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Southampton at West Ham United The Verdict
Monday, 3rd Apr 2023 09:01

It was the same old problems that let us down as yet another goal was conceded by giving the opposition a free header in our own penalty area, this is perhaps the single most reason that will send us down.

Saints didn't play badly at the London Stadium for most of the 90 minutes, but that counted for nothing as once again an opponent was left unmarked barely 6 yards out from goal and allowed a completely free header.

There can be no excuse for this, especially this particular goal that came from a free kick a long way out from the goal area, we had plenty of time to make sure that we had every West Ham player marked.

For a moment there seemed to be relief, up went the lineman's flag, then came the usual VAR farce, how simple is it to check a goal, whilst they were checking it, I left my seat, walked to the toilet, went in, came back out, chatted to somebody and got back to my seat, all before the goal was finally after about 4 minutes allowed.

This is killing the game, I am for VAR, but it has to be with the proviso that it is about getting most decisions right, not all of them, this is not cricket where the game is stop start, it is about getting the clear and obvious, not drawing lines and then more lines, I can only surmise that those in charge of doing it are paid by the minute and thus stretch things out.

How many times have we seen this type of goal conceded this season, it was happening under Ralph Hasenhuttl, still went on under Nathan Jones and Ruben Selles does not seem to have improved the situation much.

I have lost count of the number of points that we have dropped this season from a free header from a set piece situation, certainly if we had marked our men on half of those that we conceded we would not be in the bottom 3 at the moment or for that matter at any time in this season.

I have been saying that we need to sign an experienced central defender who can hold a line and organise a defence for 6 years now since Van Dijk & Fonte left in January 2017, yet in those 6 years we have yet to sign one player who has these credentials, despite the fact that there were several such candidates available last summer, notably Ben Mee who joined Brentford for Burnley and has turned them into a tight unit at the back.

If we are relegated then this won't be because of this game, it will have been caused by a failure last summer to sign the Mee or someone like him and lets be blunt it has been blatantly obvious for a long time now.

Caleta-Car & Bednarek didn't have bad games, in the main they defended well, but it was all undone by this one moment, we cannot defend dead ball situations.

Aside from this one moment it was a tense game from both sides, Saints looked comfortable and that was part of the problem, we were too content to sit back and not press forward.

We didn't do that with any great urgency till the final 18 minutes when we brought on Tall Paul Onauchu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Onauchu almost rescued a point in the final minutes when he saw his header crash against the bar, but this was too little too late and we went out in this game with a whimper.

But although we look down we are not out, there are still 6 teams above us within 4 points, there is still time and as long as we have a chance then we have to keep believing and keep fighting.

This Saints side is not a poor one, it is one that lacks a leader in the centre of defence, if we had one then we would have at least 6 extra points this season perhaps more.

In some respects this verdict was hard to write, but in others it wasn't in that I have been writing the same things now for 6 years, I could have cut and pasted verdicts from across that time and just changed the names, it is deja vu, but it really should not be happening for this long without it being dealt with.

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Ali_Diarea added 09:30 - Apr 3
“This Saints side is not a poor one…” you’re right Nick it’s a terrible one.
We have scored 23 goals in 29 league games, it doesn’t matter how good your defence is (and ours is shite) you won’t get many points if you score so few goals. I admire your unwavering loyalty though, even if you are blinkered to the reality of our position i.e. a bloated squad of mediocre players at best

felly1 added 09:30 - Apr 3
It's really strange how you never a criticise the forwards and our lack of goals...
Its like you watch a different game from the rest of us.

Ifonly added 09:35 - Apr 3
It's not just the goal that was deja vu, the whole thing was like groundhog day. Once again we:

- revert back to 4-2-2-2 which doesn’t make good use of our best players like JWP
- leave our goal threats and creative players out of the side
- pick players based on what they do against the ball rather than what they do with it
- play too slowly
- end up with the majority of possession but do nothing with it
- try to change too little too late seemingly without a plan B

Throw in another concession of a headed goal from a set piece and it was all same old Saints. In my view, Selles has been watching all of this for a long time now and if he was a decent manager he would have sorted it out instead of repeating the same mistakes.

Why not have the courage to try something new given that we know the old way is not good enough? It was a must-win game, probably the most important game in the season but unbelievably we didn’t start any of the January signings. Is that we because we signed a bunch of duds or because the manager isn’t good enough to get the best out of good players?

I feel sorry for Selles in that overall he has a poor quality squad to work with but I think it's clear now that he is out of his depth and out of ideas. We’re going down without much of a fight because he doesn’t know how to do anything different to what Ralph was doing. We just carry on making the same mistakes we’ve been making for 2 years now.

SaintPaulVW added 09:52 - Apr 3
I agree with the above posts, I think our problem is more up front than in defence. Arsenal and Mancity both let a goal in, was it disastrous, no.

Mara just looks too casual, he has skill but if he is going to turn into a good player he needs more focus on the pitch. Walcott, who has looked good recently and Armstrong, who hasn't, both had off days. With Adams out, not too sure where any goal was coming from up front. As always KWP and Perraud had no easy final pass or cross available.

I can only assume that our plan yesterday was to keep it tight, get Ely running everywhere, and then inject some pace in attack - Charly and Sulemana in the second half and then when things had loosened up bring on Onuachu to try to cause a bit of chaos in the WH box.

Onuachu did what we wanted got a great header in. Step in the right direction but he frequently drifted back into midfield. He needs to stay up front.

We aren't dead yet but I didn't really see too much drive or fight yesterday. Everyone is saying the right things but unless we get points on the board, it all means nothing.


DorsetIan added 09:54 - Apr 3
One of the problems is that we haven't been able to have very much consistency between our central defenders. Whenever it looks like a partnership or understanding is being built, one or. both get injured.

Tbh, every team concedes goals and some from set pieces. The bigger thing for me is that in the 9 1-0 defeats, we haven't scored. If we were able to score 1 or 2 at the other end, one unfortunate game wouldn't be so fatal for us.

As for VAR. The guy was clearly level and onside. It's all very well saying that you agree with VAR in principle - but it's impossible to split the 'principle' from the practice. The system we have at the moment is completely useless and should be scrapped until they can come up with something that doesn't ruin the game. Nothing at all would be better than what we have at the moment.

saintmark1976 added 09:59 - Apr 3
The club is a complete mess from top to bottom.

1. What other professional football club in the whole of the UK would purchase four players in the window that ended on January 31 and not start one of them in a game on April 2 of the same year?

2. What other professional football club in the whole of the UK would have engaged the services of Nathan Jones, a manager who never won anything with Luton and was a disaster at Stoke City?

3. What other professional football club in the whole of the UK loans a Championship team a player who becomes that league’s top scorer but then won’t recall him, even though their own strikers consistently can’t hit a barn door with a banjo?

4. What other professional football club in the whole of the UK rewards consistent failure by paying one of its directors a salary of £830000?

I’ll leave others to comment on yet another fiasco yesterday Nick, except to say that you and I won’t have to worry about V A R next season so every cloud has a silver lining I suppose.

Saint4Life247 added 10:07 - Apr 3
I agree with all points made so far. We are toothless up front, limited in midfield and shaky at the back (and that's putting it nicely).

I am like many resigned to the fact we are going down. In many respects if it means we have a clear out , start again and start to look like a good solid football team again then i'm ok with that. Its a better prospect than fighting relegation season after season with a disjointed and incohesive team. Not enjoyable for anyone
The worry is that we continue to plummet - however, i'd like to think that is unlikely.

Our priority at the end of the season should be to install a good manager asap. Someone with a clear vision on what he wants from the team, how they should play and the type of players he needs - I like the idea of someone like Potter coming in (if he'd want to) - He did a really good job with Brighton and with him messing up with Chelsea hopefully wouldn't jump ship too quickly

LordDZLucan added 10:17 - Apr 3
We're 1-0 down, 15 minutes to go. We should be starting to commit players forward in search of that equaliser. But we never did. It looked to me like Selles has accepted relegation and is trying to put forward his credentials for managing us in the Championship next season by making sure nobody embarasses us. Therefore, he wasn't unhappy with a 1-0 defeat. If we are to have any chance of staying up then we need to try to get Potter or Rodgers in asap. They might not want to join us but we've got to give it a go.

SanMarco added 10:25 - Apr 3
We are nearly at the stage where the 'why we went down' debate can start in earnest. This game is all we really need to look at to frame that debate. Watching Theo and Mara so ineffectual up front and then the expected soft goal from a free-kick that shouldn't have been classed as remotely dangerous, tells us all we need to know. I in no way wish to blame Selles for any of this, he is where he is because SR put him there (the same actually goes for Jones) but the question as we come up against the likes of Moyes and Hodgson has to be asked: Why do we have the most inexperienced manager in just about the whole four divisions let alone the EPL when we are facing such a crisis? The starting eleven yesterday was absurd. We bought all those players in January because we were short of quality - at least 3 players who started yesterday were part of that problem and yet they are still starting, enough said.

IanRC added 10:29 - Apr 3
Beginning to wonder about Selles. Best chance we had was when Onachu came on and cannot believe Orsic would not perform better than El Younousi. Heard Potter is available …..

dirk_doone added 10:31 - Apr 3
When Newcastle were in relegation trouble last season, the most important signing they made in January was a big, 29-year-old central defender, Dan Burn. He dominates everyone in the air and a goal like West Ham scored would not have been conceded with a player like him in our team. He cost £13 million. We regularly spend more than that on unproven youngsters who we hope to sell for a profit but usually don't.

Number_58 added 10:34 - Apr 3
How the hell can defensive errors be the reason for us going down? How does Nick think we were ever going to stay up... 38 nil-nil draws? Look at our two frontmen yesterday. Was it one league goal between them all season? We were nailed on for relegation the moment the transfer window closed at the start of the season. Ankerson has used the club's recruitment strategy as some sort of weird experiment which has gone catastrophically wrong. Nick's strange obsession with the defence being to blame for everything is blinding him from the real problems. It started with his vendetta against Jack Stephens who, ironically, seems to be one of the key factors in AFCB's recent improved results.

dirk_doone added 10:47 - Apr 3
Number 58, I think both you and Nick are right. We need both an experienced central defender and an experienced striker. I'd add an experienced goalkeeper to that as well. It's the spine of our team that's weak, and that's exactly what Newcastle invested in last January when they were bottom of the league. Pope cost £10 mill and Burn cost £13 mill. If we'd used the money we spent more wisely, we'd be well clear of the relegation zone now.


SanMarco added 11:06 - Apr 3
Spot on Dirk. SR totally misunderstood the situation last summer. You don't fiddle when Rome is burning - you buy a big centre-half and an experienced striker + probably throw in an experienced manger too.

Potter is going to Leicester - so those hoping for that will be disappointed...

abrowne53 added 11:35 - Apr 3
Well, if Jones had been in charge of that shambles he would have been crucified: bad selection, bad formation, bad tactics, bad dead-ball defending, rank bad play. There’s one common denominator in that dreadful, disgraceful performance: Ruben Selles, first as coach now manager. Why on earth would he revert to that losing 4-2-2-2 formation, why would he play serial losers Ely, Armstrong, why oh why pair Mara and Walcott as lightweights up front?

Sorry to say but Jones had the right answer, although it took him several games to realise what rubbish our team was/is: play 3 strong men in defense and go for a shutout, bypass the non creative midfield and hit the ball long to a giant centre forward and go for knock ons to speedy forwards. What a great pity those two such forwards were signed after it was too late for Jones to make use of them. Blame the Board, the Managers, the Players if you like…but how about the fans whose noise made it impossible for Jones to stay and implement the only strategy that was ever going to work with this disparate team.

TissLeGod added 11:39 - Apr 3
Nick, I was at the game. My observations were lots of huff and puff, no end product. A drawn was no good, and there are fine margins. West Ham were poor, nervous, but they carried a threat up front. We can’t defend set pieces, and no matter who is defending it’s the same result. This was a game we should and could have won. Too often we looked like we were on the training pitch, no urgency. I am afraid it’s goodnight Vienna. It’s no good thinking this or that might happen. It will soon be out of our hands and the club seriously have to think how they can best invest in players that can get us to bounce back in from Championship.We have no experience of that either and that too will be very tough - different level of player required, far more physicality required.

Jesus_02 added 11:43 - Apr 3
So VAR concluded that it was a clear and obvious error because the player that scored the goal was not offside and that the 4 offside players attacking the ball in the penalty area are not effecting play.

This is the farce that the game has become. Its not VAR that take 4 minutes its reviewing the entirety of the "laws" that have become over complex and unworkable. Rule require judgements, laws require enforcement. The offside Law (11), details how play can be unlawfully effected , they have to either be actively obstructing or literally playing the ball. It doesn't matter that the keeper cannot tell who he needs to challenge or that the defenders cant defend a line appropriately. By the FAs standards that does not effect play.

It used to be a simple rule designed to prevent ANYONE being ahead of play now it has become a mess that takes 4 minutes to make a decision on .

Here is the "Law" in its full glorious mess:

1. Offside position

It is not an offence to be in an offside position.

A player is in an offside position if:
any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered. For the purposes of determining offside, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.

A player is not in an offside position if level with the:
second-last opponent or
last two opponents
2. Offside offence

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched* by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:
interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
interfering with an opponent by:
preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
challenging an opponent for the ball or
clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent
been deliberately saved by any opponent
A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.

A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area).

In situations where:

a player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball; if the player moves into the way of an opponent and impedes the opponent's progress (e.g blocks the opponent) the offence should be penalised under Law 12
a player in an offside position is moving towards the ball with the intention of playing the ball and is fouled before playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the foul is penalised as it has occurred before the offside offence
an offence is committed against a player in an offside position who is already playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the offside offence is penalised as it has occurred before the foul challenge
*The first point of contact of the 'play' or 'touch' of the ball should be used

3. No offence

There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:
a goal kick
a throw-in
a corner kick
4. Offences and sanctions

If an offside offence occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick where the offence occurred, including if it is in the player’s own half of the field of play.

A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play or until the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside its penalty area. If the player left the field of play deliberately, the player must be cautioned when the ball is next out of play.

An attacking player may step or stay off the field of play not to be involved in active play. If the player re-enters from the goal line and becomes involved in play before the next stoppage in play, or the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside its penalty area, the player shall be considered to be positioned on the goal line for the purposes of offside. A player who deliberately leaves the field of play and re-enters without the referee’s permission and is not penalised for offside and gains an advantage, must be cautioned.

If an attacking player remains stationary between the goalposts and inside the goal as the ball enters the goal, a goal must be awarded unless the player commits an offside offence or Law 12 offence in which case play is restarted with an indirect or direct free kick.

Kenm added 12:02 - Apr 3
Caleta-Car was left on the pitch and he didn't have a good game !, Walcott was having a good game and he was subbed ?, we had more possession in the game but failed to do anything with it ?. We have been crying out for a striker for two seasons WHY haven't we got 1 ?. Or is that a low priority for the board !

stmichael added 12:18 - Apr 3
Compare our performances to AFCB.
If they go down they are doing so fighting.
We are going down with a pathetic wimper.
A coward of a manager picking cowardly teams and cowardly players strolling.
Above that we have owners spunking 50 million on players to hopefully help us avoid relegation and then allowing a caretaker manager to barely give them a kick.
An absolute rabble that does not represent me in any shape or form.

halftimeorange added 12:25 - Apr 3
We've been doomed to a season of misery since day one with no acknowledged goalscorer and that's been compounded by a negative and ineffectual midfield creating little or no chances, add to that an inexperienced GK and centre backs incapable of man to man marking and we've got what we deserved. To be fair, Lavia (who surely won't be with us next season), Perraud (our most likely scorer) and KWP (also likely to be a target for other more ambitious clubs) didn't have bad games but I was disappointed by Stuart Armstrong, Theo and Alcaraz, none of who couldn't string a pass together, JWP who is a one-trick pony (useful but, not in this team), Elyonoussi and Bednarek who both run around a lot but achieve nothing and Caleta-Car who is a liability. Stupid foul to add to his previous recent misdemeanours. There'll be a lot of empty seats at St Mary's next season but, it will be a nice day out for the fans of Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and the like.

Farlow added 12:33 - Apr 3
I do not understand why Alcaraz does not start every game.To be fair Elyonoussi was our best player in the first half he created our two best chances and prevented two goals at the other end.Why Orsic cant get a game is crazy hes a proven goal scorer at the very highest level. Walcott was totally ineffectual and should have been hooked at half time.Bednatek is simply not strong enough.We should have kept Vestergard.

Saintaxidriver added 13:05 - Apr 3
The reality is we are not good enough at this level. There are a few reasons for this.
1) Our recruitment of palyers has been poor with too many inexperienced youngsters and players no more than average at this level
2) All 3 of our managers have made poor decisions on a regular basis both in tactics for the game and the inability to change it quickly enough when it isn't working
3) The choices of players and the expectation of what they should do on the pitch has been weak with strange choices almost for every match. None of the managers seem to know their best lineup and stick with it
4) By having an enormous first team squad it has stiffled the chances for players like Ballard and Doyle to get a go in the team. I would do that now as there is nothing more to lose with the way we are currently playing.
I can't see us escaping relegation now unless there is something radical from the management team.

saintsfanbrock added 13:50 - Apr 3
I cannot understand how somebody can watch that game and point the finger at the two centre backs. Firstly, centre backs don’t have the sole responsibility for marshalling a free kick, that is very much a team effort. Secondly, this is the premier league, there are going to be moments of class from the other side and goals are going to be scored, failing to score at this level (especially against a team that was also in the relegation zone) is a failure of every other member (other than the cb’s) of the Saints team. I’m sorry but it just feels like every report is an opportunity to pat yourself on the back for saying for the last three years that we needed an experienced cb (FYI a striker is far more important in our current failings, pretty sure I remember you celebrating getting Mara and Walcott) and then go on to say don’t worry we might go on to avoid relegation - how are we going to do that if our players can’t get it in the back of the net!

DellBoyWally added 16:06 - Apr 3
People say we need a striker! We bought one: Belgian first division top scorer. His legs must be stiff sitting between rows of seats with the rest of the subs.
Alcaraz, Tall Paul, Salmeena and Orsic should start every game, not the rabble that get picked week-after-week and fail.
We need a proper GK, not a flat-footed flapper.
OK, we conceded 1 goal. As has been pointed out, even the "Big 6" concede. But they actually score goals!! None of our starters look like scoring; this week or any other week!! Just look at our record. Effectively losing every game 1-2!! Some say we missed CheA. But how often does he score? 1 every 3 or 4 games if we're lucky. Certainly not enough to give us a chance of staying up.
I've just got used to the names of this season's new players and I'm going to have to learn a whole new lot when the best of what we have move on.
At least AdamA can score in the Championship which is where we will be next season. I can't see me bothering with the 500 mile round trip for any more home games this season.

JoeEgg added 16:34 - Apr 3
"Ruben Selles opted to start with a front four of Stuart Armstrong, Theo Walcott, Sekou Mara and Mohamed Elyounoussi in east London but between them the quartet had just one off-target attempt at goal during the entire game."

I agree with those that point out that our main problem has always been up front and our lack of goalscorers! I forecast one Saints defensive error would probably cost us a goal, and that as usual our forwards would fail to score! Its probably too late now with our horrendous remaining list of fixtures - so lets go down with all guns blazing and bring in the forwards we appear to have wasted thousands on!

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