Southampton: Club must help players overcome psychological barriers

After the record-breaking 9-0 trouncing at home to Leicester City, we thought that Southampton couldn’t get any worse. But in a way, they have.

Small shoots of recovery were seen with two battling performances at Manchester City, but the gloom and doom returned when Saints fell to a costly 2-1 loss to Everton last time out.

As Ralph Hasenhuttl and his team hit a run a games that could save their season, they are almost back to square one again.

But why is this?

The problem this campaign has been their atrocious home form, but there seems to be a reason behind it that could be the source of the problem.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 25: The Corner flag is seen prior to the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Leicester City at St Mary’s Stadium on October 25, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Many of the Saints players look scared to be playing in front of their home crowd – which was particularly evident when many of them froze and hid during the Everton game.

Once Tom Davies had put the Toffees 1-0 up after just seven minutes, the first-half became a stroll in the park for them.

The Saints defence was left knocking the ball back-and-forth, back-and-forth – no options to pass into midfield and an eventual hopefully lofted ball up towards small forwards with no chance of winning aerial duels.

Maybe this was partly due to Everton pressing well and Saints’ formation not working, but we also saw central-midfielders not wanting to get on the ball and some defenders afraid to snap a pass through the lines.

Those most capable of creating in attack were, therefore, hopelessly isolated.

With only one home point from six games at St Mary’s, it’s time for the club to start dealing with what is happening.

Consult the players and see what is causing their anxieties – if it’s the home atmosphere, make the most vocal Northam end a bank of noise and all Saints fans; something regularly seen in the Bundesliga, where atmospheres are regarded as very good.

If it’s just a belief problem, bring in professional help. But don’t just let the problem get worse, act on it.

Failure to act in the past has been seen with the goalkeeper situation. Fraser Forster, then Alex McCarthy and now Angus Gunn all dropped out of the side after loss of confidence and performance.

Leadership on the pitch is also a real issue with this current Saints team. Heads dropped further after every goal conceded against Leicester/Everton and no one in red and white seemed to be rallying the troops.

In the past, we’ve had the likes of Fonte, van-Dijk, Lambert, Lallana and Hooiveld – all of whom got a reaction from their teammates when standards dropped. Even the likes of Steven Davis and Graziano Pelle were vital in leading by example.

Look around this current group though and there’s nowhere near enough, and this must be targeted during upcoming transfer windows.

What was also clear against Everton is that the players with most self-belief must be a mainstay in this team.

Sofiane Boufal changed the game after half-time, whilst Moussa Djenepo is a refreshing sight on the opposite flank. Danny Ings backs himself in front of goal, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg won’t back down in midfield and Jack Stephens looks hungry to take his chance in the side currently.

Saints as a club are having to recover from a number of things all at the same time. But it’s vital that issues are looked at as a group.

The fact that everything is kept quiet will be frustrating to the fans, but they will know when things are back on track once their team starts performing again.

The response will be positive once they have a club they can be proud of once again.

Next: Loan watch: Fraser Forster at Celtic
Load Comments