Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Southampton Preview

There's not many that would have predicted six straight games for the Addicks during this past summer of an errie, stony silence where the only background noise was the impatient gnashing of teeth. Is Parky pinching himself, I wonder? No, probably not, but I'm sure that after pocketing the best-start-to-a-season record, he's cursing his luck that game 12 ( and one that would equal that winning run of Curbs back in 2000) is against Leeds at Elland Rd. That's including the Norwich win, and, of course, assumes that we carry on winning.
And talking of Leeds, it seems that we are not the only ones in League One enjoying ourselves. Just when Leeds' fans were starting to feel comfortable in Tier Three along comes Simon Grayson to spoil everyones fun and gives the team a kick up the arse. They are now claiming all sorts of new club records because they have won all 8 games played this season (including Darlington and Watford in the League Cup) and since Carlisle's win at Elland Rd on January 10th claim to have won all 14 games played there. This, of course, conveniently ignores the most important game last season - their disappointing 1-1 home draw with Millwall in the Play-Offs in May that meant another year in the doldrums. (Perhaps that should the unofficial name for life in Tier Three). But help is at hand regarding their current winning run for no less than Liverpool arrive in a couple of weeks in the League Cup. And before we go there on October 3rd they also face Gillingham and their old nemesis, the unbeaten away from home, Carlisle.
Anyway back to the present. Next up for another home game are Southampton now owned by another foreign billionaire, the truckbuilder Herr Liebherr and managed by one Alan Pardew. What's a dull German doing taking over Southampton is a question that we can't answer, but as we all know Pardews' face by now we've included something that's bound to make Herr Liebherr's eyes water, a picture of one of his world famous trucks.
And talking of eyes watering, after failure to beat Burnley in the penultimate game of the season on 25 April 2009, which ended in a 2–2 draw, Southampton confirmed their relegation from the Fizzies. This also meant that they would start in League One (for the first time in 50 years) with minus 10 points, within six years of being FA Cup runners-up, UEFA Cup participants and the eighth placed team in the Premier League.
And this, of course, after the 23 April 2009 court ruling, where Southampton were handed a 10 point deduction, following their parent company going into administration.
But then along came their saviour. On On 8 July 2009 the administrators confirmed that the club had been sold to a buyer "owned and controlled" by German/Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr. The total amount he had paid has not been disclosed but it is believed to be around £13-15 Million.


Six games in and the Saints are still suffering that well known relegation effect - a complete lack of confidence and a belief that you belong somewhere else. Rock bottom to start with and after four draws they still are, with minus 6 points and a huge 11 points away from safety and a massive 24 points behind the Addicks.

And just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it seems that the fates continue to conspire against them for they haven't been given the best of luck with their fixtures so far with four of their opening 6 games against teams currently in the top eight. An opening day 1-1 at home to the Spanners after going in front and they then had the misfortune of having to travel to face the top League One scorers, Huddersfield. Drawing 1-1 after 67 minutes they then let in 2 late goals and suffered a 3-1 defeat and then followed another away trip and another defeat, 1-0 at Swindon. Things have looked up a bit recently with a run of three unbeaten games with three straight draws - 1-1 at home to Brentford, another 1-1 at Stockport followed last weekend with a 0-0 home draw with Colchester.

With neither of Pardews two latest transfer window signings cleared to play and with striker Marek Saganowski off on international duty with Poland, the Saints just couldn't score against 10 men Colchester last weekend after Kemal Izzet had been sent off in the 36th minute, even from 11 shots on target. Clearly, Pardews luck is getting worse as Colchester went all out to impress new manager Adrian Boothroyd in his first game in charge.

The main one, of course, is Alan Pardew who you recall makes a habit of beating his old teams. After leaving Reading on 10th Sept 2003, and forced to accept the farce of a months "gardening leave", he took over at West Ham on 18th October with Trevor Brooking being responsible for a managerless Hammers against Reading on 13th Sept 2003. And Pardew was probably smiling to himself up there in the stand as non other than Christian Dailly rose to power home the only goal of the game from a Defoe corner in the 17th minute. Dailly captained the side in the return at the Madejski the following April but couldn't save the Hammers from a 2-0 defeat
August 2004 at Upton Park saw him again against his previous team and he win again 1-0 but lost once more on his return to Reading in March the following year when he lost 3-1. We can't forget the 4-0 win over West Ham at the Valley in 2007, followed by a 4-2 win over Reading last season all of which means that he's won all his home games against his prior clubs but lost 2 and drawn once away.
But are we going to give him a hard time? There's clearly Addicks who don't personally like him and blame him for a lot of our woes but all thats in the past and thankfully we have a man now who has done what Pardew couldn't do - force a change of attitude in a sinking team. The three newcomers in defence have a lot to do with that but perhaps we shouldn't forget that Pardew snatched our midfield duo of Semedo and Racon out of the unknown and all for 550K Euros as well as signing captain Nicky Bailey.
And in the Saints lineup there's also our old favorite Chris Perry, who was released by Monica in May 2006 much to everyone's disgust, who has been with the Saints since March 2008 and played 40 games last season. There's also our old loanee Graeme Murty who was signed during the summer but he's out with a serious knee injury sustained in the League Cup defeat against Birmingham.

Who Are Yeh?
Two exotic players were reportably brought in by Pardew during the transfer window but both needed international clearance. One was central defender Radhi Jaidi, an out of contract Tunisia international, ex of Birmingham and Bolton is 34 and the proud owner of 100 caps for his country. Sadly it seems that this move is not going to happen.
And both teams have acquired new number 9's. While we apparently have signed the enigmatic Leon McKenzie, the Saints have been displaying the 25 year old striker Papa Waigo N'Diaye from Senegal. He joins on loan from Serie A side Fiorentina until the end of the season, and his clearance was received on Tuesday. After his impressive 20 goals in two seasons with Serie B Cesena, his figures of 2 goals in 7 appearances for Serie A Fiorentina as well as his zero for Serie B Lecca in another 6, clearly havn't served to discourage Pardew, who admits he can't wait to see him in a Saints shirt. But, like McKenzie, its unknown if he is fit to play a full 90 as it seems he hasn't played at all this season.
Another foreigner is 30 year old number 4 Polish international Marek Saganowski whose footballing passport has almost run out of pages. Spells at Feyenoord and Hamburg as well as time in Portugal and France, he's also played 33 times for his country and is a firm favorite with the Saints fans. He plays left midfield, Parky.
And there's 18 year old Jacob Mellis, another of those young Chelski starlets that can't find a home at Stamford Bridge and have to be loaned out. JonJo will meet Jacob in midfield if they haven't already met.

What's Their Secret?
Leeds travel to unbeaten-at-home Southend (draws with Millwall and Huddersfield, 3-0 over Orient) so only a defeat for Leeds will make it the old curse of top v bottom. There's also the added banana skin of the Divisions second highest scorers with 15 versus the poorest with 4. But take care, Parky, for while they can't score, there are no less than 11 teams in the Doldrums who have conceded more than their 7 League goals and that includes high-flyers Huddersfield.

But one thing that Parky said last Monday may be significant. "Of course that first win against Wycombe Wanderers was an important one, and we've moved on from there. We've worked hard on the training ground at seeing games through, and to be really solid in our shape in the last 20 minutes of games, and the lads have taken that on board." Because if you look at Southampton's goals against column you'll notice perhaps that 7 of the 9 that they have conceded in their 8 games (League and Cup) have come in the last 23 minutes.

Number 7 is Pardew's first Saints signing, 27 year old 6' 3" Rickie Lambert from Bristol Rovers, costing from 800k to 1m depending who you read. Lambert was last season's equal top League One scorer with Swindon's Simon Cox with 29 goals and he's already got 4 this season, three for the Saints. As West Brom paid 1.5M for Cox seems the Saints have the better deal.

Who's Talking?

Markus Liebher on buying the Saints said " I believe we have a superb opportunity to rebuild this great Club. Clearly, this will require resources, planning, hard work and patience. We will assemble a strong management team at every level of the Club (!). We will act rapidly, but also plan for the long term, because I am here for the long term. We should not expect instant success, but our fans, employees and other stakeholders can expect 100 per cent commitment from me and my team"

And after all that nonsense you've all dying to heard Pardews latest thoughts so we wouldn't disappoint. "I'm disappointed for the guys because we were good enough to win," said Pardew. "I thought Colchester defended superbly for long, long periods of the game, but chances still came our way thick and fast and we probably deserved the win. The team lacks a real athletic threat and a bit of pace but I can feel a little bit of nervousness about us too. We could have capitalised on them but we were too edgy."

Doing A Leicester
Leicester finished last season on 96 points, 7 points clear of the field, but after 6 games they only had 13 points from 4 wins, a draw and that defeat to the Spanners and due to their exploits in the League Cup and Johnstone Paints they were only in 5th place because everybody else had played a game more. And you'll be pleased to learn that the best they could manage all last season was a 5 win sequence in Nov/Dec.

But a word of caution. Its only September and while its tempting to expect the top three, the Addicks, Leeds and Huddersfield (top scorers with 17 goals) to finish the season in the same position, we should nevertheless expect some sticky times ahead. It has been known for the early pacemakers to sometimes fade away and the top three last year after 6 games were Oldham (finished 10th), Carlisle (20th) and Scunthorpe (6th).


Southampton are the first team this season that we have played with whom we have a negative history. Our first game with them in 1921 set the trend and ended up in a 0-6 away defeat and it'll be no surprise to learn that with their 103 goals scored in our 54 league games they join the select band of 15 teams that have scored over 100 goals against us. We recently shared 6 years together in the Premiership and after that memorable first 5-0 win at the Valley finished pretty even with 3 wins each and 6 draws before they were relegated in 2005.

Overall at the Valley, ignoring the one League cup game, its 11 wins, 9 draws and 7 defeats from 27 games but as we said overall its now good. We've won only a total of 17 games compared to their 23 out of 54, that's a losing record of 43%.

The Team
Our midfield trio of Semedo, Racon and Bailey will all be keen to show Pardew how far they have developed as a unit while Christian Dailly will also shake hands after their three years together at Upton Park. On form Lloyd Sam is another player that will relish another home game.

So unchanged yet again it seems. Sonje made the bench last weekend and Luke Holden made another appearance for the reserves on Tuesday against Dagenham so may join him on the bench. There's no team lineups for the reserve game but there was no mention of new man Leon McKenzie who has only played 5 minutes with Coventry this season so is probably not yet fit enough for Parky's liking.

Last season was 0-0 in this fixture and JonJo will remember the following clash at St Marys in April where he became the Addicks youngest scorer. But this, and the following game at Carrow Rd, won't be like the normal League One fare - its ex-fizzy teams squaring up to see who has recovered from relegation the best and the Saints may want to prove something. Whether they can or not is another matter.

But there's a lot of banana skins around this weekend; a losing history, the top v bottom curse, the second highest scorers against the lowest, an ex manager returning. All of which gives a sneeking impression that both leading teams may have to settle for a draw this weekend giving the chance to Huddersfield to close the gap if they can overcome Brentford at home.


StoneMuse said...

Good summary, making me re-think my 3-1 win prediction

... naaah, I'll leave it as it is.

nelson said...

I like an optimist SM and 3-1 would be a cracking scoreline but even Pedro45 sees a defeat for this one and Nicky Bailey is carrying an injury as is Racon so it'll be close. But what the hell, I've just found out that Parky is an ex-Saints player which should even up the odds a bit and I can't see that Papa guy getting a game so early on so lets hope you've got it spot on.