norwich. Nuno ES? Big question marks over his long term record. Yes Gerrard is doing ok at Villa but Frank Lampard. Pur-lease…What has he done? Got Derby almost promoted and made a mess of Chelsea. No thank you. RH may be struggling with an average squad but alternatives most definitely do not guarantee anything different, and conceivably something a great deal worse.

felly1 added 12:05 - Dec 13
We were never going to get anything from this game. An old goalie on a month's contract who clearly isn't good enough, our best CB out and Romeu and Adams missing .Ralph may make mistakes for sure but I don't think he was to blame for this.
I see Eddie Howe has garnered 5 points from a possible 15 so the new manager honeymoon period hasn't really worked at Newcastle.
I guess if you want to believe 2 season experienced Frank Lampard is going to turn our players into anything other than lower Prem mediocrity than they currently are, we'll good luck to you!
It's a new owner with some investment we need, not a new manager.

felly1 added 12:10 - Dec 13
Glad to see Nick got his obligitory comment of.. let's blame Jack Stephens for everything in..whilst ignoring the shortcomings and mistakes of his fellow players..he was no more hapless than the rest of them.
It's a bit like people who have an agenda against Redmond eh Nick?

I_would added 12:27 - Dec 13
We lost 68 points due to the manager from winning positions BEFORE we had injury problems. That's why we want him out.

Boris1977 added 12:40 - Dec 13
The cult of Ralph is, like all cults, a curious thing and is an argument which shifts depending, or regardless, of results or performances.

There have been several claims over the past year or so that we have a better squad now than when Ralph arrived. But as results and performances have continued to drop the cult of Ralph are claiming that this team is where it should be based on the current squad.

Ralph complained last season that the squad was too big but when the injuries hit he claimed he needed a bigger squad to cover injuries.

We bought a decent left back in the summer but he prefers to play a very good right back at lb instead.

We are picking up injuries again and unlike last season we do not have the cushion of PTS on the board.

The defeats and dropped points are of themselves it's the manner and expectation of defeats. We lost to Norwich with our strongest 11 and dropped points against an injury ravaged Brighton at home.

The team are lacking confidence and there is only one person at the club who is paid to change that mindset.

I'm assuming that those who accused the naysayers of saying that we have too many championship players in the team are now agreeing that this is the case and that regardless of who ever manages this team would be fortunate to finish 4th from bottom?

If anyone had claimed that last year they would have been accused of bed wetters - bad this does seem to be the point of view of the Ralph cult. Something has gone badly wrong at the club.

ExBaselSaint added 12:50 - Dec 13
From an optimistic 'cover in every position' at the start of the season to the most financially disadvantaged team in the league?

Farlow added 13:01 - Dec 13
Why have we kept Harry Lewes on the payroll so long.If we prefer to play q 40 year old bench warmer who was rubbish instead.Why the hell Lyanco did not start is beyind me,
surely one Ralphs worst in a long line of bad decisions.

landsdownsaint added 13:03 - Dec 13
You know your in trouble when you got Jack Stephens & Bednarek in front of a 40 yr old keep who ain’t played for a year & that’s a fact!…. Ralph’s got this club in his heart & with what he’s got available I think we done ok Saturday but I’m a little miffed with dropping Lyanco though

janecook added 13:31 - Dec 13
Well that worked bringing back Jack Stephens the defence was shite. At least on Wednesday we can have Lyanco and Salisu back in the centre of defence. It would be good to see Walker-Peters and Perraud to play at fullback with Livramento in midfield.

131153 added 13:33 - Dec 13
I was quite pleased watching the first twenty minutes and then the roof caved in. Difficult to moan too much about a very good goal they scored. The second I felt had a bit of bad luck about it when the first cross was blocked it looped straight back on their players head. The third academic really though no doubt a better keeper would have reached the cross.

I felt when the team was announced probably the best that could be hoped for in the circumstances. Nick is right about the financial imbalance when a bench warmer costs more than our entire team. I thought it was crazy when Arsenal paid all that money for Ramsdale clearly a very astute decision. One we could have made in the summer but most people I believe would have thought the club barking mad. Hopefully OR and MS back on Wednesday and all keep fingers crossed for a t least a point.

kingolaf added 13:59 - Dec 13
Sorry. Nick, but typical of you to defend Ralph on the pretext of a weakened team.

What about the weakened Brighton team we couldn’t beat? Or our failure at Norwich? Or, for that matter, our failure at most of our opponents in 2021?

Chucking Puel in as a possible replacement as well, pathetic.

Braveheart added 13:59 - Dec 13
We can all bemoan the lack of "quality" players missing from the team at Arsenal. Real truth is that they are not all that. If RH as a manager did what a manager should do then things may be better. For example, the players that are missing because of suspension, why are they suspended? because of indiscipline and lack of thought of the consequences. The manager should dock a months wages from any player that gets sent off resulting in decimating the team for three games. Perhaps then they will think more. If it became a straight choice between Claude Puel and Ralph, it will be Claude everytime, no hesitation. We have had some dross as managers in recent years but Claude is up there with Adkins, Koeman and Pochettino. There are some quality managers out there jobless, with top flight pedigrees why are we not talking to them.? Any manager who is appointed should be so on the understanding that they have a minimum of 3 guaranteed years to turn it around. RH's tenure is now up. If we lose against Palace and Brentford then I will be looking for that taxi outside the main entrance waiting for Ralph. I wouldn't mind getting relegated, we are punching at the moment because we only have the quality of a mid table championship side if that. Wake up People and especially Nick and smell reality.

ExBaselSaint added 14:45 - Dec 13
Again, I watched the team very carefully at the last home game and I honestly don't think we have the fitness or the technical ability in the squad to sustain the high pressing game that Ralph wants.

JoeEgg added 14:53 - Dec 13
I remember sitting proudly watching Saints with first Pochettino and then Koeman and their coaching teams proudly taking our teams to the League heights that according to the gospel of St Nick and an ever decreasing handful of his sympathisers here, should be well beyond our capabilities.
I welcomed a very promising squad of players at the beginning of this season and was prepared to give Ralph one last chance to show that he had learnt the lessons necessary to become a successful Premier League manager in England. I am now seeing a dismembered , ineffective, frightened and totally confused group of players falling from one level of failure to the next. Even our best players look shattered, tired and bewildered. Now the Ralph sympathisers point to injuries, referees, suspensions and stronger opposition to help explain the latest collapse and steady transition from being a successful Premier League club to taking our inevitable place in the Championship. Many of our players have now lost all confidence in their personal ability and the capability of our team winning football matches. Played out of position, moved around from one game to the next, inexplicable tactics and a 4-2-2-2 system that simply doesn't work for us. I keep hearing about our wonderful Academy players but would you play any of them in the First Team right now? What a wonderful boost for the confidence of our young goalkeeper to have to go searching for a 40 year old to do a better job. Thierry Small looks a great player in the making but he needs to be handled by better management than currently offered by Ralph.
We are down on our knees with excuses preumably already in place for the Palace and Brentford games. These two games should be the last chance saloon for the current manager. There should be no need for further debate - this is the reality.

mattthelegend added 15:19 - Dec 13
I probably sound like a broken record but what is going on with Stewie Armstrong, he is missed so badly from the team?

AmericanSaint added 15:21 - Dec 13
So again lots of valid points on both sides of the argument about the game and RH. Let's all chalk this one up to the dustbin and move on. While I am a RH for now, I think there are valid points to questioning his tactics, especially in the second half. I think some of our players believe that they are a lot better than they actually are and try to pull-off world class paying or tricks etc, which then lead to abysmal failure and goals against. I now question why RH is constantly playing KWP on left back and not Paroud, a nature left back. Also, I dont see how he rates JS more than a sub? Why the heck did we get Lynaco and Paroud id he is not using them. Please dont tell me it is to give them time to adapt to the PL. They have ahd enough time now. I dont think we have the time for this luxury.

I dont think the club with dump RH until the end of the season no matter what as the owners and Front Office are doing too much other things to sell the club. I think we will have to wait and see what/if new owners will make the change if the club is sold. As I have said before, I think we will hover around the relegation zone for the whole season whilst looking over our shoulder, but we will squeak through. Then next summer will be a true time to see where we are headed - new owner? new manager? new players?

Well this christmas season will show us where we really stand, COYR

underweststand added 16:00 - Dec 13
A back line that were all right-footed players(!) and no-one to create anything in midfield.
Our front line having 11 shots = the normal zero goals, what more could be expected as away games v. Arsenal provided the expected result. No wins in the last 34 years, that's surely worse than all our visits to Everton.
No point in blaming individuals for the loss - this was a team defeat in all departments.

Now we have 3 injured strikers, and a starting line-up with Long and Walcott at Palace.
Must be time to bring in the two 16 year olds who are scoring for fun in our B team.


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