28/09/2015: September 2015 Round-Up
It's still difficult to work out quite where Saints are going this season, but recently things have looked slightly more positive than they did a few weeks ago. We actually looked like a proper team against Swansea and in spells against Manchester United. The team played like a bunch of strangers for much of August. It was hard to discern what Ronald Koeman's game plan was against Newcastle and Everton. The team looked bereft of tactical nous and appeared to be completely disorganised in the aforementioned fixtures. At Watford and West Brom Saints were far too negative, and the less said about Midtylland the better. More recently the intensity has improved and the front players have linked-up well. Koeman still has to sort out Saints' abysmal away form, though. MK Dons aside, and to a lesser extent Vitesse Arnhem, the team hasn't put in a good showing on the road since March 15th at Chelsea.
Recently reports emerged that Koeman had been offered a new contract. The man himself said it was far too early to discuss extending his stay, and I'm inclined to agree. Realistically he's unlikely to be on the shortlist of too many clubs a lot higher up the food chain than us. If he does fancy a new job - like the Dutch national team - he's going to go regardless. With that in mind it seems unnecessary to commit beyond 2017, when his current contract expires. If he's still doing the business midway through next season, that's the time to start talking. Koeman did a great job last season, but who's to say whether he'll be able to keep it up? He could easily go completely stale in a years' time (some might argue he's already heading that way). As with Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino in January 2013 there may come a time where his stay at Southampton just runs its course and better managers become available to take us in the direction we want to go. Extending his stay would only make it more difficult to shift him if we needed to. This isn't Koeman specific, offering managers long term contracts in general is not the way to go in my opinion. There are so many variables in play, that it's almost impossible to predict how successful they will be in the long term. Most only have a limited shelf life, and our recent history tells us that unexpected or unwelcome changes can work out for the best as long as the rest of the club is being run sufficiently.
It was a shame to see Luke Shaw go down with a broken leg in Eindhoven a few weeks ago. The former Saint was just starting to get his act together after a stop-start first season at Old Trafford. Shaw heeded Louis van Gaal's advice about his fitness and even took a personal trainer with him on holiday this summer. He was arguably United's best player during the first month of the season, which makes the timing of this injury even more frustrating than it already would have been. It's weird how Shaw's success at St Mary's was kind of forgotten last season. Ryan Bertrand came in and did such a good job, that many disregarded what Shaw did in his two years as a first teamer. The guy performed to a consistently high standard every week at St Mary's and was a lot more influential for the team than he was often given credit for. It's extremely rare to see players even featuring at all at the age of 17, but Shaw looked completely at ease against the very best.
Paulo Gazzaniga signed a contract extension until 2019 on September 11th. His previous deal was due to expire at the end of this season. At 23 he is still fairly young for a keeper, so there must still be some hope that he can improve to the point of at least being a capable backup player. Prior to joining from Gillingham in 2012 Gazzaniga had been tracked by several big Premier League clubs. In Michael Calvin's book on football scouts 'The Nowhere Men' The Argentinian stopper received glowing references from several talent spotters who watched him at Priestfield. During his first three seasons at St Mary's he has proven to be a good shot stopper on occasions and his distribution is usually decent too. Unfortunately he also makes big mistakes far too often. He cost the U21s two points against Manchester City back in August with an error in stoppage time. Hopefully he'll cut those out with a bit more experience. It's a shame he didn't get a runout against MK Dons. There really was no reason to play Maarten Stekelenburg given the opposition. The Dutchman has been fairly average so far. While he hasn't dropped any major clangers, I'm struggling to remember him pulling off too many difficult saves.
A big pet peeve of mine is Saints fans chanting 'Bale' at opposition players they think have dived. This is nonsensical on so many levels. It all started when Arsenal did it to a couple of our players during the 1-1 draw at St Mary's on January 1st 2013. The whole point of it was to take a shot at Gareth Bale, who was playing for the enemy. It doesn't really work when we do it though. Those Saints fans who chant it are probably the same ones who talk about how proud they are when Bale is banging in wonder goals for Real Madrid. You can guarantee that if Saints had made the Champions League this season and drawn Real, Bale would have received a standing ovation at St Mary's. The chant doesn't exactly denigrate the offending player either. What an insult it must be to be compared to one of the best players in the world. The idea that Bale is a diver too comes from an oddly specific series of incidents about four years ago. Most opposition fans must wonder what the hell we're on about. Our songbook isn't the most original at the best of times, but the Bale chants make me cringe more than any other.
Maybe I'm being oversensitive here, but I didn't quite like the dig at Emmanuel Mayuka on the official website story announcing his departure to FC Metz. The piece ran to just 58 words and openly called the Zambian 'unsuccessful' without even wishing the player well for the future. While it's true that Mayuka didn't really live up to expectations, it still seemed unnecessarily classless. Saphir Taider was afforded similar treatment after Saints cut his loan spell short last August.