Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever you may be readers! Yet again I’ve left it far too long to give some opinion on this site, and arrogantly it feels like I am denying you all my wisdom.
To that end I thought I would put together a list of discussion points of all things that have happened in the never dull world of Saints over the last few weeks and try and sum up how I’ve felt about it all.
I’m not sure anything more really needs to be said, but what a day it was.
The whole thing felt a little surreal, from catching up with friends from all corners of the globe to entering the stadium itself. I’m not sure it ever felt ‘real’. Saints were superb in every aspect, from the cacophony of noise made by the supporters to the effort, desire and impetus of the players on the pitch. We didn’t win, but we deserved too, and in the most simplistic of terms, a player as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic really can make the difference. Our players left everything on that pitch, and while the result wasn’t reflective of the standard of the two teams, every Saints fan, whether they were in Wembley or glued to their television sets in whichever country they reside was immensely proud of our club. There will be more finals for us.
Let’s not even talk about the ‘offside’ goal.
‘Barry’ Manolo Gabbiadini
I think I love him.
What an impact. Credit to the Saints team behind the scenes again. On the face of it, Gabbiadini was a striker with not a particularly amazing goal record in Italy, but he has been exactly what we needed. His movement in and around the box is superb, and if there has been something we have been lacking with the absence of Charlie Austin it is a front man with one focus. Score. Of course, he won’t be able to keep up this fantastic run for long, but his instinct in the box suggests he can end the season with a decent return.
Something that really bugged me this week. The U23’s played a home game against Chelsea and Saints fans generally over reacted about two players for two very different reasons.
A strong lineup included the first appearance of Martin Caceres and a run out for Sofiane Boufal.
Caceres acquitted himself well, and immediately there were calls for him to go into the first team. Boufal on the other hand didn’t have the best of games and looked to have a little temper tantrum, this was followed by suggestions that he isn’t good enough and should be moved on. Ridiculous. On both counts.
It was a reserve game. Let Caceres settle in, when he’s ready, he’ll play, and I’ve seen enough of Boufal to know he has a special talent and we’d be foolish to get rid of him. I’m not a fan of these games being televised to be honest, it provokes unnecessary discussion. Let’s not make Boufal the new scapegoat. You were wrong about both Wanyama and Mane.
And not a moment too soon….
I don’t know if it was the arrival of Gabbiadini or just experimenting on Puel’s part but the team seemed to slip back into 4-2-3-1 ridiculously easily and the suggestion that Saints are ‘boring’ is long behind us.
I was desperate for us to sign Redmond in the Summer so it’s been frustrating to see so many get on his back as the season has progressed. I’m not sure Puel’s comments comparing him to Thierry Henry did him any favours and it looked like he might be a flash in the pan.
But. If anyone has benefited from the formation change more than anyone else it is him. He has been fantastic in the last three games. He’s a winger and reverting him to that role is paying dividends. He is such a dangerous outlet on the break. Long may it continue.
“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”
A little tribute to the boss. Monsieur Puel.
Yes, he isn’t particularly animated in interviews. Yes, he might have rotated a bit too much. But.
Taking over at Saints is never an easy job. Another Summer of upheaval and with the added pressures of the Europa League group stages, Puel never really had the chance to settle in. He’s had injuries to his main striker, his best defender and let’s just call it ‘The Fonte situation’ thrust upon him and you know what? He’s done alright.
He took us to a cup final. We’re pushing for a top 10 league finish. Again. He’s used the Academy. As first seasons go, he shouldn’t be mis-judged on this one.
In the first real period with breaks where he has been able to experiment with the tactics and keep a settled side, we’ve been superb. Perhaps not as good defensively as we would like but with a makeshift central partnership it could have been a lot worse.
If the media in the far East is to be believed Landers Sports have invested in the club. Who knows what to make of that?
Personally I prefer investment to takeovers. The Liebherr administration has been nothing but positive in my view, so there control is comfortable for me. If this investment means there is more money in the pot then great.
Any Other Business
I just wanted to send some love the way of our podcasters! For a long time Saints were starved of any podcasts. I had a go myself and I know how time consuming and difficult it is so I’m grateful to two that have come to the fore of late.
First of all there is the Southampton Dellivery run by Matt in California which I’ve enjoyed and will be a guest with soon and also the Saints FC Podcast who have had some fascinating interviews with ex players of late!
So that’s all from me again for a while! What a time to be a Saint!
Keep the faith.