Saints' shortcomings are obvious to all
Southampton v Swansea City, 3pm
10 November ~ Southampton manager Nigel Adkins finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's in the Premier League, having previously alternated between League One and the Championship, his team is losing a lot of football matches and he is being talked about as an imminent managerial casualty. Of Saints' four remaining November fixtures three are at St Mary's and the other is against a team that has won as few points as they have. If by the end of the month they have not added significantly to their total, it is difficult to see Adkins remaining in charge.
The run begins against Swansea, whose success last season gave rise to optimism that Saints' free-flowing, passing game would lead to a seamless adaptation to the Premier League. Yet even as the team secured a second successive promotion, warning signs were apparent. The penchant for conceding sloppy goals had never been eradicated and supporters could see that changes in personnel, if not style, would be needed if Saints were not to surrender their newly won status.
Day after day during the close season we checked websites for news of new signings to bolster the defence, which turned out to be conspicuous only by their absence. Dutch defender Alexander Buttner was reported to have signed but ended up at Manchester United. The excellent but inexperienced Nathaniel Clyne arrived from Crystal Palace, while the only centre-back recruited was Japanese international Maya Yoshida from Dutch outfit Venlo, after the season had begun. The failure to bring in some seasoned campaigners with Premier League know-how to the defence is proving costly now.
The shortcomings of some of the players are clearly contributing to the situation but so are the tactics. Playing a passing game is fine as long as the ball is kept, or quickly retrieved when lost. Unfortunately, Saints give the ball away too often and put themselves in trouble. It would be easy to conclude that this is down to the manager. However the chairman has also made clear – in one of his rare public statements – that he wants the team to be playing in a particular way, a way that "will become known as the Southampton style".
Nigel Adkins has not become a bad manager. He has a thirst for knowledge, works very hard and has earned the right to manage in the Premier League. He has the support of the fans and, as far as anybody can tell, the chairman. They share the same long-term vision – but the immediate priority must be to get points on the board, if necessary by grinding out results and winning ugly. Tim Springett
On the subject...