With Saints about to face a daunting game with Everton on the back of five straight defeats and with a growing injury and suspension list, their squad has never looked ‘shallower’. So where should Ronald Koeman be looking to improve his squad in January?
The most laughable transfer rumour for years started doing the rounds over the last couple of days with the suggestion that Wesley Sneijder might be about to be part of the Dutch revolution at St.Mary’s but the Saints boss dismissed it, stating the obvious fact that the press managed to miss. We could never afford his salary. But where could Saints realistically look?
1. Jordan Rhodes
Saints are seriously lacking in goals at the moment and Graziano Pelle has been relied upon thus far but can’t do it all on his own. A…
Disgraceful. That is the only word that can sum up the individual performances of Southampton’s players to a man in last night’s Capitol One Cup quarter final against Sheffield United.
In what was a golden opportunity to get the club into a cup semi-final and a possible chance of a Wembley final, the Saints players showed a lack of effort, a deficiency of desire and were devoid of ideas. It was truly woeful.
For the 4,000 fans who made the long trip north it was a kick in the teeth for them to put on such a negligent, toothless, spineless showing from supposed top level players. Second to every ball and incapable of breaking their opponents down, they were outplayed, out-battled and outclassed by their League One opponents. Unacceptable.
The home side always looked dangerous at set pieces, but Saints didn’t learn…
It’s not often I get to see Saints’ Under 21’s in action, so I was delighted to see that they were playing Leicester City in nearby Nuneaton tonight.
It was bitterly cold at Nuneaton Town’s Liberty Way stadium as the likes of Town manager Liam Daish, Coventry City boss Stephen Pressley, Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes (brother of Saints sub Marcus), some important looking chaps from Hull City, a plethora of serious looking men with notepads and pencils and what looked like Vincent Pericard, or maybe Lennox Lewis took their seats for this Under 21 Premier League encounter.
It was a bright start by both sides, with the styles of both immediately recognisable. Saints named a side lacking in first team experience and were clearly focused on team play, while their hosts side included Nick Powell, Marc Albrighton and Anthony Knockaert who all have plenty of games at the highest level under their belt. Powell and Knockaert were the focus of all their play and clearly the dangermen from the word go.
Saints took the lead though, through a brilliant individual effort from Josh Sims, weaving his way through the Foxes defence before hitting a fine curling finish. Powell then showed his influence, bigger in both reputation and physical stature he imposed himself on the much smaller Saints midfield and was pulling the strings, scoring twice along the way to give the home side a deserved lead.
Had it not been for some impressive stops from Paolo Gazzaniga the scoreline could have been less comfortable for the visitors, and they came out for the second half with a new impetus. Ryan Seager looked sharp every time he got into the box and it was his he that got Saints back in it.
Anthony Knockaert was causing all sorts of problems on the left, and showed just how ready he is for the Premier League by going down under minimal to no contact, and crying to the referee every time something didn’t go his way. If that was annoying me enough, his celebration after putting the Foxes back in front, more suited to a Wembley cup final than in front of 100 people in the reserves upped it somewhat before his horror challenge on Bevis Mugabi put it at peak level.
It was nice to see some refereeing consistency though as the man in the middle consistently didn’t punish some hefty over the top tackles from both sides, Knockaert perhaps helped by Mugabi’s lack of fuss.
Saints pushed for a second equaliser and went close several times, before Seager again showed why his name is being suggested for first team football with a tidy finish to snatch a point at the death.
All in all an enjoyable evening, and a great end to end game. Powell was the difference for much of the game, and Leicester undoubtedly created more chances, but Saints play was slicker than their opponents at times and they deserved to get back in it.
I was particularly impressed by Jason McCarthy who showed why he is captain with his constant talking and organising, Josh Debayo who marshalled the Leicester right winger expertly, and with an air of calm that almost made it look nonchalant, Josh Sims, whose skill was clear but sadly had to be replaced early on, Omar Rowe who has unbelievable pace and was a constant menace to the Foxes defence (and the referee who booked him for dissent after several tirades) and Ryan Seager who is a goalscorer, simple as that!
Leicester U21s: Adam Smith, Alie Sesay, Kieran Kennedy, Callum Elder, Jack Barmby, Jak McCourt, Nick Powell, Anthony Knockaert, Marc Albrighton, Joe Dodoo (Joe Davis 77), Tom Hopper (c).
Unused substitutes: John Maddison (GK), Kris Scott, Harry Panayiotou, Simonas Stankevicius.
Goals: Powell (33, 38), Knockaert (75)
Saints U21s: Paulo Gazzaniga, Jake Flannigan, Bevis Mugabi, Jason McCarthy (c), Josh Debayo, Dominic Gape, Armani Little (Niall Mason 46), Josh Sims (Harley Willard 27), Omar Rowe, Sam McQueen, Ryan Seager.
Unused substitutes: Will Britt (GK), Marcus Barnes, Ollie Cook
‘We were unlucky at Arsenal we deserved a point’….. ‘We were unlucky against United, we were the better side and should have won’.
Both valid statements, and rightly Saints fans comforted themselves after those two defeats in the knowledge that the team had actually played well. Today though at Turf Moor, the team did not play well and they got exactly what they deserved. Nothing.
Saints were poor today, not outplayed by Burnley, who themselves lacked creativity but out-battled and at this level and with the ambitions that the coaching staff and the club claim to have that is unacceptable.
There is an argument, and in my opinion a valid one….
‘A defeat by any other name would smell as sweet’ or any other over romantic nonsense you feel necessary to apply to Southampton after Monday night’s floodlight robbery at St Mary’s.
Most thieves wear a stripy jumper and a mask, but Manchester United came in all blue and frankly made a royal mess of it, but then you don’t have to be an expert cat burglar if the homeowner opens the front door for you and then helps you sneak out the back.
Ronald Koeman was gutted last night, he and 30,000 others as rival Lois van Gaal headed back to Manchester with an inexplicable three points.
Saints should have won that game, and I defy even the most ardent Red Devil to suggest otherwise. They were the better team in every area of the pitch, dominating proceedings…
Remember when fans of Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United kept telling us that we had only played ‘easy teams’ in our run of good form?
Some interesting results in the Premier League this past week, Sunderland 0-0 Chelsea, Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea, Liverpool 0-0 Sunderland, Spurs 0-0 Crystal Palace, Stoke City 3-2 Arsenal. Not to mention countless others over the course of the season. Not so easy now then I guess?
The worst part of the past two defeats against Manchester City and Arsenal have been not the defeats themselves but the plethora of smug ‘I told you so’ responses to them from our under-qualified television pundits. Though Saints were soundly beaten by City, the defeat at Arsenal was desperately unlucky but that will of course be ignored.
Monday night’s clash at Saint Mary’s should prove to be a thrilling encounter as Southampton will look to continue playing their free-flowing football that has seen them climb to third place in the league. The Saints will be confident that they can take all three points from the game against the side that sit a place below them in the league, and extend the margin to four points.
Whilst Southampton were unfortunate to go down to a late goal against Arsenal on Wednesday night, one man who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side was goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The England international made seven saves during the game to keep his side level until the 88th minute. The 6’7’’ shot stopper is averaging 2.7 saves per goal conceded according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, and will look to keep his fifth clean sheet in seven games on Monday.
At the back, Nathaniel Clyne is in the form of his life at the moment, as backed up by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. The full back has already created one goal and scored two this season, and his top speed of 34.2km/h shows why he is such a threat. Defensively, his statistics only get better and he has won 63 tackles this season, winning 80.8% of his tackles overall. He has also racked up 26 interceptions which, combined with his pace, help Southampton turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.
Up top, Graziano Pelle has been on lethal form so far this season, and he will look to continue in the same vain on Monday night. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows us that the Italy international has already bagged six goals this season and unselfishly laid on a further four goals for his teammates. Pelle has covered 138.8km already this season and it is the non stop movement and work rate that will not give United a second’s rest on Monday. He is 9/5 to score anytime with 888sport.com.
Manchester United will provide a tough test for Southampton on Monday night, as they look to become only the second team this season to record five back-to-back wins, alongside Newcastle. The Red Devils will be looking to make the long trip down to the South coast worthwhile with a victory that would see them leapfrog their opponents.
Much like Southampton, United find themselves with one of the league’s in form goal keepers, in the shape of David De Gea. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index reveals that the Spain international did not have to make a save until the final minute of the game against Stoke, but his two saves in the week earned his side all three points. De Gea is averaging 2.25 saves made for every goal conceded, and will be hoping that his fifth clean sheet of the season will only increase that figure.
Defender Luke Shaw will be looking to make his first return to St. Mary’s following his move to Old Trafford, and the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows us what a good start he has made to his career for United. The left back has won an impressive 85.7% of his tackles so far this campaign, also adding another 27 clearances to that tally. He has also illustrated his attacking qualities with 12 dribbles and 17 crosses into the box, and will hope that he can have a successful return to his boyhood club.
In the middle of the park, Marouane Fellaini is currently showing the type of form that saw United stump up the requested transfer fee from Everton. The Belgian international, as illustrated by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, has not only created a goal and scored twice, but also shown his all round qualities. Fellaini has won 69.4% of his 36 tackles and made 10 interceptions, and shown his quality on the ball by completing 87.9% of his 415 passes this season. He is 6/1 to score for the second game in a row with 888sport.com.
Southampton lost last night. Fair and square. Undeserved perhaps, but ultimately fair. I am confident in saying that, because thankfully it wasn’t one of the referee’s hideous decisions that resulted in the winning goal.
The official’s performance was beyond poor and though I would never accuse one of being ‘biased’ you will struggle to see a game in which so many ‘wrong’ decisions effected just one team on show. The icing on the cake was the decision not to even book Santi Cazorla for a red card tackle on Dusan Tadic, a laughable decision beyond comprehension given the innocuous bookings dished out to the visitors.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though for the travelling Saints fans last night. Some significant injuries will make the ‘difficult period’ even harder, but despite defeat the team proved that they are…
Well this will simply not do. I don’t like this at all. I mean what are Southampton fans supposed to do now? We’d really got used to winning.
I know, we’ll massively overreact.
There was certainly a reality check needed after the final whistle at St Mary’s today after Saints were well beaten by the current Premier League champions. Seriously guys, it’s going to be ok.
Sometimes you just have to accept that you were beaten by the better team and that is exactly what happened today. The homeside weren’t at their best and made several mistakes, two things you might get away with against the likes of Stoke or Leicester but you won’t against the likes of Manchester City, or any of the other Champion’s League clubs for that matter.
It is the tale of two sides battling it out, one protecting it’s home, the other trying to get in to that home and take something that they believe is theirs with minimal fuss. The home side are primitive in style but well organised with a quiet leader, assisted by someone both hairier and more aggressive.
It inevitably becomes a predictable stalemated battle between the sophisticated, modern thinking visitors with their intricate tools and the basic, counter attacking, route one, simple but effective style of the guarding simians.
It is a clash of cultures and one that is a complete mismatch on paper, but the endeavour of the hosts sees them hold their own.
A mistake by the visitors sends the peaceful beginning into a chaotic conclusion. Nobody wins, everybody…