Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Southampton At Cardiff City The Verdict
Monday, 22nd Apr 2024 08:57

There can be no excuses for this defeat, a loss that effectively means that it will be a play off spot and not an automatic promotion place for Southampton, so where did it all go wrong.

There were not many arguments amongst the travelling Saints supporters when the starting line up was announced, although the absence of Flynn Downes through injury was a worry and for the first half at least it looked like it would be a straightforward task to beat Cardiff when after Adam Armstrong hit a post early doors, Joe Aribo gave Saints a 12th minute lead.

For most of the rest of the first half it seemed only a matter of time before we got a second and maybe more but a string of decent chances were wasted, perhaps as many as half a dozen on target and blocked and the Bluebirds were grateful to be going into the break all square.

The second half started in pretty much the same way with the home goalkeeping pulling off a wonder save and other chances again wasted, but you were getting the feeling we might pay heavily for our wastefulness.

With 22 minutes came the equaliser and you just had that sinking feeling that we were doomed, but it would be the 6th minute of injury time before the winner arrived and to be blunt it was no surprise.

So where did it go wrong, well a lot of the usual excuses were missing, there was no Gavin Bazunu to point the finger at, no Jack Stephens and in the second half no Ryan Manning who was taken off at half time being replaced by James Bree.

The first mistake was the failure to bring on fresh legs before the equaliser, we were starting to look leggy in the lead up, why was there no change made till after the goal, then it was just the one change, Rothwell for Aribo.

On 80 minutes came a triple change, on came Sulemana, Fraser & Edozie, three wingers, Russell Martin was going for the jugular, but in truth they just got in each others way, on the left you had both Edozie and Fraser, it was just a traffic jam.

You also have to ask why Martin keeps taking off the second highest scorer in the division just when we need him most, to be blunt playing 3 wingers, but taking off your top scorer is just at best baffling and at worst very worrying.

For the last minutes we were just a disorganised rabble, there was no real pattern or game plan.

So it was no surprise when Cardiff scored.

I have thought long and hard since this game about just where we have been going wrong, I still maintain that we have the best squad in the division in terms of both quality and quantity, so why do we lose drop points in games like this far too often.

The answer is leadership, both on and off the pitch, I think Russell Martin has too much choice and doesn't know what to do for the best, when things go wrong he makes too many changes and dithers when things are going right.

The trick is to make subtle changes that add something to the side, whether it is fresh legs defensively or an attacking change.

But the real issue is leadership on the pitch, they say in football that a team should be 11 captains, but I struggle to name one in our squad who is leadership material, that is not the fault of the players, but of a failure to sign a leader.

Look at any good football team and you find the manager has made sure he has a leader on the pitch, look at Saints teams over the years, Lawrie McMenemy signed Alan Ball and then Jimmy Case, when Case retired there was Glenn Cockerill to step into the breach, then there was Claus Lundekvam & Jose Fonte, Ronald Koeman signed Steven Davis and Virgil Van Dijk, not all captains in name, but all were leaders on the pitch.

We do not have one, this game was like the defeat at Ipswich, we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory due to a lack of organisation and leadership on the pitch.

I worried about this back in August when Russell Martin placed his faith in Jack Stephens & then Adam Armstrong.

Stephens was not in any way shape or form to blame for this defeat, he wasn't on the pitch, but I knew he was not a leader of men and so did the players in the squad.

Adam Armstrong is a forward, Captain's should not be forwards, they play with their backs to the rest of the team most of the time, the Captain should be in a position of vision & control either in the defence or midfield.

It says it all when your Captain can't get in the team and just at the moment the team needs leadership, you take the man who is stepping into the shoes off the field.

So it looks like the play offs for Saints, the good news is that we have the ability to win them, we might be a disorganised rabble, but we have the quality to beat teams and sometimes teams dig in and win games in spite of their manager and not because of him.

I am still not sure what has gone wrong with the manager, he moulded a team that went 22 League games unbeaten, he had a side that although did lack leadership, all knew their jobs and what they had to do, then he tore it all apart, partly to play a favourite and when things went wrong he had a so many players he didn't know what to do with them all.

On Saturday that all came to a head and just when we needed a cool head at the helm both on and off the field there was nothing and we just charged forward and hoped for the best.

Photo: Action Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

darthvader added 09:06 - Apr 22
"go into the break all square" i thought we were 1 up??

A1079 added 09:17 - Apr 22
If we had converted just 50% of our chances in the game we would not have lost - plain and simple and that has been the case in other marginal games where failure to convert a reasonable percentage of our chances has meant drawing or losing when we shouldn't have. I am not sure that you can blame a manager, system, etc when so called professional strikers can't seem to find the net.

Centurion added 09:29 - Apr 22
Going back to the summer of 2022.
Ralph needed a really good striker...but we didn't get one.
Ralph needed a good steady and experienced goalkeeper...we didn't get one.
It has been the same problem since.
Also, yes Nick, an experienced and proven Captain and leader on the pitch. Needed for years.
I hope we make it through the playoffs? I am not convinced and consistently have said we need 2 or 3 years to build a team and a squad in the Championship.

saintmark1976 added 09:47 - Apr 22
A very fair and reasonable report Nick with wholly justifiable criticisms of players and manager for what was a truly pathetic showing by all concerned.

The question now is can we achieve promotion through the playoffs ? Despite one of if not the best squad in The Championship I just can’t see it because:-

1. Russell Martin is wedded to tipping tappy, sideways and backwards possession based football.

2. Russell Martin has no plan B when tippy tappy etc etc doesn’t work.

3. Russell Martin doesn’t know and hasn’t known all season long what his best starting team is.

4. Russell Martin only ever makes reactive substitutions during a match never proactive one’s

5. Russell Martin cannot game manage from winning positions.

Put simply and as we told by numerous Swansea fans before a ball was kicked he just hasn’t got what it takes.

jameshill added 10:08 - Apr 22
I have to disagree!
Where does this trope(or you could say tripe) about 'having the best squad in the league' come from? Where is your evidence? My guess is that fans of Leeds and Leicester repeat the same delusion.
Furthermore, how come this invention about a lack of leadership has surfaced now - where was it when we were winning 21 games in a row? And what an irony - we put in one of our worst performances when Jack Stephens IS'NT playing!! One more thing: Please move on from the bleating about winning 'if only we had converted our chances' - football matches are won by goals not chances. Our forwards are good but not good enough. The table does not lie, accept a bit a realism. We are not the best side in the league and thats OK. It seems to me we are doing pretty well despite that.

andywelsh added 10:17 - Apr 22
I understand that there will always be those who dislike Russell Martin’s style of football and they will be there wherever he goes. However I have to say that when it all comes together it is a thing of beauty. Other clubs are increasingly playing the same way and I believe we will gradually get better at it. We are a work in progress still which often doesn’t sit well with fans who require instant success. Domination needs to be turned into goals and wins but it’s not as if we fail to create opportunities. Like those who disparaged Ward Prowse and wanted to drive him to his next club to get rid of him, many seem to underestimate the job RM has done to get Saints in with a very realistic chance of promotion. Other clubs will be watching with interest but I for one hope RM stays to complete the job.

Farlow added 10:17 - Apr 22
Ultimatly we did not gain automatic promotion because of RM,s fascination with wingers.
We need a top quality striker none of ours are true Premiership class maybe Stewart will
turn out to be.

JoeEgg added 10:20 - Apr 22
Adam Armstrong and Che Adams are among the leading goalscorers in the Championship, but in truth their failure to kill games off by scoring more goals has been a major contributory factor to our present plight. This thread greeted Brooks, Rothwell and Fraser with high hopes of providing more goals from other positions. but they were players who fell short at their previous clubs and they are quite simply not the answer for Saints. We went for Stewart to be our salvation - took an enormous risk with his fitness- and look where we are now!
We can make other justified criticisms of the team and the manager, but if the strikers had performed and justified their reputations and early promise, we would be home and dry by now. As for our massive collection of wingers - well if the finished product isn't there then they count for very little when it comes to winning matches.
My problem with the manager is that our possession based football - to give it its polite name!-inevitably produces tired legs! ; Thats understandable, but he's had all season to plan what comes next, later in the game when substitutions have to be made. The substitutes only seem to create chaos and confusion and often are a greater threat to our team than to the opposition. He still doesn't know his best team or have an effective plan 'B'.
Maybe he can sort it out, but his after match comments leave me with many reservations about his ability and suitability to lead a team to the Premer League. Until the Cardiff game, he insisted on labelling everyone 'brilliant' or 'amazing', and I also doubt that the tippy tappy style is appropriate for our current squad.
The play-offs will be a lottery and poor compensation for a season where we worked hard to reach a promising league position and most observers felt that we had the squad capable of going all the way to the Premier League.

halftimeorange added 10:47 - Apr 22
Although I personally think that the current obsession with passing out from the back to the detriment of any other form of attack is killing football as much as the disgrace that is VAR (thankfully not affecting us) however, apart from often boring total possession, I have to concede that RM has done a reasonable job with the squad he's got and had he have had a few more premiership quality players we would certainly be going up. In the event that we do go up then (with this squad) we will be facing a very difficult season and struggling throughout. We simply aren't better than many, if any teams in the EPL and Sports Republic's ventures in the transfer market thus far have not revealed many gems. Whether Ross Stewart is the striker we all crave is open to question. Would we have been any more effective had we have kept Paul Onuachu or Nathan Tella, who knows? When you look at what we've got the situation is no different to the last two season's under Ralph - we don't have the spine of a top-class keeper, a commanding centre back, a gifted playmaker (even more apparent if Stuart Armstrong goes) or a true goal poacher. Oh, and we're faced with another £90 on our STs and games against Portsmouth. I just hope the club is lucky enough to enjoy much the same levels of support as it has now.

IanRC added 11:21 - Apr 22
Really bad luck the timing of injuries to Flynn Downes and Stuart Armstrong, hope Stu’s injury isn’t as bad as feared and that we offer him a new contract. Very disappointing game management again comes back to bite us sadly.

clubless added 11:23 - Apr 22
I of course hope we get through the play-offs .... but part of me won't be too sad if we don't. I fear for this side in the premiership ... at best I think we would have a nervous season on "clinging on". This season Saints have been terrific to watch ... so many weekends have generated a feel good factor ... and joy of joys there has been no VAR. I wouldn't mind a second season if it is like this one.

JGH added 11:34 - Apr 22
Think you're reaching a bit here. Hugely frustrating but ultimately dominant performances are a positive thing even if you do get your pocket picked. That's not on the manager...

There'll be days when the performance etc will fit your predetermined narrative but not Saturday was one of them.

wibbersda added 11:41 - Apr 22
Whats the point of Sulemana? £25 Mil flop.

Bowlercow added 11:48 - Apr 22
I must be a rarity amongst posters on here because I have been very happy 95% of the time I enjoy possession football and all of the risk that it entails As for RM 's substitutions they have been no more confusing to me than any other manager we have ever had None have pleased all the supporters all of the time
Would love to go up via the play offs but if we stay in the Championship fine but after that we risk becoming another stoke or worse

Colburn added 11:50 - Apr 22
Bednarek bottled the shot, shied away from it like he was scared of the ball.. deflection, goal. See it so many times when players aren’t brave. Captain Jack wouldn’t have bottled it and I expect to see him back in the starting line up on Tuesday.
Same story, don’t take the chances to kill off the game, run out of steam after an hour, managers waits til we’ve messed things up before he makes the changes.
That said, he is learning on the job and if we were clinical up top, none of these moans and whinges about RM and Jack would be relevant or heard.
Still a chance of automatic if we win our last 3. Leeds only need to draw one against Boro or QPR, not easy away games, and Ipswich have 3 really tough games when you consider Huddersfield will need something last day.
To be blunt, our whinging fans who constantly go on about RM and Jack don’t deserve premier league football, only real fans who get behind a successful team, any other season, we’d be on the cusp of automatic right now..
you keep sowing negativity, that’s what you’ll get back!
Come on the lads for tomorrow night, still loads to play for!
Oh and to use your frustration for another dig at the captain and and his leadership just proves what a sad clown you are..

Number_58 added 11:51 - Apr 22
Hopefully at least Saturday will put to bed the theory that Jack Stephens is the reason behind all our problems.
Surely the real problem is that to play the tippy tappy football we play you need skillful players who can pass the ball all day. And when it works it looks brilliant. Unfortunately, at our level those type of players don't tend to be the ones who can stick their foot in when it matters the most. You watch other teams and they defend for their lives. How many goals have we conceded from deflections when we've let the oppo have a shot from outside the box when we should have closed them down?

onetowatch added 11:52 - Apr 22
Nick, you start by saying there were few arguments about the starting line up amongst Saints fans, however, I'm completely baffled how RM can virtually ignore Shea Charles, then bring him in on the bench and get pitch time briefly, drop him from the squad the following week, to bring him back and play him the whole 2nd half, with an accomplished performance, then, when your key midfielder, FD, is out injured, SC doesn't make the bench which is overloaded with wingers....he hasn't got a clue an that's why we have not secured an automatic place. At this stage of the season, there are too many key areas where he still is unsure who to start with....

PezzaSaint added 12:03 - Apr 22
I said at the beginning of the season after we suffered that string of defeats that it is the clubs with the best defensive records that normally win promotion and unfortunately it looks like I'm going to be proved right. Both Leeds and Leicester have conceded goals in the 30s, whilst we have conceded 56 to date. Ipswich are the anomaly with 53 against, but if they do go up they'll get battered in the Premier League because Premier League defenses are so much better and so their goals scored will drop off.

Whilst our forwards couldn't hit a 'Cow's a--e with a banjo' on Saturday, ultimately it isn't the lack of goals that has killed us.

Flynn Downes has been a big miss when he's been out and our inconsistent form has coincided with him not being regularly available.

Farlow added 15:08 - Apr 22
Agree with Colburn about Bednarek bottling it he also gave away the free kick for the other goal after being skinned,come back Jack all is foregiven.

YosemiteSaint added 21:08 - Apr 22
I'm with clubless; we'd be toast in—definitely not the toast of—the Premier League. In the Championship we can afford to enjoy a few chuckles at Adams's and Brooks's bizarrely wayward finishing—Saturday it was as if someone had cast a spell on them that rendered them unable to see where the goal was!—and still finish near the top of the league. I'd go for Championship wins and laughs over Premier League fear and loathing any day.

SanMarco added 14:27 - Apr 23
If you look at the for and against stats it is definitely goals conceded that seems too be the biggest problem but examine it game by game and it is the inability to finish teams off that stands out for me. I count at least 8 games where we took the lead and had many chances to finish it off but ended up not winning. Of course not conceding would win those games just as well but when you have the kind of chances we had on Saturday then taking a couple of them takes all the pressure off. If their fluky winner had have made a consolation goal then no one would have cared. Against a woeful Preston the second and third goals meant it didn't matter how bad the defence played. Against a nearly as bad Cardiff things were different.

I don't know where the 'best squad' arguments come from but even if they are nearly true then RM's 4th place looks like total failure to me. Great for those that like tippy-tappy of course, but for the rest of us...

You need to login in order to post your comments

Blogs 31 bloggers

Knees-up Mother Brown #22 by wessex_exile

Southampton Polls

About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© FansNetwork 2024