Room for improvement at Southampton

Wednesday 18th September 2013 20:10

Victor Wanyama: Signed from Celtic in the summer

Victor Wanyama: Signed from Celtic in the summer

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Southampton FanZoner Ben Stanfield says that his side are slow starters and questions whether they can make a top ten finish.

All in all it's been a bit of a mixed start for Saints!

We are, historically, slow starters to a season and I guess this one has proven no different. It's certainly been a mixture of positives and negatives after the first four games of the season.

The main positive is that we appear to becoming harder to beat as a team. Most football experts will say that success is often built on both that and keeping clean sheets and Pochettino, who is after all an ex-International defender, has evidentially worked a lot on the training pitch with the players around defending both as a team and in key areas of the pitch. That hard work has meant that Saints have only conceded two goals in the four games they've played this year and, whilst none of the games have been against what I would call 'top' opposition, you have to play well at the back to stop any Premier League team scoring.

Another positive is the confidence and willingness that Pochettino and Saints have put in giving youth a chance to excel at this level. In our first game of the season, away at West Brom, we became the first Club in Premier League history to have three Under-18 academy players starting a Premier League game. There is no doubting that whilst players with experience can offer you a lot in football having an effective youth system is also very beneficial and, if it works as well as Saints' does, then it can also save you an awful lot of money in transfer fees too!

Whilst on the point of Saints youngsters, it was a proud day for everyone associated with Southampton a couple of weeks ago when Gareth Bale made his move from Tottenham to Real Madrid. During his time at Spurs there is no doubt that he has added to his physical and technical ability, but he was of course originally 'made in Southampton', having spent his younger years growing up through our academy as well. Everyone here will be following his progress in Spain very closely and I've no doubt's, like many football fans who have had the pleasure of watching him play regularly, that Bale will become a global superstar in his time with Madrid.

Anyway back to Saints and the remaining positives so far this season and our new signings this summer.

We had obviously spent a lot of money in the transfer window - £36m on Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Dani Osvaldo - and on the whole they look to have been good investments.

Dejan Lovren seems to have slotted into the side effortlessly and instantly become a fans favourite for his committed and effective performances so far.

Wanyama and Osvaldo seem to be taking a little more time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League but ultimately, both being international players, I think they'll end up having a very positive careers with Saints. We have seen, many times before, players taking a bit of time (sometimes even a season) to really adapt to playing in England and time should be given to these two to understand how the team plays and their role(s) within that.

So whilst there have been some excellent positives there have, in my opinion, been a couple of negatives as well. Number one is goal scoring.

Whilst Saints have been very tight at the back there has also been as much of a drought at the other end of the pitch as well. Saints now haven't scored in their last two games (Norwich away; West Ham at home) and indeed the two goals they have scored this season have come from the penalty spot and from a free-kick respectively. So having not scored a goal from open play all season is a little bit worrying especially when, as mentioned earlier, we've yet to really play one of the top sides.

I'm sure the goals will come and, whilst I'd much rather we were solid defensively than drawing games 4-4 or something, it is still very early in the season and I guess lots of Clubs go out with the mentality not to lose a game rather than maybe to win it.

The game this past weekend, against West Ham, was an excellent example of that. The Hammers, a little like last year, came for a draw and, with a depleted side, were happy to take that. Although Saints created a fair few chances and found Jaaskelainen in top form, they never really made the substitutions I thought they might to have one final push to try and score the winning goal.

When you are 0-0 at home against a team that are evidentially happy to sit back and let you attack them, bringing on someone like Gaston Ramirez with 15-20 minutes to go would seem a positive move to me. Pochettino however obviously didn't feel the same and didn't make those positive substitutions - partly down to one player leaving the field injured - that I would have expected and, whilst it was a solid point in the end, you also can't help feeling it was two points dropped at home.

The other minor negative I have about the team is that we seem to have lost the ability to attack teams down the wings. Our success over the last couple of years has been with the likes of Puncheon, Lallana and Luke Shaw bombing forward and getting crosses into the box for Lambert and others.

Now, under Pochettino, we seem to have changed our style to try and pass the ball through the middle of teams and, so far, clearly found that unsuccessful. Teams like West Ham, who have a strong, powerful spine, won't just let you play through them and it certainly looks to me that it is a tactic that isn't quite working at the moment. It will be interesting to see how/if things change but ultimately as a fan you want to be entertained and see goals and with Saints currently it seems to be a little uneventful.

With some 'higher class' opposition coming up imminently, Liverpool away next week for example, it will be interesting to see how/if we adapt our game and whether we realistically are a side that can challenge for the top-10 or not.



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