Matches

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Huddersfield

Another matchday, another feeling of underwhelming frustration at full-time. Saints failed to score more than one goal once again against Huddersfield and also failed to take three points. Relegation alarm bells are truly ringing as the pressure on Pellegrino is mounting. Things must change drastically within the next few weeks.

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The Good:

1) Much like Jack Stephens a few weeks ago, Matt Targett returned to the starting eleven yesterday and was one of our best performers. Trying to shake Bertrand out the side is never easy so when you get a chance through injury to the England international you must take it. He looked composed on the ball and for the most part looked as though he’d never been out through injury himself.

2) We scored! Charlie Austin’s header, arguably against the run of play, was taken very well and it sparked a good spell for Saints where the Home some had some poise about their play. However, we failed to double our lead, more about that later…

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The bad:

1) Shape. During the second half, it wasn’t clear what formation Pellegrino was employing on his side. There’s becoming a pattern during our games where teams are finding and exploiting vast amounts of space left due to the organisation of the side. Whether it’s the players of managers fault it’s costing us goals most weeks and it played a part in Huddersfield’s equaliser. The space allowed the ball to be whipped in to find an unmarked Depoitre to head home.

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2) Not taking our chances. Yes, Again. Clear chances through both Redmond and Austin had to hit the back of the net to give Saints some breathing space, however, they did not and we paid for it. It’s becoming more and more worrying that when chances fail to go in, the players drop their heads and act like it’ll never will. For me, it’s past a joke now and the coaching staff and board need to take necessary action for us to start killing teams off.

The Saints sit only three points outside the relegation zone and with away fixtures against Tottenham and Manchester United up next, there’s a real possibility we’ll occupy a spot in the trap door going into the new year. We can only hope that it won’t be too late before the higher forces make the changes that are so desperately needed.

Preview: Southampton v Huddersfield

If you’d told me at the start of the season that on our second meeting with Huddersfield Town we’d be labelling it a “Must Win” fixture, I’d have struggled to beleive you – yet here we are. The Saints currently find themselves sitting in 12th place – just three points clear of the drop – in desperate need of changing their fortunes, with those around them showing signs of gradual improvement. 

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So to get the inside track on what we can expect from Huddersfield Town, we spoke with Better Than Klopp to find out what we can expect from our upcoming opponents.

For those who are more unfamiliar with David Wagner’s side, what is your typical style of play? And what’s the sides go-to formation?

Under Wagner town like to keep the ball, press the opposition high when they lose it, and win it back in dangerous areas. When on form, the opposition doesn’t get a second on the ball, and it is extremely difficult to play against. The formation has always been a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders and a lone frontman who gives the option of going long.

You started brightly in the Premier League but seemingly dropped off; what do you put that slump of form down to?

The ‘slump’ has only been away from home if you see our results. We’ve only lost at home to Man City, Chelsea and Spurs. The problem away from home was a lack of creativity and possibly being too defensive-minded. But Wagner seemed to rectify that in last weeks 4-1 win at Watford.

How have teams got the most joy out of your defence?

I would say teams that try to play us at our own game have probably got the most joy out of our defence. Press us high and unfortunately we’ve got a mistake or two in us, and we’ve struggled against the real top quality players in the division.

Which player has surprised you most by stepping up? And who’s been your player of the season so far?

Christopher Schindler has stepped up even further than we expected this year. He was a rock at the back in last years promotion season, but he’s shown he’s got another level, and has been outstanding so far. Aaron Mooy has also made vital contributions from midfield.

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You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Terriers player; who’s it going to be?

Easy – Aaron Mooy. He can find his way out of anywhere.

As an outsider looking in, which Huddersfield player would help to improve Pellegrino’s Saints most?

You don’t score too many goals of late, so probably either Depoitre or Mounié. Both have been excellent and are a real handful up top.

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

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Charlie Austin – the simple genius of a traditional number nine

Much to my confusion in the build up to the 2017/18 Premier League season, few fans believed Charlie Austin had a serious future in red and white – let alone that he’d be starting ahead of Manolo Gabbiadini.

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Yet here we are. With 18 games gone in the season so far, we find ourselves in a potential relegation dog fight, in desperate need of rediscovering our identity, confidence and goalscoring ability.

In the form of Charlie Austin, however, there’s at least a glimmer of hope that we’ve re-discovered the latter for the time being.

So why did we have to turn to Austin in the first place? And how has he found form in front of goal so quick, when others were being pardoned for poor service?

The demands of a Premier League forward are going through the roof as each year passes, particularly the further you go up the table. So many top six teams demand their forward to have a sharp turn of pace, the ability to play between the lines, and the technical skill set to be a competent ‘player’ before anything else.

So when Southampton sold their 6ft 4 target man, Graziano Pelle’, in the summer of 2016, I believe that those features were something the club were striving for with the acquisition of Gabbiadini.

That with a player of his style, we could cement our place as the ‘best of the rest’ in the Premier League, knocking of the door of the top six.

As we know all too well though, this hasn’t been the case and much to the frustration of every Southampton fan, there’s no way of knowing exactly why.

Could it be the overly defensive mindset that’s been installed by Mauricio Pellegrino? The boards failure to identify and sign another wide goalscoring threat? Or maybe even complacency within the squad? These are just a number of factors that are often discussed by fans.

The Italian International is a proven goalscorer at just about every club he’s played for, but football is a funny old game, and sometimes someone’s true ability can’t quite be transferred from club to club.

Gabbiani’s talent is there for all to see, but sadly something’s still missing. He’s yet to truly find his place in the frontline this season, failing to build a strong partnership with many of his teammates and often finding himself isolated from play.

But given that the former Napoli talisman is without a doubt our most technical forward, many feared that resigning him to the bench could only harm us.

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But when one door closes, another opens, and with that decision we’ve been able to enjoy Austin’s glorious return to form.

Despite starting just four Premier League fixtures this season (yes, you read that correctly) the Englishman sits at the top of Southampton’s goalscoring leaderboard.

And whilst were on the topic of goalscoring leaderboards, let’s not forget that Austin finished the 2016/17 season as our top goalscorer, despite spending months out with a shoulder injury.

He’s hardly an oil panting on the ball and he certainly isn’t an athlete. Watching the 28-year-old clutch his chest in pain with a stitch the other week was one of my season highlights.

But this is what makes Austin such a remarkable footballer; despite the worries mentioned above and the talk of him being unable to play in multiple systems, he’s got this beast inside of him that comes alive inside the penalty area.

Austin’s one of those players that doesn’t particularly fall under one style of football, but place him in a side that’s enduring a rutt or a dry spell infront of goal, and you can gurantee that he’ll put his body on the line to fashion chances out of nothing.

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I’d go as far to say that he seemingly flourishes when the rest of his team looks down and out. It gives him the opportunity to step up as their knight in shining armour, and my word does he love every last bit of it.

Whereas previously our midfield were hesitant to hit the frontline quickly, hunting for that perfect neat and tidy goal, we’ve seemingly embraced Austin’s more gritty and hard-hitting style. He’s brought us back to basics at a time when we lack an attacking identity.

On top of that, Southampton have now somewhat restored the physical edge that was lost with the departure of Graziano Pelle’ – someone that can take the pressure off the midfield with a simple ball into his feet, chest or head. Admittedly that side of his game is not nearly as effective as our beautiful Graziano’s, but it’s certainly a foundation to build upon.

These actions have helped him to average a goal every 105 minutes in the Premier League this season, with a total of five goals in just four stars.

Gabbiadini’s the more complete and skillful forward out of the two, but when you’re failing to dominate possession effectively throughout large parts of games, just how often can those skills be put into practice? At this moment in time it seems far less in comparison to Austin’s greatest strengths.

But this isn’t about trying to put one striker one-up over the other – far from it.

Our club currently appears to be covered by a blanket of negativity, where, justified or not, holes are being picked in just about every department of the club.

So this is just a gentle reminder that when all things seem doom and gloom, sometimes it’s worth taking a look around and appreciating the positives. 

Southampton haven’t had a better striker than Charlie Austin to ‘fall back on’ since returning to the Premier League.

Virgil Van Dijk: updates regarding Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City

As we edge ever closer to the January transfer window, more and more stories regarding Virgil Van Dijk’s future on the South Coast are making the headlines.

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So to save you the hassle of the searching through the endless ‘ITK’ reports on Twitter and online, we sieved through the latest updates and collated them all here. You’re welcome.

In the last 24 hours the Independent have claimed that Liverpool are cooling their interest in the Dutchman, unless Southampton are willing to lower their asking price.

The report claims that Liverpool are now being forced into looking elsewhere for defensive reinforcements, with Southampton showing no signs of giving in. It’s believed that Liverpool hoped to make their move in the January transfer window.

However, It’s not just the Reds hesitance to meet Southampton’s asking price that’s causing them to look elsewhere. Liverpool insiders are currently fearful that they simply can’t match the financial power that their Premier League rivals boast.

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Meanwhile, the Mirror believe Chelsea are now set to rival Manchester City for Van Dijk’s signature.

During a recent press conference Antonio Conte remained respectful when asked about Van Dijk joining his side, but the Italian didn’t hold back in urging numerous other top sides to challenge runaway leaders City, in the battle for Southampton’s £70M man.

Every team, every club, must pay great attention. Because if a club like Manchester City takes all the best [players], it will be very difficult for us to fight. Not only in England but in Europe.” said the Blues boss.

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Conte went on to defend City’s right to continue spending big, but insisted his own club and their title rivals must try to keep pace.

It seems that the race for Virgil Van Dijk is just as much about securing the talent of the man himself, as it is about denying your opponents of a world class talent.

There’s one consistency throughout all of these reports, however, and that’s that Southampton still appear to be standing strong with the Dutchman.

The club appear to be breaking no sweat over the future of the in-demand centre-back, and are happy to wait for their lavish £70m valuation to be met.

 

Two good, two bad: Chelsea v Southampton

After Wednesday’s embarrassing defeat to Leicester, it’s safe to say that Saints fans weren’t feeling too optimistic about our chances at Stamford Bridge. Despite an improved performance from mid-week the same inevitability’s from Mauricio Pellegrino’s side were apparent, and an improved performance still left Saints picking up no points.

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Two good…

1) Defensive organisation. After looking to have no shape on Wednesday, Saints were certainly more regimented against Chelsea. The goal we conceded was soft from our point of view as Forster should have done better. However, we were hard to breakdown and apart from the goal, Forster was equal to everything thrown at him

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2) Possession. We looked to keep the ball much better than in the game against Leicester and the players didn’t look tentative whilst on it.

Two bad…

1) In a match against a side with the quality of Chelsea, if a side is to get anything from it, you need to have some flair a bit of pace and a clinical edge. We showed none of these qualities yesterday. Any half chances you get you need to take and Charlie Austin will be kicking himself after not netting when coming on. Redmond and Boufal didn’t provide the width of pace needed to break on the counter attack and in truth, we looked a bit lost.

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2) During the first half, and during most of the season, when playing Gabbiadini as a lone striker, he’s too isolated. He often makes runs in behind the defensive line, but I can’t recall the last time he was picked out. Perhaps it’s our midfield not wanting to take the risk or maybe it’s Gabbiadini himself, but more often than not it almost feels as though we have no attacking outlet.

Huddersfield at home next Saturday is the biggest game of our season, and we must get three points. A relegation fight is our harsh reality with teams below us all starting to find their rhythm after Pellegrino’s time may be up.

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Leicester

“Are you glad you sacked Puel” was the cry from the Leicester section of St Mary’s as Claude Puel returned to St Mary’s with a potential point to prove; and didn’t he prove it. Leicester showed all the characteristics that’s Saints fans cried out for from the Frenchman last season; pace, power and a clinical edge. Pellegrino was left red faced as his changed side from the draw with Arsenal were taught a lesson at home. It simply wasn’t good enough and without trying to sound too dramatic, I can’t recall a worse performance from Saints since the days of George Burley and Jan Poortvliet. 

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The good…

1) We scored. Maya Yoshida bundled the ball over the line following a corner to give Saints fans a glimmer of hope. Maybe this goal would have been more significant had Charlie Austin tucked home a second just prior to Okazaki’s second and Leicester’s fourth, but at least we saw the ball trickle past  Schmeichel at some point.

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2) Fraser Forster’s saves. Truly scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one, but without a number of reflex saves from Forster, the score line could have been much worse.

The bad…

1) Possession. Saints were so sloppy when retaining the ball tonigt there were countless times where we easily handed the ball back to Leicester. This not only degraded confidence of our players but it allowed the Foxes to execute their game plan expertly. We played right into their hands, allowing them to pick up every second ball and punish us.

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2) Organisation. Passion. Fight. Determination. All the elements that made our performance against Arsenal good were completely void tonight. As fans, we thought we had turned a corner from a slow start to the season, but after tonight it feels like we’re back to square one. We have a massive week ahead of us with Huddersfield at home on the horizon.

In truth, there could have been at least six talking points that could have been included in the “bad” section of this article. Last night’s performance was nothing shy of abysmal and the players and management really need to work together to get us out of another slump. One win from eight games is relegation form, there’s no doubt about that. However, credit must be given to both Leicester City and their fans tonight as both were in great form. The fans were loud from the get-go and fully backed their team. As for the Saints, it’s back to the drawing board.

What is Southampton FC’s average yearly salary? And how does it compare to Premier League rivals?

In the modern day of football, It’s a sad reality that just about any achievement or issue is aided or solved by a clubs financial power, and their ability to use it effectively. As much as we don’t want to admit it, money talks, and it’s as simple as that.

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Scan Twitter on any given match-day for fan opinions, and often you will find a wealth of comments that only further feed into this idea…

“We simply have to invest this January window or we’re going down”

“Our club has all this money from sales, yet the higher forces are choosing to line their pockets with it!”

“£18M for Mario Lemina? That’s the best bit of business Southampton have ever done”

Whether it’s projecting views on transfers, shining a bright light on the club, or even quite the opposite, most opinions within football come right back to the subject of money.

Southampton FC in particular, are a club where numerous fans have questioned the willingness of the higher forces to re-invest. Our ability at finding value for money in the transfer market is impeccable, and on numerous occasions now we’ve commanded eight digit figures for the services of our players; causing some to question the ambition of our club, under the assumption that  were not directly reinvesting the money received from player sales.

But using data provided by the Global Sports Salaries Survey of 2017, we’re able to gain some insight as fans into just how much our club is investing on a yearly basis.

Southampton have been criticised over recent seasons for failing to invest proportionally to their sales, but when you take a look at their respected company in the table shown above, such claims suddenly hold little weight.

The survey claims that Southampton are believed to pay £2,271,286 (£43,679) per player per year on average, placing them in 10th when compared to the other Premier League sides.

When placed alongside NBA, NFL, MLB, IPL and NHL teams, the survey also found that Southampton boast the 110th largest wage bill of a sport club in the world.

Southampton are obviously never going to challenge any of the teams above Tottenham Hotspur financially or domestically, so let’s wipe them from the chart. It should be no surprise that those teams top us in the table.

From there the only teams outspending us on a yearly basis are West Ham by just under £700k, Everton by £530k and Leicester City by £220k.

And to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not surprised that any of these sides have pipped us in the table.

Leicester City have the financial advantage of winning the Premier League back in 2015/16, followed by an impressive season of Champions League football the year after.

Everton have the backing of Farhad Moshiri, as well as the Romelu Lukaku money that they invested into numerous first team players.

And then you have West Ham, who are… well… West Ham. Plenty of money being thrown around, but little sense, direction or strategy.

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These are the teams that Southampton need to be competing with, and at this moment in time Everton and Leicester are just one and five points away respectively.  

Watford are also just three points ahead of the Saints, whilst Burnley are on a one man mission to break the relationship between investment and success in the Premier League.

So what exactly does this chart appear to show us?

In my eyes, two things; the first is that whilst there is a rough correlation between the two, there’s obviously no guarantee of success or improvement with investment.

The second is that Southampton Football Club certainly cannot be accused of under-investing.

Sure, maybe we missed a trick in not signing an additional forward or winger over the summer, but I’d be more inclined to blame that on a failure to identify a clear weakness, rather than a fear or reluctance to invest.

If you wish to read further into the interesting findings of this survey, then follow this link to download the data for free

Two good, two bad: Souhampton v Arsenal

Despite a feeling of frustration from conceding late on, most Saints fans would have taken a point prior to today’s clash against Arsenal. Over the past four fixtures now, Mauricio Pellegerino’s side have shown a considerable amount of improvement from previous showings, and that was once again seen today. 

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The good…

1) The performance levels and professionalism of Charlie Austin, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Jack Stephens. All three individuals have had to fight for their places in the side after not featuring as much as they would have liked during the opening games of the season. Austin showed his clinical edge, Hojbjerg controlled the midfield alongside Romeu and Stephens showed his calmness on the ball against the likes of Sanchez and Ozil. What impressed me the most was that all three worked their socks off for the team and contributed massively to a strong team performance.

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2) The organisation of the side. The key to such a strong squad performance was that each player evidently knew their role and were on the same page. Saints looked very happy to face the Arsenal front line and for most of the match looked comfortable to soak up and defend the pressure put on our goal. However, with the quality that Arsenal possess on and off the bench, it’s always going to be a tough ask to keep them out for 90 minutes

The bad…

1) Not putting away our chances. How many times are we going to be saying that this season? The game was there to be killed off at times today and unfortunately, we couldn’t find that elusive second goal. As Charlie Austin broke through on goal shortly after his first, many if not all would have thought we would be celebrating his second but he struck low and Cech managed to palm the ball to safety. Romeu striking the bar and Bertrand dinking his effort wide were arguably our best chances of the second half, and the latter had to go in; no excuses.

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2) The curious case of Nathan Redmond. We all know that Redmond has the talent and potential to become a very good asset to Southampton, but his season so far was perfectly summed up by today’s performance. Poor decision making on top of bad execution with final balls and switches just reflect his low confidence. We saw flashes again today but he looked reluctant to get past a rigid arsenal back three. Credit where it’s due, he worked hard and continually tried to correct his previous errors, but I can’t see what he’s doing to keep Boufal out of the team. The Moroccan possesses the ability to beat a man and look forward as soon as he’s on the ball. Hopefully, we will see the Nathan Redmond we invested £12 million in to.

Behind enemy lines: Southampton v Arsenal

Southampton find themselves in an awkward position at the minute. After a poor start to life under Mauricio Pellegrino, with worrying results and even worse performances, the players finally appear to have turned a corner over the past three fixtures. But while performances are showing genuine signs of improvement, results need to follow suit before cries for change start to be heard again.

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This weekend, however, Southampton’s opponent’s will be no pushovers; Arsenal are coming off the back of a 6-0 Europa League win, and will be desperate to get back to winning ways in the league after an unfortunate defeat against Manchester United.

So, to get the inside track on the Gunners, we spoke with Mason McDonagh, an Arsenal fan and writer for Sports Keeda.

How would you summarise your season so far?

Results haven’t really defined how well I think we’ve played. Silly defeats to Watford and Stoke away from home were low points but overall we’ve performed well as a team

What are your hopes for the remainder of the season?

Now, with City already having the title wrapped up by the looks of things, I’d say anywhere in the top four and the Europa League or another FA Cup would be a successful season

How have teams got the most joy out of your defence?

I’d say quick forwards have been a problem for Arsenal for a while now, as Southampton’s fans will remember well from Shane Long’s performance in 2015

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Which player has surprised you most by stepping up?

I think Lacazette has been exceptional since his arrival and really lived up to his transfer fee. I thought he was going to be more of a poacher, but he has everything

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Arsenal player; who’s it going to be?

Difficult question, but I’ll go with Cazorla. He always seems to have a smile on his face and I think you’d need that being stranded on a desert island

Southampton fans always appreciate updates on their former academy graduates; what’s the general feeling amongst Arsenal fans toward Calum Chambers and Theo Walcott at the minute?

The general feeling is that Chambers should potentially be given more opportunities, especially after having a good season at Boro last year. But Walcott on the other hand, I think a lot of people think it’s time for him to move on. He’s rarely featured in the league this year and if he wants to play more Premier League football, it’s time for him to move on

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Which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

I think like all the top sides in the top 5 it would have to be Van Dijk. I really would have liked Wenger to have gone for him last summer, but I’m not sure if he was even interested

As an outsider looking in, which Gunner would help to improve Pellegrino’s Saints most?

I know Southampton haven’t scored many goals this season so my pick would be Giroud. No disrespect to Gabbiadini, Austin or Long but he would most definitely score more goals

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

We don’t have a particularly great record at St Mary’s, but I do think we’re playing well. I’ll go with 2-1 to Arsenal.

Basel’s Mohamed Elyounoussi on Southampton’s radar

According to Swiss newspaper Blick, Southampton scouts were once again watching over Mohamed Elyounoussi last Saturday, as the Norwegian winger scored Basel’s opening goal against Lausanne.

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The 23-year-old has been on Southampton’s radar for the past year, but interest appears to be growing ahead of the January transfer window. 

Elyounoussi, who plays on the left side of Basel’s front three, was in stunning form yet again last Tuesday scoring in a 2-0 win over Benfica, placing Raphaël Wicky’s side in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Elyounoussi has found the back of the net on four occasions in his last 15 league appearances – averaging a goal every 306 minutes – but it’s the creative side of his game that often receives so much praise. 11 assists from 23 appearences this season is sublime, and exactly the kind of numbers that Southampton could do with registering.

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Initially Elyounoussi has all the hallmarks of a typical Southampton signing; he’s performing at a high level in a lesser European league, has plenty of time on his side, and appears to be within their price range. 

However, the Saints aren’t the only Premier League club interested in Elyounnoussi. Blik say that severeal other Premier League clubs are monitoring the winger closely, including Claude Puel’s Leicester City.