Season of goodwill?

Thursday 20th December 2012 9:09

Have Saints been naughty of nice?

Have Saints been naughty of nice?

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Southampton FanZoner Ben Stanfield is hoping for some yuletide cheer at St Mary's.

All Southampton want for Christmas is a few victories

So it's that time of the year again. That time when children all around the World await the arrival of Santa Claus and confirmation of whether they have been naughty or nice, the travel network in Britain grinds to a halt due to a mixture of inclement weather and numerous family's trekking up and down the country to visit family members and foreign footballers kick and scream about the lack of a winter break in England compared to that which the rest of Europe enjoy!

Well we in Britain like to do things differently to the rest of Europe! We like to speak our own language, we like to have our own currency and, dear foreign footballers, we enjoy trying to cram as many football fixtures as we can into as fewer days as we can over the Christmas and New Year period!

Indeed this period has long been the "make or break" part of a club's season. Four or five games across 10 or 12 days when consistency is key. Sure it tires the footballers out but it doesn't half make it fun viewing for us as fans!

It gives your club a chance to stretch its lead at the top of a league, close in on those teams in the playoffs or, if you're a Southampton fan like myself, often an opportunity to try and pull away from the relegation zone of the Premier League! This season, like so many before in my 30 years supporting Saints, is no different!

Bearing in mind our start to the season, where Saints were winning a lot of plaudits for their attacking abilities, heart and desire but defensively were conceding goals, and points, like they were going out of fashion, we've actually done pretty well over the last six games.

With Nigel Adkins, according to some media "experts", one defeat away from the chop Saints have picked up 11 points, losing only once to Liverpool at Anfield and, maybe more impressively, have only conceded 4 goals in that period.

It's fair to say that when the fixture lists were publicised in June that most Saints fans realised that whilst September and October looked very tough, November and December had games that looked much more winnable.

Don't get me wrong I appreciate that no fixture in the Premier League is easy, but the likes of Swansea, Norwich, Reading and Sunderland at home, whilst also playing QPR away, certainly looked a lot easier than the likes of playing Man City, Man United, Arsenal etc.

This season Saints, who historically in my lifetime have always competed more strongly against the teams they shouldn't beat and have managed to draw or lose against teams they should beat, have picked up points (so far!) where they've needed to.

Beating QPR away was massive, both for the club and the Manager, but also beating Reading and Aston Villa at home equally so, bearing in mind their position. Dropping four points against Swansea and Norwich, due to two goalkeeping blunders, was disappointing but at least we still got something from those games. The Saints of old would have huffed and puffed without troubling the scorers before letting in a howler at the other end in the dying minutes to leave you walking back to the car with an all too familiar sinking feeling!

calibre

In some ways Saints are lucky this season that there are quite a few poor teams in the Premier League. QPR, Reading, Wigan, Sunderland and Aston Villa all look like they will be in and around the bottom 3 all season. Saints need to make sure that they do well against these teams when they play them but also try and pick up points against the higher calibre sides where they can.

Our home record is doing the business for us at the moment, with just the solitary 3 points against QPR away from home this season, but ultimately our away form is going to have to improve as well. One win and six defeats from seven away games doesn't half put the pressure on you to win your homes games.

But Saints seem to be playing with more confidence now and seem to have adapted to life in the Premier League. Whilst there is still a merry-go-round in goal, our defenders seem to be playing more sensibly by doing the simple things more effectively (i.e. kicking the ball into the crowd rather than trying to dribble it around strikers!), we still seem to be scoring goals and all of our key players, except for Adam Lallana currently, are fit and healthy.

Going into games against Sunderland, Fulham, Stoke and Arsenal over 11 Christmas and New Year days means you're going to need your squad to stand up and all play a part. You always hear managers talking about squad rotation at this time of the year and Saints are no different. Everyone needs to be ready to step up and give their 100%.

It's a crucial period for the Club and, most likely, will actually make or break our season. Beating Sunderland at home on Saturday is, in my eyes, crucial and then it will be important to kick on from there. Suffer defeat and we may have taken one step forward in November but two steps back in December! The fixture list doesn't look to kind for January through to March so if we can pick up 6-8 points over Christmas then that would be a great achievement and help to push us towards a safer place.

So whilst all Saints fans are enjoying being back in the Premier League, we definitely don't want the journey to end this season. Every kick, every tackle, every game and every point can be so crucial to a club's success or failure.

Therefore whilst we'll all looked forward to switching off Christmas Day to enjoy some time with the family the nerves and anticipation will kick in right away again on Boxing Day at Fulham and then its full steam ahead to the end of the season!

So Merry Christmas and, unless you're in the lower reaches of the Premier League or at the other end of the M27, I hope your club has a successful festive period on the pitch.

Southampton Bloggers

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