Southampton rack up the points to remain Pointless
For anyone unfamiliar with the BBC One quiz show Pointless, the basic premise is simple. The show’s producers ask 100 people a question prior to the show and the contestants must tell host Alexander Armstrong which correct answer they think the least number of people gave. For example, if the question was: “Name a Premier League manager”, a good answer might be “Brendan Rodgers” or “Paul Lambert”. A good answer would not be “Sir Alex Ferguson” or “Kenny Dalglish”. Next year, a good answer might be “Nigel Adkins”. The Saints are on the march.
And Southampton bring a certain quiz show to mind at the moment. They are far from pointless, of course, having racked up 42 of them so far to lead the Championship table after 19 games. But it seems pointless anyone bothering to travel to the south coast to play them at the moment. Southampton have won their last 21 home games, including their opening ten Championship games on home soil since promotion from League One.
The last team to beat them at St Mary’s was Manchester United in the FA Cup back in January. Fair enough. Notts County had taken a point back up to the East Midlands two weeks prior to that. If you want an actual home league defeat, you have to go back as far as 11th December 2010 when Brentford escaped with all three points. Since then, all but one team have returned home pointless. A week on Saturday, Blackpool will arrive at St Mary’s aiming to prevent Southampton going an entire year unbeaten at home in the league. If Ian Holloway’s men fail, only Crystal Palace and Bristol City stand in the way of Saints prolonging the record for the whole of 2011.
One quirk of Pointless is the necessity to give an answer. Passing is not an option, although it is worth pointing out that the comparison falls down slightly when using those particular words as Southampton are adept at passing and always seem to have plenty of options. Nevertheless, when Armstrong asks a question, a response must be forthcoming.
This can be amusing when the contestant doesn’t have an answer. Hull City had no answer last night as Southampton came back from a Robert Koren goal down to win 2-1 and retain their two-point lead over West Ham United at the head of the second tier. When the contestant doesn’t have an answer, they must give one anyway. Thus follows a matter of procedure, whereby the contestant makes something up in the extremely faint hope that their offering is correct – either a long-lost nugget of information dredged from the recesses of their mind or an incidence of sheer good fortune. The reality is that we are all going through the motions for a few seconds. Armstrong shoots a knowing smile to the camera and the audience giggles. It is a pointless venture, but it must still take place. The feeling may soon be familiar to Blackpool fans.
So who will – or can – end Southampton’s impressive run? If the Tangerines, Eagles and Robins all fail, the task will fall to two of the Championship’s current top six – Cardiff City and Leicester City. Given that Saints have already played the other three teams in the top six – West Ham United, Middlesbrough and Leeds – and scored seven goals in the process, conceding just a 95th-minute Max Gradel penalty along the way, thoughts begin to turn to a full unbeaten home record and perhaps even 23 home league wins…
There is a long way to go, and away games to play too. Before the two Citys get their chance, Southampton also face tricky trips along the south coast to both Portsmouth and Brighton either side of Christmas. Adkins will clearly want his side to maintain their current return of just over 2.2 points per game over the hectic winter schedule, but even dropping to an average of 1.5 points per game over the next ten matches would still leave Saints with a formidable 57 points from 29 games.
Multiply that average out for the remainder of the season and Southampton would end the season rounded down to a haul of 90 points – two more than runaway champions Queen’s Park Rangers ended with in May.
Their goals-against column at home also equates to 15 when stretched out over the season as a whole, the same figure that Rangers ended up shipping at Loftus Road during the previous campaign. Saints have scored 26 goals in their opening ten home league games, five more than last night’s opponents Hull managed at the KC Stadium for the entirety of last season and over five times more than the current bottom club Doncaster have scored to date. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about their run is that they have only been behind at St Mary’s for a total of six minutes so far this season – one against Nottingham Forest and five last night against Hull. It has all been rather serene.
So is it really pointless travelling to St Mary’s at present? Over to you, Messrs Holloway, Freedman and McInnes. There are plenty of clubs relying on you to pose Southampton some questions they cannot answer with ease.