Southampton: Why Saints Need to Keep Their Faith in Nigel Adkins
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It's a bit natural in the top levels of football to panic when things don't go your way right off the bat.
Southampton fans have certainly earned the right to panic a bit. A couple of blown leads and a disappointing home loss to Wigan, and the Saints find themselves at the bottom of the table and the only team without a point so far.
Already, the rumors are circling.
The Daily Star has said that, should Nigel Adkins continue to falter, the Southampton board have interest in bringing back Harry Redknapp, who got the Saints relegated in the first place, back in 2005.
There are some reasons to wonder if Adkins is up for the job.
This is certainly the highest level at which Adkins has ever managed. He seemingly chose to abandon the 4-4-2 that served Southampton so well in their back-to-back promotions for an unproven 4-5-1/4-3-3 hybrid for which some of the current players don't seem suited. The substitution pattern in the Manchester United game took off Rickie Lambert, Jason Puncheon, and captain Adam Lallana, and left three exhausted central midfielders (Steven Davis, Morgan Schneiderlin and James Ward-Prowse) on the pitch.
Now is definitely not the time to panic and make a rash move.
The season isn't even 10 percent over and there are definitely reasons why Southampton should continue to keep the faith in Adkins. Here are five:
1) The Unkind Whims of the Schedule
Everyone knew that the first month of Southampton's Premier League return was going to be tough. Seeing Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal listed in the first four matches of the season is a start any Premier League club would dread.
Yes, Southampton should have done better with their chance against Wigan, but they didn't play badly in that match—16 shots and 10 corner kicks show that they put Wigan under pressure. It was a matter of Ali Al-Habsi playing well and a bit of bad luck.
Southampton was outclassed by Manchester City, but took their chances well and had the champions on the ropes with 20 minutes to go. There is certainly no shame in losing at the Etihad, something pretty much every team in the Premier League did last season.
Southampton more than held their own against Manchester United. Shots (15 to 20) and possession time (45% to 55%) were fairly comparable. The Saints controlled good portions of play and never trailed until Robin van Persie's stoppage time winner.
The great thing about the Premier League is that everyone has to play everyone else at home and away. It all equals out in the end.
2) Transfers that Haven't Played Yet
The transfer market just closed,and two of Southampton's notable signings haven't even stepped on the pitch yet. Gastón Ramírez and Maya Yoshida are finally set to join up with the team after signing late in the transfer window and playing with their respective national teams over the international break.
It wouldn't be fair to judge Southampton until Ramírez and Yoshida (and to a lesser extent, Emmanuel Mayuka, who has made just one 15-minute substitute appearance) have time to blend into the squad.
The new signings Southampton have made seem to have turned out well. Nathaniel Clyne has made himself right at home in the right back spot and hasn't looked out of place at all (except for when his boots fail him and he slips at the wrong moment). Steven Davis has been a work horse in the central midfield on both ends of the pitch. Jay Rodriguez has struggled to get on track, but the season is still young and one can argue he hasn't been used much in his preferred central striker role.
3) Nigel Adkins' Track Record
Although Nigel Adkins hasn't managed in the Premier League prior to this season, he does have a great track record. Adkins got his start with Bangor City in the Welsh Premier League, and won the title twice before leaving the club in 1996.
Adkins is a man of knowledge who obtained a degree in business studies while taking courses in psychology, finance, and applied football management, and also qualifying as a certified physiotherapist, which got him his start at Scunthorpe.
After a promotion from physio to manager at Scunthorpe, Adkins lead the Iron to the League One Championship in 2007. 2008 saw immediate relegation back to League One from the Championship, but Adkins guided Scunthorpe back to the Championship, via the playoffs in 2009. The next season, Scunthorpe and Adkins were able to keep their place in the Championship.
How long should Southampton stick with Nigel Adkins?
Adkins left Scunthorpe after Alan Pardew was sacked by Southampton, and has led the Saints to back-to-back promotions. In total, Adkins has won 52.2 percent of matches he has managed (218 wins - 119 losses - 80 draws). Even if Southampton were to suffer the drop this season, Adkins has proved that he can get the Saints right back up.
4) The Offense is Creating Chances
It would be one thing if Southampton was completely being played off the pitch and was struggling to create chances and goals.
Despite the level of competition, Southampton has managed to tally four goals and maintain decent amounts of possession.
The four goals are more than half the tally of the Premier League sides, including Arsenal, Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool. Rickie Lambert has proven that he is capable of playing at the Premier League level, already scoring two goals.
The central midfield has looked lively with Steven Davis and Morgan Schneiderlin getting involved in the attack with a goal each. Adam Lallana's play earned him his first call-up to the England national team this week.
The firepower is there for Southampton to survive this season.
5) The Season Isn't Over
There was a team last season that lost its first three matches, including two to Manchester United and Chelsea, and had a minus-3 goal differential at this point last season. That team was considered a potential candidate to be relegated at the end of the season. Their fans had all the right to be concerned about their team's start and questions were asked of their manager.
That team was West Bromwich Albion.
By the time the season was over, West Brom had 47 points and finished 10th in the final Premier League table.
There's still 35 games left, and a potential 105 points on the table. No, Southampton isn't going to win all of them, but there is still plenty of time to get to 40.
That's all a Southampton fan can ask for this season and why a panic move to replace Nigel Adkins would be a mistake right now.
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