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Southampton At Brentford The (Damning) Verdict
Monday, 9th May 2022 10:51

Saints fans turned on Ralph Hasenhuttl at the end of the game, but the problems on the pitch lie far deeper than just the manager, it is about a lack of leadership on the pitch that is costing us so dearly.

They say that stats don't lie, well if that is the case then Saints would have won this game, 60% possession, more shots than the home side and only one less on target.

But the stats don't tell the story, most of our efforts were nowhere near the goal, whereas it could have been far worse than the 3-0 scoreline.

Many Saints supporters have been saying that Saints have been on the beach, but I don't think it is that and this is the only plus point I can think of from Saturday, too many players are not on the beach, but are on the transfer list metaphorically speaking, too many of the squad perhaps suspect or even know they have no future at St Mary's, that in the summer changes will be made by the new owners.

Surely that can be the only reason that a team that was in such fine form 2-3 months ago, has suddenly become so awful, the manager got it from both barrels on Saturday, but he was not the one failing to do the basic things when it comes to defending or passing or just about everything on the pitch.

Did he tell Jan Bednarek & Mohammed Salisu to leave their men unmarked or did he tell them to keep it tight and make sure we don't give the other team chances.

Of course Ralph Hasenhuttl has to play some part in our poor run of form, he picks the team, but if we look at that team, would anyone have picked a team drastically different ?

Certainly not in the back four, injuries excepted and in the midfield only the benching of Oriol Romeu was strange.

Up front I would still have played Adam Armstrong as we need to give him a chance, but why does the totally out of form Armando Broja still get played in front of Che Adams.

But this aside this was a team that a couple of months ago was winning games, so why have the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Jan Bednarek, Mo Salisu, Armando Broja, all key players when we were winning games, suddenly become shadows of their former selves.

Perhaps they are not playing for the manager, there is that theory, but if a professional footballer is choosing when and where he deigns to put in the effort, then that is not the sort of player needed at the club.

But I don't think that it is a lack of effort it is a lack of leadership, when we conceded a goal in the 13th minute it was in many respects against the run of play or at least a surprise as we didn't start badly.

But having conceded an awfully defended goal where Brentford swept the ball home unmarked, we kicked off again and charged about as if we had just conceded a 89th minute goal and only had minutes to equalise, 90 seconds later we were 2-0 down.

That is a lack of leadership on the pitch, there is not calming influence, having gone a goal down a leader would have slowed things down and made sure we didn't give the opposition a chance to catch us out again.

But that never happened, it hasn't happened since Steven Davis left the club and until we find another leader then it will keep happening.

We are becoming like Leeds a team that have only one way of playing and that is charging forward and keep getting caught out.

I do think Ralph Hasenhuttl could be doing things a bit better, but the real issue is the players themselves, the usual suspects will get the blame, but it isn't the usual suspects letting us down, it is those who were previously our best players, how come so many of them have gone to the dogs over the last two months, if you tell me that is down to the manager, then those players are a disgrace, I can accept poor form, but I can't accept players who don't try.

The substitutions didn't help, taking off Diallo just after the hour and bringing on Elyounoussi, another whose form has deteriorated was never going to help, why no Tella, no Romeu or Che Adams at this stage, players who have shone in this poor run of form.

Why only a second substitution so late in the game, Ralph had options why did he not use them, that is a question that needs to be answered, as i said I don't think he can be absolved from the blame.

The issue at Saints is a lack of quality coaches backing up Hasenhuttl, he needs someone to advise, Kitzbichler is a statistical coach not a tactical one, he consults him, but his tactical nous is limited, when do you ever see Ralph consulting Kelvin Davis, Craig Forrest or Dave Watson, his other three coaches.

The answer is just about never and perhaps this is the crux of the matter, perhaps the coaching staff know their days are numbered in the summer, certainly it looks like the players have not been coached, hence the lack of organisation especially at the back.

Yes I was hacked off on Saturday, I was annoyed, but I try to see the root cause of the problem and ultimately it was the standard of performance from certain players that was lacking, it would not have mattered if Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola had been manager on Saturday, if those players had put in that performance then the result would be exactly the same.

In my view we have pandered to certain players who have not performed for a while now, Jan Bednarek and Armando Broja are two who seem to get played despite showing little enthusiasm and both might not be here next summer, certainly Broja won't be, but truthfully would we want him given that he has only scored 6 goals and just about all in a 3 month period in the middle of the season, he has been poor now for 3 months.

But there were plus points, Adam Armstrong buzzed around and scored a decent goal ruled out by offside, but the quality he showed in putting the ball in the net should not go unnoticed, why he wasn't paired with Che Adams on Saturday at least in some point of the game is a mystery.

The sooner the season is over now the better, we have petered out when we should have done so much better, the fact that we are still only 4 points behind Palace in 10th shows that we aren't a bad side, just one that has gone to pot in recent months, if we had just been average over that period then we would be in the top 10.

Photo: Action Images

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davidargyll added 11:34 - May 9

I do agree with a lot of what you say but my take is slightly different.

It is the manager’s number one job to instil in his players confidence and hunger. And I freely admit that, in our last half a dozen matches or so, and Saturday especially, there seems to have been little evidence of either as, with one or two exceptions, the players have looked listless, confused, and seemingly unwilling to put in a shift.

So, no matter what happens in our last two games, the longer term question has to be “Has RH got the ability and self belief to re-instil a can-do mentality in this team and take it forward? Or has he run out of ideas, is feeling increasingly at sea and in need of a break?”

At the same time though, given that we may be six points off the drop zone - but only four off tenth - you have to ask whether managers of other teams around us are doing any better, eg Brendan Rogers at Leicester? In other words,
1. given what he has at his disposal, has Ralph done any worse relative to his peers? and
2. will he be able to do relatively any better in the future using the Moneyball method and with more resources?

I firmly believe the answers to those two questions are No and Yes.

And No, I’m not totally blinkered at what has and has not been achieved since RH arrived in 2018. (And especially more goals conceded than any other team in that timeframe). But I do feel, given we have been spending peanuts in the transfer market for ages, that RH has done Ok. Not brilliant obviously, but not a total disaster either (which I would define as relegation, no question).

And this is because, earlier on in the season, despite the meagre budget, he/the Board were still able to unearth a couple of free spirits in Armando, and Tino - and not forgetting KWP last season - who made everyone gasp at their guile, their enthusiasm, their unpredictability. And lo and behold we were riding high. But then two of them go off the boil and down we go. But was that Ralph’s fault? I don’t think so, because I think it can be explained as more the flip side of having youthful players in your line up and the toughness of the league that only experience gets you hardened to.

Brentford took us apart on Saturday, no question. And OK, we didn’t look a happy bunch. But given we now have the architect of their success - Rasmus Ankersen- in our camp and with more resources, I am actually rather more confident for next season. I think the black box will find us some more hidden gems, Ralph will be able to repeat what he achieved earlier on this season, and we will be looking back at this period as the beginning of our resurgence.

So yes in Ralph I DO TRUST, I firmly believe our youthful squad will be improved and we will be marching on. So come on all you Saints fans, it’s always darkest before the dawn, start looking up and GET POSITIVE.

All together now (in your best Churchillian tones): “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning…”


SanMarco added 11:42 - May 9
"too many of the squad perhaps suspect or even know they have no future at St Mary's, that in the summer changes will be made by the new owners". We have to hope that is the case as there are no other excuses that exclude Ralph from taking the blame.

I like Ralph, he seems as genuine as you ever get in football and clearly cares. The trouble is that Nick's report is actually a damning indictment of Ralph. He is, after all, the leader and will have been with us 4 years come the autumn. His was labelled Klopp of the Andes, or wherever, when he arrived and he seems to live in a world where he is managing a Liverpool quality squad. When the Liverpool fullbacks are caught ten miles up the pitch they have Van Dick to help them out, we have Bednarek whose turning circle is slower than the Queen Mary's.

The simple question I ask is what is so special about Ralph that absolves him from the consequences of the kind of thing we saw on Saturday? The Guardian comments today that his reputation far exceeds his results. I know some say that we should just be pleased to stay up and win a couple of cup matches but that isn't Ralph's self-image/philosophy. If we want a manager to do that then there are specialists around who (nearly) always succeed.

Ralph needs to turn things round quickly. I would give him one more summer and tell him that we have to show more consistency and cohesion in the months before Christmas. The danger is that Ralph supervises wholesale player changes, we start dreadfully and he gets sacked, but there are always dangers - the biggest for us is that we go on like we are. Next season the highs like the win at Spuds may not compensate for the lows. We will only stay up by a point or two this season and are left relying on others to lose even this late. Next season we may not be so lucky.

andoverpedro added 11:44 - May 9
Agree with the write up yes i watched the whole game and couldnt understand the omission of romeou as we need to compete in the midfield and as for not playing Lyanco instead of bednerek or alongside is shameful. as Brentford just outmuscled saints all over the pitch .

And i agree italian football would be best for bednerek , not as fast paced and the strikers not as physical as long as we get £20m plus for him would be glad to see him go as you can clearly see he cannot read the game and doesnt know what to do when he gets the ball at his feet which is shocking in this day and age at this level . We need someone like Dan Burn or Lewis Dunk that sort of mould .

PaleRider added 11:50 - May 9
A couple of thoughts:

1) Why do we not have a leader on the pitch?
2) Why do we not have decent coaches?

The combination of these two could be due to Ralph wanting full control but he needs to show some humility and sort both of these areas out in the summer.

Also, I am increasingly unsure if Ralph is the man to take us forward. Whenever we have done well it always comes to a crashing end!

I'm fed up with the lack of effort from so-called professionals who are paid an obscene amount of money to put in below par performances week in, week out. I wish supporters would stop chanting their names as if they are gods . They're not - they're a bunch of lazy fvckers who should be called out for what they are.

saintmark1976 added 11:51 - May 9
Nick, you have been around football long enough to know that when a club’s own away supporters who travel the length and breath of the country turn against you then it’s over.

I suspect that Ralph is a decent individual who has given the job his best shot. Unfortunately In the final analysis he’s come up short and it’s now in the best interest of the club and indeed Ralph himself that he goes.

DPeps added 12:03 - May 9
I feel very mixed about Ralph.

At the start of the season, I remember thinking that I’d be happy with avoiding relegation and a cup run. I was happy to have limited ambitions because of the overhaul of the squad. So in theory I should be happy.

In reality I feel like we have had a poor season, except for one excellent run. And I do think that Ralph should shoulder some considerable blame for this.

I can observe two trends for Saints under Ralph: form-iness, and lack of killer instinct. These are problems that the manager, if he was up to it, would be able to fix.

1. Form-iness: under Ralph we go good run, bad, good run, bad etc. The bad runs last a lot longer than the good runs, hence our position in the standings each season. A good manager finds a way out of bad runs… time and time again Ralph has been unable to manufacture a way out, until we have lost too many games. He hasn’t improved on this flaw.
2. Lack of killer instinct: how many games do we win having played badly? Very few I’d say. We are mostly incapable of grinding out results under Ralph. Indeed, we only seem to be able to do this against the big boys (e.g., City). Again, I attribute this to Ralph. He doesn’t seem to be able to intelligently set up against teams to nullify their threat, and he hasn’t instilled an attitude of determination in the players.

Of course, this is a shared responsibility and the players have been found wanting from the attack to the defence, but it is becoming clear that Ralph is not helping. He does not improve on his fatal flaws.

Farlow added 12:21 - May 9
The team selection was baffling,to leave out Romeo was nuts.If Diallo plays he needs an extra midfielder cause hes too lightweight.Lyanco is the nearest we have to a proper
Centre Half and has fire in his belly.Pleased to see Adam Armstrong get game time.
Che Adams has been badly treated,back a month or two he was beginning to score
regularly but then Ralph left him on the bench frequently and the goals dried up.
We,re now depending on other teams losing or we are gone.

I_would added 12:28 - May 9
I don't know why there is so much internal dialogue. We could probably get 16th position with a caretaker manager. Get rid of the arrogant failure. And while you're at it let's have a leader on the pitch, I agree, change the captain.

WestSussexSaint added 12:44 - May 9
Nick, I share your sense of frustration with the situation at the moment. You often quote “if you do the same things you get the same results” it feels like we are here now with Ralph. His 4222 formation has now been worked out and the mix and match approach to tactics and players clearly isn’t helping. The common denominator in this is Ralph so is it the right time to change the manager. Like others have said, I like the guy and I’m conscious of the demand to remove Puel landed us with 2 years of pain. However, every leader has a shelf life where players stop listening to the same messages and perhaps Ralph has now reached the end of his.

Look at Burnley. No one thought it was a good idea to sack Dyche. But a change of voice has made the world of difference to the same players, playing largely the same tactics.

kingolaf added 12:44 - May 9
So it’s not Ralph, it’s the players and his coaching staff.

Hogwash. He has single-handedly demoralised a team that was running high a little while ago with his amateur tactics, selections and tactics. God knows what his man management is like.

Leaving him in charge but changing the coaching staff will be like putting a Rolls Roy steering wheel in a Mini Metro. It will still be sh*t.

The manager has to go. He is a complete liability.

Block8 added 12:55 - May 9
Agree with some of your comments Nick but not all of them. One question asked and answered on Saturday was, do we give Romeu a new contract. The answer to that is obvious, of course we do, Diallo was so out of his depth it was frightening. Unless we change our style or bring in a competent ( and preferably fast) replacement, Romeu is the best defensive midfielder at the club!
However we do need someone either on or off the pitch that can see, quickly, we we need to adapt a different approach during a game. Brentford had us sussed and left two up all game and we did nothing to counter it. If we are going to continue pushing our full backs so high up the pitch we need either, three at the back or that the two holding midfielders hold. They didn't and when they countered quickly we had most of our team the wrong side of the ball and ended up two on two far too many times . Our tactics ask a lot of both central defenders and central midfielders and has cost us in many games this season, so we need to work harder on getting it right or change it.
While yes I agree that we needed someone on the pitch to organise, this is simple, basic stuff and yet??
As for Ralphs future, there are pluses and minuses to his time here, we have played some fantastic football, some dross and a fair bit of mediocre. So IMO keep him sort the squad out, spend some money on a VERY GOOD assistant manager and give him another season!

HythePeer added 13:10 - May 9
Who thinks RH will break his record next game?

SaintPaulVW added 13:27 - May 9
Too many players off the boil and a Manager who didn't make subs to change anything.

A lot seems to be resting on transfers in the summer. Sports Republic will not be investing so any falls in value of players are going to make life difficult. I can't really see us getting rid of 10 players and getting 10 in so I just hope it's quality over quantity.

I_would added 13:28 - May 9
0-10 and he still keeps his job!

ItchenNorth added 13:45 - May 9
It's time to get your coat and go.

#PlayersOut (probably 4 or 5 of our regular match day squad)

I agree with this summary.

highfield49 added 14:19 - May 9
Now I'm just hoping that Ralph doesn't lead us to join Sunderland and Bolton as the only teams relegated with 40 points. The Brentford performance was shambolic and an insult to every loyal travelling supporter. If the players can't get motivated to take points from the remaining games then it's time for a fresh approach.

Colburn added 14:38 - May 9
This is bordering on hilarious.. Yes Ralph does pick the team Nick, thanks for pointing that out. Perhaps you could also mention that the manager you like more than the club does NOT rate captains and leaders on the pitch.. He also decides the tactics, the shape, the substitutions. In fact you won't find a manager in the league who has MORE control over his club, its proceedings and thus the results on the pitch. As mentioned he removed Adams when he was hitting form, in fact he removes all the confidence from our attacking players, particularly the strikers and then starts games up front with a guy who has a history of not scoring and failed to even avoid being benched every week when out on loan to a Championship team last season.. Which is where, incidentally, we are heading if Ralph stays any longer. I like the man and his heart but he is bordering on the bizarre with some of his decisions and it seems obvious to me that he has lost the belief of the players who know they are playing for a stepping stone club with no ambition or hunger to win anything, mainly because the club insiders proudly tout our team and players as short term mercenaries. Now all we hear is we are doing incredibly well to stay on the league because of our budget. Well what happened to the next team breaking into the top 6, why are we suddenly unable to compete financially with the likes of Brentford and Brighton..? Its pathetic... Anyone who now thinks we should keep Ralph deserves to watch championship football. No progress, unwanted records and spineless semi final efforts. He is worse than Puel and he took us 15 points backwards! Who will you blame next week? The players again..? Why does Tella start in games away at Chelsea etc and never amongst our strongest line ups against the weaker teams..? This infuriates me enough to be a good enough reason alone to say farewell to Ralph, before he ruins another talent. The dressing room has gone, time to Ralph to do the same.

Colburn added 14:47 - May 9
We could also be going into the Leicester game needing a draw to stay up.. I mean where are the positives in respect of Ralph the last 3 months, apart from him being a lovely bloke..? If you consistently believe he needs help then he's clearly not up to the task is he.......?

Colburn added 14:59 - May 9
I forgot to mention that our good run of form coincided with the entrance of our new owners, as soon as we felt we were away from any relegation worries, the form and results have disintegrated. Make of it what you will.

Centurion added 16:37 - May 9
Thanks everyone for some very wise and considered ideas on why we have so alarmingly lost form.
I must admit to suspecting that not all is well in the camp.
At present I will be happy just to see Saints stay up.
Realistically relying on Leeds or Burnley cholking.

landsdownsaint added 16:50 - May 9
We will stay up & we are a bit higher than we probably deserve to be which is down to RH . Theirs a deep problem at Saints where players are coming in & their only concern is to either start their careers & get out as soon as a “big club “ comes knocking or a player who wants needs a restart . The so called conveyor belt of talent we had a few years ago where average players were going for ridiculous prices has done the club no favours , I saw players like Djennepo crying when he came off injured against either citeh or Liverpool becouse he thought shop window ,he wouldn’t have been sobbing if it was Brentford he came off in .How many do we got that play for Southampton fc JWP , Stephens, Romeu & until recently Bednarek,? I don’t see Brighton Brentford,even Burnley now with players like Elleyenousi , Dialo, Salisu , Djennepo who give not one care about Saints & then we got good club servants like Jack Stephens, Shane Long , Alex Mcarthy who just ain’t good enough and that leaves KWP JWP , Tino whose agents are constantly nudging them , That Ings transfere told us all we need too know , when a homegrown supporter /player couldn’t wait too get out too a club that ain’t going nowhere our board should’ve been questioning that . Players like Some iv mentioned are conning us but RH isn’t , he’s managed too grind out the results to keep us up & few mangers could do that with this current crop

LordDZLucan added 17:27 - May 9
So If I've undesrstood your article correctly, Nick, you think there are 3 reasons why we've had such a disastrous end to the season:
1. A lack of leadership on the pitch
2. A lack of quality coaches
3. Some players have downed tools because they fear they have no future at St. Mary's under the new owners
Let's look at each of these in turn:
1. Ralph as had 4 years to sort out any issue with leadership on the pitch.
2. I find it beyond belief that Ralph wouldn't have input to the selection of his coaching staff.
3. I haven't see any players downing tools at Newcastle, a club that is going to have a much bigger turnover of its playing staff than us this summer.
Yes, the players have got on the beach too early this season and I think it's got a lot more to do with their relationship with Ralph than you would have us believe!

saintpete01 added 18:21 - May 9
Ralph huggers
We need to sit down with a pint
Has the penny finally Dropped
I certainly hope so
If not god help us !!!

Colburn added 21:03 - May 9
If we'd have made the move after our winless start. Lampard and Howe would have been possible successors but I'm not sure who we could bring in if Forest win the play offs. So I don't see the board making any change with Ralph this summer.

wrathoftazz added 21:22 - May 9
Ralph has both the team and coaching team he wanted. He has stated on numerous occasions that he is now happy with what he has... indeed, several years is more than long enough to mould a squad...

Lack of leadership, again, this is on Ralph.. he should be the one noticing this and ensuring it is there.

Lack of defence, well no comment as we have been saying that for YEARS and still not sorted.

Blame the players all u want and quite rightly so but subs make the difference in games, changing tatics makes a difference in games and Ralph is incapable of either.

I wouldnt trust Ralph to make a cuppa, let alone loose with a transfer budget. He has NO IDEA what he needs or where he needs it, him spending millions will only mean more lame ducks from the championship on the pitch.

I was there (as always) and I proudly chanted for him to be sacked. He should have gone a year ago and now MUST go before we get relegated. 3nil translates double figures against Liverpool and if I were Liverpool, that's exactly what I would be aiming for.

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