Monday, 22 October 2012

Pressure Increases On Adkins After West Ham Defeat

Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins, is under huge pressure after watching his side crash to a 4-1 defeat at West Ham on Saturday. After a goalless first half (where the visitors were in the ascendancy), the Saints conceded two goals in three minutes; firstly from Mark Noble's free-kick and the second from a tap-in by Kevin Nolan. Adam Lallana scored for the Saints. However, Noble scored from the spot ten minutes later before Modibo Maiga finished the scoring late on. 

Before the match, Adkins made the big decision to drop talisman, Rickie Lambert, to the bench and started with Jay Rodriguez and Guly Do Prado. Adkins had made this decision on the first game of the season away to Manchester City where Lambert came off the bench to score. Assuming that the same would happen at Upton Park, the Saints were looking to secure their first away points of the season. 

It was going according to plan for the men in yellow, as a solid defensive display from José Fonte and Jos Hooiveld kept out West Ham's aerial threat of Andy Carroll. Unfortunately, the second half was confirmation of what Southampton have been suffering since the start of the season; leaking goals.When I was watching the game, I was thinking to myself, "We defended so well for 45 minutes and then we concede two very poor goals so early in the second-half." It is so crucial in the Premier League to keep to defend as well as you can with world class strikers coming at you every week. 

Adkins decided to give a debut to former Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who is the third different goalkeeper to stand between the sticks so far this season for the Saints. When interviewed by BBC Radio Solent after the match, Adkins felt Boruc's performances in the under-21 matches were good enough for him to start in the first team. However, the constant change of goalkeeper isn't going to help as each 'keeper has their own attributes. Personally, Paulo Gazzaniga hasn't put a foot wrong when he had his chance, making some very good saves in the process. Given his age and making the big step up from League Two, he did very little for Adkins to drop him out of the squad for Saturday's match. 

I also feel for Kelvin Davis as he has been a loyal servant to the club for five years now and easily could have left when the club went into administration. In terms of his ability, Davis is a very good shot-stopper who comes off his line fairly quickly at times and, more importantly, a leader on the pitch. Not forgetting that Adkins used to be a goalkeeper himself in his playing career but trying out three different 'keepers during the first eight league games of the season isn't ideal. Isn't that what pre-season is for? To try new methods before the league season starts?

Who should be Saints' number one goalkeeper?

The defensive horror show in the second half has left some fans pondering whether the back four are of Premier League quality. In my opinion, apart from Nathaniel Clyne, the answer to that question is not really. Whilst we did really well in the summer transfer window, I have always felt that Saints could have concentrated on strengthening the defence, for the reasons that I stated earlier on. I understand that Nigel and the rest of his staff work very hard behind the scenes but my question is whether bringing in new defenders should have been first on our priorities list? 

There have also been questions asked about the 4-3-3 formation which I can see why we use it for our attacking prowess. However, using strikers like Jay Rodriguez on the left-hand side of the front three isn't his best position where, therefore, we can't get the best out of him there. Adkins said to Radio Solent: "We are gonna play 4-3-3.", where, for the first time, he sounded very despondent in any of his interviews. Some Saints were wondering if the former Scunthorpe boss is forced to use this formation by chairman Nicola Cortese. However, I will focus on Cortese's possible presence later on.  

In the past couple of seasons, Adkins has used the 4-4-2 formation which has worked very well for the team. It's the best formation for us in my opinion, as we can use the midfield four to pass the ball and eventually supply the service to the strikers. Competition for places are at a plenty right now which is how it should be at every club but Saints need to bring in at least two centre-backs and a left-back in January. There is some time between now and January which Saints need to get their season back on track starting with the visit of high-flying Tottenham at St. Mary's on Sunday. 

As mentioned earlier, Adkins dropped top-scorer Rickie Lambert before the match at Upton Park. I can see both sides to his decision, but dropping your best striker is ultimately suicidal. Many Saints fans were shocked to see his name on the substitute bench including myself. I was willing to see how the team would do after the match to give my opinions, although, it is hard not to do voice out your views when the team-sheets are released. Despite the number of attacking options available to the manager, Lambert is one of the main reasons that Southampton are back in the Premier League. The Liverpudlian has scored 82 goals in 139 appearances so far for Southampton and is one of a short few to score in all of the four divisions. 

BENCHED: Rickie Lambert
The Premier League brings more media attention than the Football League and the sack race is unfortunately part of the media's tasks to predict before the action starts. I feel the problems are not all down to Adkins, however. The defensive performances have been really below par than the standard is required in the top flight. It is frustrating to hear players like Hooiveld and Fonte saying that they have learned from their previous errors but the truth is they haven't. Until this is sorted out, the Saints are going to have a long, hard season.

Finally, onto the controversial figure of Nicola Cortese (pictured left). There were some rumours going around social media websites that the Swiss businessman was playing a part in the team selection and formation. Adkins has always implied that he has a very good relationship with Cortese and I'm assume that is the case. However, with recent results in mind, I do think that Cortese will be having a few thoughts in the next week or so, especially if results continue in the same manner. Nobody knows if he is interfering with the team selection but the matter is that the Saints need to start bucking their ideas up on the pitch. There have been some decent performances from the team but you need a bit of luck in the Premier League too.

Despite these rumours, I still think Nigel Adkins is the right man to take us forward, at least until the end of the season. He deserves his chance like everyone else and look where he has taken the club over the past couple of years! The players need to start helping him in terms of their individual performances and with that, we can go on and have a good season. It's the toughest league in the world for a reason and I have to say, the media haven't helped Nigel either. As fans, let's all get behind him and the team to show that the Saints can prove everybody wrong!

In Nigel We Trust!

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