Fraser Forster

West Ham smash Saints (video)

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  • Arnautovic scores twice
  • Back-to-back wins for West Ham
  • 4 games without a win for Saints

West Ham eased by Southampton 3-0 at the London Stadium on Saturday, as the Hammers continued to end the season with a flourish.

Marko Arnautovic struck in each half to put West Ham in control, and Ryan Fredericks added another late on to seal the win. Southampton were better in the second half, but were second best for large spells of this game.

With the win West Ham are in 11th on 49 points, while Saints remain in 16th on 38 points.

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Early on Saints had plenty of the play and Stuart Armstrong fired over after a good ball from Ings.

But West Ham took the lead after a horrible mistake from Yan Valery. The young defender passed the ball inside to Mark Noble who set up Arnautovic to slot home and made it 1-0.

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Buoyed by that early goal, West Ham pinned Saints back and forced Fraser Forster (making his first appearance since December 2017) into a smart stop.

Forster then denied Michail Antonio from distance as the Hammers dominated the first half and deservedly led.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Nathan Redmond came on at half time and was in right away but his shot was blocked. And Redmond’s effort from a corner was then blocked as Saints pushed hard for an equalizer.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Lukasz Fabianski then tipped Redmond’s shot over the bar but then West Ham sealed the win. Arthur Masuaku‘s cross was punched out by Forster but the ball rebounded back to Arnautovic who nodded into an empty net to score his and West Ham’s second.

The Hammers took care of the Saints with minimum fuss as Jack Wilshere, on as a sub, flicked the ball into Ryan Fredericks’ path and the right back finished to make it 3-0.

Arnautovic almost wrapped up his hat trick late on but curled just wide, as West Ham eased to victory and Southampton showed how much work Ralph Hasenhuttl has to do over the summer after they survived relegation.

Hasenhuttl masterminds Saints’ survival: Now it gets tough

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Southampton had one win on the board and nine points from their opening 15 games of the season.

They looked certain for relegation. Years of poor decisions in the transfer market had cost them dear. Fans took aim at the new owners and Director of Football Les Reed and Chairman Ralph Krueger (both of whom have left the club this season) for hiring and firing three managers in just over 12 months.

Then Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived for his first taste of English soccer and everything changed. Fans love his enthusiasm on the sidelines and his honesty in interviews created a Jurgen Klopp-esque bond. His first press conference set the tone perfectly. 

The talented but previously unenthused players have ran themselves into the ground and beat the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Wolves and Everton at home, results which were unthinkable earlier in the campaign.

Hasenhuttl’s clear vision led to gritty displays which saw Saints secure their status as a Premier League side on Saturday after their 3-3 draw with Bournemouth.

Now the really, really hard work starts if Saints are to return to being contenders for a top 10 finish rather than what they’ve now become, perennial relegation strugglers.

The former RB Leipzig head coach knows it.

“We will have a few players leaving. In every position we will try to get better next year,” Hasenhuttl said. “We had a very interesting last transfer period – no signings, just giving players away. This summer we will rebuild. We can start planning for next year tomorrow. A bit less stress would be nice [next season], sitting relaxed outside and taking the points we need. The target is to get 40 points earlier than this year.”

That planning for next season should start right now at Southampton.

The Austrian coach didn’t spend any money in the January transfer window, his only window since arriving at the club, and it is unlikely he will be able to spend that much this summer.

Saints are hamstrung by having expensive signings on long-term contracts who they can’t get rid of.

Similar to the likes of Aston Villa and Sunderland before them, who kept their heads just above water season after season before finally being relegated, Saints are stuck with a bloated squad who haven’t proved their worth.

Wesley Hoedt, Sofiane Boufal, Cedric and Guido Carrillo are all out on loan right now and are unlikely to return. Manolo Gabbiadini was sold to Sampdoria in January. Fraser Forster is one of their highest earners but hasn’t played since December 2017. Mohamed Elyounoussi has barely featured. The list goes on and on.

Quite simply, Hasenhuttl will have to live with the legacy of Saints getting it wrong in several transfer windows since Ronald Koeman left in the summer of 2016. Since that summer they’ve spent over $200 million in transfer fees alone, and although the sale of Virgil Van Dijk and others negate those fees, players are on very large wages for a club of Southampton’s size which is run to be sustainable. They should be in that group of teams just outside the top six, not battling against the drop.

Something drastic has to change, and Hasenhuttl is now the right man to lead these decisions as he’s rejuvenated many members of the current squad in just five months.

The best thing Saints can now do is let Hasenhuttl have the huge clear out they need. Deadwood needs to be chopped.

Whatever it costs, they need to take the financial hit and let players leave on loan or for good, and let Hasenhuttl start the 2019-20 campaign with a fresh, hungry squad. The way he has brought out the best in Nathan Redmond, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse among others proves his skill in inspiring players he inherited.

Imagine if he could actually add a handful of players he wants…

This season has to be the wake-up call that Saints should have had last season when they survived relegation with one game to go. And that was largely down to Swansea’s slump rather than a good run of their own.

Saints’ academy is one of the best in the league and that is where a lot of their fresh talent can come from. Hasenhuttl has put faith in youth his entire managerial career and that hasn’t changed since he arrived in the Premier League, with Yan Valery, Michael Obafemi, Josh Sims and Ward-Prowse all becoming regulars under him. There are others waiting to break through too.

Hasenhuttl has been brave by cutting out more experienced players and he and Southampton have been rewarded for that.

Now Southampton, who don’t have a chairman or anyone in charge of the football side of the club long-term since Krueger left, must back Hasenhuttl. Krueger brought Hasenhuttl in, but the Austrian is happy to remain at the club and continue to push on, with a new leader or sporting director needed to get things right behind-the-scenes.

Saints can now start to focus on next season and they have Hasenhuttl to thank for that.

“We had to take a lot of points [after taking over in December]. If you told me after our first game against Cardiff, when we were five points behind them [that Southampton would stay up], it’s amazing,” Hasenhuttl said. “We deserve this. We invested a lot in this time and learned a lot. We showed how beautiful we can play. The next step must be to get more clinical in some situations. Two games before the end to be clear is fantastic for us.”

Season Preview: What should fans expect from Southampton?

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Southampton at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 0 (best finish: 2nd, 1983/84)

FA Cups: 1 (last: 1975/76)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up twice, last 2016/17)

FA Community Shield: 0 (runners-up 1976/77)

[ MORE: 2018-19 PL season preview hub ]  


It is very difficult to gauge what an acceptable season would be this year at Southampton. The Saints finished 8th, 7th, 6th, and 8th four consecutive Premier League seasons before last year’s shock to the system, avoiding relegation by just one place and three points.

So what is the goal this season? Should they target the top 10? Is it simply to stay up? Or can it be both, with the team shooting for a top-half slot but satisfied with safety if they fall short of the former?

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Much of this will take shape as the season trudges along. The squad theoretically has the depth needed to compete at this level, and while this summer’s haul hasn’t exactly jumped off the pages, it’s been enough to plug some big holes. With Mark Hughes at the helm, there are plenty of unknowns headed into 2018-19 with the Premier League’s most mysterious enigma.


Southampton will finish top 10 because…the squad depth is enough to secure results. Every team deals with injuries over the course of a long league season, and Southampton is well-equipped to handle it. With five natural center-backs on the roster and four natural strikers, the team is deep from top to bottom.

Southampton will struggle through a relegation battle because…the squad doesn’t have the star power necessary to make noise. Gone are the days of Sadio Mane, Virgil Van Dijk, Graziano Pelle, Jose Fonte, and the rest of the players who have filtered out after finding steps up. Even Dusan Tadic departed this summer after struggling to maintain his form last year. Hughes will need to figure out his best eleven players soon, or too much tinkering will bring the team down. Hughes’ biggest test will come at the back…three center-backs played over 2,300 minutes last season across all competitions, and the team brought in another in Vestergaard for a high price. Someone will need to step up and earn the right to be deemed a star, or the team may find itself rudderless.

Best possible XI:

—— McCarthy—

Hoedt——Vestergaard——Yoshida——

Soares – Hojbjerg – Romeu – Armstrong – Bertrand

—————Gabbiadini——Austin——————

Transfers In: Jannik Vestergaard ($28.9 million, Borussia Monchengladbach), Mohamed Elyounoussi ($20.8 million, FC Basel), Angus Gunn ($13 million, Manchester City), Stuart Armstrong ($9.2 million, Celtic).

Transfers Out: Dusan Tadic ($13.3 million, Ajax), Florin Gardos (Free, CS Universitatea Craiova), Sofiane Boufal (Loan, Celta Vigo), Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord, Loan).

Ranking their offseason: B-

Bringing in Vestergaard is a solid move, but strengthened a position of strength for Southampton. Elyounoussi hasn’t been great in preseason, so he has work to do to crack the starting lineup. The acquisition of Gunn was a quality move with Fraser Forster likely to leave. The biggest problem with Southampton’s offseason was the sale of Dusan Tadic at the lowest his value’s been maybe in his entire career. The electric playmaker had raided Premier League full-backs for years, but struggled last season. Now, at age 29, Southampton bailed after one bad season. They not only dumped Tadic, but failed to adequately replace him, at least until Elyounoussi proves he can compete on this stage. Still, the Southampton squad didn’t have a ton of holes to fill, and their summer has been at least promising. Saints transfer policy hasn’t been strong in recent years, with the acquisitions of Clasie and Boufal not panning out, with both loaned out this summer.

Star player: This is tough. There’s no true superstar on this roster, and nobody stands out among the rest. That is a positive from the standpoint that no one injury could take down this team, but from a negative, obviously the club will want someone to fill that role. At this point, Ryan Bertrand is probably the closest thing this team has to a star. The likely captain terrorizes opponents down the left flank, and has improved his defensive capabilities. Still, he’s nowhere close to a true “star” and Hughes will need him to step into that role this season.

Coach’s Corner: Nobody more embodies where Southampton stands right now than Mark Hughes. While it’s impossible to figure out just where this Southampton squad fits in the Premier League, so too is it impossible to truly judge how good or bad Mark Hughes is as a manager. He had mixed success in charge of Manchester City, was critical to Fulham’s success before abruptly resigning, failed miserably at QPR, led Stoke City to its best Premier League years ever before inexplicably becoming completely inept, and saved Southampton from relegation. It’s difficult to get a bead on just where Hughes stands in relation to his Premier League compatriots, but this season will be a true test of his abilities.

PST Predicts: This is one of the toughest calls of the entire 2018-19 table. Who knows what Southampton will show up this season? It’s hard to imagine they reach top 10 unless a true star emerges. On that note, a 12-13 finish seems appropriate for a team with few weaknesses but also few strengths. Much depends on how well Mark Hughes does in his first full season at St. Mary’s.

Premier League season reviews: Clubs 20-15

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With the 2017/18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaign for all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: Grades for all 20 PL clubs ]

Below we kick off our season reviews by analyzing the key moments, the star men and how the managers performed for the teams who finished 20th to 15th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Clubs 14-10 | Clubs 9-5 ]

Here we go…


West Bromwich Albion

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Final place: 20th with 31 points (relegated to Championship)
Defining moment: Hiring Alan Pardew and then winning just one of their next 21 PL games.
Biggest victory: Away at Manchester United 1-0 to not only keep their survival hopes alive for a few more games but also hand the PL title to Man City.
Low point: A stretch of eight-straight defeats from February to March when all but ended any hope of survival.
Star man: Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon was a beast up top, scored 10 goals in all competitions and has a $25 million release clause in his contract so we will likely see him in the Premier League next season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Tony Pulis (4/10), Alan Pardew (1/10), Darren Moore (7/10)
Grade for the season: F


Stoke City

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Final place: 19th with 33 points (relegated to Championship)
Defining moment: The worst defensive record in the league, a 7-2 hammering at Man City underlined just how bad this Stoke defense was. Yes, they were playing City, but the way they were dismantled unearthed all of their issues.
Biggest victory: Not many to choose from but it was probably the early season 1-0 win at home against Arsenal as Jese scored the winner. Man, that seems like a long time ago.
Low point: They got ahead several times in games late in the campaign but couldn’t hold onto leads. Specifically the way they crumbled to lose at home to Palace, after leading, stands out. Jack Butland‘s tears will be the enduring image of a sad, sad season.
Star man: There is no way Xherdan Shaqiri will still be at Stoke next season and a big World Cup for the Swiss winger should seal a move elsewhere in the PL or to a top club overseas. He had eight goals and seven assists but couldn’t drag the Potters to safety.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Mark Hughes (3/10), Paul Lambert (2/10)
Grade for the season: F


Swansea City

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Final place: 18th with 33 points (relegated to the Championship)
Defining moment: Following their 4-1 win against West Ham, it seemed as though everyone at Swansea relaxed after their shocking start to the season. The Swans rose to 13th and everything was looking rosy.
Biggest victory: Beating Liverpool at home in January was a huge boost and the Swans were in full flow at that point after Carvalhal’s arrival in late December. They beat Arsenal in the next home game and had a run of four wins in six as they looked almost safe from relegation…
Low point: Losing at home to Southampton in the final week of the season. A draw would’ve probably done the trick but the Swans didn’t show up and all but sealed their fate by losing 1-0.
Star man: Lukasz Fabianski was a machine in goal all season long as the Polish international was in tears on the final day once relegated had been confirmed.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Paul Clement (3/10), Carlos Carvalhal (5/10)
Grade for the season: F


Southampton

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Final place: 17th with 36 points
Defining moment: Beating Bournemouth at home with four games to go reignited hope they could save themselves from relegation. Mark Hughes had liftoff after being put in charge for the final eight games of the season as nobody really gave Saints a chance.
Biggest victory: The win away at Swansea during the final week of the season in what had basically become a relegation playoff. Saints held their nerve and Manolo Gabbiadini‘s late strike all-but secured their safety. The relief on the face of Hughes and his players at the final whistle said it all.
Low point: A run of just one win in 21 games under Mauricio Pellegrino as the club stuck with the Argentine coach as long as they could but the players just never responded to his defensive tactics.
Star man: Alex McCarthy came in midway through the season to replace Fraser Forster in goal and didn’t put a foot wrong as he was crowned Southampton’s player of the season. Dusan Tadic was also big down the stretch with his two goals against Bournemouth crucial.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Mauricio Pellegrino (2/10), Mark Hughes (8/10)
Grade for the season: D


Huddersfield Town

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Final place: 16th with 37 points
Defining moment: Digging deep to draw 0-0 at both Manchester City and Chelsea in the final week of the season to secure their status in the Premier League. Remarkable resolve.
Biggest victory: Beating Manchester United at home early in the season gave David Wagner‘s men plenty of belief that they belonged in the top-flight.
Low point: A run of five-straight defeats in January and early February which saw them slump from midtable into the relegation zone.
Star man: Jonas Lossl must get a shout out for his performances in goal, especially late in the season, but throughout the campaign Aaron Mooy was the man who made the Terriers tick. They missed him badly when he was out injured.
Manager marks out of 10: David Wagner (9/10)
Grade for the season: A


Brighton & Hove Albion

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Final place: 15th with 40 points
Defining moment: Three home wins on the spin in February and March which culminated by beating Arsenal. Chris Hughton‘s side were almost safe from that point on.
Biggest victory: Beating Manchester United at home in the final week of the season to finally secure PL safety.
Low point: Four defeats in five around November/December time which saw the Seagulls drop back into the relegation discussion. That was pretty much it.
Star man: Pascal Gross had a fine season with the German playmaker scoring seven goals and added eight assists, while you have to applaud the defensive duo of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk at the heart of the Seagulls defense.
Manager marks out of 10: Chris Hughton (8/10)
Grade for the season: B+

Shambolic Southampton hurtling towards relegation

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For so long they’ve been the poster boys of how to run a Premier League club.

An academy envied around the globe. A sell high, buy low player recruitment policy which has worked superbly. Overachieving season after season. Plucking managerial gems from overseas to work wonders. Europa League campaigns. Cup runs. Everything they’ve done has gone smoothly with four-straight top eight finishes in the PL table.

Until now. With just one win in their last 18 Premier League games, Southampton are staring relegation in the face in one of the biggest surprises of the current Premier League campaign.

But when you look at Southampton right now, should we be this surprised?

The South Coast club are hurtling towards relegation as their increasingly shambolic season hit a new low on Saturday in the 3-0 defeat at West Ham with players not only looking out of their depth but also showing a distinct lack of desire in a pivotal moment.

With seven games to go Saints occupy the final relegation place and despite everything they’re just two points from safety. They may still get out of this but it will likely be down to the poor form of Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Swansea rather than their own good form in the final months of the season as they face five of the current top nine in their remaining games.

In his first Premier League game in charge of Southampton, Mark Hughes saw his team roll over early on and lose 3-0. It was the second game in a row Southampton had lost 3-0 to direct relegation rivals and they are running out of chances to save themselves from being relegated from the Premier League for just the second time in club history.

On the face of it, their squad has the talent to easily be sitting in midtable but with 13 draws (the most in the PL this season) they’ve often seemed scared to be positive and take the game to their opponents. On paper they should be battling Leicester, Everton and Watford to finish in seventh or eighth place. But something isn’t right. They are a nice team to watch, at times, with plenty of possession and sideways passes but there is not cutting edge, no drive and no real purpose to their play.

Too often it appears that their players are drifting, going through the motions and living off the success of the past few seasons when everyone exclaimed: “What a wonderful season from Southampton. How do they carry on doing this?”

This squad, which has been so hungry for success over the past six years since Saints were promoted back to the Premier League, seem to have suddenly lost their appetite. With long-term contracts dished out to Fraser Forster, Jack Stephens, Ryan Bertrand, Cedric Soares, Oriol Romeu and others, it appears this Saints team are in cruise control as huge deals were handed out mostly as a reward for performances in the past few seasons. The players must take most of the blame.

But the fans and board also have to take their share of their blame. Claude Puel was fired last season amid plenty of fan unrest for finishing in eighth place and reaching a cup final because his team were “too boring” to watch. How costly could that unrest prove?

Nothing changed under Puel’s replacement, Mauricio Pellegrino, who was fired at the start of this month after just five wins in 30 PL games. And nothing appears to be changing quickly under Hughes. You can question the desire of this group, but maybe they aren’t as good as we think. The sacking of two managers on the spin by the board in the expectation that some kind of miracle turnaround will occur must also be questioned.

Quite simply the culture of endlessly selling on their best players for huge profits, then replacing them with young, hungry players from elsewhere in Europe, has come back to bite them. Hard.

Nathan Redmond was supposed to be the direct replacement for Sadio Mane. He hasn’t been anywhere near Mane’s level. Wesley Hoedt came in as Virgil Van Dijk‘s replacement and has since lost his place in the Dutch squad for his shaky displays. Charlie Austin replaced Graziano Pelle but has been injured most of his time at Saints. Victor Wanyama was replaced by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Mario Lemina who were both at fault for the first two goals at West Ham.

When you start to add all of that up, it starts to make sense why Southampton are in the position they’re in. They no longer have a clear playing identity. Their recruitment team have stopped unearthing gems for relative peanuts. Their academy has stopped churning out ready-made internationals a la Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.

Austin, Saints’ top scorer this season with six goals, returned from a three-month injury layoff on Saturday and looked stunned when speaking to the media after the defeat at West Ham.

“It just wasn’t good enough and we got what we deserved,” Austin said. “Seven games left, we’ve got to get out of this hole. We’ve given ourselves a massive mountain to climb now. We’ve got the players to do it but off that performance, we need to improve fast. We need to win and we need to win fast. That is it.”

Austin sounded hollow when he said he believed in this current set of players and the new management team to turn this around.

Saints have Arsenal away, Chelsea at home and Leicester away in their next three Premier League games, with the distraction of an FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea at Wembley on Apr. 22 also looming.

They simply have to cause upsets, just like they used to in the past at their tight, atmospheric home at the Dell. During the 1990s they pulled off great escape after great escape as one of the smallest clubs in the Premier League. Their current manager Hughes was part of some of those Saints teams and he needs to instill some kind of spirit, some kind of togetherness in a squad of international caliber players who seem to think they are too good to be playing in a team battling against relegation.

For Hughes, his first 45 minutes in charge of Saints in the Premier League was a horror show as he admitted the performance “surprised him greatly” given what he had seen in training since he took over.

“It maybe emphasized some of the problems the team has had of late in this season. We’re going to have to turn it around very quickly,” Hughes said. “We are running out of games. There has to be an understanding that we are in trouble here and we need to turn it around quickly.”

Among the players there doesn’t seem to be an understanding, or a realization, of the deep trouble they are in. Only games against Bournemouth and Swansea in their final seven outings represent realistic chances to gain points to save themselves.

The last time Southampton were relegated from the Premier League, in 2005, they spiraled into financial meltdown and almost went bust as they ended up at the bottom of the third tier on -10 points and were saved by a Swiss billionaire at the last moment. Their fall won’t be as dramatic this time around but these players don’t seem to have grasped the severity of the situation they’re in.

Under Chinese ownership since the start of this season, the Gao Family will not have expected to have bought 80 percent of Southampton for $294 million and see them struggling in the relegation zone.

Nobody did. And especially not the players. Not even now.

That is the biggest problem of them all and one that you can’t see Saints solving in the next seven games.

Southampton’s shambolic season has reached the pivotal juncture. It is now sink or swim time.

Right now you’d bet your mortgage on Saints sinking like a stone towards the second tier.