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21 Oct 2017 17:24:57
So 4-4-2 diamond today. Usual issue is with width as it asks a lot of your fullbacks to play like wing backs and Romeu will need to deputise as a makeshift centre back as they push on. Fingers crossed.

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13 Sep 2017 11:03:37
Thank you. I agree, that the best way to use a forum is to have a chat, clear the air and then hopefully, find a positive thread to look forward to Saturday rather than dread it.

I don’t see Redmond or Boufal as viable wing backs. Perhaps auxiliary forwards if we need to move a midfielder up to play off Austin? I still think this 3-5-2 lacks pace though. We’d rely heavily on the wing backs for pace. In an ideal world our attacking midfielder would also have pace too but if you look at a team like Leicester, they make do with pace in wide areas and a striker.

I don’t think Forster is the long term solution but he’s the best option from the current squad. I was disappointed the young keeper who came on loan last season didn’t get more of a chance. Forster doesn’t command his area which is odd given his size. The best example was Zlatan’s headed goal to beat us at Wembley last year. What was he, three yards away from our goal line? It was a floated cross too so Forster had time to get there. Distribution last season was frightening and barely reached the halfway line at times and he doesn’t get down quickly enough to save the low shots. I was concerned to see him dive to save Watford’s first attempt last week and he seemed to pull his hands away at the vital moment, as if he thought it was going wide.

So I’m not crazy. I do see the flaws, but I just think there’s no fixing some things at the moment and this is going to be another transitional season. Its cathartic to come on here and have a moan but at the same point, negativity can spread like wildfire and we end up jeering or booing our team which does little for their confidence this early on the season.

I hope performances can improve but it may be up and down like last year. We may see more from Hojberg now he’s more settled, Boufal may also improve and Lemina may be the new Schneiderlin. Fingers crossed. I also hope the new owners will make funds available next summer. I think the eds highlighted ffp rules may mean less spending this year, but given PSG have been able to do what they have with limited scrutiny, apparently ffp is now worthless.

On to managerless Palace. Its got draw written all over it with two teams struggling to score and low on confidence, but if we can get a lucky break, or if MP hits on a solution to our attacking issue, tactically or through personnel, maybe we can secure another three points. COYR.

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12 Sep 2017 21:08:03
Thanks for the response Rich.

I’m not going to bang the JWP drum much because I’m also not sure where he fits into our team – he’s not really an attacking midfielder, nor a defensive one. He would probably benefit from a 3/ 5/ 2 with Lemina and Romeu behind him to provide protection so he can patrol behind and interchange with a front two.

The problem I have with statistics is they are always open to interpretation. Yes, in the last 5 seasons, JWP has 148 appearances, but only 79 were starts and he hasn’t played the full 90 minutes of many (if any) of those games. If we say a young player learning the ropes requires a consistent run, these stats don’t tell us how many consecutive games he has played. I’m sure its not many considering he’s been around the first team for 5 seasons. His best appearance stats came last season and he provided 4 goals and 4 assists from 22 starts. Not bad for someone who is in and out of the team and utilised in several different positions when he does come in. Not only that but he’s 22. The onus is on the club to find a way to fit him into the team if they want to get the best out of him, rather than squeeze him into the starting line-up.

Like Redmond, yes they both have a good level of experience now, but age also relates to maturity and confidence levels and other related factors. If a player reaches his peak at about 27 or 28, both players have a lot of development ahead of them so is it fair we bin them now? It comes back to the argument of do you give our young players, our young English players, a chance to progress in their respective first teams, playing regularly in the premier league, or do you give up on them and drop them back to the under 23s?

Your other team stats in your first post all focused on action inside Watford’s box. As much as we would like the game to be played out in the opposition box, the majority of a match’s action takes place in the middle third of the pitch for the vast majority of teams in the vast majority of matches, so events inside the box, unless you’re playing an inept team, are going to be very limited. Also, with stats as detailed as this, I for one do not know what is average in a 90 minute game of football in the premier league, what is average in a match for a team that plays a similar system and style to us (when you are able to detect one), or even what is average for the teams that are likely to be around us in the league table. Whilst a zero stat isn’t great, how rare is it?

In any event, my point is the stats, even your new ones, don’t tell us the cause of the problem, they simply highlight the symptom, which is we are pretty blunt going forward. In my view, we struggle because we are playing in front of the opposition because we are slow in moving the ball forward and any chance of a quick break, unless a genuine one on one, is usually curtailed as the breaking player has to check his run to hold the ball up and await support. Its all very one dimensional and predictable with even the weakest teams in the prem not being stretched as we do not hit them at pace and catch them out of position.

I’m not sure I’m comfortable with a 4-4-2 as most teams set up with up to 5 midfielders and three attackers when in possession, so they could bypass a 4 man midfield. Plus, Shane Long I don’t see as a wide option as, while he has some pace, I’m not sure he has the end product required either. I like playing Gabbi and Austin together though. It has to be worth a try. So a 3-5-2 perhaps with Yoshi, Stephens and Hoedt/ Bertrand (if VVD doesn’t return to the team), Cedric and Bertrand/ McQueen as wing-backs Lemina, Romeu and JWP/ Hojberg/ Davis in the middle and Gabbi playing in and around Austin.

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12 Sep 2017 14:12:55
The point is Rich that your statistics based on one match do not actually shed a great deal of light on the problems our team is experiencing, they merely highlight the symptoms. Also, if you feel that 3 or4 of our starting players are not good enough, then what is the solution? You suggest none. We can’t buy anyone now. Who in the squad can come in to the first team and make such a radical difference? Lemina of course can return and looks a prospect on paper, (lets not pretend after one appearance for the first team we have it nailed on how good he is and what his strengths and weaknesses will be), but even he is a young player who will require a little time to adapt to the pace and power of our league in comparison to Serie A. Saying age has nothing to do with the performance and consistency of several of our players is either wilfully naïve or moronic.
My point about bedding in new players Gregg does not relate solely to the starting 11, especially not in relation to the one game against Watford. A team needs strength in depth to provide competition for places and for form players to come off the bench and make a difference in games where things aren’t quite working. With players like Bednarek, Hoedt and Lemina, Hojberg i. e the young players that our club is choosing to invest in rather than bringing in proven premier league performers, all will take time to find their feet with ups and downs in their performances. This will impact the first team whether they are on the pitch or competing for places.
Southampton Football Club has stated its aim is to invest in young players we can develop and bring in to the first team, rather than spending a lot of money on established players. Until those young players are on the pitch performing consistently, we continue to invest in the future of the first team rather than its present. That said, the club is not slow to invest and bring in established players to bolster the first team squad if the need is apparent. Gabbiadini is an example, coming in last January to great effect before his injury. So, if we continue to struggle in front of goal, hopefully we’ll see investment in January. Long gone are the days under the likes of Rupert Lowe where your squad at the start of the season, irrespective of the opening and shutting of transfer windows, would remain the same. Our club is now more pragmatic with its playing staff and the coaching staff if things aren’t working.
We’re 4 games in. We have a new head coach. The first team squad has not really been added to over the summer, especially in attack so we face similar problems to last season. That puts a lot of pressure on the new head coach to solve the problem going forward that Claude Puel could not. Why not wait and see how we’re doing after 10 games or on the run up to Christmas before writing off the team?

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11 Sep 2017 18:51:34
We just need to be patient. let's not forget we have a new manager and several new players to bed in. Its frustrating to see we have the same problems as last season but that is due to the lack of recruitment in attacking positions which was down to the club rather than MP. He has to coach the squad he has, the same as we have to support the team playing for us each week.

Our weakness is that we lack pace in attack, so end up playing in front of teams, failing to break with enough pace to get in behind or catch them out of position. We’re too easy to defend against at the moment. Teams know what we’re going to do before we do as we are one dimensional and nothing has moved on since last season at the moment.

The positive thing is that MP sees the problem and is shifting players around and dropping anyone who is not performing. Its logical that if the first team squad cannot perform well enough, someone in the reserves may so at some point, MP may start introducing fringe players into the match squad. let's not forget, Chelsea looked ropey at the start of last season until their new manager rolled the dice, changed formation and gambled on squad players like Victor Moses being able to do a job out of position. It paid off and MP may need to find a similar solution.

As fans, all we can do is support the team and MP and hope they find a way to turn things around. We’re only 4 games in so let's not write off the season just yet. We must understand MP will have to take risks with players and try different things. Rather than bemoan any failed experiments, we should celebrate having a head coach who is willing to shake things up to try to get us out of this rough patch.

Finally, we have to be realistic. let's not forget who we are and where we have come from. We are now a good premier league team and relegation is not on anyone’s minds at this early stage. If it is, you should feel free to book an appointment with your psychiatrist at the earliest available date. We have a model of developing young players, whose form and confidence can be up and down. Look at Pogba at utd last season for example. We can’t be too harsh on the likes of JWP and Redmond as they are still young. The same applies to Stephens, Lemina, Targett, Sims, even Hoedt etc. We must therefore accept that we will go through rough and smooth patches and our league position may be inconsistent. Short term loss for long term gain. If we can create a squad like Tottenham has, with youth and ability on its side, we could see the start of a long spell of success for the club. That’s what the club wants. That’s what we all want. It will be worth a few mediocre seasons is we can reach that goal.

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24 Oct 2017 09:32:07
Hi all. I was starting to think people only post on here when we lose and they have something to moan about. Looks like I was only half right. Ha Ha.

I think you’ve all touched on several of the reasons why we struggle in attack but you also have to put each game in context. As you highlighted VS, West Brom showed no attacking intent in the first 45 mins against us and there will be plenty of teams who come to St. Marys and play the same way. It’s what most mid to lower league teams will do away from home. That doesn’t suit our current style of play because we play possession football building from the back which only draws out teams with real attacking intent. That’s why in the last season or two we fare better against the bigger teams who press and harry all over the pitch. We have the talent to keep the ball for the most part and create space that way, but this is impossible when the opposition sit in their defensive positions and simply try to clear and intercept when you get close to them.

I can understand the frustration with crossing the ball into the box when we lack height up top but Arsenal and Man City still do it without a real target main to aim at. Its more about when you cross and the accuracy. A well hit cross can still evade defenders and land sweetly on the head or foot of a striker so its worth carrying on. Also, again in the game against West Brom, they played defensively and narrow which was a double blow to us on Saturday as we played a narrow formation. The width had to come from our full backs and the crossing was not the best. Its amazing to think it, but if you watch any premier league game, you’ll only see a couple of crosses come in that are, or deserve to be, converted. It’s a fine art and even the best in the game have a low conversion rate on crosses, but that doesn’t make it a pointless exercise. Especially when your play is forced wide by a defensive team playing narrow.

Jay, I don’t believe we are more susceptible to a pressing team than anyone else. The whole point of the tactic is to apply pressure and force mistakes and it does work a lot, but I think all of our players (FF excluded) have enough confidence and ability with ball at feet to use the ball effectively or read the danger and get rid if nothing else is on. A high press as a tactic can be very effective for teams but it requires a very high level of fitness, which places players’ bodies and health under duress so carries its own risks in that regard, but also means that you are, as a team, playing a high line. If you are not perfect in your intent to press and win back the ball, then you run the risk of being caught with a swift counter. Even the best exponents, like Barcelona, left themselves susceptible to several clean breakaways against good teams, and at least one one-on-one with the keeper each game, or so it seemed. I’m not sure we are good enough to succeed with that system at the moment. Certainly we can’t rely on FF to shut out such a high percentage of shots.

MP switched the formation on Saturday to try and make us less open defensively. The balance appeared better but it’s hard to see against a team that only attacks you in the second half. They changed formation and that opened the game a little, allowing us more joy going forwards. I’m not a fan of the diamond formation as it’s narrow and relies on the full backs delivering good crosses. If they have an off day, it becomes a struggle to create. But, as I’ve said before, MP is mixing up the team, finding out who can play where under pressure. Who his reliable players are and that’s all positive. The team have shown they are flexible and have several formations in their locker. Though I think we’re yet to find our best formation/ starting 11, we sit in the top half and are doing enough. This is a transitional season for us and it’ll take a little while to get things right.

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16 Oct 2017 23:03:49
VS, thanks for the long post which gives me an excuse to respond at length. Any excuse to ramble. I think you’ve reached a number of sweeping conclusions about the players and the team based on the Newcastle game alone.
a) Our passing is not poor, nor inaccurate. We have a high possession retention rate and all of our starting players recorded passing accuracy of 80% or higher, save FF whose distribution was very poor and Shane Long. As an aside, I still don’t see why you all seem to rate Shane Long so highly, other than because he works hard. Given that he doesn’t score goals, doesn’t create chances and records a pass accuracy percentage below 70% (a pretty poor 61 % on Sunday) I presume you mean he chases lost causes and makes a nuisance of himself to the opposition, but does that really warrant a starting place ahead of someone else? OK, it was his chasing an over-hit pass yesterday which lead to the penalty, but that isn’t going to work every game or even regularly enough to be seen as a viable tactic for winning a match.
b) . I don’t think a ponderous attack was a real issue yesterday. We looked more dangerous in any event as we committed more men forward due to having two strikers. The down side to this was that in committing numbers forward, we were exposed at the back. This was due to the formation change and if you weren’t happy with the balance of defence and attack, then you are not alone.
c) . Our wide players were utilised as just that yesterday in a 4-4-2, overlaps from fullbacks were going to be reduced and they were needed on the touchline to provide the width. I don’t see how their attacking play would have been improved if they were constantly trying to run in behind their defender as the whole point of defending is not to let them do that. Usually, if a wide player is not running in to space, he will hold a static position to draw the full back out from the back four, then play a quick one-two with a team mate to get in behind that way. As for tracking back, I think there is a problem there, but perhaps this is one of the defensive tweaks to be made to make the formation work better.
d) . I’m not sure Cedric looks all that nervous. Bertrand is having a pretty stodgy start to the season form-wise which must be effecting his confidence level. If he’s not happy with the player in front of him, he is a senior player and should let him know.
e) . Boufal did look bright when he came on and I agree he deserves a run of starts to see how good he could be. I’m not sure I would drop Redmond for him though. Tadic has performed worse for me week in, week out.
f) . debateable. I felt our tempo was much better with one and two touch football for the most part.
g) . I’m not sure what this point is about. We are used to teams catching us on the counter as this is the most common tactic used by away sides. The formation created the defensive issue yesterday, not a lack of appreciating what Newcastle were going to do. We have two fine central midfielders who are very good at protecting our back four and roaming forward. How many other teams in the league can boast that?
h) . This was Van Dijk’s Second game of the season with a poor pre-season away from the team so he’s not at full pace yet. I’m not sure fitness is our issue. We’re not conceding late goals on a regular basis which would be more indicative then players catching their breath during a break in play. i) . Agree on Shelvey. Agree on our home form. let's hope the team can turn things around. It is still early days and the season at this stage is frequently interrupted by international breaks.

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16 Oct 2017 23:00:36
OK, so another frustrating result but let’s find some context. Firstly, anyone who says it’s the same old thing week in week out doesn’t appear to be paying attention. The manager is making positive changes to try and help the team out of the rut that it’s in. Yesterday, we played a new formation which worked as a conventional 4-4-2. We played two strikers together. The team struggled to start with so the manager changed tactics during the game from our usual possession style of football to a more direct approach. Going forward, we looked more potent then we have for most of this season which was helped by the two goals we did score, but we left ourselves more open to the counter as we committed men forward. As I’ve said before, I’d much rather have a manager prepared to make changes when things aren’t working.

MP was clearly unhappy about the balance of the team after the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the formation was scrapped as we were too open at times, but if he looks at the two goals we conceded, he may be convinced to give it another roll of the dice with a few defence-minded tweaks. I’d like to think that the goalkeeper for a side with aspirations of finishing in the top 8 would’ve saved both; certainly the second goal.

I agree with the consensus that 5-3-2 could work for us. We’d have the attacking threat of two strikers without the defensive imbalance of overcommitting and leaving the midfield and defence short. But, we would still have two young wingers who can frustrate as much as create (Tadic is not a winger) and without a tall striker, we lack a target for crosses and direct balls so there’s no guarantee it would fix all our attacking woes. Oh, and FF would still be in goal so there would be extra pressure to score at least two goals every game. But if MP is game to give 4-4-2 a go, why not this? Surely we’ll see it employed at some point.

Lastly, there you go Rich with your Redmond bashing, but once again he was statistically effective against Newcastle. I still think a great deal is expected of this 23 year old without acknowledging the good things that he does do. He does create chances, his pace causes a headache for defences, he can beat people, his crossing is more accurate than Tadic’s and he is capable of scoring occasionally. His assists tally would be much higher if one of our strikers could actually score. No, he doesn’t do this all every game, yes his performances can be inconsistent but he’s 23. It’s very easy to pin frustrations on to one player (FF excluded because I’m with you on that one) but Tadic has been more wasteful and less creative, Gabbi when he has played has looked miles from scoring, Long might as well be a team mascot when he’s on, and Boufal is also inconsistent. The whole unit is dysfunctional but for some reason, Redmond carries the can for the most part. He’s knocked for not being direct and taking players on, but then he’s also criticised for trying to beat everyone and score a worldy every game. You would explode with him on one wing and Boufal on the other, surely!? Ha!

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03 Oct 2017 14:11:53
I understand the earnest intention VintageSaint, but it seems to me you’re overlooking a few things.

Don’t you first want to know if a) . he is interested in a coaching role, b) . whether he has obtained or is pursuing any coaching qualifications, c) . whether he is interested in such a role far away from his native north-west now that he has retired from playing, d) . whether he is/ would be any good as a coach?

You may consider him the consummate professional with good technical abilities, but that doesn’t mean he can come in and coach strikers or forwards, young or old, to play as he did or be more prolific. Do ex-players make the best coaches, especially when they have no coaching experience? Just because he can execute a great free-kick, can he teach one of our current players to do the same?

It’s a bit of a ‘hail mary’ isn’t it?

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20 Sep 2017 13:31:58
Sorry, that should be Planet Football's stats breakdown - I accessed the article via Football365.

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