Southampton 3 - 0 Everton
A trip to St Mary’s this time of year and, considering our record at both this ground and the old Dell, is for the brave or first-timers only. Pre-match we were fed on the players they had missing which was not an exaggeration and how we had an excellent chance of meeting them at the right time to secure three much- needed points. My first inkling that this was to be no formality was when I checked the betting odds and to find that the Saints were firm favourites. Now these betting odds makers are not filthy rich for nothing so the odd alarm bell rang. Many a first thought may have been ‘We will show them’ and many placed money only to find at the final whistle the Bookie wins again.
When the team came through I was not alone in having first doubts. We seemed to have in Lukaku, Naismith, Eto’o and Barkley two sets of Number Nines a two of Number Tens. Now, somehow that looked somewhat unwieldy and considering you could not call any one of them a wide man then it was no wonder we got the disjointed performance that unfolded.
We won the toss and the Saints kicked off and for ten minutes we retained possession well but every move broke down in or near their box. They were set up to wait for us, win it and counter quickly and, having both Long and Pelle up front and full of running – especially Long – we had to be on our toes and we did not heed that warning. For on the ten minute mark from a counter attack, a cross was headed over the bar by Pelle. The fact it was a free header should have alerted us to the directness of the Saints counters.
We were having good spells of possession but actually getting nowhere toward netting even though on the twenty minute mark we forced four corners on the trot without looking likely to trouble the keeper or the net. A couple of minutes later we had an attack cleared and Eto’o went down and stayed down but the Saints didn’t put the ball out. The ref didn’t stop play, we won the ball back and we didn’t put it out either and Barkley found an opening and fired one in but straight to the keeper who cleared. Then the ref blew for treatment to the head or mouth holding Eto’o I think he had forgotten where it hurt.
Saints were still mopping up our advances and breaking and on the half hour had the ball in the net but the flag for offside seemed correct. Five minutes later and good build up saw Barry get forward and crossed for Lukaku to try a bicycle kick that troubled the corner flag more than the net. At the other end Jags and Long went for a ball played into the box and Jags kicked Long up into the air but our Ref Mr Moss gave a corner, although neither Jags nor Long touched it. Home and away fans thought that was a pen.
He may not have given a pen but the corner produced the first goal when an in-swinging ball went into a melee and ended up in the net (I later learned Lukaku had an OG). This gave the depleted Saints more confidence and pushed on more, confident their back three could handle our laboured attacks and in no time at all Pelle struck one into the side netting when he should have done better. Going in at H/T just one down still left us with room to manoeuvre as, almost to a person, all believed at least one change would be made. It wasn’t and the faithful braced themselves for a long trek home amongst some grumbling using well-chosen words.
Everton were out early suggesting the odd teacup may have been thrown and the first signs supported that theory as we looked brighter and a linkup between Barkley and Naismith saw the latter play in Besic who fired wide. It was more of an open game now and on fifty minutes we our best move of the game together in good joined up style but wouldn’t you just know it, it broke down in the box again allowing the Saints to break quickly and force a corner that we at least cleared.
We then had a short spell where we abandoned whatever game plan we were playing to and went for it in an attack that saw Jags up with the forwards but the Saints retreated, took the ball from us and countered and Distin did well to stretch and clear. Onto the hour mark and for all our build up play we still couldn’t fashion an opening that could lead to a clear cut chance. I started to think the manager would soon start to ring the changes as, for whatever reason, we were not at the races. He didn’t and five minutes later we paid a heavy price when, from another breakaway, we conceded a soft goal when hesitation allowed a cross to find the unmarked Pelle who hit home.
Saints' tails were up now and the very next attack saw them in on goal and but for a sprawling one handed save from Howard it would have been 0-3. A look at the watch, 20 minutes left and looking grim but we did attack and Barkley had a good run at their defence and was floored on the edge of the box. He took the kick himself and hit the wall with the ball rebounding to Besic who hit it high, wide and handsome.
Surely the manager would make changes now but, no. 70 minutes came up and still no sign of action from the bench; unbelievable, I thought, considering our position in this game. When we attack now a lot of conviction seemed to have left us, with players looking as though they had accepted the defeat and just wanted to get on the bus. The passing and interplay was quite sloppy by this stage but from one attack Lukaku did squirm free and fired a good shot that at last tested their keeper.
The board went up for a sub, aah at last I thought but it was for them! More than a few choice words were heard from the travelling faithful and the comments got worse when Besic committed a daft foul and Saints took it and played it wide for a regulation cross to come in and be headed home by yet again an unmarked Saint. That was the cue for many Blues to use the exits. The sight of travelling fans leaving early and those left disgruntled is something else and tells a story.
The manager seemed to have thrown the towel in now and substitutions were just uncalled for. It would have looked ridiculous. In contrast for the last couple of minutes the Saints threw on a youth player for experience as he replaced Long who had led Jags a merry dance all game. On the whistle a disconsolate bunch of players trudged off leaving only Barkley to show any appreciation for the fans.
M.o.t.M. – Barkley/Besic
Overall a game, display and result that leaves us in a position in the table that we will do well to better by season end. Although Mirallas and McCarthy were big misses it also begs the question if they were both fully fit which players would the manager have left out because from my seat he seems to actually believe some players can play to a high standard in any position he chooses for them yet displays and results seem to give lie to this.
Many were questioning the manager’s position but such are the performances this season I just wonder if part of the problem is that a good number of the players are out of form this season compared with last. Most will have noted something isn’t right but putting the finger on it isn’t easy. Maybe we will just have to dig in and play our way back into form.
Still Stoke is another game and it’s at home and we normally do well against them so, who knows, we may yet have some footy Christmas cheer. What a Christmas present it would be to watch a vibrant attacking display played with pace and poise and do you know what – they owe us that.
UP THE BLUES
Reader Comments (33)
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1 Posted 21/12/2014 at 16:54:47
I cannot for the life of me understand why Alcaraz is sitting on the bench and no Oviedo? Both Kone and Oviedo have looked reasonably fit and Alcaraz is not as mobile as either of them. Kone should have come on at half time at the expense of Eto'o. I think that Kone and Lukaku may well play well together up front. Naismith can play the role that Eto'o is currently playing. Sammy should be an impact sub at this stage and Kone must be used.
When I saw the team sheet I was like yourself bemused. If there is no Pienaar or Oviedo playing in front of Baines then their right back has a free role. Martinez is beginning to seem as if he does not know his best team and this is the first time I have been critical of him so far.
2 Posted 21/12/2014 at 17:13:01
3 Posted 21/12/2014 at 17:17:26
4 Posted 21/12/2014 at 17:24:20
Saints had lost 5 on the bounce including a midweek cup loss to Sheffield Utd. Thought we would win, and win well.
5 Posted 21/12/2014 at 17:44:59
6 Posted 21/12/2014 at 17:46:35
7 Posted 21/12/2014 at 17:57:20
The midfield needs players who can control the game... possibly Stones and McCarthy as this is were we really lost the game on Saturday.
8 Posted 21/12/2014 at 18:11:40
9 Posted 21/12/2014 at 18:30:23
10 Posted 21/12/2014 at 19:01:06
11 Posted 21/12/2014 at 20:56:24
12 Posted 21/12/2014 at 21:44:46
Ken you did put your finger on one reason. Playing two sets of number 9's and number 10's with no width. The other reason is the constant changes to the team.
The slow passing, the mistakes and loss of form from some of our best players are all the symptom’s of constantly changing the team.
Martinez has it so wrong. He thinks rotating his squad and playing players in the wrong positions works.
It never has and never will. Keeping a settled team with balance is what Martinez must do. And he must decide which 2 out of Naismith, Barkley, Lukaku, Kone and Eto'o he will use and stick with it.
13 Posted 21/12/2014 at 23:31:12
Mike and Helen Ă‚â€“ you have my sympathies for being there. It must have been 35Ă‚Â°C in church last night for the Carol Service, so there are certainly ’upside down’ elements to life in Aus but at least I was asleep for this most recent debacle.
How may times have I have read the statement on this site that our attacks break down in the final third? (regardless of the manager). Is that why you pay 㿼+ million for someone like Bale who doesn’t appear be allergic to that part of the pitch?
14 Posted 21/12/2014 at 23:15:15
I have made no secret of my dislike of his slow boring tactics since the word go. Now that a growing number can see the emperor has no clothes perhaps he will change though I very much doubt it.
It all comes down to when Blue Bill will act.
Merry Xmas Ken.
15 Posted 21/12/2014 at 23:59:05
17 Posted 22/12/2014 at 01:04:27
ItĂ‚s definetely time now to get shot of Frankie Howard in goal. Adrian of the Hammers in goal looks a very safe pair of hands indeed.
18 Posted 21/12/2014 at 22:24:58
You say it is difficult to put your finger on it but I think its easy to put our fingers on what is wrong.
A totally amateur and shambolic preseason which left the players in no condition to face Tranmere never mind the Prem.
Accompanied by he most bizarre team selections seen at EFC with three centreforwards all running into each other and a very lightweight MF which other teams find easy to exploit.Naismith Lukaku and Eto are certainly not wingers nor MF players. Throw Barkley in there too Enough said.
It is obvious that a man who took a club to relegation with record goals against is out of his depth at GP.
19 Posted 22/12/2014 at 06:45:24
21 Posted 22/12/2014 at 07:48:56
Christopher, I hope your right about a mid table placing. We are looking very fragile at the back.
22 Posted 22/12/2014 at 08:18:33
23 Posted 22/12/2014 at 08:54:15
24 Posted 22/12/2014 at 08:58:30
Baines and Coleman are playing really well and whilst both get caught out of position it wouldn't be so bad if the centre pairing were a bit more mobile.
25 Posted 22/12/2014 at 09:01:24
Get the ball into the attacking half with as few passes as possible. This should not mean a barrage of long bombs although an occasional well directed hoof could create space behind their mid field. Lukaku would be suited and probably prefer to run onto balls that are headed goalwards. In light of the current crap tactics anything is worth trying.
26 Posted 22/12/2014 at 15:27:45
27 Posted 22/12/2014 at 15:54:58
you are correct.
Walter did make some bizarre team selections as did Moyes but this fella is making the same bizarre team selections every game.
He is either stupid or arrogant or both but this obstinacy is going to destroy players confidence and team spirit.
29 Posted 22/12/2014 at 16:25:30
31 Posted 22/12/2014 at 22:14:20
32 Posted 22/12/2014 at 23:10:24
I don't know what has happened to Martinez this season, it seems we have to play 4-2-3-1 no matter if it is working or not, yet last season we played all sorts of different systems depending on who we were playing.
It was the lack of subs that was most baffling, especially with Kone a lad just back from a serious injury and in need of playing time sat on the bench.
Against Stoke on Boxing day we have to play our best 11 players in their best positions. So that doesn't mean Barkely or Eto'o or Naismith playing as wingers!
33 Posted 22/12/2014 at 23:27:46
If they play like that against us we will be lucky to finish the game with eleven fit players. We will need to match them physically as Chelsea did if we are to get a result.
Let’s hope that we do not get anyone sent off for retaliation as we cannot count on protection from the referee. We need to win this game to get some confidence back.
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