Mon. Feb 6th, 2023

James Ward-Prowse has scored 4 objectives in his final 5 video games for Southampton

In January 2022, Southampton have been taken over by Sport Republic, with chief govt Martin Semmens describing it as “a pivotal second” for the membership.

A yr on, Saints are backside of the Premier League and co-owner Rasmus Ankersen summed up their first 12 months in cost as a “actually tough experience”.

So what is going on on? Has the rot set in or is it simply teething issues for bold new house owners?

A Carabao Cup semi-final first leg in opposition to Newcastle on Tuesday suggests some progress, so BBC Sport went looking for solutions.

A depressing yr on the pitch

Out of the 17 groups that began and ended 2022 within the Premier League, Southampton picked up the fewest factors (31), misplaced probably the most video games (21) and had the worst aim distinction (-32).

It didn’t need to be that means.

Glorious kind via January and February 2022 introduced memorable outcomes in opposition to Spurs and Manchester Metropolis in addition to progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Then their season imploded.

“They went to Aston Villa, bought caned and by no means recovered,” mentioned BBC Radio Solent’s Adam Blackmore of a 4-0 hammering at Villa Park in March. “They fell off a cliff.”

From ninth with 35 factors after 26 video games, they picked up solely 5 extra factors and completed fifteenth.

This season, an encouraging victory over Chelsea in August was adopted by only one win in 13, Ralph Hasenhuttl being sacked and the temper on the south coast mutinous.

Cash to spend – however how efficiently?

Funding was a lot wanted at Southampton after years of haemorrhaging expertise, with key gamers together with Virgil van Dijk and Danny Ings leaving for pastures new since 2018.

2022Oriel RomeuGirona2021Danny IngsAston Villa2020Pierre-Emile HojbjergTottenham2018Virgil van Dijk, Dusan TadicLiverpool, Ajax

In the summertime, greater than £70m was splashed on thrilling younger gamers together with Manchester Metropolis children Romeo Lavia and Gavin Bazunu.

Nevertheless, the departures of skilled execs Nathan Redmond, Fraser Forster, Shane Lengthy and Oriel Romeu left a management hole, with former Saints midfielder Jo Tessem arguing there was an excessive amount of change, too quickly.

“There’s a long-term plan and they’re going to get higher,” he mentioned. “They’re proficient – Lavia is without doubt one of the high three finest younger gamers within the Premier League for my part.

“However, as a result of they’ve offered so many good gamers, there may be an excessive amount of accountability on the youthful gamers.”

Ankersen disputes this, citing signings of internationals Joe Aribo and Duje Caleta-Automobile as proof of a extra pragmatic strategy.

“We mentioned goodbye to just one beginning XI participant in Romeu,” he mentioned. “And our technique is aligned with what Southampton has been for a few years, turning potential into excellence.

“We have got some actually thrilling skills that may be among the many world’s finest, nevertheless it’s at all times a stability.”

Semmens agrees, saying: “There’s a clear plan and we’re moving into the appropriate path.”

Southampton podcast The Saints Rating co-host Harry Tizard appreciates their logic, telling BBC Sport “a youthful dressing room breeds inconsistency”.

“When you’re shedding and your workforce haven’t skilled the more durable aspect of soccer, it may be troublesome,” he mentioned. “We can not compete financially, so we now have to take a distinct strategy.”

Certainly, on Monday, Southampton recalled 26-year-old Jan Bednarek from his season-long mortgage at Aston Villa, with boss Nathan Jones citing the necessity to add extra “expertise” to his defence.

For Blackmore nevertheless, it is a easy downside. Southampton have wanted a goalscorer for a very long time – and failure in the summertime to deal with the difficulty made this season’s issues inevitable, even when a latest tactical tweak has introduced extra objectives for James Ward-Prowse.

“Ralph was promised a striker and he by no means bought one,” he mentioned. “In the event that they’d made the signing, they’d not be on this place and he would possibly nonetheless have his job.”

The brand new man on the helmNathan Jones has received one and misplaced 5 of his first six video games within the Premier League

Luton City boss Jones changed Hasenhuttl on the eve of the World Cup and had 5 weeks along with his new gamers. That, in line with Blackmore, didn’t assist.

“He’d promised his workforce would have a transparent identification and he had all that point to be ready for the Christmas fixtures nevertheless it appeared to don’t have any impression,” he mentioned.

“Maybe the gamers bought uninterested in coaching with no video games. He did not get a honeymoon interval.”

Tessem agrees, saying within the Boxing Day defeat to Brighton, Saints regarded like they have been enjoying somebody “from a distinct division”.

Kind reached its nadir in opposition to Nottingham Forest at St Mary’s earlier this month as Southampton had no photographs on the right track and misplaced at house to the division’s worst workforce on the highway.

With the press, Jones has lower a annoyed determine at instances. Three spectacular wins in all competitions throughout seven days in opposition to Crystal Palace, Manchester Metropolis and Everton helped instil confidence, however a slender loss at house to Aston Villa on Saturday prevented Saints overcoming what he described as “the primary psychological barrier” of escaping the underside three.

“I hope any individual is advising him to be much less defensive in interviews,” mentioned Blackmore. “He doesn’t need to justify his existence. He must get folks on his aspect.”

Crucially, his bosses are on board. It isn’t in Southampton’s DNA to make knee-jerk managerial choices.

Ankersen admitted Jones was “by no means going to be an appointment for excellent PR” however his report as supervisor of the yr within the Championship final season – “Europe’s sixth-biggest league”, the co-owner insists – prompt he could possibly be profitable at a better stage.

“He ticked containers for us,” mentioned Ankersen. “We wanted a supervisor who believed in what we believed in. We knew the problems – squad togetherness, set performs, holding clear sheets and being more durable to beat.

“He has a observe report of fixing these.”

Tizard agrees with the message from Sport Republic: “Most issues they mentioned made sense,” he mentioned. “You’ve seen a workforce in latest video games which might be enjoying for his or her supervisor.”

The house owners’ mission may get lift-off if they’ll sneak previous Newcastle and attain a primary home cup last since 2017.

Our protection of your Premier League membership is greater and higher than ever earlier than – observe Southampton within the BBC Sport app to be sure you by no means miss a second

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