After a rather stunning victory at the weekend, where in fairness we probably didn’t deserve to win the game, a Rickie Lambert hat trick saw all three points head back to St. Mary’s.
What came with those three points though were a few accusations, mainly from West Ham fans, but also on a lesser scale from Reading and our South Coast friends from Portsmouth and Brighton.
Firstly that we are cheats, and that we were given two “dodgy” penalties to convert a defeat into a win. This point I’m not going to discuss. Watch the replays.
Secondly, that we are a “One Man Team”. This isn’t new territory for us. For years in the nineties Matthew Le Tissier’s heroics seemingly kept us in the Premier League, and it is hard to argue with that, and I won’t even try. This time it is a little different. Rickie Lambert now wears Le Tissier’s number seven shirt and is undoubtedly a talisman for Nigel Adkins’ side, hitting 24 league goals so far. But. To call this team a “One Man Team” is a little facetious. This team is top of the Championship on merit, and the goals have come from every aspect of the side.
So exactly how important is Rickie Lambert to our season? In truth. Very.
If we erase his goals from history, instantly wins against Forest and Millwall become defeats, while victories over Brighton, Watford and Leeds all become draws and draws with Derby, Blackpool, Pompey and Ipswich all convert to losses. In all, this is a loss of 17 points and sees Saints four points outside of the play off places.
This only tells half the story of course. Lambert takes our penalties, of which there have been nine awarded this season, and of which he has converted all nine. Had he not been playing, someone else would have taken them, and quite possibly scored them too, which would again completely change the outcome of those games.
Arguably, without Lambert we would have gained at least a point at Brighton too. Sent off with the scores at 0-0 in a game Saints were dominating!
Another factor is that while West Ham and Reading’s top scorers sit on nine and seven goals respectively, our joint second top scorers sit on ten each! So what if we didn’t have those players either?
Guly do Prado. For me, still one of our most consistent and impressive performers, to other Saints fans the devil incarnate. But in terms of dropped points, he becomes the second most important player. Without Guly’s goals wins over Millwall, Hull and Palace become draws and Saints drop to fourth place on 66 points.
Adam Lallana may be shocked to find he plays in a “One Man Team” after being voted in the top three players in the Championship this season. He has also won points for Saints this season, victories against Hull and Barnsley becoming draws without his goals, dropping Saints to second with 68 points.
Frazer Richardson and Danny Fox should also get a mention here. The full backs are often the unsung heros, both in the top ten players in the Championship for assists with Lallana and Guly not to far behind.
And what about Kelvin Davis? How many points would we have taken from Elland Road recently and plenty of other games without him in goal?
This “One Man Team” image becomes more of a myth, the more you look at the stats. Another angle to approach it is which player have we missed the most when they haven’t played? And that is clearly Richard Chaplow. Saints have lost seven league games this season, five of which have come when Chaplow wasn’t involved. In fact we have dropped a staggering 25 points without the energetic midfielder in the side. We have dropped six when Lambert hasn’t played, seven without Lallana and two without Guly. It is no coincidence that our most lacklustre performance, the 0-2 home defeat by Leicester came when Lambert, Lallana and Chaplow were all missing.
So in conclusion we aren’t a “One Man Team”. We have several stand out men, playing amongst what is a very good team. Take away the assists of Fox, Richardson, Guly and Lallana and how many goals would Lambert have?
I would also urge the accusers to go and check their own sides stats before they point the finger again, I wonder how many points West Ham would have without the goals of Kevin Nolan or Mark Noble’s penalties…