Saints alive! Adkins silences his critics
Another weekend in the Premier League and a few more high-scoring games, with Southampton making an outstanding comeback to defeat Aston Villa 4-1. It’s been a tough start for Nigel Adkins and his team but let’s not forget that the opening few weeks of the season have not been kind to them just as they are trying to find their feet at the top table again.
Away matches against Manchester City and Arsenal and the home fixture against Manchester United is certainly one of the roughest starts they could have had. There was the disappointing result against Wigan at home, of course, when they lost 2-0. Adkins, I’m sure, will have told his team after yesterday that their season begins now.
I had a similar situation a few seasons ago. Not that we were a newly promoted team; more that we were one of seven or eight teams that could be relegated. We had a tough start but the one thing the manager kept drilling into us was to make sure that we beat the teams that were going to be in our mini-league. Those that would be embroiled in the scrap for safety.
Yes, it would be great to get points off the big boys, but they were just bonuses. We did OK against the big teams but, when it mattered, we more often than not would beat the teams around us and that enabled us to escape the drop that particular season. I have the theory that to stay up, come the second half of the season, you should always have more points than games played. If that’s the case, the likelihood of staying up is great unless there is a freak points tally that season.
Adkins has done a fantastic job to get the Saints back into the big time and, for that, he deserves great credit. It was disgusting to see in the papers that he was supposedly under pressure after a handful of games. He has gained back-to-back promotions and has got a great squad together and it’s absolutely absurd that his job security was being questioned. If he keeps them up, he should be congratulated because, for Southampton, that would be like United regaining the title.
United gained another smash-and-grab victory, 2-1, at Anfield, similar to that which they have done at many grounds over the years. That’s why they are continuously challenging for honours. When they play badly, which they did yesterday, they still know how to grind out results. I remember the game at Tottenham in September 2001, when they were 3-0 down at half time and came back to win 5-3. It’s not just luck, it’s a habit that they have created. A winning habit that will see them recapture the title this season.
Brendan Rodgers has a huge task on his hands to deliver the goods at Liverpool. They are struggling to score and cannot keep a clean sheet. That doesn’t bode well. They are not capitalising on their good patches during a game and if Luis Suarez were to miss any matches, then who would fill that void?
Manchester City have had a stuttering start as well, with impressive Arsenal very unfortunate not to have taken all the points from the Etihad Stadium. Since the departures over the past year or so of the likes of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, it seems to have given the Gunners more freedom.
Van Persie, Fabregas and plenty more have had the burden of no silverware for many seasons and the pressure intensified as each year went by. Now, to a certain extent, Arsenal have been written off by many this season – me included – but I may have to back track on that.
The new players who have come in are able to play with a freedom that past players have not been granted. This is due to lack of expectancy nowadays and maybe they could just sneak in the back door and challenge for the title. Mikel Arteta has really come to the party and Abou Diaby is now the player that everyone thought he was going to be. It’s going to be even tighter at the top than I originally thought.