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Southampton V Crystal Palace The Verdict
Monday, 17th Apr 2023 09:29

I don't think you will find many Saints supporters in disagreement about this game, it was a shambles, a team with no leadership or direction and more to the point no attacking threat, it does not bode well.

It is hard to find anything good or positive to say about this game aside from the stats, 58% possession, more attempts on goal, 4 shots on target with Palace having only 2, but the only stat that mattered was the scoreline.

Aside from a brief period in the last 10-15 minutes when Saints finally woke up and poured forward albeit with little cohesion about their attacks, there was little to speak positively of in this display.

But if Saints are relegated and bizarrely that is still far from being rubber stamped, despite yet another setback, it isn't this game that will have sent them down, it is a chain of events some out of the club's control and many that are, that will have all added up to one great mess that sees us relegated.

I am not going to go into detail yet, but when you have three managers in a season that is an indication of just what a mess we are in and that those in charge are either panicking or didn't know what they are doing in the first place.

We panicked when we dumped Ralph Hasenhuttl, a man who had experience in football management at the highest level and had suffered from a horrendous injury list in his final half dozen games and replaced him with a man who only had experience in the lower leagues and whose coaching methods were outdated and soon had to be sacked.

Ruben Selles is a decent man and in time may become a top coach, but the truth is he had no experience as a manager only as a coach and not at a level that was needed in a relegation battle.

He should not have been put in this position, clearly the players like him and respond to him, but he does not have the experience to make key tactical decisions and more to the point has little experience to lean on to help him out in his coaching staff.

This is why yet again we are putting out a team that clearly has talent, but has no set pattern of play and no leadership or organisation on the pitch, James Ward Prowse leads by example and he is one player who comes off the pitch having left nothing on it in terms of effort, but he is not a leader of men, he leads by example but that is not enough out there.

The truth is in the summer walk down Above Bar last summer and ask any Saints supporter what the squad needed and they would have told you, an experienced leader in the centre of defence and a proven Premier League striker up front.

What we got was a plethora of youngsters, all with talent, but with little experience, a recipe for disaster.

Ralph had dragged out enough good displays with no money for two seasons, but even he couldn't just hand youngsters experience, it had to be gained.

Sports have made mistakes, no one can accuse them of not spending money, it has just not been spent well, that is perfectly clear.

So what we got again was a Saints performance that on paper wasn't that bad, but in reality went the same way as the other games, unable to keep clean sheets at the back and toothless up front, it's the story of the season, no matter who has been the manager and who has been on the field.

So what is the answer, truthfully at the moment I can't see it coming from within the club, we have a young inexperienced team being led by a young inexperienced manager, where is the motivation coming from.

I don't blame Selles, how could he turn down the job when offered, but he wasn't ready for it, but the biggest mistake was not giving him an experienced assistant to counsel him, look at the Saints coaching staff, absolutely no one with any experience at this level to help him.

What is the answer, surely not a 4th manager ? although to be blunt I wouldn't be averse to it with the situation we are in, although we would lose a good coach who could well have been a top manager with the club given time, but we could have a compromise, bring in someone on a temporary basis as his number 2, someone who can motivate and help him through the last few games.

On the pitch it was a strange starting line up, Joe Aribo up front, a man who had played just 147 minutes of Premier League football, since the return after the World Cup break, but more to the point only 11 minutes since 4th January, a three month period when he has been completely out of the picture and only a few weeks ago could not get into the matchday squad let alone on to the pitch.

This strikes of pure panic, you could say it is trying something different, but this wasn't a player pushing for a first team start, it was totally out of the blue. Ruben Selles in his 8 Premier League games in charge before this game, had not given Aribo a single minute of first team football, indeed he had only actually included him on the bench once, so how the hell is he suddenly the man to lead a forward line, especially when he is essentially a midfielder.

In truth I couldn't work out who is playing where at times, was it 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-1-1, who knows !

I feel sorry for Tall Paul Onauchu, he is clearly not suited to the way we play, no one can fault his effort or commitment, but truth is he has had little service, those who played out wide during his 30 minutes on the pitch are not wingers in the traditional sense, they are attacking midfielders, they like to run at sides and look to get a shot in, Tall Paul needs balls into the box, but when you are playing Palace that is food & drink to them.

So yet again people were streaming out of St Mary's early, they had seen a side who offered too little for too long, a side with no fight and no leadership on or off the pitch and clearly when you look at the coaching staff listed on the club's official website, no experienced coaches on the training ground.

Relegation is far from certain yet, if we had beaten Palace we would have been off the bottom and one point off Forest & Everton, truth is it is now perm 3 from 5 and Leeds are on the cusp of reducing that pack down to 4.

But yet again we have thrown away points that we should of won, our problem has not been so much our failure to win games, but a failure to draw them, even just under Selles in the last 9 games, if we had drawn at Leeds & West Ham and held on to a point in this one, that would have changed the table drastically and have given us a fighting chance.

But we cannot change the past only the future, the time for post mortems is when the maths say we can't stay up, until then we have to keep fighting or at least try to start fighting and hope for a great escape.

Photo: Action Images

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halftimeorange added 09:46 - Apr 17
I can't argue with very much said in the verdict. We regularly have the majority of possession - this time 58% - but, what the stats don't reveal is what percentage of possession was in our half of the pitch. I bet it's the majority because what few attacks we mount soon fizzle out past the halfway line or down the sides. On the subject of Onauchu, I don't agree that a player has to be designated a "winger" to be able to cross at head height. JWP invariably crosses at head height but, seemingly, not when Tall Paul is about! I also think (and have done for a long time) that JWP is the source of much of our negativity and slow build-up play. It appears that he must be given the ball at every opportunity which he regularly passes backwards or sideways. Not so with young Lavia who does seek to spread his play around and forwards. This has been a very depressing season for us Saints supporters and, although I'll attend the last few games, I will do so without any enthusiasm. I hope the board are looking at a couple of Romeu-type hard men to lead us back up next season.

halftimeorange added 09:47 - Apr 17
I can't argue with very much said in the verdict. We regularly have the majority of possession - this time 58% - but, what the stats don't reveal is what percentage of possession was in our half of the pitch. I bet it's the majority because what few attacks we mount soon fizzle out past the halfway line or down the sides. On the subject of Onauchu, I don't agree that a player has to be designated a "winger" to be able to cross at head height. JWP invariably crosses at head height but, seemingly, not when Tall Paul is about! I also think (and have done for a long time) that JWP is the source of much of our negativity and slow build-up play. It appears that he must be given the ball at every opportunity which he regularly passes backwards or sideways. Not so with young Lavia who does seek to spread his play around and forwards. This has been a very depressing season for us Saints supporters and, although I'll attend the last few games, I will do so without any enthusiasm. I hope the board are looking at a couple of Romeu-type hard men to lead us back up next season.

SanMarco added 09:50 - Apr 17
Yes - we cannot change the past but sadly we are not going to change the future either, not under this catastrophic SR regime. I agree with everything that Nick has said. It is absolutely right that the blame for our total shambles of a club should not go to individual players or managers but to those 'in charge': SR. I don't believe that players aren't trying, I just think they are lost in a quagmire of poor tactics, poor team selection and non-existent leadership + a squad dreadfully weak in key areas.

There is a 'best eleven' in this squad but they are never remotely near all playing at the same time and there are other tactics but they are never used. We hear the gobbledygook of manager-speak learned at coaching school but we see no learning in terms of trying something different. If playing like that didn't work vs Forest, Wolves, Brentford why would it work against Palace? - and why will it work against Bournemouth and Fulham? Okay, very occasionally you get a Leicester where we contrive to score and they miss half a dozen sitters - but we need more than 'occasional' now. We need to win every remotely 'winnable' game left now. Sadly, I see no chance at all - new manager - who would be daft enough.

Villa appointed Dick Emery at the same time we brought in Jones - food for thought there!!

DorsetIan added 09:51 - Apr 17
I personally think that it would be the final act of stupidity if the board don't try to get a new manager in for the last 7 games.

It is pretty obvious after the WH and Palace games that currently the team is going absolutely nowhere. They are completely out of goals and ideas.

And we are very very very lucky to still be in with a chance of survival. A new manager who knows how to attack and to win games - stranger things have happened! It's got to be worth a try.


wibbersda added 10:06 - Apr 17
Come In Misfits FC, your time is up!

1885_SFC added 10:10 - Apr 17
Indeed, get an experienced manager in for the last 7 games who will have what it takes to at least put up a fight until the last minute of the last game. But equally as important, he'll kick this lazy bunch of plodders up the a*se and get them out of 'comfort mode' that they've been in for far too long now. Selles is more like a mate to them - not a manager. .

Ifonly added 10:27 - Apr 17
If you asked me what we needed last summer I would not have said what you did. I would have said we needed a new spine. We lost Forster, Romeu and Broja, while already being weak at CB. The spine is key and that's what Saints need to rebuild this summer.

Alan Hansen was ridiculed for saying "you don't win anything with kids" but he was right. The only reason Man U did win was because the kids were Neville, Beckham, Butt, Scholes and Giggs, and more importantly they added those kids to a spine that included leaders like Schmeichel, Bruce, Pallister, Keane and Cantona. If you've got the spine, you can add the kids.

We don't have the spine, so we end up with performances like this that are "spineless". That's where we need to focus this summer, but we need to do that with an experienced manager, not a total newbie like Selles. I think Selles would be ok if he had a squad full of Man City players, but he hasn't and never will at Saints. He needs to build from what he has available, which will include a lot of players without the quality to open up the opposition with intricate passing.

We need a totally new approach next season. Unfortunately Selles is showing that he only knows one way and that way doesn't get results for a club like Saints. So he can't be part of the future.

saintmark1976 added 10:54 - Apr 17
Apart from your thoughts concerning Ralph ( who should have gone in the summer ) the most sensible Verdict comments you have made for months Nick. It’s as if Saturday’s shambles has finally let you see and understand what others have been saying near enough all season.

We deserve to be relegated for all of the reasons that you have identified. For me the end of the season literally can’t come quick enough, which is a feeling I can’t recall ever having before.

Fordy added 11:09 - Apr 17
I actually thought we looked OK in the first half. A few good chances and were solid. The problem was that rather than really go for it in the second half it was more of the same.

Then when Palace upped the tempo in the second half Seles said he was surprised! He leaves his changes too late and they're nearly always reactive rather than proactive.

He doesn't have what it takes to manage at this level. But who would come in for 7 games? Six really if you write off the Arsenal game.

I_would added 11:20 - Apr 17
With Prowse on the pitch we're playing with 10 men. What the hell does he do to be undroppable?

mattlegod added 11:30 - Apr 17
As much as he is a likable guy, Selles isn't ready. Best thing is to get a new long term manager now who will be ready to either save us from this embarrassing mess of a season or at least take us into the championship with some games under his belt so he knows who to let go and who to TRY and keep

Number_58 added 11:32 - Apr 17
Ankerson somehow managed to find us a manager with less idea how to win a football match than Nathan Jones. Saturday's game was lost at 2pm when the team was announced. If we're going down at least give it a go FFS.

Saintaxidriver added 11:52 - Apr 17
It was just more of the same. All season we have had 3 managers who have mystified with their line up choices and tactics. We often look OKish in the first half but not great. The opposition then adjust and we fail to adapt. We have no chance unless something radical is tried. I would stick the Big Guy up front and surround him with 3 fast forwards including Ballard and keep getting balls in the box either down the wings with some players who can actually cross the thing. Bring back Lyanco to scare the hell out of our players and get them fighting. Drop Bazunu and put Armstrong in goal.

A1079 added 12:00 - Apr 17
I know Nick that you have always been careful and reluctant to write anything that can be seen as a criticism of the club etc so this piece must have hurt a bit, but I agree with just about everything you have said and in an eloquent manner. I don't think any of us Saints fans get any pleasure out of what we saw on Saturday and for weeks and months before it.

I actually think, if there is a manager out there that is right for us then get him now, not because it will save us from relegation - it won't, but they will at least know what they have and what they need to do so they can work hard in getting us ready for next season in the championship. We can come back from this, we have come back from worse, but only if SR do something they haven't done thus far - make the right decisions!

Ali_Diarea added 12:05 - Apr 17
Spot on Nick, totally agree with your analysis. Although, I’m not sure if we have talented group or not anymore, it’s been a while since that talent was on display.

The thing that disappoints me most (and there are lots to choose from) is that we all know we struggle for goals, so we buy a centre forward with a record of scoring goals (albeit in a lower league) and then we don’t change our style of play to suit him. Where is the leadership and the courage to move away from the system that has failed us all season and try something different. What’s the worst that can happen? I’d rather we lose the remaining games with a gung-ho attitude rather than the damp squib that is currently being served up every week

TimSaint added 12:15 - Apr 17
Yet another pathetic defeat to a team around us in the table. That's now Palace, Wolves and Villa (who were near the bottom when we played them both times) who have done the double over us. Add 1 point from West Ham and 1 point from Leeds, 0 from Forest with a game still to go. Thankfully we actually got 6 from Leicester, 3 from Everton and 3 from Bournemouth with a game still to go, otherwise we would be miles adrift !!

I really struggle to see why we went for a safety first approach again, when it is clear that it has not worked in other games. Didn't take our early chances (Aribo and Theo) and once we conceded, our heads dropped and bar 5 mins of pressure, we hardly resisted and Palace won at a canter.

SaintGG added 12:22 - Apr 17
Backward and sideways passes by our apparent leader on the pitch JWP. Any fool can stand in the middle of the park and do a 6 yard pass that contributes nothing to the team. Really poor to watch.

Saintaxidriver added 12:30 - Apr 17
Also just a quickie but what the hell were we doing at corners with lot's of faffing around before JWP took it anyway. Looked like time wasting but surely not.

Colburn added 12:37 - Apr 17
Lol, we didn't panic when we got rid of Ralph.. We did it far too late and replaced him with people who had zero experience.. Clown show.. This latest idiot thinks he can win games without a striker and persists with a long-past it Walcott, who would not get in any other PL team, hence we are bottom. Aribo.... Seriously? Why did we buy him, Orsic, Edozie, Mara, Onuachu..? The list goes on, as do the schoolboy failures from a club devoid of a plan or direction..

ItchenNorth added 13:12 - Apr 17
Pathetic. It was walking football, sideways and backwards. The only players to look like they remotely wanted it was the usual two, Lavia and Alcaraz.

If you play Saints, tactics are obvious. Put 11 behind the ball and play on the counter attack. Everyone knows we can not break team's down. The reason we've had decent results against the bigger clubs, Chelsea, Spurs and City in the cup for example, is because these teams come after you.

We'll probably play much better against Arsenal, but then our lack of a goalscorer becomes an issue again.

Its not over, but this team hasn't the guts to get us out of it.

MSB added 13:17 - Apr 17
Having read all the above comments one thing is clear.
We need an experienced manager for the long term, relegation or not .
That man for me is Graham Potter.
I would hope he would be happy to return to the south coast

davidargyll added 14:03 - Apr 17
Well what a surprise that was (not)…We played exactly like we have done for goodness knows how many matches, ie reasonably competently for the first half and then collapse like a pack of cards. What’s that expression about madness and repetition…?

The really funny thing is Roy Hodgson comes along and immediately transfers the fortunes of Palace by simply getting the basics right. So why on earth can’t we? Answers on a postcard please…

Four things are now very clear to me:
1. When players get forward they haven’t a clue what to do; this lack of knowledge and confidence is a sign of POOR COACHING which, in turn suggests that the whole training regime is rotten to the core.
2. Players are giving well under 100% for two reasons: first because THREE MANAGERS HAVE UTTERLY CONFUSED THEM about what they are supposed to da (as in 1 above); and secondly it’s symptomatic of a “WE ARE GOING DOWN SO WHY BUST A GUT” ATTITUDE, lest their value declines in the transfer window. The honourable exception for a few games now has been Charlie Alcaraz whom I suspect will be on a lot of clubs’ radars.
3. If our players are better than the sum of their parts, WTF is going to make them show it? Certainly not the threat of going down and all the pain that that entails. Of course everybody does have the odd purple patch but is it not much much more likely that THEY ARE SIMPLY NOT THAT GOOD?
4. He may have been only appointed because he was cheap and available so was dealt a lousy hand; but SELLES IS NOW BEING SHOWN UP TO BE WHAT HE REALLY IS, clueless, incompetent, a lousy coach (as in 1 above) and unable to read the game; and him saying playing with a striker would not have made any difference to the result only underlines that.

So now WE WILL SHORTLY BE ABLE TO SEE WHAT THE GREAT RELEGATION PLAN IS and whether it gives us any chance of bouncing back because, as I have said previously, it now must be obvious to all that we are highly unlikely to score another goal this season, let alone another point.

Furthermore, if you look at the way we struggled against the likes of Blackpool and Grimsby, never mind Wolves or Forest or West Ham, WE ARE NO BETTER THAN A MID-CHAMPIONSHIP SIDE. AND AGAINST THAT BACKGROUND HOW IN EARTH ARE WE GOING TO ATTRACT A DECENT MANAGER, LET ALONE THE LIKES OF POTTER…? because if we don’t, sure as eggs is eggs, we haven’t a hope in hell of doing a Burnley, more likely a Wigan…

I cannot be alone in now asking “what price is reasonable for my next season ticket…?”

saintmark1976 added 14:37 - Apr 17
davidargyll, when it comes to next season’s tickets I fully expect that the Club, led by the (£830000 a year?) oaf Chairman Semmens, will play the old card of “ ticket prices are the same as previously because you are getting four extra games to watch”. Let’s face it, his Board have got every major decision this season wrong so why should we imagine that they won’t continue in the same vain even before a ball is kicked next time?

DellBoyWally added 14:59 - Apr 17
See my comments from 5 games ago. I don't know how people can say we still have a chance. Yeah, maybe a few games ago. But not now. We are down, the owners, board and 2 dopey managers have done that.
But I would add - Walcott was our most lively forward (again!) and created a number of chances for team mates. But unfortunately/unluckily/of course they will, missed!!
The biggest mistake For SR was getting rid of RH, an experienced, CL manager who had kept us up with a lot less talent than we have now.
This January's money should have been spent in the 2 previous windows, given RH the players he wanted and deserved. But no, let's invest in the future. The problem there is that you need to have a future from which to benefit!!
All the players for that future will be gone this summer, SR will pocket some profit so they'll be happy. But we will have to buy a new squad to challenge for promotion. Or maybe SR are planning on using the B-team youngsters for that? So "Hello Portsmouth"!!!
To hell buying a season ticket next summer. I'm not taking an 11 hour round trip every couple of weeks to watch second tier football, - and paying SR, who have brought it about, for the privilege.
It'll be my first without a season ticket since 1975 when I moved to South Wales. I've since lived in Lancashire, West Yorkshire and now North Yorkshire and not missed a season (and only a handful of games, home and away)
So thank you Sports Republic for ruining my enjoyment in supporting my home-town team.


Jesus_02 added 15:49 - Apr 17
Simple tactics, you play well you get dropped. D'jnepo assists Mara goal, better drop them incase their confidence gets too high.

8 games to go I still tink we are yet to field our best 11 or the same 11 in consecutive matches

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