Southampton Weekly Rondo: Return of the Che-di, Dropped Points Again, and the South Coast Derby

Welcome to the 2nd edition of the Southampton Weekly Rondo -- where we discuss the past 7 days of the biggest club on the South Coast. We will briefly recap the week, then analyze what happened, and predict how the Saints will move forward. If you enjoy -- we march on next week!
Watford v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship
Watford v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship / Richard Pelham/GettyImages

Ah the beauty and cruelty of football. Amidst all the love and joy 90 minutes on a pitch can evoke, all it takes is one moment, one swing of a leg, to break a heart. And even amidst one of the best runs in recent years (for both the Southampton men's and women's teams), Saints fans left Vicarage Road Saturday with hearts broken, and more points dropped.

The 1-1 draw against Watford left Southampton's unbeaten streak intact at 12 games. It gave the Saints a point away from home against a good side on a nice run of their own. But most importantly, it left Southampton players, fans, and manager, smarting. As against Huddersfield and Rotherham, the Saints failed to get a 2nd goal, and the price to pay was two points. With promotion rivals Leicester, Leeds, and Ipswich all winning at the weekend, that leaves Southampton in 4th place, 3 points behind Leeds in 3rd, and a whopping 10 off Ipswich in 2nd.

And thus the question begs to be asked: is automatic promotion still a realistic goal for Saints? To skip to the answer, in my opinion yes, top 2 is still within reach. But Russell Martin and his men will have to fix some recurring issues if they are to reach this particular mountaintop. And what else is the Southampton Weekly Rondo for but to gripe about our favorite team? Without further ado, lets get right into the last 7 days for Southampton Football Club.

1. Ché Adams was at his very best against Watford.

Che Adams celebrates his goal vs Watford
Watford v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship / Richard Pelham/GettyImages

This isn't the first time Ché Adams headlines a Weekly Rondo, nor will it be the last. But for the first time in a while, he has earned himself some praise. We saw the best of Ché Adams on Saturday: constantly dropping deep to link up play, leading the Southampton press, and being the all important outlet ball when Watford chose to press up the pitch. And the finish for his goal was much more difficult than it seemed. A nifty reverse of the ball from right to left using his chest completely fooled both the Watford defense and goalkeeper, allowing him to coolly slot home down the center of the goal.

This was one of Ché's best games of the season, and it was sorely needed for him to find some form, as the fixtures are only getting more congested. Some have pointed out that Adams' best performances have come in the leadup to transfer windows, insinuating that he is playing for a move. Whether or not this is the case, the Saints will need to rely on Ché for the immediate future, as Ross Stewart is not close to fitness, and another Southampton striker could be on the way out.

Next. Che . It's Time to Make a Decision on Che Adams. dark

2. Sékou Mara got another chance and didn't take it.

Sekou Mara
Nottingham Forest v Southampton FC - Premier League / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

That mystery striker is Sékou Mara. The French U21 international had another lackluster cameo against Watford, failing to impress. On one hand, you can sympathize with Mara. It is very difficult to establish yourself playing as few minutes as he has this season (10 appearances, 1 start, 205 minutes). But on the other, when he does come on, he often looks invisible, and Saturday was no exception. As soon as Mara replaced Ché Adams, the ball stopped sticking up front, and Saints were immediately hemmed in their own area. Mara could not replicate Adams' knockdowns, link up passes, and pressing up front, and it showed. There have been reports throughout the week that clubs in Ligue 1 have been enquiring about the Frenchman's services, and given his lack of development at St. Mary's, an exit could be beneficial for both sides.

3. Where is Jack Stephens going to play?

Jack Stephens
Sheffield Wednesday v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Captain Jack Stephens made his return to the bench Saturday, but didn't see the pitch. And with center backs Jan Bednarek and Taylor Harwood-Bellis having formed a formidable partnership, it is hard to see where Stephens fits in. In fact, the only time Russell Martin has split up Janny B and THB in recent weeks was when the former was suspended for yellow card accumulation. Captain Jack likely surpasses loanee Mason Holgate by default, but another path onto the pitch beckons for him, if he is willing to take it.

4. Southampton have a hole in midfield

Flynn Downes
Southampton FC v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship / Robin Jones/GettyImages

That hole is in midfield. I am going to toot my own horn just a little bit here, but a few weeks ago I wrote "The issue with [central defensive midfield] — depth. The Saints are a Flynn Downes injury away from a crisis. While Will Smallbone could play here in a pinch, the other midfielders on the roster are not exactly defensive stalwarts". And lo and behold, with Flynn Downes unavailable against Watford due to illness, the Saints depth issues started to take hold.

Without Downes, Shea Charles had to step up and be the only true defensive midfielder on the gameday squad. And for 60 some odd minutes, that wasn't an issue. But after Southampton went up 1-0, and Watford started to press for an equalizer, the lack of depth was apparent. Charles was not only visibly tiring, but was on a booking, so could not be aggressive in the tackle to break up play. This led to Southampton's midfield being overrun towards the end of the game, and there were no changes for Russell Martin to make. While Will Smallbone was on the bench, he was returning from injury and also not a truly defensive player.

Jack Stephens is a center back by trade, but has played midfield for Southampton in the past. Could he sidestep the logjam in his natural position and emerge as a defensive midfielder for Saints? Southampton have had notable issues defensively killing off games, and this might be the best option for him and the team going forward.

5. The South Coast still is, and will always be, red.

Katie Wilkinson
Southampton F.C. v Arsenal Women - FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup / Robin Jones/GettyImages

If you haven't been following the Southampton Women's team, I highly recommend tuning in. Like the men's team, they are also pushing for promotion from the Championship to the Women's Super League (one point off the automatic promotion spot). They're also showing strong performances against Super League teams in the Conti Cup. And most importantly, they knocked Portsmouth out of the FA Cup behind a powerful headed winner from Jemma Purfield. A 2-1 victory at Westleigh Park means that both the men and women have gone into Pompey and won in recent years. Up the Saints.