Southampton Soapbox: another wretched display puts Sunderland’s fate in Arsenal’s hands

C'mon feel the gloom, says Jake
C’mon feel the gloom, says Jake

The cruel truth is that our season seems over. Sunderland inspire so little confidence that many, maybe most supporters feel at least they’ll know the worst by tomorrow night. In other words, Wigan fail to win and we survive, they win and we go down, since few consider Sunderland up to doing the job for themselves at Spurs. And no one would dare look to Villa for favours, though they’d go down on goal difference should all the ifs come together including us drawing at WHL. Pete Sixsmith has seen it all before. Will he pay to endure it again? …

There are many times over the last far too many years when I have said that I have had enough and I won’t be bothering next season. I actually did it after the relegation at Selhurst Park and only watched a dozen games of the Play Off season. Eventually, I drifted back and have sat through another 14 seasons of highs and lows. But I have to say that the camel’s back is very, very close to being broken.

In a week when my best mate has lost the love of his life, football pales into insignificance. But, rightly or wrongly, the game does matter. It matters to me, it matters to Pete Horan and it mattered to Sue.

So, after a wretched week, a win over Southampton and the securing of our place in the top flight, would have lifted those of a red and white persuasion who knew and loved Sue. Instead, we messed up yet again.

No club in football knows how to mess up like Sunderland. Chelsea in 1963, Liverpool at home in 1969 when they gave us chance after chance to win before Chris Lawler apologetically scored the goal that sent us down, numerous mess ups against the likes of Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Gillingham which have contrived to either send us down or keep us down; all have been witnessed and absorbed.

This time, if Wigan secure victory at Ashburton Grove, we will have to win our final game at White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspur, a free flowing, easy on the eye team, who desperately want Champions League football, in order to guarantee a place at the (very) rich man’s table next season. And the chances of that are …….?

Believe me, this was an inept performance from a crowd of players who look like they are stumbling towards the Championship. They were made to look worse than ordinary by a Southampton team who were tactically superior, passed the ball to their players and should have won comfortably. Only Mignolet and some slack finishing gave us the dog’s chance that we have now.

Granted, the squad is wafer thin. Two players have managed to get themselves red carded in the final stage of the season, leaving us even shorter handed. We have injuries to our only goalscorer and the captain who, for all his failings, may just have given us a lift.

Jake was hoping for better
Jake was hoping for better

What we are left with is a team that is, quite frankly, hopeless, managed by a novice and which, on the evidence of the last three games, does not deserve to retain its Premier League place. The current Head Coach has inherited a gargantuan mess from the previous two regimes, but those three games have indicated that he has strange ideas of how to use the players at his disposal.

Once again, we went into a game with James McClean on the field and David Vaughan on the bench. That was bad enough, but to compound that by starting McClean on the right after the awful performance he had put in on Monday was difficult to fathom. The Irishman has all the appearance of a six month wonder. Giovanni Trappatoni must be chortling into his grappa.

Add to that, a centre forward who combines the worst traits of Andy Gray, Tom Ritchie and (one for the connoisseurs) Andy Kerr, and the prospects of us streaking into an unassailable lead are about as likely as Simon Cowell coming over all humble.

Graham looked a busted flush. He must be regretting leaving South Wales, a League Cup winners medal and Premier League and European football next season, so he could return to his roots. There is every chance that he will be departing them in the summer.

On Saturday, I took in a Wearside League game between Willington and Prudhoe Town. The home team will finish either first or second and will return to the Northern League after a lengthy absence. They had two no nonsense central defenders who did what ours can’t do; they can pass to their own players and they can clear their lines when they need to. Maybe Carlos Cuellar and John O’Shea could ask them how they do it and try it out at whichever club they are playing for next season.

Cuellar had a nightmare and showed that like a temperamental pace bowler he has to be rested frequently. His distribution was dreadful, his marking poor and his reaction to the Southampton cross from which they equalised, abysmal. He wasn’t alone in standing around admiring Mignolet’s save, while Puncheon stepped in quickly to give the visitors a well deserved point.

As for the rest, Colback was the pick of the bunch; he had high energy and actually played some thoughtful football. Johnson had a couple of runs, particularly after McClean had departed at half time and N’Diaye showed some promise. He would be better if he could stay on his feet, particularly when tackling.

Southampton looked neat and tidy and should build on this season to establish themselves as a decent Premier League side. Luke Shaw looked a good prospect at left back and the whole team had a pleasing shape about it, with midfielders knowing what they were supposed to do rather than just running around chasing the ball as ours too frequently do.

The jury is out on the head coach. He has to attempt to make a silk purse out the various sows’ ears that Messrs. Bruce and O’Neill have left at SR1. He is limited through injuries and suspensions as to what he can do and he needs a transfer window to stamp his and his coaching staff’s identity on Sunderland AFC.

It is a big job. Any neutral watching the football that Wigan played at Wembley and comparing it with the dross that we have served up on a consistent basis this season, would not hesitate in giving the Pie Eaters the thumbs up and us the thumbs down.

Will it get any better next season? Can a man with limited experience of big transfers bring in players who will take us away from the wretchedly low level that we have inhabited for years. Will I be there to see it? It’s easy to cancel a direct debit.

Meanwhile, as the banner says: “In Arsène We Trust.”

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  • 16 thoughts on “Southampton Soapbox: another wretched display puts Sunderland’s fate in Arsenal’s hands”

    1. Turner and Meyler should have been kept – but that’s the advantage of hindsight, Jeremy. Ferdinand was poor at West Ham, poor for us and dreadful at QPR. Ji never appeared on my radar.
      Let us hope that Di Canio will take a sensible and rational approach in the summer – did I really type that?

    2. John said “My 8 year old daughter summed it up when she asked whether Southampton had more players than us,”

      We can only assume that your answer to this was a resounding “Yes, but not necessarily numerically.”

      At this point we really have no idea what PDC is really capable of offering us. Bruce had an eye for a player but no clue what to do with them or how to keep them at the club. O’Neill managed to get rid of decent players and replaced them with inferior players or not at all. Does anyone think we would have been as badly off had we kept the likes of Richardson, Ferdinand, Turner, Ji and Meyler?

      There’s a need for drastic change of not only personnel, but temperament and attitude. These changes need to start being made on Monday next week whether we survive or not.

    3. I think Ellis Short knows he will have to dig deep this summer to help PDC rebuild an appalling squad and shape it into something that will push for mid-table to top ten.
      The current squad lacks so much quality it’s embarrassing for the amount of money spent over the years. This is all down to the managers we have had. At least under Bruce he recognised a need for pace and energy something we lacked under MON. Let’s not forget that it was under Bruceys watch that Sess arrived (so he wasn’t all bad).
      N’Diaye has shown what an athletic and strong midfielder can provide and he should be safe for next season.
      McClean has not developed this season after his break through and doesn’t look like he ever will and needs to be moved on. The central defenders have looked pathetic at times and desperately need to be addressed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see all 5-6 central defenders on the books being moved on. Wes Brown has been a massive drain on the club.
      As long as The Gunners do the business I expect PDC to be a busy chap in the summer reshaping a squad in his image and hopefully providing long suffering fans a brand of football we can be proud of.

    4. The performance was indicitive of what has been served up for most of this season, turgid dross.

      Apart from a short spell at the start of the 2nd half we were continually struggling to compete with a team that passed and moved far better than us. It was another disappointment.

      My 8 year old daughter summed it up when she asked whether Southampton had more players than us,

      I think the 8 points we have gleaned since PDC’s appointment may well be enough.There is little doubt had MON still been at the club then we would have been down by now. However the performance on Sunday was similar to the dross served up under MON so maybe the players are quite simply not very good.

      Should we stay up , deservedly or not, the rebuilding process needs to begin.There are few amongst the current crop of players that I would keep but the problem is how much Ellis will give PDC to spent. Quality does not come cheap.

    5. We were woefull and have being for most of the season.I tend to agree with Geordie Down South in that some of our fans were quick to demote the mags and consider ourselves safe.Untill yesterday we’d been on the same number of points for weeks .We’ll probably stop up but only through luck .Mind you with our fate in the hands of ourselves ,Wigan,Arsenal,Villa and Spurs anything could happen.The first four I mentioned are the most unpredictable in the league.

    6. Great write up Pete,

      I did think Cuellars “other half” payed a decent game though,and we would have been well sunk without O Shea and Migs…who is my player of the season by a street.

      N’Diaye is coming along nicely,so there is hope there but I cannot really think beyond tomorrow night right now…..c’mon the Arsenal.

      • Where would we be without Mignolet, I shudder to think. We’ve GOT to keep him in the summer. Westwood will probably leave and that puts us in the search for another keeper. This adds to our long list of transfer requirements for next season.
        Having said that, Fletch, Sess, Catts coming back will feel like three new signings. But, we do need to strengthen in all areas to be honest.

    7. As good as Wigan were on Saturday (and they played a brand of football we haven’t seen in years), I still think the Arse will be too good for them on Tuesday. It’s a sad state of affairs to be relying on another team, but survival is survival however it is achieved. At half fourish yesterday we were 11th believe it or not!

    8. Funny old game football isn’t it. A few weeks ago you were lording it over us after stuffing us at SJP, and now you could get relegated if Wigna pull 2 wins. Don’t think that will happen and as I said I want you to stay up so we can get revenge for that defeat. Anyone still got thos Paulo mints you might need some next SUnday

      • I just hope Pardew keeps his job. I’d be gutted if the mags got anyone with a bit of ability and class as manager.

    9. I think Ellis Short knows the deficiencies of the squad and the lack of leadership in it; that’s why he is pulling the scouting network apart and making moves for a director of football.
      The biggest failing of that network has been the lack of attention on players personalities ( AV supporters warned us about Cuellar) and the feather-bedding of the managers old mates like Brown and O’Shea.At the same time good young, spirited players like Meyler and Leadbitter have been allowed to leave.

      Agents have see us as a dumping ground for a load of old tosh and we have fallen for it, paying far too much (see the financial accounts) for mediocrity.Our friends up the road have bought in some quality players on far less wages.

      Our retention of the better players (Bent, Gyan, Henderson) has been abysmal and demonstrates the ambition of the respective managers and boardroom.

      Even our mindset as supporters would not argue too strongly if Mignolet were sold because that is the pattern we are used to; and it’s wrong!!

      I would hope the new setup for acquiring players is not as evident as the enquiry for Calvani which “caused a stir in scouting circles”. The only circling agents do is when there’s blood in the water. Looks like the message hasn’t got through to the boardroom yet so we’ll be paying through the nose again—that’s what happens when you let a FIFA agent inside the tent!!

      Strewth–where’s Nyron when you need him?

    10. Calling Short is a bit over the top .
      He did what most fans on here wanted and got MON
      Who could have forseen what a shambles that turned out (well actually I did – I was the only one here who questioned the Bruce sacking )
      Then Short took a major decision and sacked MON – PDC had 2 great victories Newcastle & Everton to give us a fighting chance . Where is the abject decision making there ?
      I was at the CUp final on Saturday and Wigan thoroughy deserved their victory – let’s hope it has drained them both physically and mentally for tomorrows match . Arsenal need to win – and they should be fresh and up for it
      As regards yesterdays match I would rather have seen Wickham start – but he has just come back from injury so I can understand him being on the bench – 2nd half we improved (although anything would have been an improvement on the first half)
      I agree with the comments about Cuellar he has been hopeless most of this season , O Shea has fluctuated between good and hopeless . McClean has been a total waste if time . BUt for me NDiaye has been a breath of fresh air , our best player by a mile , excluding MIgnolet .
      As for Graham – he runs about like a headless chicken – harrying and pressing but he’s not a footballer

    11. Of course it starts with the players- combine our side with any other in the division and pick a combined team and we would not get more than three or four players in at most- even QPR have better squad. Unbelievably O’Neill proved worse at putting a team together than Bruce. But the coaching and organisation have been abysmal too, and what is worrying is that, scarce resources notwithstanding, McClean can still get on the pitch, and Larsson is preferred to Vaughan in central midfield- Paulo seems as clueless as his predecessors. And jumping about like a complete prat on the touchline seems to be a rather simplistic approach to motivation, which has been clearly lacking when most needed. So like you I am not optimistic. If there is a football God, he will surely send us down, because without doubt we have been among the poorest teams to watch for almost 18 months now. But it is a Godless world, an therein lies the hope, at least for another couple of days, that we might be spared. And the whole shower at Sunderland (Short too- you can’t be in charge and not accept responsibility for continually backing such abject decision-making) could get an undeserved reprieve. If we do, wholesale changes are required at every level , because another season like this is just not acceptable from so-called professionals.

    12. On the eve of the Chelsea game I was invited to take part in a phone in by LBC, and asked if I thought we would beat the drop. I highlighted the Villa, Stoke and Southampton games as ones we had to win to survive. I honestly couldn’t see us, even with the impetus of a new manager, getting anything from the rest. Six points against The Mags and Everton were unexpected but gratefully received but now only two points from our three crucial games has left us one short.

      As PDC says it’s still in our hands as a point or three from White Hart Lane will be enough, whatever happens on Tuesday night. Trouble is the available squad, further weakened by the non availability of Rose are simply not good enough. Miracles can happen but as Pete says, in reality we are counting on Arsenal to do the job for us.

    13. I agree with everything you say, Pete. I fear the absolute worst. I guess it all comes down to Tuesday. And Wigan were very good against City on Saturday.

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