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Southampton At Leicester City The Verdict
Monday, 23rd May 2022 10:29

Saints went into a game that meant nothing and got out of it exactly that, but this game ended an era at the final whistle and anew one is now taking shape, to quote Joe Strummer "The Future Is Unwritten"

Come the end of the game, the result changed nothing for Saints, a look at the final League table showed that even if we had won we would have finished in the same position than we did from what was a defeat.

This being the case whilst I am not going to condone the performance given by the team, I am not going to dwell too much on it going forward, changes are now surely on the way both on the field and in the coaching staff, it is time to focus on what happens going forward and not what happened at Leicester or indeed in the games previously.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has to shoulder some of the blame, of course he does and he has made mistakes, but it runs far deeper than that, 12 games ago we were in the top 10 and on 35 points, ironically the exact amount Burnley went down with, we were effectively safe at the start of March.

So why did a team that looked so good back then and looked set to give us a top 10 finish, lose 9 out of the next 12 games.

The answer is that players themselves have to shoulder the biggest part of that, literally every game we have played has seen not one player having an off day, but several and that is just unacceptable, I stop short in accusing individuals of not trying, but certainly too many seemed to play for themselves and not for the team and kept making the same old mistakes week in week out.

Ralph Hasenhuttl can't be accused of not trying to change things, we say team changes each week, perhaps that was not good for continuity, but he must have been frustrated, by certain players playing well below their capabilities.

Perhaps the line up at Leicester reflected this, Perraud & Broja did not even make the bench for whatever reasons, Jan Bednarek was an unused sub and the bench had several players who may not be here next season.

But the result remained the same, however it should be noted that Saints had matched Leicester in the first half and given as good as they got, but we still failed to do the basics at key times, within minutes of the restart that proved to be the case, yes Leicester should have given us the ball back after the game was stopped, but this is Leicester a nasty team managed by a nasty manager, in a similar position they would have expected to have seen us give them the ball, but they don't do that themselves.

But we should have been professional, again it was an individual error that gave them the lead, Lyanco didn't head the ball cleanly and with his second effort to head it back to McCarthy he left the keeper short and Leicester had a lead that they didn't deserve.

When they doubled it on 74 minutes it was again poor defending and we got caught on the break, but when we got a lifeline 5 minutes later, we again paid for a lack of organisation, allowing the home side to score again within a minute leaving Perez completely unmarked.

That put the lid on it and it only needed another piece of poor marking to give Leicester a fourth in the 6th minute of injury time.

In truth Saints did not deserve a 4-1 defeat here based on the majority of the game, but this was the story of the season condensed into the final game, good work completely undone time and time again by a lack of organisation, a lack of marking at key times and poor individual decisions at key times.

But that was this season and now that has ended we now look to the next, we need to keep those who are part of the future and get rid of those who are part of the problem, we need to get a leader in in the centre of the defence and we need to get coaching staff to back up Ralph Hasenhuttl who have the knowledge and the experience to help him both on the training ground but during matches.

The past is the past, going forward the only statistic that matters now is the league table and that will show we stayed up comfortably.

The Saints fans were loud if not proud of their team on Sunday, yes they deserved a better performance, but most who go away don't go because they feel they are entitled to a good display, they go because they support their team though good and bad times, when the good times arrive they feel better when you have experienced the rough times.

Now is the time to look to the future not the past, as I said at the start we cannot change the past, but we can change the future, The Future Is Unwritten.

Photo: Action Images

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ElijahK added 10:40 - May 23
The verdict was that almost everything about this game was sh*te! The officiating, players, tactics, momentum etc, all were appalling and well below what it should be.
As there’s only like 5/6 PL quality players we’ve got in that team and that’s about it, which is exactly why I do worry about next season. As I’m now at a point where I don’t care if Ralph is sacked or if he stays another season as I think both sides have a fair argument, but at the end of the day, we’re not good enough and unless things change then we’re most likely going down next season.

JoeEgg added 10:59 - May 23
A quite appalling run of results to finish the season - but it doesn't matter we start again next season! What a pathetic verdict on a quite disgraceful run of results from players bewildered and lost by the team selections, tactics and substitutions from a manager who has had three years to get to grips with the demands of the Premier League. To be honest if we had not had a short lucky run just before the latest debacle we would most probably have been relegated ourselves.
If Huddersfield beat Forest in the play-offs we have a ready alternative manager and the new owners should move fast. If Forest win then looking for an alternative may not be easy but surely worth any amount of effort. I thought mid season that we had some good players and a promising squad - whats left is a bedraggled confused and seemingly below average group of non-triers who have managed just one win in goodness knows how many matches (many against supposedly weak opposition). Even when we take the lead we cant hold it- time after time we sit back and wait for the moment when someone makes the mistake that gifts the game to the opposition.
As for the future being unwritten! Nice piece of journalistic nonsense. If Ralph stays in charge most of us can start writing our future now, and we may not even reach the lofty heights of a sad 15th place!
Bring in some decent coaches - (and why has it taken so long to find any?) - and Ralph has to go.

wibbersda added 11:23 - May 23
For all the Ralph lovers out there -
2020 season finished 11th with 52 points. This is on the back of a 9-0 drubbing and a team and not as strong a squad as we have now.
2021 season 15th with 43 points and another 9-0 nil.
2022 season 15th with 40 points.
So essentially we have gone backwards, other than no 9-0 this season (although I thought Chelsea 6-0 was worse than both the 9-0's as we had a full 11)

...and every season end out he comes with his excuses, not considering for one moment he may be the problem. As a player, you want stability and not knowing what position or shape Ralph is going to come up with, DOES not help!

Yes we need to strengthen, especially the CB's, yes we need quality up front, and yes we need a better balance of old/new, certainly old for some leadership that we still are lacking.

To date -
2 x 9-0 Drubbings
No shots on goal in the FA Cup Semi
Most points dropped from winning positions, 3 years running
Players out of natural positions
Not picking in-form players to start
Bizarre substitutions, and always too late (how many times has a sub made a difference compared to other clubs?)

I don't know who the answer is but it is not Ralph!

saintmark1976 added 12:03 - May 23
Wibbersda, thanks, your summary headed To Date- has saved me the effort of posting the same information. For the record, our 9-0 defeat to Leicester was the biggest home defeat in English top flight football ever and 9-0 at Man Utd the joint biggest away defeat. The only fact that you have missed is that Ralph was also in charge during the longest run of consecutive league defeats in the club’s entire history.

Given the above, together with the fact that we have only accumulated 5 points from the last 36 and effectively only escaped relegation due to Forster’s heroics against Arsenal there is no reason for Ralph to stay. He’s had his chance and clearly it’s now over.

The only way to restore the faith and trust of our fans going forward is for Ralph to be gone.S F C is bigger than any individual.The owners need to recognise this or they will ultimately find the financial ramifications of doing nothing to be very expensive indeed.

WestSussexSaint added 12:38 - May 23
I haven’t been one to call for Ralph’s head this season but boy has he and the players have tested my patience at times. I do agree he is not the only issue and has ultimately suffered from years of under investment under the Gao regime. I hope and expect Semmens as co are starting a full root and branch review of last season today! No area should be overlooked, the manager, the players, the coaching staff etc.

Whatever the outcome of the review it will cost money. Replace Ralph and the new manager will want his own coaches and players in. Keep Ralph and he has to be backed with money for some decent signings and that is assuming we don’t sell the ones we want to keep (JWP etc.)

What I do know is failure to invest materially in either solution will ultimately put Premier League football at risk next season and relegation will cost a whole lot more than a new manager or players.

I have just renewed my season ticket this morning so I’m backing the club to do the right thing. It’s time for the board to step up make the tough decision with Ralph to back him or sack him.

HythePeer added 13:06 - May 23
Unpredictable team selection, predictable result.

ItchenNorth added 13:27 - May 23
The league table based on spend. This paints a pretty accurate picture of where you sit in the grand scheme of things these days..

You reep what you sew !

Manchester United
Manchester City
Newcastle United
Aston Villa
Chelsea FC
Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace
Liverpool FC
West Ham United
Brighton & Hove Albion
Leicester City
Norwich City
Leeds United
Burnley FC
Watford FC
Southampton FC
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Brentford FC

onetowatch added 13:34 - May 23
Nick, you are very aware that you're trying to paint a positive picture of this season - quoting that in hindsight, we were actually safe in March, when the truth is, we've finished 2 points above Leeds who started yesterday in a relegation spot!! If, as a club, we ignore the fact that we ended up nearer to relegation than even mid table safety, then that is a cue for a very difficult season coming up...
RH does not just have to share part of the blame...he has to accept the bulk of it....In form young players losing their way completely, players playing out of position, clueless substitutions and timing of them, and as mentioned already - possibly the most damning one - 3 consecutive years, losing more points than any other team from winning positions...what does that tell you.
Those of you who maintain support for RH, may feel you're showing loyalty to a Manager who clearly has shown he has more affinity with the club and fans than many beforehand, but unfortunately, the PL do not offer points for that....

pwithers123 added 13:46 - May 23
The fundamental issue is how much you spend on players. Southampton have never been big spenders - but since Gao Jisheng purchased the club - we have simply not invested.

The current manager has done an incredible job at maintaining our status - allied to developing young or inexperienced players. Until last year - many players in the squad were on big wages and were not delivering - yet we stayed up. This year - by selling our most experienced players - there was some money to get some less experienced players- - a big gamble - yet still kept us up. I feel sure he is totally exhausted. The effort required to keep this ship floating has been incredibly intense. He is not the cause of the issues.

dellboysaint added 14:26 - May 23
The club did get it right a few years ago…….Tadic, Lovren etc. Signings since then have been questionable. Hasenhutl should never have said he was going in 2024. This provides zero motivation for everyone, especially the players.
If Mcarthy is picked againI shall go and support Wrexham just to get away from watching him playing out of the back and making a fool of himself at the near post.

pwithers123 added 14:53 - May 23
Very good comment about saying he wants to leave in 2024.

It is an indication of how he is feeling.i.e. the pressure is simply too hard to bear.

It is natural he would want to stop but saying it will likely affect the players

Block8 added 15:08 - May 23
A bit too flowery end of season report I'm afraid Nick. Lets look at the actual issues,
(1) We really don't have enough quality, a big squad most at a low level of quality. We have at least 5 players who are not Premier league standard and I'm afraid this includes Lyanco!
(2) Players, particularly modern players play to systems and tactics, these are dictated by the manager. You can blame a player for not trying but for not fitting into a tactical system, that's down to the boss.
(3) You simply cannot keep selecting players who are not performing, whilst ignoring others who are, or playing payers out of position because, in your mind, they need to be in the team.
(4) Nick I go away, yes to support my team , but I would also appreciate a decent performance and have the feeling that we might win, I don't currently and that feeling has surfaced at home too this season!
(5) This is my normal gripe, why are we one of the only clubs not to have blooded any home grown youngsters in the PL this season? We have had players sat on the bench that should be nowhere near a PL side and they just block progress of the youngsters. Or is our academy sinking to mediority as well?

highfield49 added 15:17 - May 23
For whatever reason Nick you seem to believe that Ralph is either willing or able to work with a new coaching team. Maybe he believes that the current coaches are such a waste of space that it's not worth consulting them when the team is struggling. However, I'm more inclined to think that Ralph doesn't actually encourage or listen to anyone else because he does things his own way.
So, how many ambitious, quality coaches are going to be lining up for a job only to be potentially ignored by Ralph when offering sound advice on improving player skills or instigating tactical changes? The head down, avert the gaze body language of the current job holders seems to me to say that they either have nothing to offer or their input is not required, possibly both.
As other posters have already stated, Ralph has already indicated that he intends to move on so what is the point of changing the coaching staff now if it's going to be destabilized in the short term? Surely the way forward is to appoint a new head coach or manager immediately and recruit credible new positional coaches before any players are signed or allowed to leave?
Where is the ambition in sticking with a really nice bloke who works his socks off for the club but clearly can't step up to the next level? This applies to players as well, just how many of the current squad are capable of upping their game next season? Regarding the players I would say, potentially, several if they can be driven by the right quality of leadership, the squad foundation isn't too bad but the ideas for the step upwards have run out.

I_would added 15:17 - May 23
Can we draw a line under the next two seasons and move on until Ralph is gone? Seems as if you love moving on Nick and and therefore avoid having to face to Ralph's consistent abject failures.

Kenm added 15:26 - May 23
perhaps the ladies team and the men, should swap stadiums, they got promoted !, they have more desire, thirst, and ambition to progress where's the men's ???

davidargyll added 15:58 - May 23
What I’m struggling to decide is whether I really want to renew my season ticket solely on the back of a hope of change being brought about by the new management team throughout the entire Saints set-up. And I shouldn’t think I’m alone.
Because, as we have seen in numerous so-called game-changing transfers in the past throughout the PL, I think you’ll find not many really come off, especially if you don’t have a top squad to build on.
A really difficult one, especially when yesterday’s performance made Airplane look like a tragedy…

SaintPaulVW added 16:04 - May 23
Crashing and burning for a large portion of the season season for a second time in succession leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The problem is Ralph is showing for a big chunk of the season how good the team can be. The natural suspicion has to be that a different manager could get the good performances and then arrange things to minimise the bad.

I agree that a serious review is needed and action taken over the summer. Perhaps Ralph needs more support, perhaps his time is up. Those best placed to know the full facts need to consider where our performances are going wrong and what sensible remedies can allow the club to progress.

StRipper added 16:24 - May 23
Aside from all the talk of Managerial change and trying to get our heads around why our season fell apart, I'd really like to know more about what impact contractual terms are having on our team selections. For example, we continued playing Broja in nearly every match, despite it being clear he was no longer putting the same effort in as he did at the start of the season. Was that because of a constraint of our loan agreement with Chelsea.
Similarly, the goal keeping debacle that we are having to grit our teeth through. First, we persevere with McCarthy who got worse in every game, but choose not to give Fraser a sniff until forced by injury. Then we drop Forster for the last 2 games once we've decided he's leaving and we have bizarrely decided to extend McCarthy's contract. We might as well just play with 11 outfield players. Like thats going to put any pressure on the new man to perform with McCarthy as backup.
I also think scattered across the team we have a load of clauses that mean we need to play players X number of times, which seems to be the only real reason I can think of for the dogged perseverance in playing the same failing players.
I have got no proof of these suspicions but it seems the only reason that can explain so many players are shunned for such long periods, like Adam Armstrong and Perraud, when others are immediate shoe ins when they are fit, like Stuart Armstrong and Broja. Anyone else have a more informed insight around whether this could be true or am I just clutching at straws to make sense of the madness?

YosemiteSaint added 18:59 - May 23
Nick, you've taken a good bit of stick here this season for seeing the bigger picture clearly. A big part of that bigger picture is that you provide what is clearly the best Saints blog and forum around. The thoughtfulness of the write-ups and of posters' comments is unparalleled. There is abundant reason why, after each match, i head to your blog first before reading anything else anywhere else. You're to be commended for facilitating this blog. Posters, you're to be commended, too, for offering some of the most insightful Saints commentary around.

Another part of Saints' big picture, like it or not, at least for the time being, is Ralph. I don't think he'll ever take us higher than, say, tenth. To my mind, he's essentially a glorified youth manager. He can be good for blooding youngsters and encouraging them along. But if I were a veteran player in Saints' squad I think I'dve gone mad by now. He doesn't get tactics, and jaded veterans is a result of that.

The fact remains that the EPL is the biggest poker table in the world. It's unlikely we'll ever have the funding to finish higher than eighth. There's something to be said for the fact that, even though we've flirted with relegation, we've generally finished near the middle of the pack points-wise each year. If Ralph keeps us out of trouble each year, then, <sigh>, so be it.

deanosfc8 added 20:14 - May 23
People on here like stating facts... Well, what I can tell you for a fact is that Ralph has kept us in the EPL again. The fact is Ralph has done this with very limited support or finance, yet you scream for his head! What I saw when Ralph came over to the fans on Sunday was fans appreciating what Ralph has done over the few years also fans knowing what is realistic. What I think is Ralph deserves to take us into the new season, give him some coaching support and money to spend. If we are still going backwards at christmas then I'll drive him to the airport myself..!

felly1 added 10:06 - May 24
Pretty much agree with the last two posters on here.
Let's just see what the owners want to do in the summer and start next season as positively as we can with realistic expectations.

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