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In what was expected to be a close battle between Pardew and his successor there will be many surprised by this landslide victory! Pards will have to draw a blue line under this one, Adkins keeps smiling!
An early exit for Redknapp, and that can come as no shock. You have to ask yourself how bad your signings were though when the man that brought Ali Dia to the club knocks you out! Oh wait…. Calum Davenport.
As far as jumping on the bandwagon goes, this is as shameless as it gets….
Seemingly started by Richard Osman of Pointless fame with his ‘World Cup of Chocolate, using the new twitter poll feature as a way of deciding who or what is the best at something in a Knockout competition is a bit a of harmless fun that has now been replicated for all sorts of subjects.
I decided to start my own ‘World Cup’ (although in retrospect it should be FA Cup) of Saints Managers.
This is just for fun. It doesn’t really decide anything, and based on the demographic of Twitter I only went back to Lawrie McMenemy (one of the clear favourites). I also only included those who were permanent managers. Except I forgot Steve Wigley. Sorry Steve.
If there is one complaint that all Saints fans have had in common of late, it’s that we were in desperate need of a striker.
There was one name that was repeatedly on the lips of the supporters, an out and out goalscorer who had proved his point in the Premier League in the last campaign, and seemingly the ideal man to come in and lead the line at St. Mary’s.
It’s not often though that the supporters and the club find themselves on the same wavelength when it comes to transfer business so the breaking news on Saturday morning that on this occasion they actually were, was both perfectly timed and a pleasant surprise.
To seal such a sought after striker, whose record is prolific at every level at such a bargain price of £4 million, is staggering business for the club and the only thing left to ask is, what took so you long Charlie?
You see, ever since this site was in it’s infancy, and Saints were playing in League One, it’s always felt to me like destiny that Charlie Austin would one day turn out for us. As mentioned in a nostalgic piece here, the then Swindon Town forward was our ‘tormentor in chief’ at the time.
Having grown up on the South Coast, I remember feeling he might have been one that had slipped through Saints proverbial net, having caught the Robin’s eye while banging in the goals at Poole Town!
Austin was often the difference in games between us and Swindon, and he also notched against Saints in the Championship with Burnley, not to mention last season’s spectacular strike at St. Mary’s in the Premier League.
As Saints have progressed so has Austin at an equal rate, and now is the time for them to move on together!
Austin’s addition couldn’t be any more welcome, and with supporters starting to feel restless after a poor run of late, the return of Fraser Forster, two good wins on the bounce and the announcement of such a good goalscorer joining the squad has brought the confidence flooding back into the stands.
Saints fans love a goalscorer and it was perhaps fitting that Charlie Austin was sat in the stands watching his new team-mates while a former legendary front-man in Rickie Lambert returned with West Brom.
Graziano Pelle and Shane Long have been great in patches this season, but this added competition can only be a good thing, and in Austin it feels like we might have another talisman forward on our hands. Perhaps even the man to takeover from Lambert and join predecessors James Beattie, Le Tiss et al as the focal point in the team.
It feels like a move that makes perfect sense for all parties for a change. QPR got a fee before losing out altogether in the Summer, Saints got their goalscorer, and Charlie Austin has a six month crack at the England Euro 2016 squad.
It’s been a while since Saints made a transfer that inspired such confidence in the stands, and there was a buzz amongst the fans I was watching the WBA game with, while those St. Mary’s were clearly audibly lifted!
Just when it feels like Saints are getting us down again, they know just how to scoop us back up.
Saints ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over Watford on Wednesday night, in what will hopefully be the start of some better form for Ronald Koeman’s heavily criticised team of late. It was a much better performance than recent matches, and for once it seemed they were able to convert first half dominance into full time success.
But what has been the cause of this season’s perceived ‘under-performing’?
1. Transfer Policy?
In Koeman’s first Summer at the club, the doom-sayers were out in force as several of Saints’ top names departed for perceivably greener grass, yet the Dutchman’s cut price replacements filled the void admirably and Saints pushed on for their best ever Premier League season.
But what were the chances it would work so well two seasons’ in a row? It’s fair to say we might have got lucky with how quickly the signings of Summer 2014 settled in and gelled with the existing players, and this time it hasn’t quite gone to plan.
Jordy Clasie, who came with the impossible job of slotting in to the massive Schneiderlin shaped hole has been superb of late, but certainly didn’t hit the ground running in a Saints shirt. Cedric, brought in to replace Nathaniel Clyne has found himself in and out of the team, and Juanmi, well nothing more needs to be said.
2. Tactical Errors?
Perhaps signalling a reaction to poor form, Ronald has made some odd tactical moves of late. Failing several times with a back five.
Saints have had a flurry of games where they have looked comfortable in the first half, only to be undone in the second, the away fixture at West Ham, the perfect example of this. Slaven Bilic changed his team at half time to suit and Saints had no counter move to turn to, the hunter became the hunted and three points soon became none.
It could be a case of ‘second season syndrome’ and opposition manager’s being wise to Koeman’s style, but it is worrying that of the last 11 fixtures, we’ve only managed two wins. The Arsenal game was testament to the manager’s ability tactically. In what was an uncharacteristic performance at the time, Saints use of Shane Long destroyed Arsenal at the back.
3. Player Power?
Last season, two of the star performers were undoubtedly our African duo of Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane. Subsequent to that though both have been linked to big money moves to huge clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and err… Spurs.
This has coincided with a considerable dip in form for the pair, and Saints are notably worse for it. I’ve been Wanyama’s biggest cheerleader since he arrived from Celtic, but even I have struggled to defend his lacklustre performances of late. Is he suffering without Morgan? Or his he simply sulking because of his denied to move White Hart Lane? Either way, he doesn’t warrant selection when he returns from suspension against WBA.
Mane has also gone well off the boil, a true game changer when he wants to be but has his head been turned by the thought of dulling it up with LVG at Old Trafford?
4. Squad Depth?
Come the end of the last campaign, Saints fans were hopeful that with European football (Bloody Hell. Remember that?) coming, the transfer window would be used to bolster the depth of the squad.
It looked like this had happened with some of the signings that were made, and we always have our brilliant youth system right?
Unfortunately some of the signings have looked weaker than what was already there and with Ronald publicly criticising the quality of the youth players coming through (perhaps backed by unsuccessful loan spells for Jack Stephens and Sam Gallagher in the Championship) there is an argument to say that the squad is no deeper than it was last year.
5. Other Clubs’ Transfer Policy?
With Saints finishing the last campaign in 7th place, and with the abundance of money coming in from the new TV deal, surely it would be us that push on in terms of improvement?
Perhaps not. While Saints stuck with their policy of bringing in lesser known/cheaper players, those just behind us went big.
With Stoke City signing Xherdan Shaqiri, West Ham bringing in Dimitri Payet and Palace splashing out on Yohan Cabaye, the St. Mary’s faithful were left wondering whether we shouldn’t be a little bit more ambitious in the transfer market.
Did Saints allow other clubs to overtake us in the Summer?
6. Lack of Goals?
Last season, it appeared that Saints had shaken off the ‘All fart and no shit’ stigma of previous campaigns, but it would appear to be back with abundance.
With Graziano Pelle, clearly the club’s number one striker often blowing hot and cold and then out injured, Sadio Mane misfiring and not a lot of contribution elsewhere, the responsibility has fallen on Shane Long of late to bring home the bacon.
Now don’t get me wrong, Long on his day (see Arsenal on Boxing Day) is a decent Premier League player, but he is also incredibly frustrating at times, and fluffs more chances than he takes. He is a decent option for Saints, but in my opinion he shouldn’t be leading the line on a regular basis.
In addition to this, other players need to take on the responsibility of scoring more goals. The return from the likes of Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse and Jordy Clasie is poor.
Saints create plenty of chances, they don’t score anywhere near enough of them.
Following on from the lack of goals, in 2014/15 when Saints weren’t converting their chances they were able to rely upon a miserly defence to mean they didn’t have to, but this season that has gone South as well.
While the loss of Clyne and Toby Alderweireld were no doubt felt, the addition of Virgil van Dijk has certainly proved a good move, but the jury is still out on Cedric and Cuco Martina. Steven Caulker will not be missed.
One other major disruption has been the absence of Fraser Forster. Was it a coincidence that his return on Wednesday saw a clean sheet and a visible growth in confidence in the defence in front of him?
The signing of Martin Stekelenburg was undoubtedly never seen as a long term decision, and he was always here to provide cover for Forster’s injury, but in hindsight was it the right move? A keeper already low on confidence from previous clubs, while he has by no means been a disaster I’ve often found myself wondering after conceded goals if Forster might not have saved them.
8. Overweighted expectations?
‘WE USED TO BE IN LEAGUE ONE YOU KNOW?’ Yeah, yeah, blah, look how far we’ve come, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Fine, this sort of rhetoric is outdated now and fans have the right to expect a certain level of ambition/performance. We are now an established Premier League club again and shouldn’t be accepting of dropping like a stone down the table. But, we also have to accept that other clubs are allowed to progress too, and no one has the right to beat anyone else.
I actually think that it was last season that was an unfair reflection of where we are as a club, we overachieved and this season is balancing that out. We are still progressing, and evolving, let’s see how it plays out before scandalously accusing anyone of anything untoward.
9. Misuse of Dr. Barry Gale?
Two appearances, subsequently followed by a 6-1 victory over Aston Villa and a 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal. Just saying.
This has been an extremely odd Premier League season so far. Leicester are flying, Chelsea are below us despite our perceived ‘disastrous’ season and both Manchester United and Liverpool are stuttering. Perhaps the gap between the elite and rest is closing, and that can only be a good thing can’t it?
Saints’ poor form could be down to any of the above factors, or likely a combination of all of them. They go into today’s home fixture with West Brom, nine points clear of the relegation zone and nine points behind the top four. Mid Table might well be where we are destined to be this season, but with the club working on a bringing in another striker things could get better than that.
Let’s face it, it’s always likely to be an interesting ride where Saints are concerned.
It’s always nice to have an outsider take a look at Saints, especially when things aren’t going as well as we’d like, so here is a guest post by 90 Digital on who Ronald might want to take a look at in January… N.B. This was written before Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace. – Chris
Southampton haven’t reached the heights of last year’s impressive campaign so far this season, and the recent 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa will have only exacerbated existing frustrations. Having previously stated that he didn’t plan to do any business in January, manager Ronald Koeman may need to reconsider his options if the Saints are to make an impression on the top six markets.
Here are five names that could potentially be arriving at St. Mary’s next month:
Queen’s Park Rangers’ Austin will be on many managers’ wish-lists this year, with Southampton reportedly leading the race to sign the forward. In a relegated-QPR side, Austin netted 18 goals in the Premier League last term, meaning that he’s highly regarded by several top-flight clubs as a top goal scorer.
Koeman’s hand may be forced into going in for the striker, especially if one of his prize assets, Graziano Pelle, is poached during the window. But the Southampton boss will be confident that a bid in the region of £10 million would be enough to secure Austin’s services for a Saints team that has struggled for goals in recent weeks.
Things were looking very different for Townsend 12 months ago – he was a key member of Pochettino’s Tottenham side and his club form was rewarded in the form of England caps. But he’s been frustrated by a lack of playing time this season and he needs to leave White Hart Lane in order to resuscitate his international career, with Southampton a credible destination.
Koeman resisted going in for Townsend over the summer after Spurs put a £15 million valuation on the winger, but he’ll surely be available for less in January. Townsend is a direct runner and offers express pace, meaning that he’d certainly enhance Koeman’s offensive options, particularly if Manchester United target, Saido Mané, departs.
It would appear as if Koeman is preparing for the possible departure of Victor Wanyama in January, as Southampton have supposedly been monitoring midfielder Giannelli Imbula for a while. The 23-year-old only joined Porto in the summer, but is likely to be attracted by the bright lights of the Premier League.
The highly-rated Frenchman definitely wouldn’t be cheap, although after the sale of several big names in recent seasons, the South Coast club most probably have the cash available to them should they wish to pursue their man.
21-year-old Solomon March has played a key role in table-topping Brighton’s success in the Championship this season, which had subsequently made him a target for local rivals Southampton.
Koeman has apparently had March on his radar for the last 18 months or so, and the youngster’s excellent form over the first part of this season is likely to have convinced the manager of his quality. The England U-21 winger has a price tag of around £7.5 million, however, which Southampton may consider to be too much of a gamble.
Another Championship star under Koeman’s watch is Sam Byram of Leeds United who the Saints actually failed to sign last summer. The 22-year-old’s head has seemingly been turned by recent interest from a handful of Premier League clubs after rejecting the offer of a contract extension at Elland Road.
Consequently, Byram has been given an ultimatum by boss Steve Evans to decide where his future lies. Southampton will believe that they offer the best place for his development and will be further seduced by Byram’s current contract situation, which could see him being pinched for a fee in the region of £6-7 million.
We shouldn’t expect the Saints to be too busy this January – they sit in a comfortable position in the league and are not plagued by a lengthy injury list. Yet Koeman’s transfer policy may be dictated by incoming bids for his own players, although he may have a better chance of keeping his stars by adding a couple of marquee signings to the squad.
Last week, having recently made a donation to the charity Mary’s Meals via the Saints Foundation I was lucky enough to be drawn out of the hat to attend the launch of the two charities partnership at Staplewood. Unfortunately, as I now reside permanently in the desert (Dubai) it was a little difficult for me to get there, but the upshot of that was I was allowed to return a long overdue favour. With Saints in Europe for the first time in over 10 years, I was gutted to be so far away and not involved, so I appealed on twitter for anyone who might fancy picking me up some programmes from the games as a way of having some memorabilia. Paul Dawson messaged me and said he was happy to do it, and I was astounded that this stranger to me was not only pleased to help, but insisted on no financial compensation for his trouble. A truly selfless act, and when the package arrived in the post I was deligthed to find a Saints v Vitesse pin badge included! When I realised I couldn’t attend the event there was only one person I hoped could attend in my place! Over to you Paul! – Chris
After a plea and a tweet from a Saints Fan abroad on the first night of our European adventure back in August, an invitation was kindly offered to Debbie and myself to attend the launch of the Clubs new Charitable partnership with Mary’s Meals at Staplewood. Warmly welcomed by Ralph Krueger, and split into smaller groups by Greg Barker, our tour guide was the Head of Education, (I didn’t take her name as we were a bit giddy by then)! and also we met the Campus Cat along the way, cute thing that took a shine too the Christmas Tree.
We were given the full no holds barred tour, including the Press Conference Room (which also doubles as a team debriefing room due too the 70 seats, ideal for all of the age groups of the team or indeed the 1st team).
Next up was the corridor down to the changing rooms, which is in the same style as the ‘tunnel’ at St Mary’s, but with the noticeable difference that it has pictures of Saints ‘Legends” Mick Channon, MLT, Matt Oakley, Franny, Kevin Keegan and Peter Shilton ect. but also had the Hydro Pool, and showers, and of course the hairdryer!
The first team’s changing room, has no apparent segregation, as the club try to encourage togetherness and it helps with banter! As we were allowed to nose and poke around all of the changing rooms, it was noticeable that the younger of the age groups rooms were the tidiest, with the first teams room being very reminiscent of ‘teenagers bedrooms’!
At the end of the corridor was the boot room, and while it stank of wet grass and sweaty feet (think of a Ski hire shop smell x 10, and you’re still not even close)! Cedrić and Clasie’s feet are the smallest I have ever seen on a grown man!
Just around the corner was ‘Kitman Forbsey’s’ place of work, and he gave an insightful speech about the amount of kit they wash each day (around 300 per day), and how they wash and clean Goalkeepers Gloves – and as the camera was snapping away we found the clubs underpants!
Next we were taken upstairs too the Under 21’s and below canteen, with the sofa’s, TV’s, pool tables, and the explanation that they were not allowed into the 1st team’s canteen, they had to earn the right to enter that canteen! Into the first team canteen, which was almost the same, but bigger maybe and with more comfortable seats! Also on the wall of the Kids canteen was the list of some of the ex-players that have passed through the system.
Then through into the corridor where all of the coaches, and Ronald’s office is – and the Director of Football etc. and the analysis office, which has the fabled ‘black box’ room, while very well publicised it was obviously turned off!
We then braved the weather and trooped down too the area that hosts the Foundation, Education and all of the kids needs, which is about too be moved when the next phase of the building work gets underway.
The placements of all of the individual pitches was explained, how the kids progress around the campus, ending up on the first team pitch. We were also given access to the ‘dome’, the new indoor structure for the all weather training (there were a group of under 13’s training, and also colder inside than it was outside. What was nice was that they all came over too our group and shook our hands and said ‘hello’, as all of the kids going through the system are expected to shake everybody’s hands they meet for the first time that day and say Hello, (a bit like the first team do on the Matchday Uncovered videos), and that was really nice too see, and all of the kids looked at ease doing so.
Back into the main pavilion, via the hallway too all of the changing rooms, and there was a batch of urine samples sat on the side(!), see pic, upstairs too the first team canteen for the launch of the new partnership!
Ralph and Katherina spoke very passionately about why Mary’s Meals has been chosen to be the club’s foreign charity, and Greg explained how the Saints Foundation would be working and learning alongside Mary’s Meals going forward, I simply can’t do Mary’s Meals and the partnership justice, the best way of doing so is too click the clink and support the cause!