Author Archives: Aidan Small

Southampton are reportedly open to offers for Ryan Bertrand

After four fantastic years at the club, it’s now being reported that Southampton are prepared to listen to offers for Ryan Bertrand this summer.

Embed from Getty Images

The England international has arguably been the clubs most consistent performer since 2014, but over the past few months, questions have been raised over his desire to stay beyond this season. The Daily Mail have claimed that the Saints are now ready to see what offers could be placed on the table.

The Champions League winner was initially signed on loan to fill the gap created by Luke Shaw’s departure, but within just a matter of months the club knew that they were on to a winner. Bertrand had finally found a place he could call home after a number of sub-par loan spells.

In February 2015 he decided to put pen to paper, and from that day forward it’s fair to say that he’s remained a true professional throughout.

Sections of the Southampton fan base have queried his commitment in recent months, but when you consider that he’s turned up week in week out, never ran to the press, never forced a move (like so many others have) and been handed the captaincy by Mark Hughes, you’ve got to show him some respect.

Embed from Getty Images

Over previous transfer windows Bertrand has been linked to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea amongst others. But with Benjamin Mendy back on the field for City and Andrew Robertson nailing his place in the Liverpool side, you can’t help but feel that the ships sailed for a move to a European giant.

Bertrand may have to look a little further down the table if he wants a move away from the South coast this summer – especially when his performances haven’t quite lived up to that of previous seasons. A move to Everton or Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle seems far more likely.

Calum Chambers opens up about his move away from Southampton

Ahead of facing his former club at the Emirates this Sunday, Arsenal’s Calum Chambers has revealed how he kept his move to north London secret – and how an old friend reacted. 

Embed from Getty Images

Chambers joined Southampton’s academy at seven years of age, and made his first-team debut at just 17-years-old. Over the next two seasons the right-back would prove to be strong competition for Nathaniel Clyne, as he seemingly prepared for a long-term future with the Saints.

But in the midst of the 2014 summer exodus, Arsene Wenger saw an opportunity and managed to turn Chambers’ head. The Southampton fan base originally laughed at such rumours, but in what felt like the space of a night, the transfer had been signed, sealed and agreed.

“It was funny because nobody knew about me moving to Arsenal,” Chambers told www.arsenal.com. “We literally didn’t tell anyone, not even my flatmate (Harrison Reed) at Southampton knew.

“I’ve turned up here, all dressed up in my shirt and my jeans, stood outside the office at the training ground and Chambo walks around the corner. He had to double-take! It was brilliant because he just couldn’t believe it.

“Then obviously I’ve had to call up my flatmate and say, ‘Can you give my boots to the kitman? I need my boots’. Then I had to go back, I took my Sky box with me and all that. It was quite a surprise to everyone.”

Embed from Getty Images

Champions League football, training with world-class players and working under Arsene Wenger; these are just a few of the benefits that Chambers would have seen with such a move. But another was having the opportunity to play alongside an old friend, and a fellow academy graduate.

“My relationship with Chambo is quite funny. He broke through into the first team and obviously I was a couple of years younger than him, so we sort of looked up to him. Our age group thought, ‘He can do it, so one of us could do it’.

“In my first training session I trained with him and then we started getting the train in together. Me and Harrison Reed, who lived at my house, used to get the train in from Petersfield to Southampton, and he and Lloyd Isgrove would get on the train halfway. We’d get train journeys in every day together but he was always the first-team player at the time so we had massive respect for him.

“I remember the first day seeing him [at Arsenal] where I turned up and he didn’t have a clue. I stood in the corridor and he just saw me and was so surprised, it was brilliant. I can remember his face and it was so funny. It’s been quite interesting how our paths have crossed throughout our careers.”

Credit to www.arsenal.com for the quotes that have been referenced above

Preview: Arsenal v Southampton

Following a horrific 3-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend, Mark Hughes will be desperate to see a strong reaction from his relegation bound side this Sunday. 

Embed from Getty Images

The only problem, however, is that we’re not getting a second crack at a team who’ve been stealing corner flags, fighting their own fans and arguing with players.

Instead, we’re facing an Arsenal side who come into this fixture off the back of four consecutive wins, and two Premier League games in which they’ve scored three without reply.

So to gain some greater insight into what we can expect from this current Arsenal side, we spoke to Sports Journalist Mason McDonagh, who’s an Arsenal fan and writer for Sportskeeda.

Considering the fact that you’re 13 points off the top four,  is Europa League glory the only way that this season could be considered a success? 

MM: Most definitely. It still won’t be much of a successful season given our terrible defence of the FA Cup, thrashing in the final of the Carabao Cup and a dreadful league campaign, but it will at least get us into the Champions League which is so important.

Which player has surprised you most by truly stepping up this season?

MM: Is it okay to say nobody? It’s hard to pick out anyone who has had a stand out season. If I had to pick, I’d say Ramsey has had another good season, but nobody has stepped up their game really.

You’ve got an abundance of quality in your frontline, but Arsene Wenger still appears to be tinkering with personnel and the formation. How would you like to see them line up?

MM: I’ve always preferred when we play with a 4-2-3-1, allowing Ozil to play as a 10. So, if it was me picking the team I’d have Mkhitaryan on the right, Ozil in the middle, Aubameyang on the left and Lacazette as striker. I’ve been a big fan of both Lacazette and Aubameyang since their arrivals, so I’d like to see a regular starting line-up with them both in it.

Embed from Getty Images

How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

MM: Based on our defensive performances this season, any way possible. I’d say a high press is what usually forces Arsenal into mistakes with their passing, giving opportunities to the opposite team. And generally, quick wingers/inside forwards usually cause Arsenal some problems.

As an outsider looking in, what have you made of Southampton’s season?

MM: At the beginning of the season, I would have never have tipped Southampton to be anywhere near the relegation zone at this point of the season, so I’d say it’s been a catastrophe. Most times when I’ve watched, Southampton have just looked extremely boring and void of ideas, so hopefully Hughes may be able to change that.

Now that VVD is gone, which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

MM: I’d have to say Sofiane Boufal. Although he has struggled to nail down a place in the Saints side, he is the biggest talent and the most technical player in the side by far. With Arsenal not having any natural wingers with most of the players who play there having being forced out wide, Boufal could certainly offer something different.

Embed from Getty Images

Which Arsenal player would help to improve Mark Hughes’s Saints most?

MM: Aaron Ramsey. I know Southampton have struggled for goals this season, and Ramsey loves a goal from midfield. It would be obvious to choose Aubameyang, but he could become very isolated for a team like Southampton and I don’t think it’d work.

Do you think we have what it takes to beat the drop?

MM: There is a lot of quality in the Southampton side, as I mentioned I can’t quite believe you’re in a relegation battle. However despite that quality, I think you could be going down. I just don’t see where you will pick up any points from your remaining fixtures.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

MM: 3-0 Arsenal. Although Southampton have been somewhat of a bogey team for Arsenal in recent years, I think it should be a comfortable victory this Sunday.

Podcast: Mark Hughes, Austin’s importance and overcoming Pellegrino’s negativity

It’s been like London buses for Fresh Saints and Southampton podcasts. We’ve waited weeks for one to come along, then all of a sudden two arrive at once… 

Embed from Getty Images

So join us as we give our thoughts, views and rants to the Southampton Dellivery podcast, hosted by California based Saints fan, Matthew Markstone.

We discuss the following topics and much much more…

  • Our views on Mark Hughes and the potential impact that he could have on our squad
  • Charlie Austin’s return from injury
  • The damage that Pellegrino’s done to Oriol Romeu
  • Our admiration for Ryan Bertrand – a player who truly knows what it means to be a Saint

 

Talking with Total Saints Podcast

Earlier this week we had the pleasure of joining Ben Stanners and Lucy Highnett on the Total Saints Podcast. So if you’re still on the hunt for your Southampton fix over the international break, then simply look no further. 

Embed from Getty Images

Join us as we discuss the following topics and much more…

  • Our win away at Wigan
  • Southampton’s financial results over the 2017/18 season
  • The qualities that Mark Hughes can
  • Our upcoming clash with West Ham

Mark Hughes: the facts and stats of his managerial career so far

Since returning to the Premier League in 2012, Southampton have built up a reputation of being an innovate and forward-thinking club, always on the lookout for talent and value where others don’t see it. But over the past two seasons it appears that the club have lost sight of what made their strategy work in the first place, and as a result, we find ourselves here; in the midst of a relegation scrap.

Embed from Getty Images

Mauricio Pellegrino’s been relieved of his duties, and in his place, the club have appointed Mark Hughes – a man who just two seasons ago would have been considered outside the managerial profile that Southampton are striving for. But the truth is, Southampton are no longer that same side.

We’re no longer looking to harness the thrilling talent of our players in a bid to achieve Europa League qualification. Instead, we’re battling relegation.

The club have clearly decided that they can’t afford to roll the dice one last time with our Premier League safety on the line, so have consequently opted for the ‘safe’ option.

But whilst a number of fans are encouraged by this appointment, another section of the Southampton fan-base are left unconvinced. Claiming that he doesn’t offer us the stability that we’re striving for and that he’s going to relegate us in the same embarrassing manner that he did with his previous clubs.

So in the interest of dispelling any myths and white lies that have created panic and worry amongst our fan base, here’s an extensive season-by-season review of Mark Hughes’s managerial career so far.

Embed from Getty Images

BLACKBURN ROVERS

2004/05  

Premier League:
– 42 points and finished 15th (remit was to stay up)
– Nine points above the drop zone, 13 points off of Europe

Cups:
– Reached the FA Cup semi-final before losing to eventual winners Arsenal
– Eliminated in League Cup second round by Bournemouth, on penalties

2005/06

Premier League:
– 63 points and finished 6th (same points total as when Koeman got us to 6th)
– Secured UEFA Cup qualification

Cups:
– Knocked out at the fourth round of the FA Cup by West Ham
– Reached the League Cup semi-final before losing to eventual winners Manchester United

2006/07

Premier League:
– 52 points and finished 10th
– Four points off of a second consecutive season of Europe and 14 points clear of relegation

Cups:
– Progressed through qualifying by beating Salzburg, making it to the group stage of the UEFA Cup
– Won their group ahead of Basel, Feyenoord, Nancy and Wisla Krakow
– Went unbeaten in the group stage
– Eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen after losing 3-2 on aggregate (3-2 away, 0-0 home)
– Lost in FA Cup semi-final to eventual winners Chelsea
– Lost in League Cup third round to eventual winners Chelsea

Embed from Getty Images

2007/08

Premier League:
– 58 points and finished 7th
– Just two points behind sixth-placed Aston Villa
– Missed out on UEFA Cup due to Portsmouth’s FA Cup win

Cups:
– Returned to UEFA Cup, courtesy of coming through the Intertoto Cup
– Progressed through UEFA Cup qualifying
– Lost to Larissa in knockout round one (3-2 on aggregate)
– Lost in FA Cup third round to Coventry
– Lost in League Cup quarter-final to Arsenal (3-2 AET)

NEW CLUB: POACHED BY MANCHESTER CITY

2008/09

Premier League:
– 50 points and finished 10th
– Three points away from European qualification
– Best goal difference outside the top five

Cups:
– Topped his UEFA Cup group again (PSG, Schalke, Twente, Santander)
– Progressed to quarter-final stage before losing 4-3 on aggregate (won 2-1 at home, but lost 3-1 away in the first leg)
– Lost in FA Cup third round to Nottingham Forest
– Lost in League Cup second round to Brighton (penalties)

2009/10

Premier League:
– Sacked in December 2009 with the team in 6th place

Cups:
– Had qualified the team for the League Cup semi-finals before leaving, beating Arsenal in the quarters
– Did not last long enough to oversee the FA Cup run that season

NEW CLUB: RETURNS TO MANAGEMENT WITH FULHAM

2010/11

Premier League:
– 49 points and finishes 8th
– Qualifies for the Europa League

Cups:
– Eliminated in fifth round of FA Cup by Bolton Wanderers
– Eliminated in third round of League Cup by Stoke City

RESIGNS FROM FULHAM AFTER FALLING OUT WITH MOHAMED AL-FAYED

NEW CLUB: JOINS QPR IN JANUARY 2012

2011/12

Premier League:
– Takes over with QPR in 17th and finishes 17th with 37 points
– Only one point clear of relegation

Cups:
– Won in FA Cup third round, lost in FA Cup fourth round to eventual winners Chelsea
– Club eliminated from League Cup prior to his arrival

Embed from Getty Images

2012/13

Premier League:
– Sacked in November 2012 with team bottom of the table
– Harry Redknapp comes in, team still finishes in 20th

Cups:
– Was dismissed before FA Cup draw was made
– Won in League Cup second round before losing to Reading in round three (3-2)

NEW CLUB: RETURNS TO MANAGEMENT WITH STOKE CITY

2013/14

Premier League:
– 50 points and finished ninth
– Six points behind Mauricio Pochettino and Saints
– 17 points clear of the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup fourth round by Chelsea (1-0 loss)
– Eliminated in quarter-finals by Manchester United

2014/15

Premier League:
– 54 points and finished ninth
– Four point improvement on previous season
– Six points behind Ronald Koeman in his first season
– 19 points clear of the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup fifth round by Blackburn Rovers
– Eliminated in League Cup fourth round by Southampton (3-2 home loss)

Embed from Getty Images

2015/16

Premier League:
– 51 points and finished ninth for third straight season
– Slump of three points compared to the previous season
– 11 points off Europe
– 14 points above the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup fourth round by Crystal Palace (1-0)
– Made it to League Cup semi-final before losing to Liverpool (penalties)

2016/17

Premier League:
– 44 points and 13th place
– three points would’ve seen him finish above Puel’s Saints and come 8th
– 17 points away from Europe
– 10 points clear of the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup third round by Wolves
– Won in second round, but eliminated in League Cup third round by Hull City

Southampton’s ethos must take the backseat for their cruel reality

After eight long months of turgid football, abysmal results and mindless team-selections, Mauricio Pellegrino has at last been relieved of his duties as Southampton manager.

Embed from Getty Images

But whilst the Southampton fanbase feel that their chances of survival have been given somewhat of a boost, the small matter of identifying the man who should steer us clear of relegation remains.

If reports from the Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson are to be believed, then it seems that Mark Hughes is set to become that man. The report claims that the former Stoke boss has been offered a contract until the end of the season, before any long-term decisions will be made on Pellegrino’s replacement.

My initial thoughts on this potential deal were that of disappointment and a distinct lack of inspiration. Going from Europa League football to chasing Mark Hughes in a relegation battle over the space of two years is a frightening thought.

It’s understandable for many Southampton fans to feel that they deserve more. That we’re better than this.

But the sad reality at this moment in time is that we’re not. Our recent history and current crop of players may be stronger than those around us, but if we’re unable to communicate and work together as unit, then it all counts for nothing.

Embed from Getty Images

Those who still feel unsatisfied with the link to Hughes have blasted the direction of the club, demanding a ‘modern manager’ who fits in with our so-called philosophy to take the reigns. But what promising and forward thinking tactician would ever think of coming to Southampton in these current circumstances?

Southampton’s most successful managers in recent years (Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman) would have turned their noses up at the club if the board approached them in such a high-risk situation.

As for as I’m concerned with our next manager, we can forget about long-term planning, youth development and whether they’ve got a history of taking their previous club to the next level (Europe). The bottom line is that if we don’t nail this next managerial appointment, there’s simply no Premier League future to plan for.

The reality is that we’ve got eight games remaining to claw our way back to safety, with numerous sides around us gaining momentum as each game week passes.

Southampton’s only aim at this moment in time should be finding someone who’s capable of inspiring a depleted squad. Someone who can quickly install confidence, implement an identity and command respect; three things that Pellegrino failed drastically at achieving.

Embed from Getty Images

Hughes is no revelation. We won’t be playing the expansive fast-paced football that many Southampton fans so desperately desire – let’s get that out the way. But knowing that Hughes has only got eight games to make an instant impact on our side, I’ll be willing to guarantee that he simply won’t allow a repeat of last Saturday’s performance.

He’s been known over his previous tenures for adding a gritty, physical and aggressive style to his sides. Something which in fairness, we’ve severely lacked since Koeman’s departure in 2016. We’ve been all too nice for far too long now – in the physical sense and in front of the opposition’s goal.

He’s also always looked to form a physical partnership at the heart of his midfield, which could be good news for Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina, in addition to welcoming attacking flair in wide areas. Nathan Redmond and Sofiane Boufal are desperately in need of a manager that understands and appreciates their qualities.

Many have jumped at the chance to criticise Hughes for his collapse with Stoke City earlier this season, and that’s certainly a worry to consider. But they conveniently chose to ignore the fact that he inherited an anti-football Tony Pulis side, and helped them on their way to three consecutive finishes in the top half of the table. All whilst showcasing the best football they’ve played since their return to the Premier League in 2007.

Embed from Getty Images

So why have a number of fans shown so much resent to the idea of recruiting Hughes?

In my mind, fans are fearful of what such an appointment means for the club. That by recruiting Hughes, we’ve become just another Premier League side that fails to think for themselves.

Over the last five years, we’ve taken pride in the fact that we innovate and continue to buck the trend by way of player and manager recruitment. Since 2014 we’ve served as a model club for those in the Championship and those facing relegation.

But those players, leaders and managers that helped to form that reputation are no longer here. It’s time for us to come to terms with the fact that we’re no longer that same side.

Now by no means am I suggesting that we stop innovating and trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible as a mid-table side. Far from it. But what I am suggesting is that now is not the time to roll the dice in a bid to rediscover ourselves.

Embed from Getty Images

We’re in grave danger. Crystal Palace and Stoke City remain just one point below us in the relegation zone, whilst Swansea City who were once considered down and out, now sit three points above.

I’m willing to welcome the physical, gritty and no-nonsense approach that Hughes offers, solely because this current Southampton side are in a downward spiral that’s shown few signs of slowing down. Let alone stopping.

When the players have talked about finishing this current season in the top half of the table we’ve criticised them for being naive. For thinking too far ahead while danger continues to stare them in the face.

So let’s not be naive enough to talk about the long-term future with regards to Southampton’s next managerial appointment.

Until we book our place in the Premier League for the 2018/19 season, putting points on the board must remain our only focus.

Pochettino reveals he tried to sign Astori for Southampton

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that he tried to sign Davide Astori back in 2013 for Southampton, following the news of the Italy International passing away at just 31-years-old.

Embed from Getty Images

The Fiorentina captain was at the height of his career and was widely considered by his team-mates to be as professional, punctual and healthy as footballers come, but last weekend the entirety of the footballing world was rocked by this devastating news.

Astori had been linked to Southampton countless time over the past five years. So often in fact, that he actually became a cult hero amongst the Southampton fanbase.

Whenever we were short on numbers at the back or had just conceded a sloppy goal, Astori’s name would be mentioned tongue-in-cheek as the transfer window edged nearer.

Embed from Getty Images

The former Southampton boss started by saying “I want to send all my condolences to Davide Astori and all the people that love him, and I think it’s a massive tragedy.

“I had the possibility to meet him five years ago because it was my idea to sign him when we were at Southampton. I took three hours to have lunch with him and he was a great kid, great person, great professional, great player.

“It was very sad news, we were devastated to hear the news and we share the pain with all the people in Italy and Florence, and I send all my energy to his family.”

Currently sitting just one point above the relegation zone, many would label this a stressful and troubling time to be a Southampton supporter. But when you hear stories like these, you’re handed a stark reminder of just how fortunate we really are.

Painting Southampton’s season by numbers

Every last Southampton fan knows that this seasons performances simply haven’t been good enough. We’re lacking direction, identity, leadership, and belief, under the command of a manager who’s shown no evidence that he’s capable of steering us to safety. 

Embed from Getty Images

But it seems that the higher forces at the club are currently refusing to see eye to eye with the fans. Instead they’ve opted to continually hold blind faith in Mauricio Pellegrino.

So given that our opinions alone clearly aren’t valued highly enough by the club, what do the numbers say about our season so far?

Glen Murray (11) has scored the same number of Premier League goals this season as Austin, Gabbiadini, Long and Redmond combined.

Southampton have won just three Premier League home games all season.

We’re without a Premier League win at home in over eight fixtures – a new club record.

Last season Nathan Redmond proved himself to be a valuable member of the Southampton squad, finishing the season as our top goalscorer in the Premier League with seven goals. Under Pellegrino, Redmond is still searching for his first goal of the season.

Embed from Getty Images

Southampton have failed to beat the following sides at St Mary’s this season: Swansea, Wolves, Watford, Newcastle, Burnley, Leicester, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Stoke.

Despite only featuring for 599 minutes, Charlie Austin still tops our goal scoring leaderboard with six goals. Two more than any other Southampton player this season. 

We’ve recorded just one Premier League win since November.

Despite boasting an xG of 32.52, Southampton have only scored 28 goals this season. Which in short confirms something that we’ve assumed for a while; we’re remarkably wasteful in front of goal.

Embed from Getty Images

Mauricio Pellegrino has recorded the lowest Premier League win percentage of any manager in Southampton’s history (17.2%). Even cult hero Ian Branfoot managed to pick up a win ratio of 28.91%.

Southampton are yet to win a game against a side that are in the top half of the table this season, having recorded eight draws and nine losses from 17 fixtures.

Southampton have managed to drop 13 points from winning positions this season, after crumbling against Brighton, Arsenal, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Watford and Tottenham. 

Our only Premier League wins this season have come against sides currently placed 14th, 18th, 20th (x2), and 11th. 

Remember when Crystal Palace and Swansea City were considered down and out? Well, the former now reside just one point below us, whilst the latter sit two points above us.  

As teams around us continue to make changes in a bid to beat the drop, Southampton have remained stagnant and stubborn, by expecting a man who’s shown no signs of promise to deliver at the most crucial time of the season. The clock’s ticking, Mauricio.

Harrison Reed: I don’t want to go back to sitting in the stands

 Harrison Reed has expressed his desire to continue playing on a weekly basis next season, after gaining his first taste of regular competitive football with Norwich City.

Embed from Getty Images

The 23-year-old joined the Canaries on a season-long loan last June and has featured for the club on 32 occasions – already surpassing the 30 appearances that he made for the Saints across four seasons.

Reed, who still remains a favourite amongst the Southampton fan base, has displayed great maturity in the heart of the Norwich midfield, showing his technical capabilities to dominate a game and his terrier-like work-rate that’s won the hearts of so many fans.

But while a number of Southampton supporters remain hopeful that he could return and fight for his place in the side again, it seems that Reed is fearful of falling back into the cycle of U23’s football.

“Being at Southampton and a Premier League club is great. But playing in the under-23s and not really coming up against men maybe halted my career a little bit,” Reed told the Eastern Daily Press.

“I don’t feel like I want to go back to sitting in the stands, training all week and then on a Saturday not being involved.

“That’s not something I want to do and I think if you asked many footballers, they would agree.

“So next season I’ll look to progress again, whether that be here or we’ll see what other opportunities arise.

“Coming to Norwich and playing week in week out, getting the game time I have done has really opened my eyes and I feel like I’ve progressed.”

Embed from Getty Images

It’s clear that Reed’s enjoyed his time working under Daniel Falke, and is it any wonder when for the first time in his professional career, he’s had the joy of playing a key role in the weekend’s results.

Having witnessed his debut under Mauricio Pochettino back in December 2013, it would be upsetting to wave goodbye to the tenacious midfielder this coming summer. Especially when you consider the initial promise that he showed for the club.

But given that he’s 23-years-old and that Southampton currently boasts a plethora of midfield options, it’s imperative that his next career decision is made solely with his own development in mind.