Total Saints Opinion - "The most dangerous scoreline of all....?"

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Fresh from watching Saints suffer another 3-2 defeat to Manchester United, TSP patron Alistair Downs penned the latest Total Saints Opinion.

"Belgium Manager, Roberto Martinez, once called being 2-0 ahead ‘the most dangerous scoreline’.

Saints fans will certainly be nodding in agreement with that, following Sunday’s disappointing 3-2 reverse to a Manchester United team many had hoped we could beat.

A quick look at Twitter after the match confirmed that many of us had ‘seen it coming’ and ‘knew once the game went to 2-1 that Saints would inevitably succumb to defeat'.

It definitely got me thinking – do Saints throw away 2-0 leads as a matter of habit?

Or is it simply that, when we do, they tend to hurt much more and stick in the memory for longer?

My own seeds of doubt were sown early in my Saints’ supporting career, having cockily taunted my Spurs supporting brother at half-time (yes, we led 2-0!) in a mid-week FA cup tie - 'live' on Sky Sports.

As many will remember, when Ronnie Rosenthal entered The Dell for the second-half I couldn't have imagined what would happen next (lets swiftly move on....!).

Anyway, what of our recent history with this so called ‘dreaded scoreline’?

For my sins, I decided to take a look at how Saints have fared after taking a 2-0 lead, since our return to the Premier League in 2012/13.

I thought this would provide a decent sample size and, as I don't work for Opta, have cross-referenced the data on the Premier League website (given the 'emotion' post-United, apologies if I've made any errors!)

The first noticeable statistic was that, surprisingly or unsurprisingly (you be the judge of that), Saints haven't tended to go 2-0 up that often.

In the eight and a bit seasons we've been back in the Premier League, Saints have played 314 games - taking a 2-0 lead in 65 of them (c20%).

What happens when we do find ourselves in that luxurious (and/or dangerous....) position, I hear you ask?

Well, the encouraging news is that, despite fans general paranoia, Saints have actually gone on to win 86% of the fixtures in which they've established a 2-0 lead.

I must admit - probably like yourself - I was surprised it was that high!

In 31% of the games, Saints managed to maintain that score of 2-0 - enjoying a solid days work and securing three comfortable points.

12% of the games have yielded a third Saints goal - without reply from the opposition - and a further 15% have seen us score three goals but concede one.

A cluster of scorelines make up another 20%, ranging from close 3-2 wins over West ham (under Mauricio Pellegrino) to the emphatic 8-0 thrashing of Sunderland (under Ronald Koeman).

When you reflect on everything, it feels like we are actually fairly decent at holding onto a solid 2-0 lead....and occasionally extending that even further!

On the flip side, what happens when we are leading 2-0 but the opposition gets a goal back - as, of course, happened at the weekend?

Well, surprisingly or unsurprisingly (again, you be the judge), things start to get a little more unpleasant!

In the 65 games we've gone 2-0 up, 23 times the opposition has scored the next goal to make it 2-1.

Although this doesn't always guarantee a collapse – it does appear to suggest that our chance of securing all three points drops dramatically.

Indeed, of the 23 times the opposition pulled the score back to 2-1, our win conversion dropped to 61%.

We've gone on to draw about a quarter of those matches – with games against Sunderland, Leicester, Watford, Brighton and Manchester United all ending 2-2.

We've also lost 17% of them, with matches against Spurs, Chelsea, Wolves and, of course, Manchester United finishing in a 3-2 reverse.

So, while 2-0 doesn't appear to be ‘the most dangerous scoreline' for Saints.....2-1 most certainly does!

As many pointed out at the weekend, poor Jan Bednarek has now scored 3 league goals for Saints.

Each one has initially contributed towards a 2-0 lead.....before, incredibly, seeing us go on to lose all three games 3-2!

In those instances perhaps it’s not the scoreline we should have worried about.....more the scorer!?

Whichever way you look at it – these sorts of things happen to most teams in football, most of the time. It just feels like its always us!

I'm still very confident that, despite this weekends’ setback, Ralph is building an exciting team that will enjoy more 2-0 leads this season.

When the next one comes along, I’ll be trying my best to think about the 86% of times we’ve gone on to win from there - not the 17% we've lost!

We March On!"

Article by Alistair Downs

1/12/2020 (Photo of Che Adams by Southampton Football Club; All other images property of Alistair Downs and shouldn't be reused without prior written consent)

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