Southampton Defensive Issues Sorted It's The Finishing That Is The Issue Now
Thursday, 19th Oct 2023 13:50
At the start of the season it was clear that Saints had issues at the back and something had to be changed, that was done by Russell Martin, but perhaps at the expense of some of the attacking play.
After shipping 16 goals in their opening 6 matches, including 9 in the last 2 games of that opening spell, Southampton have seemingly sorted things out at the back, the next 5 games have seen just 5 goals in the back of our net, a distinct improvement, although there is still room for more.
But in that opening spell we scored 10 past our opponents, not a bad number, but clearly our lack of discipline in attack cost us dearly at the back, as we kept getting caught on the counter attack.
The last 5 although seeing goals stopping at our own end have seen only 6 go in at the other end and on the face of it Russell Martin has revamped his formation to protect the defence on the counter and not go gung ho up the field at every opportunity.
The last three games have seen only 2 goals conceded and 5 scored an improvement at both ends of the pitch, as Saints fans walked into St Mary's to watch the game against Leeds United, if they had been told that that game and the trip to Stoke and home game against Rotherham would produce those stats and 7 points, they would have snapped your hand off after 4 straight defeats.
We achieved those 7 points, but not in the way most would have assumed and that is where the problem lay after the game against Rotherham, if we had beaten them 3-1 and drawn against Leeds, Southampton supporters would have left St Mary's with smiles on their faces and with the perception that we are on the way up.
Instead it was with boo's ringing in their ears from some sections of the crowd, something that left Flynn Downes shocked and surprised and if we look at it as 7 points from 3 games, you can see his point of view.
The crowd accused the manager of reverting to possession football, but the amount of possession and the way that we passed the ball against Rotherham in the 2nd half against Rotherham was not the cause of the goal conceded and therefore 2 points dropped.
We did not get caught on the break, we got caught by a sucker punch with a long kick from the keeper not being cleared and the ball lobbed in the net with virtually the Millers only decent chance.
Some fans point to the fact that it was a game of two halves, in the first we hit an early goal and had Rotherham on the ropes and in the second we sat back and passed the ball.
I would say that the game in many respects was not being dictated by us, we were passing the ball because Rotherham had 10 outfield players behind the ball, they had a solid back 5, a solid midfield line of 4 and then a forward harrying our back midfield trying to nick the ball.
We had to be patient to look for the openings, Rotherham were digging in and giving us nothing, but we created as many openings in the second half as we did the first, right up to the final minute when we almost nicked it late in injury time and the ball was hacked off the line.
The issue in this game was not possession football, but our failure to finish, if we had got a second at any time then we would have seen the game out and perhaps scored a 3rd or even 4th with Rotherham needing to come out from parking the bus.
If we had held out for 1-0 no one would be talking about possession football, only about how we were now 6th and in the play off spots.
No one was more disappointed than me about the result, but I didn't blame it on the formation.
Also in that game making 3 changes just after the hour mark disrupted our rhythm, taking off our top scorer as well as Stuart Armstrong and Sulemana, should not have been a problem, there were 3 good players entering the fray, but it changed the shape too much, I'm not a fan of mass substitutions unless it is necessary, but on 63 minutes it was too much too early and it wasn't needed we were in control.
But it wasn't a factor in our conceding the goal and nor was possession football, the goal was just something that happened out of the blue, the long ball and Rotherham had the chance they needed and took it.
If we had got caught out in that final half hour on the break passing the ball along the half way line then there would be a case, but we didn't, Leicester are top playing exactly the way we do coming out of the back, they are just more clinical at the other end than us.
So if we are truly going to mount a promotion push then we need to keep the ball, but be more clinical when the chances arise, the linesman flag stayed down for Adam Armstrong, Will Smallbone finishes clinically or even the referee spots the pulling on Taylor Bellis Harwood's shirt and disallows their goal and we would all have a different perspective on this season.
But the real perspective is that we are just one point off the play offs and with two crucial games to play in the next 6 days, there are 6 points to be won and if we win them all we will be in the play off spots and then it is game on.
Whether we like it or not Russell Martin is here for longer than a couple of more games and unless we pull a major managerial appointment out of the hat, then he will be.
So we have to accept reality, do we want to go up and if so then we need everyone kicking in the same direction metaphorically speaking, the owners, the manager, the players and the fans.
Results ultimately make or break a manager and personally I want him to get results and keep his job, because if he does that then we have a chance of promotion, if he doesn't, it might please some to see him sacked, but the then reality is that we will be playing catch up from a difficult position.
As we saw last season, just changing a manager might please some, but more often than not it changes little on the pitch.
Photo: Action Images
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