You have to hand it to Nigel Adkins – even in the face of a desperate professional situation, he somehow manages to sound like one of the cheeriest blokes in the country.
Whatever he is on they should bottle it and sell it as a rival to Prozac because I can’t remember the last time I encountered someone in football who refuses so steadfastly to accept the negatives, instead trying to survey the wreckage of Southampton’s season so far and find the smallest debris of positivity.
Mind you, he needs to look on the bright side: Adkins is in dire trouble. With Southampton rock bottom of the Premier League having taken just four points from ten games, he’s clinging to his job. And with speculation swirling around St Mary’s that the club’s ‘difficult’ owner Nicola Cortese (I think that one goes down as a euphemism) is looking to move Adkins on, it has certainly been a testing couple of months for the former Scunthorpe boss.
Not that he has shown it. Even when admitting he was favourite for the sack in the aftermath of Saints’ latest defeat, a 2-0 loss against West Bromwich Albion on Monday, Adkins still sounded as if all was well.
But there is a fine line between seeing the good and coming across as deluded, and even Adkins has realised this having admitted that his side’s defensive record is ‘shocking’. Mind you, even that is looking on the bright side: Southampton have conceded 28 goals in 10 games, the most at this stage of the season in Premier League history and you have to go back to West Brom in 1962 to find a team who have let in more goals after the same number of matches.
It makes for grim reading and if you have to score at least three goals to even get anything out of a match, then relegation is a certainty. It is for this reason and this reason alone that Adkins is in trouble (a record of 14 goals, for example, is better than half the division) and if Cortese is starting to believe that there is no remedy, then the sack is inevitable.
After back-to-back promotions that would be harsh in the extreme, but Southampton’s naivety has been quite incredible and with the players Adkins has, it now seems pretty remarkable he chose to spend the best part of £20 million on Jay Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez instead of some defenders who know how to defend.
All of which means his position is under the utmost scrutiny, making Swansea City’s trip to St Mary’s almost certainly a must-win for Southampton. They are favourites with bwin at 7/5 to pick up a win, with the draw at 12/5 and the Swans at 9/5. But I have to say I like that price about an away win given all that I’ve just written about.
Michael Laudrup seems to have ridden out a mini-storm that looked like it might engulf him a few weeks ago, when murmurs of discontent were supposedly coming from the Swans camp.
But it’s been a good few weeks for the Dane, with a solid home win against Wigan Athletic (managed by former boss Roberto Martinez) followed up with a victory against Liverpool in the League Cup (against the man Laudrup replaced, Brendan Rodgers), after which the former Real Madrid star was moved to say that Swansea was now ‘his team’.
He may be right if a fully deserved 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea last weekend is anything to go by and I fancy the Jack Army will make the most of the situation at St Mary’s by going there and winning.
You know Southampton aren’t going to keep a clean sheet, so you just can’t back them to win. Letting in goals and losing becomes a habit and Saints have now lost four on the trot – including a 3-0 drubbing at Leeds in the Capital One Cup – conceding ten goals in the process.
Saints are too open and Swansea are adept on the counter and can exploit the space cleverly. Their away form is decent enough as well, with three wins from six matches and at 9/5 they should be backed to put another nail in Adkins’ coffin.