Tag Archives: Crystal Palace

Seven things we re-learned from Saints resurgence!

Just a month ago, I found myself (over) analysing a run of terrible form here. Since that victory at Watford, Saints have made it to an unbeaten run of five games, dropping just two points at Arsenal and haven’t conceded a single goal.

So what have we re-learned during Koeman’s resurgence?

  1. The Transfer Policy is ok

During that run of five unbeaten games Summer signings Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu have both been standout players. Consider their impact alongside that of Virgil van Dijk and to a lesser extent Cedric, and Saints look to have a decent squad, better than the poor run they had been on suggested. Add to that the instant impact of Charlie Austin and Saints fans have good reason to be looking up again rather than down.

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Romeu – An assured replacement for Wanyama.

2. Ronald knows Tactics

Many people winced when they saw the return of three at the back, especially with Ryan Bertrand taking a place in the centre, but Ronald has got his tactics spot on recently. With the exception of the West Ham game, he has recreated the dominant home performances we had gotten used to, and defensively the team have been superb on the road.

What poor form?
What poor form?

3. Player Power won’t always beat us

Despite his sending off against West Ham, Victor Wanyama has seemingly (if temporarily) shaken off his desire to head to North London and been a key player during this run. Wanyama is one of Saints’ best players on his day, only a fool argues that point, but his position is more difficult with the emergence of Clasie and Romeu. Arguably, Saints could afford to lose him, but chose not to. A nice change.

It was refreshing to see that no key players left the bus on deadline day, and whether or not you believe the likes of Wanyama and Mane are biding their time, perhaps Saints have decided they won’t be held to ransom anymore.

4. Goalscoring

Many of us felt vindicated when Charlie Austin came off the bench at Old Trafford to put away his first chance in a Saints shirt. It’s what we had been saying for some time. We miss too many good chances.

A three pronged competition for places of Austin, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long is a pretty ideal situation for a manager as they all differ in style, and all must take their opportunities to stay in the team.

The natural, the unorthodox and the hassler? Have Saints ever been so striker rich?

Charlie 'You don't have to ask me twice' Austin.
Charlie ‘You don’t have to ask me twice’ Austin.

5. We still have decent Academy products

During this run, amongst many of the pleasing aspects, it has been great to see the performances of James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett.

JWP finally got the free kick monkey off his back and has looked more tenacious than ever in midfield and Targett was in scintillating form in a more advanced role.

It was especially pleasing to see Matt Targett show that he isn’t the write off some people had decided he was, and who knew he had that cross on him? A justified player of the month and bright future ahead!

The kids are alright.
The kids are alright.

6. We missed ‘The Wall’

There is very little more to be said about Fraser Forster’s miraculous return to the team. Literally no sign of rustiness, despite being out for nine months, his return has coincided with this run of form.

For many of the games he has little to do, but I wonder just how much more confident his presence makes the back four (or three/five). His display against Arsenal was pure heroics and with due respect to our other keepers would we have conceded no goals in the last five games had any of them been playing. I seriously doubt it. The confidence of Jose Fonte in a behind the scenes video after the West Ham game tells a story of faith. No one is scoring past us mate.

NONE SHALL PASS.
NONE SHALL PASS.

7. Mark Clattenburg still hates us

Yes I am bitter, but allowing the West Ham players to talk him into changing his yellow card to red for Wanyama and then allowing Sam Byram to get away with a clear red card tackle means his record of terrible decisions against us continues. He’s either a cheat or incompetent. You decide.

In Conclusion…

Someone once said that football was a ‘funny old game’ and it most certainly is. A month ago we were talking about a possible relegation battle, today a win against Swansea would see us reach 40 points with 12 games to go and people are talking about Europe again.

Clubs that were perceived to be having amazing seasons while we struggled (Stoke and Palace in particular) are now below us in the table, and even the Klopp revolution finds itself behind. No need to even mention Chelsea.

Keep the faith.

Chris

 

Saints Disappointing Run? What’s Changed?

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.

 

Clasie had the 'impossible' job of replacing Schneiderlin.
Clasie had the ‘impossible’ job of replacing Schneiderlin.

 

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?

Saints duo need to find form again.
Saints duo need to find form again.

 

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?

Did other clubs at Saints' level show more ambition in the Summer?
Did other clubs at Saints’ level show more ambition 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.

7. Goalkeeping/Defence?

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.

fraser-forster-post-watford-home-news148-2900518_478x359
A timely return?

 

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.

In Conclusion

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.

THE WINNERS OF THE 2014/15 ALI’S! THE RESULTS ARE IN!

Better late than never! The results of this years ‘Ali’s’ are in.

Given the short notice the response was fantastic and it serves as a good reminder about how good a season Saints had that there were so many varied answers for each award and a couple of the result ran very close.

This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-

ali_trophy

 

So without further ado, here are YOUR winners…

Player of the Year

This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:- James Ward-Prowse (<1%), Sam Gallagher (<1%),  Saphir Taider (<1%), Dani Osvaldo (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Steven Davis (1%), Dusan Tadic (1%), Nathaniel Clyne (1%),  Fraser Forster (2%), Graziano Pelle (4%), Toby Alderweireld (5%),  Victor Wanyama (8%), Ryan Bertrand (10%).

3rd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin (12%)

2nd Place:- Sadio Mane (13%)

And the winner is……with a huge 43% of the points, proving that some people are born to be leaders…..Jose Fonte!

gwc fonte

Young Player of the Year

An award of particular interest given the reputation the club has built for producing talent. A strong field would have to produce a strong winner!

Received Votes:- Sam Gallagher (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Saphir Taider (1%), Ryan Seager (4%), Sadio Mane (6%).

3rd Place:- Matthew Targett (18%)

2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (21%)

And the winner is……with 47% of the votes a player who truly made the jump from backup to regular first team squad member…..Harrison Reed!

gwc reed

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Kelvin Davis (1%), Sammy Saint (1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Jack Cork (1%), Sapher Taider (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Jose Fonte (2%), Les Reed (2%), Graziano Pelle (3%), Frazer Forster (7%),  Steven Davis (10%), Shane Long (12%).

3rd Place:- Maya Yoshida (13%)

2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (20%)

And the winner is….with 21% of the votes, breaking back into the England squad after an impressive debut season on the South Coast….Ryan Bertrand!

Bertrand

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Saphir Taider (1%), Dusan Tadic (1%), Toby Alderweireld (8%).

Joint 3rd Place:- Frazer Forster & Graziano Pelle (12%)

2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (24%)

And the winner is….with 41% of the votes the World Record breaking Senegalese…..Sadio Mane!

gwc sadio

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Fonte at Old Trafford (1%), Team v Newcastle at St. Mary’s (1%),  Taider v Bayer Leverkusen (1%), Long v Leicester at St. Mary’s (1%), Team v Everton at St. Mary’s (1%),  Team at Stamford Bridge (2%), Long v Villa at St. Mary’s (3%), Forster at the Emirates (4%), Team v Arsenal at St. Mary’s (5%), Tadic v Sunderland at St. Mary’s (7%), Mane v Villa at St. Mary’s (13%).

3rd Place:- Team v Villa at St. Mary’s (14%)

2nd Place:- Team at Old Trafford (22%)

And the winner is…..with 24% of the vote I’m not sure it could really have been anything else but…..Team v Sunderland at St. Mary’s!

gwc koeman

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves…

Received Votes:- Villa’s Defence, ‘Fucking Weather’, Long’s ‘dummy’ cross, Pompey’s season, Mane falling over, Any of Alex Crook’s articles, Lovren & Lallana’s agent’s work, Steward’s ‘Rock Bottom’ on a Liverpool fan, Goal conceded at Newcastle, Tadic assist past Lovren, Pelle’s anger when others score, Saphir Taider, Long pole axing Leicester player during goal celebration, Fonte constantly getting away with stonewall penalties, Swansea at home, Kevin Friend, Gus Poyet, Wanyama’s goal at Hull, Mane’s 3 minute hat trick ignored by the press, Dr. Barry Gale, Relegation predictions of the collective media, #GoodLuckTim, MELTDOWN, Sunderland fans celebrating a corner, Wanyama’s skill against Arsenal, Dejan Lovren’s fall from grace.

3rd Place:- ‘Chips without mayonnaise is not chips’ (12%)

2nd Place:- Smug Ronald after the Sunderland game (14%)

And the winner is…..with 31% of the vote, the more you watch it, the more hapless it gets….Santiago Vergini’s own goal!

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Manchester United, Sunderland, Leicester City, Swansea City.

3rd Place:- Arsenal (4%)

2nd Place:- Chelsea (35%)

And the winner is…..with 54% of the vote, they may not have won the title but they were comprehensive in their victory at St. Mary’s…..Manchester City!

Lampard cele 1

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Oscar (Chelsea), Ashley Williams (Swansea), Guly, Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Nabil Bentaleb (Spurs), David Silva (Man City), Ron Vlaar (Villa), Frank Lampard (Man City),  Yaya Toure (Man City), Coutinho (Liverpool).

3rd Place:- Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) (8%)

2nd Place:- Sergio Aguero (Man City) (13%)

And the winner is…with 59% of the vote without doubt the standout player in the Premier League over the last 12 months….Eden Hazard!

download

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- West Brom, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Spurs, West Ham, Swansea, Liverpool, Man City, Ipswich, Burnley, Sunderland, Villa.

3rd Place:- Leicester City (11%)

2nd Place:- Manchester United (15%)

And the winner is….with 35% of the vote and retaining their title from last season….Crystal Palace!

palacefans

Best Saints related Tweeter

Just a bit of fun as always, and pleasing to see so many people vote for themselves again!

Received Votes:- DeppoInExile, KitmanForbsey, JoeBlakey9, mattsmirk, Saint_Alpine, Matt Le Tiss, YoshidaPics, jayrodfan2, Graziano Pelle, leesfcmyers, SamDobson1, nathizzle, uniquesaints, EthanESFC, Ugly Inside, Jim Lucas, L1Minus10, gwcdotcom, GGalpin95, Images of Ronald, Alex Crook, RupertAspden, Benstanners, TalkSaints, Official Club Account, Ronald Koeman.

3rd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)

And the joint winners are….with 17% of the vote each, retaining from last year……Connor Armstrong! and embarrasingly…..crstig!

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Kristian Oake for the Photoshop wizardry! It was another great season, and we are on the verge of another one! Keep the faith!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

True Saints know that now is the time to back the team!

Southampton scored a goal against Crystal Palace, and what a goal it was.

Sadio Mane’s chipped effort over a stranded Julian Speroni last night, caused a collective sigh of relief that could have been heard beyond the borders of Hampshire, as Saints finally converted their dominant play into both an end product and three deserved points.

They made hard work of it, of course they did, but the elation that was met with the 82nd minute winner was worth it in the end.

Saints were in danger of their season imploding on them and not getting the grand finale it has thus far merited, but there was a sense that the Senegalese had put the poor form to bed when he pounced on James Ward-Prowse’s spilled shot and chipped the ball home.

It came after weeks of built up frustration…

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Saints v Palace: Player Ratings

Please submit your player ratings for the Palace game here:-



Cup dream is over, but for some it isn’t a dream anyway!

As I watched Southampton crash out of the FA Cup to an impressive Crystal Palace performance I was absolutely gutted.

Another year and another without a major trophy for my beloved club, taking the tally up to 40 years come next seasons cup final. Soul destroying, especially given the team we have this season and the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs are already out.

Bob Dylan once said ‘For the times they, they are a’changin’ and what I found to my dismay, with regards to my fellow Saints fans that certainly rings true now.

Some of them seemed genuinely pleased that we were out, with the rhetoric that we ‘can concentrate on the league’ very much the reason. I was so stunned to see such a lack of regard for actually ‘winning’ a competition…

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Saints v Crystal Palace (FA Cup): Player Ratings

Please submit your ratings for the players against Crystal Palace below:-



Cup dream is very much alive for fans of Saints and Palace!

Saints prepare to take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Saturday, the first time the two sides have met in the competition since 1976, and I’ve heard it on the grapevine that that was a particularly good year.

At this early stage, the current generation of Saints fans is still dreaming of its own ’76 and that is what makes this competition still special. For fans of clubs like ours and Palace, winning trophies is not a regular occurrence and no matter how much the FA promotes its flagship competition to the sponsors they will not dampen the dreams of 32,000 people at St Mary’s.

As is so often the case these days, the victor may be the manager who ‘shuffles their pack’ with the least vigour. In that respect, Ronald Koeman has resisted the urge to tinker too much in cup…

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Five positives from Palace to tackle Mourinho with!

Southampton were worthy winners at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, but now face the daunting prospect of the ‘Champion’s Elect’ Chelsea on Sunday.

There were plenty of positives for Ronald Koeman to take from the win at Palace though that should give everyone a boost before facing Jose Mourinho, Diego Costa, Edan Hazard and a host of other star players.

1) The Resurgance of Sadio Mane

Mane was impressive in his first few games for Saints, but as the teams form dipped so did his and he took the brunt of the blame in the stands. The problem with a winger of his style is that when things don’t come off they look poor. Any player that takes on defenders and uses pace and trickery is going to mess it up on occasion and they aren’t in the team…

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Saints need positive result at Palace before visit of Mourinho!

Christmas time, mistletoe and whine.

That was the immediate thought that hit me when I saw some of the social media responses to the news that Southampton had signed Dutch winger Eljero Elia.

‘He’ll probably be worse than Mane’, ‘Great, we’ve signed the Dutch Mario Ballotelli’. Talk about giving the bloke a chance…

Before Elia can take part though Saints have the small matter of a trip to South London and then the visit of the league leaders.

The win over Everton came as an early Christmas present for the club’s fans, lifting them from the doom and gloom of the previous weeks, and it is nice to know that we can tuck into our Turkey on the back of a three points well earned. That joy could still go sour though if Saints face Chelsea having…

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