Southampton are still winless after three games into the 2018/19 Premier League season.
After an uninspiring 0-0 draw to Burnley followed by a 2-1 defeat away at Everton, Saints fans were hoping to see an improvement as former Southampton manager Claude Puel rolled into town with his Leicester City side.
Saints did play well... For the first half at least. It appears some Southampton players took the midweek words from Mark Hughes too literally when he said he wanted a positive start to the game.
Unfortunately for us, Saints capitulated in classic style after Ryan Bertrand helped Saints take the lead with a thumping drive. Leicester’s Demarai Gray equalised almost instantly, before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg got himself sent off for a shameless dive and England’s giant-headed hero Harry Maguire netted in the dying minutes to send Foxes fans into delirium.
As you can probably tell, there were plenty of talking points coming from Saturday’s game, so we dove into social media to see how Southampton fans reacted to them.
Mark Hughes bought plenty of time and goodwill after helping Saints escape near-certain relegation from the league last season. However, there are signs some Southampton fans are starting to question the Welshman’s methods and tactics.
It’s clear this Southampton squad has long had plenty of issues, and while it’s still early days into this 2018/19 campaign, those issues may still be left unaddressed and we all know the buck stops with the manager in modern football - regardless of whether that’s fair or not.
Here’s what you had to say. You’ll be surprised to hear Southampton fans are divided as ever:
I love Mark Hughes for saving us, we were dead & buried before he came in but 1 point in 3 games is shocking, 2 wins in 11 is not good enough.— Josh Richards (@JoshR1988) August 25, 2018
We have not even played "hard games this season"
Worrying times #SaintsFC
Will be an interesting seven days for #saintsfc. Mark Hughes deserves shot to right the ship, but after last season, the board needs to have a short rope. Can't afford another relegation battle.— Robert Molnar (@LWOSRobMolnar) August 25, 2018
Still yet to see a game plan from Mark Hughes this season. #saintsfc— Luke Osman (@LukeOsmanRS) August 25, 2018
People going for Mark Hughes already. Embarrassing. #SaintsFC— Saint Anon (@saint_anon) August 25, 2018
Unpopular opinion, I don’t blame Hughes. We played well, created chances and got ourselves into a position to potentially win the game. Individual errors cost us. We are playing better than last season despite the scores mirroring it..— ♥ (@MissYjw1) August 25, 2018
Gotta have the faith! #saintsfc
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and his shocking dive
PEH played great in the first half, staking his claim to be the starting central midfielder alongside Mario Lemina.
But then he went and dived in the penalty area at 1-1 with little over 10 minutes remaining. Already booked, the Danish international was given a second yellow and was duly sent off.
Here’s what Saints fans had to say about him and this time around they are much more united in their views:
Just seen the Hojbjerg dive again and it is an absolute disgrace. No place for diving in football. Thought he was much better than that if I'm honest #saintsfc— Harry (@ffsHaarry) August 25, 2018
Love going to watch #SaintsFC with my daughter, but now explaining cheating to her. I’d make Hojbjerg explain himself to the media, and justify his dive. Embarrassing and unacceptable, not what I want from my team.— Neil Langridge (@subirony) August 25, 2018
Typical, Hojbjerg was great all game and a stupid dive ruined it all, disgraceful #SaintsFC— Lee Myres (@leemyersSfc) August 25, 2018
Shane Long, Wesley Hoedt, and Mark Hughes’ player selection
When it was announced that Shane Long was due to start on Saturday against Leicester, many fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure. Though, in my opinion, Long didn’t play badly and was one of the reasons why Saints looked good in the first half.
The selection of Wesley Hoedt is being similarly questioned these days.
Here is what you had to say and, again, opinion is split:
Wesley Hoedt has nudes of Mark Hughes,pass it on #Saintsfc— Luke Fletcher (@Superfletch81) August 25, 2018
Shane Long-he is literally playing because he’s fast & runs around a lot-unreal this day & age that in itself gets you a game for a team in the richest league in the world.Our best finisher is still Gabbiadini- yet long starts with a worse strike rate then Emile heskey #saintsfc— Ian Brown (@harrydunn999) August 26, 2018
Ings and Long worked. Redmond took the ball and ran with it. Lemina excellent. PEH was doing great and then has ultimately cost us. Real shame. Lacking individual and team game management #saintsfc— Matt James (@mattjamesy) August 25, 2018
Takeaway from today’s #saintsfc game. Hoedt is fucking awful. Ings looks an inspired signing. Hojberg needs to not cheat. And Moss is a terrible ref— Kevin Mar (@kevmarmol) August 25, 2018
I’m going to be controversial here but I don’t think Hoedt did a lot wrong today.— As you were..... (@dill3nger) August 25, 2018
But that doesn’t fit with the current rhetoric on social media does it.
If Hoedt is the answer, what, pray tell, is the question? He is nowhere near good enough for this level. Time to cut our losses and accept it. #saintsfc— Christ Rann (@crstig) August 25, 2018
Mark Hughes’ player selection continued...
Beyond the selection of particular players, many fans are questioning what certain players - ie Manolo Gabbiadini and Maya Yoshida - have done wrong to be omitted from Hughes’ Saints side altogether.
No Gabbi or yoshida In squad. No Armstrong in starting line up .... hmmm #SaintsFC— SaintsFC Fan (@Saints_Fan_COYR) August 25, 2018
Hughes has absolutely no idea what his best team is. Spent all preseason playing three at the back, now binned it off. Armstrong and Gabbiadini both looked sharp, not getting a sniff. Not impressed. #saintsfc— Andrew Davis (@andydavis1978) August 25, 2018
Has Gabbiadini been caught banging Les Reeds wife or something ?? what does he need to do to get a game #saintsfc— Jamie pang (@jamiepang) August 25, 2018
It’s still early days.
Yes, the argument can be made that the three opponents faced by Southampton have been fairly poor so far and we’ve only got a point to show for it. But, Saints have shown they can play some nice football in the odd half of a match.
If Hughes can get a full 90 minutes of performance from these players, we may be onto something good this season, albeit my version of “good” is just to stay well clear of the relegation zone for now.
It’s important us Saints fans avoid the toxicity of last season, but to also remain realistic. If the writing’s clearly on the wall of another relegation scrap in five games’ time, maybe it’s time to panic then. If the outlook is more positive by that time, rein in expectations and just enjoy some stress-free football for the first time in over a year.