In our latest Total Saints Opinion, TSP Patron, William Porteous, shares some thoughts on Saints current run of (really bad!) form....
"I have now sat down on three separate occasions to try and sum up my feelings about Southampton at the moment and, on all three occasions, it’s been an exercise in catharsis.
This time it’s something more!
The recent Manchester United game was a lesson.
A blast from the past.
A reminder of just how badly the wheels can fall off of a Ralph system.
Previous results were bad, but not so bad you’d be 'looking over your shoulder at the dreaded drop' bad.
Post-Leeds, we're definitely now looking over our shoulders! That’s undeniable.
You’re either in a camp where the current situation can be summarised as 'Don’t worry we won’t go down, we’ve got Ralph.'
Or you’re in the camp of 'This is dreadful! I knew it could get a lot, lot worse and now it appears that might be unfolding before my very eyes' and 'hang on weren’t we six points ahead of Leeds a few weeks ago?'
While both camps are genuine places to reside, I don’t think either are particularly unrealistic.
What I do worry about is how Ralph has undergone next to no criticism?
This is hard because I have to do that camp analogy again, 'Don’t be daft! Jog on mate! Ralph is a genius. He got us out of it once and he’ll do it again! It’s the Board isn’t it? Gao out! The players need to wake up!' etc.
Or perhaps it's more along the lines of 'Well, he has made some odd substitutions and seems to be running out of ideas! I mean, come on, where’s the plan B? Teams have worked us out!'
Again both camps aren’t exactly wrong....are they?
Where do you reside?
Frankly, I’m torn!
Let’s take this monumentally bizarre occurrence that appears to have wedged itself into the DNA of the Saints squad - our 'second-half meltdown'!
We’ve become expert at it.
Playing against Leeds, we looked back to our old selves in the initial 45 minutes. On the front foot. Strong in possession and reasonably assured.
However, no goals!
Apart from Minamino's goal last Saturday (and Vestergaard's reactive header), did Saints have any other threat against Chelsea?
No. So that is now two games in a row really....
Last night against Leeds, we created chances, but looked like an Under-23 squad playing a friendly when it came to finishing, mentality and fight.
We just stopped!
So who’s fault is that?
I refer to my earlier question - which camp are you in?
Personally, and I’ve been saying this for years, we haven’t got a 'Plan B' (which I appreciate will be old news to some of you reading this!).
We’re so wedded to playing one way. 'The Ralph Way'.
One system that means the idea of possibly going slightly long for a period is now unthinkable.
The days of a Lambert or a Pelle to hold the play up are gone. The 'lets give them something different to think about’ tactics are largely history.
When we were top of the Premier League earlier this season (what?!? Yeah, really!) it was all smiles, but anybody who understands football knows that, unless you have two or three styles of play, you will soon get found out.
I haven’t included injuries in the 'excuses camp' because, in reality, we haven’t suffered long-term, critical injuries.
Correct me if I’m wrong but, for example, Danny Ings has featured heavily throughout the season, hasn't he?!
We also loaned out players that could have offered much needed cover. That appears to be pure lunacy now (another camp altogether....).
What do you do in the middle of an unprecedented season of fixtures?
Loan your cover players out......and not get anyone else in!?
Yeah, sure. Why not. Who cares!
Sadly, I'm losing my patience with Ralph now.
I love him - but I think I'm done.
Obviously I'd still bid heavily on a vile of his tears, or a used training vest, but logic would tell you that, if this were any other man, he’d be gone.
Ok, lets try and swiftly refocus. How do Saints turn this around?
Perhaps it’s purely a mental thing?
'Of course it is', you might think, and you’re probably right to agree.
But part of me believes the players want a safer system, in a time when all hell is breaking loose.
Watching us play a compact, consolidated system against Chelsea, where we were the underdogs, was actually pretty warming to me.
We looked dangerous enough when we needed to be (for roughly 15 seconds the entire match...) but we also looked focused and relieved to not be pressing as intensely as Tenzing Norgay on an Everest climb!
There’s a moment when you can actually allow yourself to ask that 'perhaps Saints should entice teams to come on to them again'?
For example, why not allow Leeds to have the ball (and remain conservative for a passage - or even most of a half - ourselves), while simultaneously blowing themselves out of energy in trying to find a way around/through our defensive structure?
Just an idea.
Keep yourself in the game - then exploit their tiredness.
A 'Plan B' if you will.
It's what oppositions appear to be doing to us!
So why not try reversing things?
What's the worst that can ha......well, you know the rest of that line!
Ralph can’t carry on like this, surely?
His heart will break.....and probably most of ours at the same time!
We’re currently 66/1 for the drop.
Yes, it’s unlikely at the moment but, being honest, when we were 14 points clear, I was wondering what it would take for a 'Bournemouth style free fall'?
All the ingredients for 'total chaos' are there though!
A manager that wants chaos football is certainly getting it - but in a very different way.
Worryingly, there is little sign that it’s going to stop anytime soon!
Could this be the most unlikely of relegations?
God, I hope not!"
Article by William Porteous.
(Photo by Getty Images)