Monday, April 18, 2005

18 April 2005: Typical

Saints were two-nil up at half time and cruising. Flowing attacks, defense-splitting midfield play, enthusiasm unseen since Strachan's days, Kevin Phillips back in the line-up and back to his best.

Saints lost the match three-two, capsizing Titanic-like in the second half. Midfield gave the ball away, defence backed off and off and off, three goals conceded. It could have been six. More worryingly, it could have been any Saints game this season, whether under Sturrock, Wigley or 'Arry.

Can you blame the managers? Or Woopert the Chairman? Actually, in this case, no: the game was perfectly set up for a win. Indeed in the first half, the Saints fans taunted Villa's travelling support with shouts of "easy, easy" because that is what it was. The reversal was astounding, but it revealed three key facts about the current Saints team:
  1. Claus Lundekvam can't defend,
  2. Rory Delap can't defend, and
  3. Olivier Bernard can't defend.

Davenport came on for Jakobsson at half time, but actually he didn't play badly, and he wasn't the problem. When your captain (Claus) tells the defence to back off and back off and back off, such that the opposition player gets a free run from the halfway line to the edge of the box unchallenged, there is clearly a problem. Saints have had this tendency for years - only in the halcyon days of Michael 'Killer' Svennson (bets on when he'll be back? Smart money says his career is over.) have Saints (and even Claus) looked a decent defensive unit.

Calls today on SaintsForever are for Dodd to be recalled from Argyle because (1) he is a good defender and (2) he is a good captain. Makes you wonder why he actually left. Is Delap really a better right back? Is Claus really a better captain? Given the inevitable though, which is to say Plymouth Argyle and Southampton both in the Championship next year, I wonder if Dodd might not be tempted to leave the mess that is St Mary's for the smaller club at Home Park where at least he gets the respect he deserves.

Well, maybe. Saints were down weeks ago (I continue to cite the Everton match as the day we were relegated), but they're going to be big fish in the tighter confines of the pond that is the Championship, fighting for promotion in a way Argyle probably won't. Maybe Dodd and Dexter will head back to St Mary's after all. And you know what? I somehow can't see any Premiership clubs coming in to offer Claus a contract. Phillips, Crouch, Niemi all on their way... Claus to stay.

So, more of the same next season? Don't doubt it for a second.

Postscript: Dodd to be recalled by Saints. Goodness me, this blog had a quick effect.

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