Boro v Southampton
Diasboro is a Boro blog and, of course, most of the comments are about Boro and what is going well or badly. Thus, there is a broad range of high-level comments covering every aspect of the team. Above all, there are always plenty of comments posted on the most recent matches and the state of the team (frankly, pretty shoddy at the moment). In writing this introduction to the Southampton game. I don’t think that it is worthwhile for me to cover this same ground. I will add some notes at the end that reflect Southampton’s midweek game against Ipswich and our game against Sheff Wed ad will take a quick look forward but, primarily, I’m going to use this intro to take a look at our opponents and try and find something interesting about Southampton to bring to everyone’s attention.
Every club in the Championship has its own story and it is not always the most obvious one. At first glance, Southampton’s story is that of a Premier League side getting relegated and starting the process of getting themselves back up into the top tier. However, Southampton have not set about this in the usual way and I reckon that, at least for the moment, Southampton is as much an interesting financial story as it is a football story and, specifically, a story of how they approach the transfer market.
I am going to go back fifteen months and start with their transfers relating to 2022/2023. All of the data comes from Transkermaarkt and so I apologise for the numbers being in Euros. (current rate is 1 Euro equals 86 pence). Alternatively, I can claim that it is in honour of Werdermouth and our Spanish and any other EU bloggers.
In mid-2022, they brought in 15 players including one loan transfer. The fourteen players cost them 152.1 million Euros. Included in the fourteen full transfers were 7 players aged 20 and under. Even more interesting is the fact that 6 of the 7 most expensive incoming transfers were in the group of 20 and under players and represented Eu 97.41 million. These six players were
Kamaldeen Sulemana 25.00 million aged 20
Romeo Lavia 22.26 million 18
Gavin Bazunu 14.00 million 20
Carlos Alcaraz 13.65 million 20
Sekou Mara 11.50 million 19
Armel Bella-Kotchap 11.00 million 20
Two of these players, Lavia and Bazunu, came from Man City and they bought two other young players from City aged 19 and 18 for Eu 8 million and Eu 7 million respectively. Their total of purchases from Man City was just over Eu 50 million. They seem to be Man City’s preferred offload partner for young players who haven’t made the City grade. Is their something going on here, particularly considering the sale of Lavia one year later.
On the other side of the ledger, they only moved on 6 players and of these only one attracted a fee; Oriel Romeu sold for Eu 5.50 million.
This net expenditure of Eu 150 million was seen as a huge punt on youth for their future and a big risk and, whilst it is was done at a much more expensive level, reminds me quite a lot of MFC’s approach this year to rebuilding their squad. Unfortunately, we know what happened. Southampton’s season went downhill and they were relegated. Let’s hope that it’s not an omen for MFC.
So having created a new younger squad, how did relegated Southampton approach the task of setting themselves up for the current season in the Championship. They sold players as if there was no tomorrow. The recent transfer window saw Southampton move on 18 players for a total value of 181.84 million Euros
There were permanent departures of 10 players including two ‘undisclosed’ sales. One of these was a small sale to Bolton. The other deal, however, was the sale of Ibrahim Diallo to Al-Duhail SC in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is rated by Transfermaarkt at Eu 7 million and one can assume that Southampton cashed in for at least something close to this amount if not a lot more.
Anyway, for the 10 permanent sales – excluding any amount for Diallo – Southampton were able to cash in to the tune of 178.3 million Euros with five of them being major transfers (>Eu 10 million)
Romeo Lavia Eu 62.10 million
Tino Livramento Eu 37.20 million
James Ward-Prouse Eu 34.80 million
Nathan Tella Eu 23.30 million
Mohammed Salisu Eu 15.00 million.
It is not that surprising that a relegated club will choose to cash in on some Premier League level players. Everyone was just waiting for the hammer to fall on JW-P but for me the most surprising thing was that four of these expensive departures are 24 or younger. In fact, the two most expensive departures, Lavia and Livramento, are aged just 19 and 20 respectively. Diallo is also only 24 and so they clearly are very comfortable in selling top quality young players. This really surprised me but at that point I had not looked at their transfer activity from the year before. It turns out that they had already bought in a batch of even younger players. Is this flow of young players in and out part of their basic financial trading structure?
I appreciate that it may all be a one-off. Maybe they had no intention of selling Livramento or Lavia but just could not turn down the crazy amounts that they were offered. I don’t know. I also have to admire any recruitment team who paid Eu22 million for an 18 year old and were able to make a Eu 40 million profit in just twelve months. I wonder what Man City made of it. Did they get a piece?
One slightly odd aspect of this past summer’s deals at Southampton relates to two young defenders Armel Bella-Kotchap and Taylor Harwood-Bellis. As I listed above, they bought AB-K for Eu 11 million in 2022. He played 26 times for Southampton in the EPL and cup competitions. That makes him a reasonably regular player. To my surprise, Southampton have loaned him out this season to PSV Eindhoven for a loan fee of Eu 2 million and replaced him with TH-B – another young player also aged 21 – on loan from Manchester City. Am I wrong in finding this to be a bit strange?
Having sold so many players, they needed replacements and they brought in 9 players who, with a couple of exceptions, are reasonably experienced Championship players. Most carried low or no transfer fees. Amongst them, Ryan Manning, Flynn Downes and Ryan Fraser are free transfers or loan players that Boro looked at but, presumably, could not match the wages. Another incoming player is Ross Stewart who joined them for Eu 9.3 million, a fee that we could not or chose not to match.
On top of these older players, they continued their kidsmart trading with Manchester City. In addition to the above-mentioned TH-B coming in on loan, they spent Eu 12.5 million on Shea Charles, a 19-year-old. I don’t know much about him but I wonder if this is their next ‘big sale’ for a huge profit? Finally, let’s not forget that on top of this massive sell-off, they have their parachute payments to keep them even more buoyant. Was this always their plan?
Anyway, whilst all this transfer activity was going on, Southampton headed off in a new direction with Russell Martin coming in as manager and we will have to see how his extreme passing style fits with their transfer activity. They have certainly kept or brought in some good players and, personally, I’m glad that Ross Stewart is unfit because a front line of Adam Armstrong, Che Adams and Ross Sewart could make a mess of our defence…….or lack of defence!
I’ll finish off with some actual football. Have Southampton been successful so far this season? Well, after four games, the answer would have been yes. They had taken 10 points out of 12 and were looking strong. They then went to Sunderland and were smashed 5-0. Sunderland simply over-ran their passing game? They pressed them high and played the whole match at a tempo that Southampton could not match. Maybe it was an extreme case of sibling rivalry with big brother Tony Mowbray putting one over his younger brother Darren, head of recruitment at Southampton.
This could have been a one-off but last Friday Southampton opened the next round of matches with a home game against Leicester. The pattern was repeated as Leicester romped to a 4-1 win. Leicester played at a high tempo with a high press and over-ran Southampton.
Finally, last night (Tuesday) they played Ipswich at home and again lost but just 1-0 this time. I haven’t read much about it yet but there seem to be different interpretations of how much Ipswich were in control. Anyway, Russell Martin gave an interesting quote after this third defeat in a row
"As a group there's still so much scar tissue from last season especially here, especially at St Mary's and I just said to them unfortunately at the moment our season is being defined by how we respond to disappointments and in those moments they need to be braver than ever. The only way we'll get through is by living moments like that and learning. We're giving teams a goal start at the minute and it makes it so difficult."
I could imagine Michael Carrick saying something very similar.
At this point, (after seven games) Southampton are still in the top half of the table but have conceded the most goals (17) of any team in the Championship. Next in line is Boro with 14.
What does this say for Saturday’s match. Well, I stayed up to 2.00 am to watch the Blackburn game live on MFC Digital and for me it was very much a game of two parts. For the first 50 minutes, we were pedestrian, trying to slowly pass our way through Blackburn. We got nowhere and were ripped apart as they passed their way through us. After the second goal and Crooks’ lucky reply, we suddenly increased the tempo and terrified Blackburn. We could have scored five goals in the thirty minutes but managed to miss them all. It is true that we could also have given away three or four goals and have Dieng to thank for a string of saves. Where did this energy come from? Well, bringing on McGree was certainly a big part but everyone was suddenly driving forward.
I then got up at 4.45am this morning to watch the Sheff Wed game. I really should have stayed in bed for the first half. We were awful. Then, hey presto, we were quite good in the second half but could not score more than a single goal; Lenihan from a corner. Two firsts!!
Our defence looked a bit better but that may well have been down to the poor attack that they were facing. Engel was roasted at left-back and Wednesday were still able on occasions to play through our midfield.
We need a holding midfield player to protect the defence. I also think that, as soon as Clarke is available as a genuine left-sided central defender, MC should consider going three at the back. That combined with the holding midfielder or maybe a two man pivot should shore up the defence. Jones can be right wing-back and Bangura or another left sided player can play on the left. Then, if we can just play a decent first half of up-tempo football through Hackney and McGree and our wide players, we can start to turn things round. If not, this could be a long season.
My hope - guess is a bit strong - is a 2-0 win for Boro as our season finally gets going.
An excellent and thought provoking opener Selwyn, congratulations.
You certainly could start to read something fishy going on between the Saints and Citeh, but of course we need to be careful in coming to conclusions when we only get to see the surface evidence. Regardless, it would appear that Soton is financially solvent now and into the future.
However, it is the football that is concerning me just now. As you have picked up, the way to beat this Southampton team is a high press and a high tempo, neither of which appear to be in MC's reference library.
Last season under MC we did show that we can play at a very high tempo with slick and rapid movement of the ball (if not in the players themselves !) Towards the latter stages of the season though, our fast passing game was also found out and we struggled against an aggressive high press, regardless of who the opposition was. For this season after losing our premiership-class loanees as well as the one-season wonder we have lost the ability to move the ball so quickly and certainly not so accurately. We play at a pedestrian pace, occasionally showing glimpses of that old rapid ball movement, but never for really prolonged periods and nowhere nearly for an entire half, let alone a full game. We are predictable for any team that we come up against. We complain about our weak defence, but as that old adage has it, the best form of defence is attack. Neither the midfield nor our offensive players attack the ball when the opposition has it (I'll call out a notable exception for Josh Coburn here) making it far to easy for our defence to come under pressure. There is negligent movement in the midfield and forward positions when our defence has the ball and is trying to play it out, so they look pedestrian and come under pressure as the opposition sense the problem our defence has in moving that ball forward quickly.
I am not privy to what takes place on the training pitch, but this rapid ball movement and players getting to know and trust each other and where they will be is something that should be being honed to perfection in training. Whatever is being done on the training pitch, it certainly doesn't appear to be helping in competitive games, or (perish the thought) it is helping in competitive games and so think just how bad we might be otherwise!
So, as it stands, I fully expect we will still be rooted to the foot of the table on Saturday evening and we will be lucky if Southampton don't get those recent high scores against them out of the system and instead find our net on multiple occasions. We don't know what team MC will put out.
Hopefully there is no Silvera and No Engel. Jones must surely start. Is Dijlksteel injured? ---- if not let us put him in at left back (I know he is right footed, but he looks safer than Engel and better moving us forward than Berg. Put Berg in the centre to make a back three with McNair and Lenihan, with Smith ( I know I am critical of him, but he is all we have) on the right. O'Brien and Hackney in the middle with Jones and McGree wide and carry on with Josh Coburn up top.
I don't expect the lineup t o be any thing like that and that we will come out like a team of snails and find ourselves two goals down by half time.
I really am expecting Southampton to put us to the sword, so 3-0 optimistically, but 4-0 is my prediction.
Thanks for that Opener, @Selwynoz. Good stuff. Making a profit of some 40M Euros in one season on a player bought at the age of 18 years is clearly more than just very good business. Obviously Southampton had a bad season on the pitch but, bearing in mind the volume of sales and the amounts involved, I am sure the owners and the club's accountants will have a smile on their faces. And, as you say, Southampton also has the benefit of the Parachute payments for 3 (?) years to come. The club will certainly be solvent and in a position to blow clubs like Middlesbrough out of the water when it comes to the transfer market and wages to offer to prospective purchased players, in Southampton's effort to bounce back into the Premier League.
The form of Southampton is clearly weird. A really excellent start but a less than good recent three games. To be fair to Southampton, those three games were against Sunderland (a) and Leicester (h) and Ipswich (h) but all three of those opposing clubs are well placed at the top, or near, of the league. They are all, including Southampton, rather better placed than either Boro or Boro's opponents last night, the mighty Sheffield Wednesday. Unless there is a massive improvement in Boro's performance, I suspect your 2-0 predicted Boro win at home to Southampton relies a lot more heavily on hope than expectation. It would be wonderful, of course, but it would also be unexpected.
@Powmill-Naemore might be nearer the mark with his predicted 3 or 4-0 win to Southampton, which seems more likely. He is right about the benefits of playing a tight press against Southampton but whether we have the players/speed/ability to do that (even if the need were to be identified by the coaching staff) is another issue entirely.
Maybe we will all be amazed on Saturday by a slick, athletic performance by Boro where the players reveal their talent and things go right on the field, with the home fans leaving the Riverside happy and enthusiastic and eager for the next game. Maybe people will point to gloomy predictions on here (I say Boro will lose, and MIGHT lose heavily) and, if Boro's team belatedly does "come good" those people will say that proves the coaching staff knew all along what they were doing and that the people on here would be better occupied predicting the Lottery numbers or the future of the orange-growing market in Florida than offering even mildly expressed criticism. But even if that unlikely home win against Southampton were to happen, one September swallow would not an Indian summer make. If we won 4, lost 1 and drew 2 out of the next 7 games, I might be prepared to consider the possibility that they "know what they are doing", though I'd prefer to see that form sustained rather longer than merely for 7 games. But surely that is steak and kidney in the sky?
This weekend, all being well, I will be travelling to Teesside from Grinton (in Upper Swaledale, near to Reeth) and returning there after the match. Just about 40 miles but probably not much under approximately 75 minutes each way, as it will be far from a motorway-traffic journey (we'll find that out on Saturday). Let's hope it turns out to be a worthwhile expenditure of a Saturday afternoon. I hae me doots.
This year, Florida's orange trees have suffered from hurricane winds and a mounting epidemic of disease which has accelerated a 20 year decline in production.
@powmillnaemore - It's official! We on this Blog DO know more about the future of the orange harvest in Florida than about football. I wonder which area of expertise is claimed by the Boro coaching staff...?
Thanks for a very interesting opener Selwynoz and no doubt with an accountants eye for detail on the dealings at Southampton. It's perhaps a lower risk if you have the money to sign young players from one of the biggest clubs in the world as they will have already filtered out the ones who are not capable of reaching the top.
Though the problem that clubs like Man City is that however many good prospects they have on their books they can only have 25 in their squad. Plus the other factor is that FIFA are now limiting the loaning out of players to avoid big clubs hoarding the best talent. Clubs last season could only loan out 8 players, this season it is 7 and that will be reduced to 6 next season.
OK, it doesn't apply to players under 21 but nevertheless clubs like City will probably have to decide on whether they will give extended contracts to these players if they won't be able to loan them out once they're over 21. It subsequently means having to sell quite a few of the young players on their books - especially in positions they are already well stocked.
So Southampton may have been clever and did their homework knowing City would have several young top professionals that they'd find hard to keep hold of and it does seem making a €40m profit on one player has paid dividends.
I noticed that Southampton are owned by Sport Republic, an investment company set up by Brentford's former Director of Football, Rasmus Ankersen, who is now DoF at Southampton. Brenford were well known for picking up good young players and it helped fire them to promotion to the PL. Interestingly, Sport Republic have also acquired majority stakes in a Turkish and French club.
So I suspect Ankersen knows the market and knows when and has the desire to sell players on to make maxim profit rather than attempt to keep hold of them for the good of the team. He is the real moneyball exponent not the cheap imitation that we seem to have at Boro - I suspect Kieran Scott has absolutely no idea if his young prospects will ultimately become saleable assets and they are essentially gambles based on what Boro could afford to shell out.
Indeed, Boro need players for the here and now rather than hoping they'll come good in the future as it was the loss of starting quality players that needed replacing in the summer. On the evidence we've seen so far it looks like at best O'Brien is the only genuine starter and he's actually a loan player so not one who will be a long-term asset for the club.
Since Boro seem not to have any fit or capable full-backs anymore it does appear to suggest returning to a back three and wing-backs. Carrick may get away with odd half game playing Jones as a full-back and van den Berg as a makeshift left-back but surely this is not a plan of any credibility in the long run - especially if you play a centre-forward of Coburn's type as he will need service from the wings and not just one side. What happens if our full-backs get pinned back then it will end up being hopeful long balls for him to chase - and his pace is not his main asset!
So it's being a difficult start for Carrick this season and he's still trying to get to grips of what to do with his squad. It's now three games to the next international break and failure to beat either Southampton, Watford or Cardiff will not make his pre-break chat with Steve Gibson a lengthy one.
Perhaps it's also worth noting that 6 of the 7 teams that Boro have played so far are all in the bottom 11 - so four of them can probably thank Boro for not actually being in the bottom 6 as without the points they got from us they would be - the other two are of course Sheff Wed and QPR who are in the bottom six.
Only a win will do on Saturday I'm afraid!
A great opening post which I thoroughly enjoyed and the statistical analysis was in depth and absorbing, well done you!
I just hope that MC and his coaching team have a hard look at their formation and choice of players for Saturday otherwise it could be the beginning of the end rather than the end of the beginning!
I think it’s time to resurrect the eyeballs in the sky for this game although I’m not too sure about our defence !
So my forecast is 👁️ 👁️
@original-fat-bob I think you are bang on with that prediction but remember Boro do like to give the opposition at least first half goal so maybe it's an improved 'eyes in the sky' at 1-1?
I watched the extended highlights of the game and there's northing I can add about the first half and it was a better second half. The Sheffield defender marking Coburn at set prices often, most often, had two hands on the Boro player holding each arm, in the penalty area isn't that a penalty? If Coburn had clumped him one the ref would have seen it but he never saw any of the holding and pulling. Amazingly really. Or perhaps not.
Anyway onwards to Southampton and over to you 'coaching team'. If and when Boro reach the dizzy heights of double figures for their points total I think they'll they'll all have a nose bleed even though they'll still be bottom.
Great opener Selwyn and an insightful personal and professional take on the Southampton story. Really enjoyed it.
An excellent starter Selwynoz which clearly shows how far apart the two clubs are financially after Soton have had a substantial period in the PL and through some very astute buying and selling.
I suspect that Saturday will show how far apart we are on the field of play!
As a team we are back where we started last season under CW, a weak defence and attack. MC arrived and it now appears he got lucky rather than being an astute manager.
I am fearing the worst on Saturday, Boro 0-3 Soton and it will be interesting to see/hear the crowds reaction; as OFB posted, it may be the beginning of the end for MC.
I like MC as a person and he has had an excellent playing career but at the moment the step into management appears to be one to many as I have not seen anything this season which would indicate he knows what to do and how to get us out of this mess.
His tactics, team selections, square pegging of players and choice of players to substitute leave a lot to be desired and are a contributory factor to our current position alongside the recruitment of some players who are not fit for purpose.
I believe that if we lose the next three league games then SG will have little option but to act, as I cannot believe he would tolerate relegation which is where we are, sadly, currently heading. 😎
@selwynoz What an excellent Headliner and one completely different. It must have taken quite a lot of time researching all the information and collating it into your post. Well done.
I just cannot see any way forward, or I should say upwards, with this squad of players and unfortunately with MC at the helm. I sincerely hope I am wrong and end up eating humble pie.
I think Southampton will just have to much upfront for us and another defeat is on the cards.
Werder, according to my fixture callender and the BBC, Sunderland away is the last game before the International break. Game 11.
If things do not dramatically change by then, MC will be gone, because the fans will have turned making his position untenable.
Of course it is - how could I forget Sunderland away given it's Carrick's old club 🙂
@selwynoz - thanks for a great starter for 10 - very interesting and appreciate the time you took to research that.
As for all the subsequent comments, can’t disagree with most of them - we are where we are and whikst the second half showed that there may be a way out of our predicament, I am far from convinced that MC is able to do it.
I had high hopes for him and certainly what we saw last season supported that view. However, it looks like the impact of the loanees was masking the reality that he is still learning his trade on the job.
Maybe he is need of an older more experienced head to help him (and no @jarko I don’t mean Warnock!) although who that would be, I don’t know.
Anywho onto Saturday - I had been toying with the idea of driving up if we had won last night but based on that and my previous two games this season, I will give it a miss for the sake of my sanity. Also typical Boro will win 3-1 and for my non attendance gives that, then I am happy for that!
I will cogitate on what I think will be the team selection over the next few days and consult with my tarot cards along with a random number generator!
@boro-beckys-dad. “ I will cogitate on what I think will be the team selection over the next few days and consult with my tarot cards along with a random number generator!“
I wondered how MC picked his team, now I know! 😂😎
Selwynoz, My apologies I forgot to say what a great job with the starter article. Different angles and views on the game to come and quite thought provoking, many thanks.
Another good away win for Sunderland’s youngsters. Up to fourth.
It cetainly looks as though they have got a far better Recruitement Head and system the MFC.
Well also they’ve got Mogga who knows a good player.
Look at Leadbitter who he stole off Ipswich for example!
Boro are MC old club also !
He played for us as a junior don’t forget….
His dad was also a Boro reserve player perhaps that why we're signing so many reserves and not first team players ?
This holding on in the penalty area is getting beyond a joke isn’t it ?
Am I the only one that thought that the Boro goal should have been disallowed because they were hanging on to Sheffield Wednesday defenders ?
Sorry that was the ref speaking not the Boro supporter !
I will keep quiet !
Not the only one - I was a bit surprised when I saw the replay.
the argy bargy in the box frustrates me - at times they might as well play rugby!
No idea why it has been allowed to gradually get worse
guilty as charged in that I qualified as a chartered accountant in 1978 but haven't actually worked as one since around 1984. Still, old habits die hard.
Our situation does raise an interesting question about expectations. Should Steve Gibson come out and say "Michael Carrick is our long term manager. This is a transition year and we don't expect anything more than mid-table as we re-structure the club"
@selwynoz. Part of me thinks that MC has been appointed long term and that last year was an overachievement against the plan.
If you want the supporters to be on board then he should manage their expectations by explaining the club’s intentions but it won’t happen. 😎
Pundits outside the club beginning to question MC’s credentials.
Sounded more like throwaway soundbites from messrs Shearer and Lineker who only mention Carrick was regarded as one of the best coaches outside the PL but maybe with Boro being bottom of the league that's no longer true.
We've seen Carrick's upside. I'd hate to see us get rid of him too quickly to then see him succeed with a stronger team. I'd like to see him given a reasonable run to show that he can fight through these difficulties even if we have to bite our nails.
My only real concern is to ask what the hell is going on with McGree. Why hasn't he been playing and why was he taken off on Tuesday which instantly saw the attacking thrust of the film vanish. Do any of our insiders (looks at OFB) have any hints as to what is going on?
@selwynoz. I agree about McGree.
If I were he, I would be pretty p****d off that a team mate, who by all accounts he helped to persuade to move to the club, was now being picked ahead of me and to add insult to injury, I was being substituted when said team mate had made no positive contribution whatsoever! 😎
Carrick spit his dummy out when Mcgree refused to play left back,
Just picked this up from the MFC website:
”Boro v Southampton
Not saying anything but ?
Newcastle new progressive owners , going well
Sunderland new progressive owners starting to make waves
Boro , one step forward two steps back twenty years