Tag Archives: England

Why do Arsenal insist on undoing Saints hard work?

As Claude Puel prepares to face his former boss in Arsene Wenger this weekend I wonder if he will cast his eye across his countryman’s squad and ponder on what might have been ?

For there will be three names on the list that are yet to live up to their potential after swapping St. Mary’s for North London.

As a man famed for nurturing and developing young talent in France, he must be bemused at the lack of progress made my Messrs. Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers.

Three players who all looked like they had the world at their feet when breaking on to the scene on the South Coast and now nothing more than bit part players and squad fodder at the Premier League’s champion also rans.

Theo Walcott is perhaps the best example.  He has completed 10 years as an Arsenal player and despite his only being 27 years old, looks jaded and much older having only played on average 16 complete games for the Gunners for the last seven seasons. Is this the return we as Saints fans expected when we saw this exciting young forward burst into the limelight in 2005?

For me Walcott has always been a striker, and it seems (I’m sure statistically this isn’t necessarily the case) whenever he is given the chance in that role for Arsenal or England he scores. Yet, perhaps a victim of the modern tactics and formations, he has been pigeon holed as a winger-cum-forward often pushed out wide. My point is, Walcott should have been a key striker for England, and Arsenal’s misuse of him has made him something of a joke.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain we still hold out hope for. A dynamic attacking midfielder and still only 23, Chamberlain is another whose abilities should have seen him as a key player in the international setup by now. Enter Arsene Wenger. The Ox scored more goals in his solitary season for Saints than he has so far in an Arsenal shirt (he is embarking on his sixth season at the Emirates), and would appear to be little more than a backup player.

Both AOC and Walcott have had their injury problems admittedly, but then who at Arsenal doesn’t? Perhaps there is something in their training regime there or are the medical/recovery facilities not up to Saints standard?

Last but not least, the one that is most recent in it’s frustration is Calum Chambers. A local Hampshire boy who shone at right back in the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino at Saints, yet finds himself as fourth/fifth choice centre half under Wenger. So far down the pecking order that he has been loaned out to Middlesbrough, and to be honest that is the best thing for him. It was bamboozling to most Saints fans that given we struggle at times in the right full back position we didn’t make this move ourselves.

Now, I’m not telling Monsieur Wenger how to pick his team, far from it, though I think he might be confused at times about what his own policy is. Famed for annoying his own fans by not spending their wealth, you would think pushing the young players on would be his priority but apparently not.

It’s reasonably sad to see him invest in a centre half that didn’t make the grade at Everton (Mustafi) in the Premier League, while sending out a young English defender who did at Saints out on loan.

The Southampton Academy puts a lot of hard work into developing the best English young players, perhaps if you aren’t prepared to continue that development, don’t buy them?

Investing in the future. Redmond is a Saint!

Don’t you just love a nice quiet Southampton Summer?

I’ve not been around for a while, so let me just give you a quick update on what’s happened. Manager has gone, majority of the coaching staff have gone. Juanmi has gone (but no one really noticed), Victor has finally found his way to Spurs and Sadio has left for the great ex-Southampton player career cemetery on Merseyside.

I shall take this opportunity to say the following to those who have left and to any more who may do so in the coming weeks. Ta da.

Amongst the annual meltdown though there was some positive news. Having long been an admirer of the player, I was personally delighted to see Saints bring in Nathan Redmond.

Recruiting a young, English talent seems like a revert to type move for the club, and perhaps one that wouldn’t have happened with the Dutch Asshat at the helm? Either way I think this is an exciting transfer. Fresh from success at the Toulon tournament alongside James Ward-Prowse, Matty Targett and Jack Stephens, it feels like we have brought in a player who is both ready now, but with the potential to be even better.

I caught up with Norwich fan and football writer Gary Gowers from http://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com/ to get the lowdown on what we can expect from Redmond.

Can you give me a brief overview of Redmond’s Strengths and Weaknesses?

GG ‘First up, I’ll be sad to lose him but there are some City fans who’ll be offering to drive him to Southampton. He divides opinion, no question.

His strengths are obvious: tricky, skillful, quick, an eye for goal and when ‘on it’ he can be the proverbial match-winner. He has appeared on both flanks for City and, occasionally, as the ‘number 10′ but invariably he ends up back on the right wing where he is at his best. His ability to cut in from then left flank on to his right foot has yielded a goal or two but has been more of a threat to anyone sitting in row Z. His chance at ’10’ have been limited mainly due to the fact he was competing with Wes (Hoolahan) for that position but I’ve often wondered if further down the line it’s somewhere he could be effective.

But, and it’s a sizeable but, he can (and possibly will) frustrate for England. He can also infuriate and enrage. In archetypal winger fashion he can go from hero to zero in a flash, and if it’s a wide-man who offers good protection to a full-back he’s definitely not your man. His greatest asset, which is running at defenders and beating them, is something he uses sparingly and all too often he takes the easy option of going sideways or backwards, and he’s exasperated many with his half-hearted approach to his defensive duties and back-tracking.

Yet, in my opinion, he’ll be badly missed at City. We’re not overly blessed with creativity and he was one of the few who has invention in his armoury. We were a better side with him in it – that’s the bottom line.’

 

What would you consider being his best position? Can he play other roles?

GG  ‘Have mainly covered this above. He’s at his best when being utilised as an out-and-out right winger in the traditional mould but is skillful and clever enough to have an impact both at ‘number 10′ and wide on the left.’

nathan-redmond

He had a great Toulon tournament, and Saints fans are hoping this is a sign that we will be moving back to utilising young British talent. How much potential does he have?

GG ‘He does have potential to improve but he had that exact same potential when he joined us from Birmingham. It’s fair to say he hasn’t progressed at the rate that we – and most pundits – expected and it’s hard to discuss him without tripping over ‘stagnate’. A new challenge is probably what he needs and surrounded by players of higher quality may well be what’s needed to unlock said ‘potential’.’

Do you see him as a future full international?

GG ‘No, not really – it’s almost impossible to imagine him getting into the full squad as things stand. But, as mentioned above, a new challenge and some new faces around him may be just be what’s needed to take him to the next level. Stranger things…’

As an outsider, how do you see Saints coping with (as expected) yet another big Summer?

GG You’ll be fine, I’m convinced of it. A summer upheaval seems to be the norm for you guys, yet every season you bounce back regardless of having to embed new personnel both on and off the pitch. The ‘Southampton way’ is so well ingrained, providing the club keeps faith in its ability to recruit within those parameters it’s almost a given you’ll continue your charge as being the best of the rest.

I hope so anyway… seeing the Saints succeed offers hope for the rest of us.’

Thanks to Gary for his time, and here’s to another fun filled transfer window!

Keep the faith!

Kangaroo Court: The Ward-Prowse Debate

As Saints fans we have always had a vested interest in the progress of our Academy products. Long a gold mine of talent, when a Southampton kid makes their first team debut it comes surrounded in hope and expectation.

James Ward-Prowse has been one that has perhaps split opinions. The Pompey born midfielder has been consistently in and around the first team squad, but is yet to command a regular starting berth.

Often praised for his technical ability, his goals and assists record leaves a lot to be desired and often he seems to struggle to make an impact on games.

I put it to twitter (and misspelled kangaroo again FFS) to ask if Ward-Prowse is destined to be the star we all hoped he would be, or has he not lived up to expectations?

The case for the Prosecution:-

@peter_stephens Now where do we start on the English wonderkid that is James Ward-Prowse? Another kid hot off the Southampton academy conveyor belt ready to take the country by storm and force a move to the big 4? Probably not.

The issue with JWP is that you can watch a match and forget he is even out there, his best position in the team is still tbc but he *looks* like a footballer, or a bloke doing an impression of one…. His delivery is generally very good from set pieces, which is ALWAYS noted by commentators, but is that enough to merit his place in the team? In open play he is lost, he has played in a few different positions and hasn’t excelled in any. 

If he wasn’t an English kid from our academy, would fans still clamour over him as they do?

 I have no agenda against him, I just don’t think he merits a place in the team, or even the squad right now. He lacks pace, aggression, has no ‘trick’ and doesn’t score goals (yeah yeah a FK and a pen, bravo). All of his 4 assists have been from corners, again set pieces. While a true DMF option in Harrison Reed has disappeared, JWP continues to flatter to deceive in whatever position he is tried in.

But, “he takes a cracking corner”. Yawn.’

The case for the Defence:-

@TheDanJames James Ward-Prowse. Over 100 club appearances, captain for his country at u21 level, already receiving recognition from the current manager of England Roy Hodgson. Yet some people seem to not think he’s got ability or potential?

He was given his break by Adkins in the cup competitions, grabbing his first goal in a victory over Coventry. Months later, on our return to the premier league he started at the Etihad against reigning champions  Man City at the tender age of 17. You don’t get that opportunity for no reason.

He’s used heavily as a role model in the club academy. He’s a level headed, intelligent and driven young man who loves the club. He possesses a superb delivery from set pieces, recently grabbing his first goal of the season from a well taken free kick, reminiscent of his former set piece tipster Rickie Lambert. Still at the age of 21 he’s got a lot to learn and he will make mistakes, but doesn’t everyone?

Playing at Premier League level will only help him develop and find his position in our team. He’s been tried in many different roles but hasn’t nailed down one spot as his own. As long as he takes chances and continues to perform well he’ll find his place in the Saints starting XI and the national team.  

Future captain material for sure.’

Verdict:-

As the vote shows, though there are some doubters, JWP is still considered a ‘Young Star’ at the club. Perhaps upping his output in terms of goals and assists will see it swing even further in his favour.

Get enhanced odds on this weekends football action!
Get enhanced odds on this weekends football action!

Big Time Charlie, More like About time!

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.

Acceptable to be excited again? I think so.

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Desperately Seeking Someone….

Sometimes I scroll through the #saintsfc twitter feed and wonder how some of our fanbase might have coped with the mid-90’s.

With only newspapers to go on and the odd snippet of a rumour (taken from that day’s papers) coming round approximately once every 100 seconds on the ceefax ‘other transfer news’ page the need for updates on new signings was fulfilled on fairly irregular basis. The fans of the 70’s of course would scoff at that as a ‘luxury’ .

The twitter era has given anyone with a voice a public platform to speak, even if they’ve got nothing worthwhile to say. So called ‘in the know’ accounts are getting the attention they crave and the tabloids are finding their oh so gullible audience even faster than ever before. The journalists have an instant echo too and some of them only use it when they know they are right, and it gives them an exclusive in every meaning of the word. Others feed off the scraps of their peers regurgitating what they have already seen elsewhere, piecing together nonsense in the hope of looking knowledgeable and taking a ‘scattergun’ approach to hitting the nail on the head. It’s a risky game, and while they lap up the praise when they blindly hit a bullseye (usually with someone else’s dart) they become incredibly precious when there is nowhere to hide when they get it wrong.

All of this just fuels the need for transfer news that the modern fan requires. The medium is instant, so therefore the business should be too right? Wrong.

It’s the panicking I find so frustrating, like whether or not a new world class player is brought in is a matter of life or death. To read some tweets you would think that this was the most important thing in some people’s lives. The period between Toby Alderweireld’s big ‘F*%k You’ and the signing of Jordy Clasie was almost unbearable. Constant whinging about how the club was ‘missing out on it’s top targets’. The evidence for this? Crystal Palace had signed Yohan Cabaye and Aston Villa had signed Idrissa Gueye, two players that the tabloids had linked with a move to St. Mary’s. There is no evidence whatsoever that the club were ever in for the players and arrogantly I would suggest had they been, they would have got them. The club’s main target in midfield was unsurprisingly Koeman’s former protege at Feyenoord and despite the need for about 23 medicals over the course of about 5 days, Les Reed got his man.

You’d think that the signing of a highly rated midfielder, in addition to the Portuguese and Spanish internationals that had already been brought in, oh and the World Cup finalist goalkeeper would mean we would get some respite from the bed wetting and for a few days we did. Football (remember that?) was a timely distraction with Saints looking impressive on their tour of Holland, but then the unfortunate news of an injury to Florin Gardos came to pass. With the club having already confirmed they were looking for a centre half that need suddenly became the focus of the gathered digital masses. Our friends in the media played their part with the use of the words ‘frantic’ in their description of Saints search for a defender and ‘crisis’ to describe the situation.

Now call me crazy, but with a proven proficient Premier League centre back in Maya Yoshida to partner Jose Fonte and the emergence of Jason McCarthy, Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull (Swindon rave about the performances of the latter two after their loan last season) I’m not sure ‘crisis’ is the right word. Do I think we should bring another experienced player in that position in? Yes, but only if they are better than we already have, and I do not see the point in panic buying the first one that becomes available.

Bizarrely the press insist on continuously throwing Ron Vlaar’s name into the hat despite his announcement that he has a long term injury and the fact that he is pants, something we saw first hand in our demolition of Villa at the end of last season. Other names that have appeared are Virgil van Dijk from Celtic and James Chester from Hull City (feels good that they are still City doesn’t it?) but they come with varying reviews from the online experts.

The interest level of the average supporter can be measured over the length of time the club has been without a late night announcement. This week for instance many met the news of apparent interest in James Chester with veritable disdain. ‘Not good enough’ and ‘You’ve got to be joking’ to ‘We need someone world class’ and ‘Les needs to get his arse into gear’ could be seen in black and white alongside the numerous complaints about tickets. Give it a week or so though and when Chester is pictured holding the famous shirt aloft the same people will be tweeting ‘Great signing #WeMarchOn’ and ‘Welcome to the club #SaintChester’ and the like. You see the perceived level of the player is completely irrelevant, this is the age of the instant and the signing isn’t the issue, it’s the furore that surrounds it that is important.

I’m as guilty as anyone. It’s easy to get dragged along in the excitement and the package of photographs and videos that come with it from the excellent club media team mean that even the most modest of signings #WelcomeVegard #SaintBignall etc. come with an air of romance.

I’m not asking people to not be excited about transfers, I’m just asking that people show a little restraint. If Saints don’t sign a centre half (I’m pretty sure they will) or they don’t sign one who is world renowned (I’m pretty sure they won’t) perhaps have some faith in the people running the club. They’ve very rarely let us down in the past *cough* OSVALDO *cough* and they know what they are doing.

Bill Shankly famously once said ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life or death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’ He was wrong. Saints will be fine this season, they might not finish as high in the table again, they might not challenge for honours but they will be there or thereabouts and it will be another cracking season. Try to enjoy it.

p.s. If your season ticket hasn’t arrived yet. It will. I promise.

Hodgson finally sees sense at left back!

Before the England squad was announced there were strong rumours Southampton left back Ryan Bertrand would be included for the first time since 2012.

This was no surprise to the regulars at St. Mary’s, as Bertrand has established himself as one of the most consistent performers in the best defence in the Premier League this season, playing a key role in his side’s chase for European football.

Neutrals were also suggesting the ex-Chelsea man should be there because, on form, this season he has arguably been the best left sided full-back in the league – English or otherwise.

But when the squad was announced last week, Bertrand was a notable absentee.

You might understand that were the competition in his position fierce, but Roy Hodgson called up Leighton Baines (part of an Everton team having a considerably…

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The Saints Players who should have been in Hodgson’s England Squad!

When the three Southampton players that went to the World Cup last Summer all left for pastures new on their return from Brazil, you could be forgiven for thinking that that might be the end of the love affair between Roy Hodgson and his favourite 2013-14 haunt at St Mary’s.

Think again.

Rumours spread yesterday that the number of Southampton incumbents in Hodgson’s new squad would be up to three again and with Saints looking to improve on last season’s achievements that is no surprise but who could they be?

1) Fraser Forster

This one is a given, and Saints can’t really take any credit for that as the big keeper was a regular in the squad long before he came to Hampshire. Forster is clearly a talented shot stopper, but for many Saints fans the…

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Saints: A Year in Review Part Two

Following on from Part One we continue our review of 2014 carrying on from April!

April

Apr14

May

May14

June

To be continued…..

Saints: A Year in Review Part One

Another year almost gone, and another one that has been more than just a ‘roller coaster’ ride for Southampton Football Club.

I thought I would review it in the laziest and most modern way possible, via tweets! Apologies in advance if anyone is made to feel foolish by their historic comments!

January

jan14

February

Feb14 March

Mar14

To be continued……

Alder right noises: Toby is a Saint!

It was a pretty eventful transfer deadline day for Saints with the club leaving it as late as possible to announce their new players.

The first through the door last night was Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld on a season long loan with option to buy deal from Atletico Madrid.  Alderweireld was part of Atletico’s La Liga winning and Champion’s League runners up squad last season and it is somewhat of a coup to see him arrive at St. Mary’s.

Capable of playing at both centre half and right back he not only provides vital cover but also the ability to take the club up a level in defensive terms.

I spoke to Kristof Terreur from the website ‘One Man in England‘ and asked him for the lowdown on his countryman.

It’s came from nowhere, but this seems to be a very good signing for Saints. What can we expect from Alderweireld?
KT ‘Alderweireld is a strong, determined central defender with an excellent long pass. He can also play as a right back. Despite the fact that he’s not the tallest, he’s strong in the air and a threat on set pieces. He likes too tackle too. ‘

Any specific strengths and weaknesses?

KT ‘Strengths: His presence, his long ball, his tackle, his treat on attacking set-pieces.

Weakness: he’s not the quickest, and both at Atlético and Ajax he was sometimes caught out of position and made some errors. Although he has a good long ball, he’s not the most accurate passer either, like the other Belgian central defenders in the PL.’

Toby the Saint!
Toby the Saint!

 

Do you think he will be able to adapt quickly to the Premier League?

KT ‘With his determination and tackling he’ll win hearts easily. He has the capacities to turn his hand to the English game.’

With the outgoings at Saints this Summer, many have suggested there is a lack of ‘ambition’ at the club. Does this signing refute that?

KT ‘Well, it’s only a loan. Alderweireld was linked to Arsenal a lot, but the interest was never concrete. Neither with the other big teams. Because he’s Belgian everyone is jumping on the bandwagon as the next big thing. But as a central defender he will always be behind Kompany or Vermaelen in the national team.’

Alderweireld at the World Cup.
Alderweireld at the World Cup.

So there we have it. Saints first of two deadline day players sounds like someone with a big future in the game. Thanks to Kristof for his time. The lowdon on Sadio Mané coming soon…..

Chris