Monday, March 19, 2018

FA Cup 6th Round - Wigan 0 Southampton 2

Well There's a Shock - We Attack, We Win

Sunday lunchtime and live on the BBC for Manchester City versus Southampton. Oh no, City fucked it up and lost to Wigan, causing all the TV executives to gnash their teeth and wonder how can they can go about actually rigging the matches as well as the draw for the next round in future. If Saints had of been playing Manchester City then you could be sure that the impartial TV commentary would be completely biased towards the big club. As we are now playing Wigan, you can be sure that the TV commentary will be completely biased towards the small club. Such is life.

No sooner had Mauricio Pellegrino and his faceless, nameless coaching staff exited the building, then the rumours that Mark Hughes was taking over started. It took a  couple of days but then the man who had a brilliant career as a player and a decent but not spectacular career as a manager took over. Brilliant player and unspectacular as a manager - reminds me of Ronald Koeman who of course did pretty well as our manager.  Hughes is of course a former Saints player, playing a couple of years at The Dell as his career was winding down.  In his first season, we played him upfront and his legs had gone so he struggled to have much of an impact but in the second season he played in the central midfield area with Chris Marsden Football Genius and played as if his life depended on it. That particular season culminated in the Dellhurst Park game where he and Marsden covered every blade of grass.

Many don’t have any fond memories of his time as a player with Saints but if you had a career playing for Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Barcelona and you rocked up at the Dell in the later 90s with Dave Jones as your manager, you might think you’d find it pretty hard to be motivated but Hughes wasn’t like that. The good news is that I can’t imagine he will tolerate any shit attitudes from the players currently wearing the red and white shirt. He may not be everyone’s first choice as manager but we are in a shit position and in that shit position, we are not going to be able to attract anyone obviously better. So to be perfectly honest, I am pretty pleased with the appointment and though he has only signed a contract for the rest of the season, I cannot imagine for a second that if we stay up, he won’t be our manager next season. To be fair, he will have earned it.

Before he was appointed, I was asked a question on Twitter about naming a quality that you want from a new Saints manager. I somewhat flippantly replied that I wanted a manager who could speak English to a standard that didn’t send me to fucking sleep. I didn’t realise what a breath of fresh air listening to his first interview would be. It was about 14 minutes long and I listened to the whole lot, first time, without wanting to punch the screen in or kick the cat or punch a wall. The cat is very pleased with the appointment

So, Wigan away and a team that has already knocked out Manchester City, West Ham and Bournemouth so this really isn’t going to be easy.  With a 1.30pm kick off, the team was due to be announced at 12.30pm.  One hour before kick off was a time of dread for Saints fans as you prepared for the latest nonsense from Pellegrino – would Hughes be any different – here it comes – McCarthy…. Usual back 4…. Hojbjerg and Lemina… no Romeu… interesting…. Tadic… again…sigh!... Boufal, Gabbiadini, Carrillo.  Fucking hell, 2 strikers AND Boufal.  What the fuck is this?  A strange sensation – I feel happy.  There is an hour to go before kick off and I feel happy.  I like this – it’s strange but I like it.  Even if Gabbi plays in midfield, I like it.

Wigan have some ex-Pompey connections with Gary Roberts up front and Paul Cook as the manager.  Whisper it quietly but I used to enjoy listening to Cook’s interviews when he was Skates manager – he seemed likeable and a ‘no bullshit’ decent guy which is some trick to pull when you’re managing the Fish Fuckers.  Wigan also have Will Grigg up front who scored the winner against Manchester City but is more famous for having a song adapted for him which caught on when he was part of the Northern Ireland squad that went to Euro 2016.  Hopefully he will not be ‘on fire’.

Away we go on a bitterly cold, snowy day on a cabbage patch for a pitch and the conditions are perfect for a cup upset.  Don’t get me started on clubs that share grounds with rugby teams.  We are playing 4-4-2 and no question about it with Carrillo and Gabbiadini right up the pitch and Tadic on the right and Boufal on the left looking to get forward as well.

And then reality hits.  We look very very dodgy as Wigan dominate possession and look far more confident than we do as you may expect given that they are winning most weeks.  The spaces between our players look huge and the defending is ropey.  Cedric and Stephens are struggling hugely and Boufal is not helping out Bertrand on his wing at all.  For all Wigan’s possession and intent, they don’t create many chances but some are inevitable.  The first big let off is after a run by Byrne the right back, he shoots and it deflects off of one Hoedt and squirts across the goal where Dunckley goes got it with the wrong foot and fortunately misses it and the danger passes.

Gary Roberts is not getting too much stick for being an ex-Skate and that’s because we don’t really know who any of their players are anymore.  Anyway, he has a great chance when a cross from Massey is headed out right back into the danger area by Stephens and Roberts can’t get his feet right and spoons it over the bar.

We don’t really create anything in the first half, spending all our time defending corners.  Some are made easy by Wigan pissing about with short corners but on the others, we look well organized and there are no alarms.  Going forward though we’ve been pretty ropey so the half time whistle is welcome.  I heard myself say ‘get to half time at 0-0 and the manager will sort ‘em out for the second half’.  This is not something I’ve heard myself say for two seasons.

The change is immediate.  We are getting on the ball and pinning Wigan back a bit and not looking like we’re just waiting for the inevitable goal against.  Wigan’s right back Byrne has been playing very well (and the commentators on the BBC have been creaming themselves every time he gets it) but he has a shocker when he pokes a pass beyond his centre back and straight to Gabbi about 15 yards out, one touch, bang, great save by the keeper.  Gabbi looks distraught and it’s a bad miss.  The only possible mitigation is that he can’t possibly be expecting to receive the ball at that point.

Now we look like the most likely and from pretty much our first corner, Tadic picks out Hojbjerg and his header is well saved by Walton but it’s a warning that Wigan don’t pay attention to.  Another corner from Tadic on the left and this time, Hojbjerg loses his man and his left foot cushion volley goes trough the crowd and hits the net.  Get the fuck in and finally, the Great Dane has scored and amusingly, he has managed to kick Jack Stephens in the bollocks as part of the celebration.  I can’t imagine many other players willing to do that celebration.

The Lesser Known Danish Bollock Kicking Dance.

The first sub sees Redmond on for Boufal which is probably because Boufal is still not doing much to help out Bertrand defensively.  Redmond’s first contribution is to give the ball away in a dangerous area but we get away with that and his second contribution is to slide and superb through ball to Gabbi, in behind the centre backs.  Gabbi is though and as he goes to shoot, he’s absolutely wiped out by Dan Burn.  Penalty and a red card? Oh no, of course they’ve changed to rules now – if he makes an attempt to play the ball then it’s yellow only.  That’s all very well as long as the penalty hits the net.  Up steps Gabbi and smashes it but Walton goes the right way, flings out an arm and it flies off his wrist and away.  Brilliant save.  Gabbi holds his hands out in a ‘What the fuck?’ kind of way and it’s still only 1-0.  From Gabbi’s point of view it’s a bit unlucky because if it hits the keepers hand it goes in.  Great save though.

The next sub is Long on for Carrillo.  Whilst I’ll always debate the usefulness of Shane Long coming on, I can’t moan about Carrillo coming off because he’s been pretty average, not winning much in the air or linking up with Gabbi at all.  Long immediately proves his worth by winning a couple of free kicks and injecting more energy into the attack.  87 minutes and Romeu is on for Gabbiadini, still shaking his head and wondering how he hasn’t scored today.

Wigan are always going to have another chance and it falls to Noel Hunt who can’t direct a volley goalwards and from a Wigan corner, we clear our lines out to Redmond who works himself some space and then gets a bit lucky as his cross field ball deflects off a defender and down the left wing.  What the fuck is Cedric doing there?  He nods it past the least defender and goes straight for goal, drawing the keeper and then calm as fuck, slotting it into the far corner.  2-0, game over.  No one gets wellied in the bollocks this time but I repeat, what the fuck was Cedric doing on the left wing?  Final whistle and on we go.

All of this has to be put into some sort of context because we were playing League 1 side and we can’t possibly know if this next bit is true or not but I reckon that we would’ve lost that game with Pellegrino in charge.  We’d have just sat back and there wouldn’t have been the intensity too keep them out in the first half and we wouldn’t have got on the front foot at the start of the second.

The first thing I noticed is that we actually look like we knew what we were doing regarding marking at corners and Wigan didn’t threaten from any of the 10 or so that they had in the first half. Whilst the first half was ropey in terms of keeping possession and structure and we just didn’t play particularly well, something obviously changed at half-time because in the second half there was really only one team in it. Wigan huffed and puffed but didn’t bring a save out of McCarthy whereas we scored twice, missed a penalty and brought a couple of decent saves out of Christian Walton in the Wigan goal.

So, what a difference when a decent half-time team talk is made. We had so much more intent and control in the second half, all the time (until the 88th minute) keeping two players upfront and keeping the wingers pushed on. What ever happened at half-time improve the performance of so many players. Cedric and Stephens in particular were dreadful in the first half but much improved in the second and Hojbjerg and Lemina really got to grips with being a midfield two as opposed to part of a midfield three. Even Tadic showed signs of life in the second-half and began linking well with Cedric, when Cedric was playing in his right position and not bombing down the left wing. Just imagine for a second what Pellegrino would’ve made of Cedric attacking down the wrong flank in the 92nd minute of a game when we were 1-0 up. He would’ve been doing his best Basil Fawlty impression in the technical area go shitting on about how we have to remember our defensive responsibilities when we attack. Thank fuck that way of thinking is over, at least in the main.  I think Cedric’s run shows that the players feel that the shackles are off, that individuality is now not frowned on and ingrained fear and caution has been replaced with the licence to take a few risks.  One of the main complaints has been a lack of goals from unusual sources and today we get two goals from two players who had never scored before.

Also, the substitutions were spot on as well. I grumbled a bit when Boufal was removed instead of Tadic but it turned out to be absolutely spot on. Redmond did very well when he came on, setting up a second goal and putting the pass through when Gabbiadini was fouled for the penalty.  Even Shane Bloody Long did a decent job when he came on for the struggling Carrillo with 15 minutes to as well. Carrillo is a bit of a worry – I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt when playing as a lone striker in a Pellegrino team but he had a lot of support today and was pretty crap.  The loaning out of Sam Gallagher annoys me more and more every time I think about it.  Just maybe we should have had Sam in the squad for the first half of the season and if he wasn’t up to it, loaned him out for the second half and signed a striker in January.  Doing this may well have saved us £19 million.

I don’t usually bother commenting too much on other teams and their managers but I have to say I was very impressed with Paul Cook in his interview after the game – very magnanimous and despite the pressure Wigan had, he acknowledged that they didn’t work the keeper and can have no complaints.  Good man. So, despite being an ex-Pompey manager and a Scouser, I wish him well and hope that we can manage to get promoted to the Championship. He did after all get Pompey promoted and then left them to go to a much bigger club so what’s not to like about that.

So well done Saints and well done Mark Hughes, Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. Brilliant start. In just one game and in a couple of days, you’ve given us a day out at Wembley to look forward to and more important than that, it’s given us hope for decent end of the season.

After the Saints game, Chelsea eventually knocked out Leicester after extra time and so the four semi-finalists are Spurs, Chelsea, Man United and ourselves.  A quick Twitter poll revealed Man United as our preferred opponents (67%) and Spurs as the least preferred (8%), seeing as it’s at their home ground of course.  I didn’t check but I assume a poll amongst the three other fanbases would have Southampton hitting 95% plus.  Two Chelsea legends are making the draw in Cech and Zola (whose hair has remarkably regrown)…. Manchester United …. Versus Tottenham.  Tottenham get the away dressing room which I’m sure will make Jose happy…  Chelsea versus Southampton.  Cech and Zola can’t help but smile… let’s hope Chelsea go into it thinking it’s a bye.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pellegrino Finally Manages to Get Sacked

The End of an Error

I’m not religious person but thank God for that.

I didn’t see how he could possibly survive after the Newcastle game but I thought that many points this season and he has survived, so in many ways, it is still a surprise that the Board have finally bitten the bullet and sacked Mauricio Pellegrino. He was useless.  Absolutely useless with boring risk averse football, abysmal results (5 League wins out of 30), abysmal communication and no redeeming features whatsoever other than being a nice bloke. I don’t want a nice bloke being the manager of Southampton Football Club. I want someone who’s got a bit of grunt about them and can kick the players below and hit out against the Board above to try and get things moving at the right direction.

I have always thought that the manager is the most important person at the club and never bought into Nicola Cortese’s “just another department head” dismissal of the managers role. The first team manager underpins everything else at the rest of the club. It doesn’t matter how great your academy is or how great your recruitment is, if the first team manager is substandard and he cannot get the players at his disposal to play to their potential then everything crumbles, the club gets relegated, valued staff have to be let go, budgets have to be slashed, you become even more the prey of the bigger and more powerful clubs and it all comes crashing down pretty quickly. If your first team manager is really good on the other hand then it can mask deficiencies all over the rest of the club. Look at Rafa Benitez and Newcastle and the fact that every other aspect of the club seems to be a complete shambles under Mike Ashley.

I wrote a piece after 10 games of Pellegrino which highlighted a few concerns I was having at the start of the season.  Reading this back, it’s remarkable how Pellegrino never learned despite always saying that he was learning.

“It’s up to Pellegrino to make sure that he’s not on the way out in the summer and the only way he’s going to do that is playing some braver, more entertaining football and taking a few risks, especially in home games and against teams we should be beating”

The next game was a pathetic home defeat to Burnley when Sean Dyche changed his tactics and Pellegrino just stood there like a rabbit in the headlights and we lost 1-0. It was after this game the first came to the conclusion that we were going to be in serious trouble if he stayed in charge and so it has proved. There have been so many games that have been badly managed by Pellegrino, either through nonsensical tactics, overly negative team selections or ridiculous substitutions and reshuffles. He of course had no idea how to send out a team to take a game by the scruff of the neck and try and win it from the first whistle, hence why we only have three home wins (out of 16) all season. The players as always are partly to blame but under other managers, all of these players have in the past performed better than they are now. Like I said, it is down to the first team manager to get the most out of the resources at his disposal and Pellegrino completely failed to do this.

The board have finally acted and they had to. They have got the last two appointments wrong, especially this one and now they have to get it right. Mr Gao did not become a wealthy man by having the subject matter experts who worked for him getting things horribly wrong. I would imagine that if Les Reed gets this appointment wrong then the three strikes and you are out rule will apply.  If you look at the quote in the picture at the head of this article, it's obvious that Les had no idea what he was recruiting.

As for who we get next, well don’t believe anyone who says this isn’t an attractive job because of the board or any issue over the ownership of the club. The first team manager at Southampton Football Club is probably one of the top 10 or 15 football posts in the country. The names mentioned in the immediate aftermath of Pellegrino sacking that were in any way sensible were Mark Hughes, Slaven Bilic and Marco Silva.  There were other names mentioned which were obviously put there by people who have no prior knowledge of Southampton Football Club. It really doesn’t matter that Harry Redknapp is out of work and he is based in the South. It really doesn’t.

I am firmly of the opinion that any relatively competent manager will be better than the guy we have just got rid of. Whoever it is will be massively incentivised to keep the club in the Premier League and have the bonus of an FA Cup 6th round tie against the League 1 club. Win that and they are leading the club out at Wembley in an FA Cup semi-final. For the new manager, they are either going to be a hero or they are going to be a person who had no chance.  Is it tough on Pellegrino that a new manager might end up leading the team out at Wembley – no it isn’t.  We beat Watford in the 4th Round despite of him and his ridiculous game management.

I would prefer Silva or Hughes out of the three managers mentioned. Silva will be short-term, maybe even till the end of the season if his track record of looking for the next big opportunity is anything to go by but Hughes would be a longer term bet and despite being old enough to remember when he played for us, I don’t have the negative view of it that many others seem to. He wasn’t much good as a striker for us but when he dropped into midfield and partnered Chris Marsden in the Great Escape games, Dellhurst Park and all that, he was absolutely superb and played as if his life depended on it. He was 36 years old at the time and had had a long career playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world and had won everything so it says a lot about his personal pride that he played like that when it would’ve been easy not lift a leg and be like Jamie Redknapp was a few years later in similar circumstances.

There was an element of doubt about sacking Claude Puel after an 8th place finish and a Cup Final. There is absolutely no doubt about the decision to get rid of Mauricio Pellegrino. It of course should have been done a lot earlier but that will be forgotten if we somehow manage to get out of the hole that we are in.  He has been the worst manager we have ever had - Ian Branfoot isn't even in the conversation when you consider Pellegrino, Steve Wigley, Harry Redknapp and Jan Poortvliet.  All of the others had mitigating circumstances in the form of substandard playing squads but Pellegrino does not.

A big cloud has just disappeared and now, whoever the new managers, us supporters have a bit of hope again.  It may turn out to be false hope but at least we have a chance now.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Premier League Match 30 - Newcastle 3 Southampton 0

Saints Unveil One Off Kit for Newcastle Game

A trip to what is usually pretty happy hunting ground for us - St James’s Park, Newcastle.  Bearing in mind the situation that we are in and the fact that we cannot win a fucking home game for love nor money, this is one of the more winnable games out of the nine we have left so hopefully, Pellegrino and the players will feel the same way.

Rafa Benitez has a reputation for playing fairly dour defensive football but in his defence, his Newcastle squad is almost exactly the same as he got promoted with from the Championship so he knew where he stood from the start the season. I will say though that they appear to target the more winnable games and really go for it. Their away game at West Ham was a classic example where every time they attacked they absolutely flooded the box and emerged with a 3-2 win.  They were brave and they were rewarded – who does that not remind you of?  I think you can safely assume that they will be looking at Southampton at home as one of their target games so we have to be prepared for that. I’m sure the Pellegrino will be prepared for that, especially as he has first hand knowledge of working with Benitez and he will set up in his usual way to defend the living shit out of it.

Adam Blackmore from Radio Solent conducted an interview with Pellegrino this week which was laced with usual riddles and Pellegrino defending the accusation he was a stubborn manager who was scared to make changes. He pointed out that he’s change the goalkeeper, the defence, the midfield and attack. Whilst this is undeniably true, the one thing he hasn’t changed is the style of football and the risk averse nature of everything we do. Basically, I don’t see how you can get even mildly irritated at any question when you’ve only won 5 games out of 29 and a club with an upper-mid table squad of players is staring squarely at relegation to the Championship. The way you judge a manager is by what they achieve with the resources at their disposal and  let’s face it, by any measure like that, Pellegrino completely sucks ass.  Elsewhere in the interview, on the face of it there were encouraging noises about the possibility of playing Gabbiadini just behind a central striker so there is hope there, especially when you look back to the home game against Newcastle when Shane Long and Gabbiadini we both in the starting line-up.  Not that Shane is a striker.

And so, it’s 2pm and time for weekly ritual of waiting for the team announcement. Romeu out, Hojbjerg in. What the fuck? It seems strange on the face of it because Romeu is our most defensive midfielder but I know what he’s done. He is resting him for the cup game next week against Wigan. This is worrying.  Does he feel like he can’t risk his best defensive midfielder in a must win league game and would rather have him available for a cup tie against a League One side. Doesn’t the fucking idiot realise that if we lose today, Wigan versus Southampton is likely to be a Championship fixture next season. If he played today and got booked then so what? Surely we can cope against a League One side. Does he not fucking realise how deep in the shit we are?

The other change to the team saw the best player from the last couple of weeks, Josh Sims, drop to the bench with JWP being restored on the right wing. On the face of this, I don’t think it’s a bad call but with those being the only two changes, he has actually managed to pick a more defensive line-up than we had in the shockingly shit first half against Stoke last week. He is learning all the time though so that’s good….twat!  So, we have the terminally fucking useless Tadic on the pitch and Boufal, Gabbiadini and Sims on the bench with four players who are not goal threats, Forster, Bednarek, Romeu and Long.

We are wearing a different variation of our home kit with a solid red back instead of the usual one with a white central band.  We must be the only team who has had to unveil two new one off kits to get through the season.  Red and White home kit, Yellow away kit - it's not difficult.

So, away we go on our latest fear and caution driven epic. 63 seconds, 1-0 down, game plan fucked.  It’s not even a good goal.  Hojbjerg loses the ball in a challenge in midfield, Shelvey lobs it over Stephens who looks like he’s nailed to the floor and Kenedy brings it down on his chest, spins past the most pathetic powder puff challenge from Cedric and bobbles it past McCarthy and into the net.

Redmond then loses the ball by basically letting Shelvey have it and Shelvey is a very good player when no one gets near him and he curls a lovely ball behind Stephens to Gayle and luckily, McCarthy is one of the few who looks like he gives a nshit and he’s off his line smartly to save.

It usually takes conceding a goal for us to do anything in a game so I guess the good news is that we’ve done it early and we have 90 minutes of improvement to come.  I’m expecting us to start peppering the Newcastle goal soon but not a bit of it.  Hoedt passes short to Lemina and aside froma  return pass to Hoedt, no fucker wants the ball.  Lemina is one of the few that tries to be positive all the time and he’s looking forward at the statues and gets caught on the ball by Diame, through it goes to Gayle and McCarthy has to get down well to his left to keep it out one handed.  It’s easy to blame Lemina for this and sure, he shouldn’t get caught with the ball but all of Tadic, Redmond, JWP and Carrillo should all know that Lemina is going to be looking forward and they should be making themselves available.  What he should have done is launched it out for a throw in and then called every other player a useless sack of shit for making him look bad by not moving.

It’s celebration time as we win a corner on the left after a really decent one touch build up on the right involving JWP, Cedric and Hojbjerg.  We are still celebrating winning a corner when it’s cleared and Lemina has ‘goal of the season’ in his mind as he lines up a volley before falling on his arse.  3v3 break and away they go with Perez.  He carries it to about 30 yards out before sliding in Gayle and instead of shooting, he calmly rolls it across taking the keeper out of the game for Kenedy to tap into an empty net.  We’re not celebrating winning a corner any more.  We are shit.

There are still 20 minutes to half time but time stands still.  There’s some sort of vacuum and we all wake up at half time with nothing else having happened and we’re 2-0 down.  Has anyone ever been sacked at half time?  As the teams emerge and take their positions for the start of the second half it’s obvious that Pellegrino has not been sacked as we have yet more nonsensical bollocks in the form of substitutions and reshuffle.  Shane Long is on.  Yep, Shane Long.  Not Gabbiadini but Shane Long.  Josh Sims is on as well but Lemina is off along with that useless waste of oxygen Dusan Tadic.  I honestly wouldn’t give a shit if I never saw Tadic in a Southampton shirt ever again.  So it looks like we’re going 4-4-2 but without the Romeu – Lemina central midfield which is crucial for that to work.

To the surprise of no one, it’s no better.  Lascelles has a free header over from a corner.  He gets a free header because he’s the only player who attacks the ball and jumps.  Honestly – this game has gone and we would be better served with it being 5-0.  Shelvey is just strolling about and then taking as long as he needs to do what he wants.  He picks out Kenedy but he puts the hat-trick chance well wide.

Just before the hour mark we get pinned in our left corner and Bertrand hoofs it away.  Again the ball ends up with Shelvey who, under no pressure, wanders across the top of our penalty area, feigns to shoot a couple of times before finally noticing that Ritchie is standing unmarked a few yards away waving his arms about.  Despite the fact that Ritchie has been stood there waving his arms about and presumable yelling his head off, no fucker in a red and white shirt is aware enough or bothered enough to close him down and he simply passes it into the net left footed from the edge of the box.

Newcastle have got a goalkeeper and we see him for the first time as we get enar his goal.  Sims beats a man and crosses and Carrillo arrives at the same time as a defender who is actually committed to keeping the ball out of the net and it spoons up to Dubravka.  Benitez knows the game is done so Newcastle save energy and settle for playing out the game.  They only have to put in the slightest effort to keep us out.  They do allow Bertrand a free header from a corner which he heads over the bar and on about 80 minutes, Sims cuts in from the right and forces a decent save out of the keeper.

Useless sacks of shit.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all this season. Just when you think you’ve seen every catastrophic low there can possibly be, then along comes Pellegrino and the team and gives us a new benchmark by which to judge low points.  Instead of ‘Goal of the Season’, can we have a ‘Sack of Shit of the Season.  Vote now: A – Leicester at home, B – Liverpool at home, C – Spurs away, D – Newcastle away, E – Brighton at home, F – Huddersfield at home, G- Wolves at home, H – Liverpool away, I – Burnley at home.  These are just off the top of my head and there are many more.  The worst is probably still to come, probably next week – getting beat 3-0 by a League 1 side in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup.

And yet it’s all so predictable. After the Stoke game which had an appalling first half and marginally better second-half when we had attacking players on the pitch, he reverts to a team selection which is even more negative than the starting selection against Stoke. 1-0 down in a minute, 2-0 down after half an hour, then he burns one substitution bringing on a player who hasn’t scored since Margaret Thatcher was in power, 3-0 on the hour and then sweet fuck all until the final whistle. We made the keeper make his first save on 80 minutes I think.  The good news is though that we had more possession than they did, 63% so that’s something. Do you get any points for that Pellegrino?

To be honest, I have done Pellegrino to death so there’s no point other than to say that he absolutely has to be sacked now. I will not take any of this bullshit argument about there having to be a ready-made replacement or that it is too late. We have an eight game season left and we need to win about three or four games so we need a short term solution. I don’t care if Marco Silva manages the team to safety and then fucks off to Everton next season. I couldn’t care less. We are in a short-term crisis and we need to get out of it. Saints are all about thinking about the long-term but the long-term can wait for the next few weeks because the long-term will collapse in a big fucking heap if we don’t sort out the short-term. Sorting out the short-term means getting in the best person to scramble enough points out of the next eight games. Radhi Jaidi, Kelvin Davis or even Donald fucking Trump couldn’t be worse at managing a football team then Pellegrino is and any vaguely competent manager would have done better than Pellegrino has. Get rid of him and get rid of him now.  He is probably the worst manager Southampton have ever had – ever.  Steve Wigley and Jan Poortvliet come close but they had shit squads to choose from.  Today was billed as Master vs Pupil but it was Master vs Useless Fucker Who Learned Nothing.  Benitez has a Championship squad but he knows what he's doing.

There seems to have been a tipping point in the local media today and they all feel that it’s time to turn the guns on the players and yes the players do have to take a lot of responsibility. Fans don’t usually turn the guns on the players for the simple reason that players cannot get sacked so there is no real point. The manager can get sacked and rightly or wrongly, that is the way it is. The tone is set by the manager and he dictates the style of play etc but individual players have got to be doing a damn site better than they are. The basics are not there - tracking a runner (too much effort), running off the ball (massive issue because it takes effort), putting tackles in (might get hurt), winning headers (takes a bit of bottle), crossing the ball somewhere near one of your own players (takes a bit of brain and you need a target) etc. None of these things are in place. Things that you learn from about eight years old onwards are not in place there is no point in naming the players who were utterly shit today. You may as well name the ones that weren’t. McCarthy had no chance with anything and Carrillo was hopelessly isolated again like the centre forward has been in virtually every fucking game we’ve played this season. Ryan Bertrand was ok-ish and Josh Sims did ok second half but that was it. Utter bollocks.  Out of the others, the only ones who really looked like they gave a fuck were JWP and Hojbjerg but they were just generally poor.

As I see it, the main advantage of being relegated to the Championship is that we will get rid of some of the useless fuckers who got us there. We will however not be able to shift some of them because of the performances they’ve been putting in this season. Who the fuck is going to take Shane Long off our hands for example? He is shit and I wouldn’t even want him in the Championship.

Next up we have a trip to Wigan for the FA Cup 6th Round followed by an international break so there is no Premier League game for three weeks. We have to sack him now.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Premier League Match 29 - Southampton 0 Stoke City 0

Don't Mess With The Hoedt

Here we go again and another must win game. The challenge for Mauricio Pellegrino is to show that finally, after all these learning experiences that he goes on about the end of every match, he has learned how to pick a team to actually go out and win the game against very poor opposition at home.

Stoke must be piss poor because they are below us in the league table. Unlike us, they pulled the trigger on the shockingly underperforming manager and got rid of Mark Hughes but the man they appointed to replace him was on the face of it a shocking appointment. Paul Lambert was an abysmal manager at Aston Villa and was just as bad at Wolves. I have no idea how he managed to get himself another job in the Premier League - it must’ve been a case of hanging round the club car park at the right time. He won the first game after his appointment and ever since then it’s been much like ourselves with mainly draws and very little inspiration. There are not many people who would say that their squad is better than ours and unlike nearly every team we play against, I can’t think of many of their players but I would like to see at St Mary‘s. The player I’m most worried about on their side is Peter Crouch which kind of says it all.

It will be interesting to see what Pellegrino had actually learned from the Burnley game last week. It should be that we cannot start the game incredibly slowly and that you have to have some thrust in attacking positions. After his goal last week I half expected to see Gabbiadini picked with Redmond being sacrificed so golden boy Tadic could move over to the left hand side.

There was some doubt as to whether this game would go ahead because of the mythical Beast from the East, or as it usually known outside of the tabloids, winter. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and with the pitch looking better than it did before the snow and all the surrounding areas and the roads being absolutely fine come Saturday, the game went ahead as planned.

I managed to leave my phone at home so I had no idea what the team was until I saw it announced in the ground. I was absolutely staggered to see Josh Sims starting and equally perplexed to see that JWP had been dropped. Needless to say, Gabbiadini was on the bench again so it was the usual one upfront, Carrillo, who has not even look like scoring yet, supported mainly by Tadic from the 10 position, I assume when he is not going sideways or backwards, or fucking about out on the wing. Don’t get me wrong, Sims is a plus but today of all days, only playing one upfront is not. On the bench we have JWP, our best set piece taker, Gabbiadini, our best fit goal scorer and a Boufal, our most skilful player. On top of that, Hojbjerg it’s also on the bench and he was our best midfield player until he got dropped.

With Shane Long back on the bench it means you have to watch the warm up or else you have a decent chance of getting a ball in the face during the shooting drill.  He’s fucking dreadful against no defenders and Stuart Taylor – I counted four in a row off target and two straight at the keeper.  It’s all very well laughing and pissing about Shane but maybe if you took practice seriously you might actually improve.

Once more, only one sentence is probably needed to sum up the first half of this must win game from a Southampton point of view – it was shit.  We simply didn’t do anything.  Once more we had no intent and were happy to just play it cagily which of course suited Stoke down to the ground as they are crap.  They had a shot when Cedric decided the best way to deal with a slightly underhit pass to him was to smash it aimlessly and of course it went straight to Stoke and N’Diaye skimmed in a shot from 25 yards with McCarthy saved comfortably.

There was an interesting moment when the referee had to calm down Hoedt and Diouf when judging by Hoedt’s reaction, Diouf had stamped on him.  I didn’t think any more of this until about 10 minutes later when there was a header to be won in midfield and Hoedt won it easily and made sure that he left a bit on Diouf who crumpled like he’d been hit by a train.  Off he went, taking the longest time to walk off the pitch with what looked like a dislocated shoulder.  One simply does not stamp on Wesley Hoedt’s foot.

Sims was looking like the only spark for Saints and he took down a long ball superbly and knocked it past Zouma with his first touch and was away but lacked conviction at the end and allowed Zouma to get back and block the shot.  The resulting corner missed everyone and the only other action of the half was a superbly flighted ball from Shaqiri who must wonder every day how the fuck he ended up playing for Paul Lambert and Stoke, which was well met by N’Diaye and McCarthy got down to pull off a superb save and push it wide.  There were 5 minutes added onto the first half for the time taken to pick up bits of Mame Biram Diouf off of the pitch after he’d been Wesleyed but it was a shit half of nothing.  Half time and I had some soup which was the highlight so far.

Peter Crouch, that lovable lanky streak of piss was on for the second half and Pellegrino was obviously happy with what he saw in the first half as he left it as it was in terms of personnel but it did look like Sims and Tadic had swapped over with Tadic on the right where he is proven shite and Sims up in a position that he’s never played before.  To be fair, the opening minute of the second half was remarkable because we had two shots.  After a hilarious Shaqiri dive, Carrillo put Sims away but his first touch was poor and the angle was against him by the time he fired into Butland’s legs and off for a corner.  From the corner, the ball was half cleared to Lemina whose shot hit the ground and flew off target.

Sims was still being the main threat and he was the man who eventually had the shot saved by Butland after Tadic reminded us he was playing by crossing to Carrillo who laid off to Sims who exchanged passes with Cedric before shooting.  It was better but still not great and Stoke looked ropey as you like at the back.

On the hour mark came the change that should have been made during the week on the training ground with Tadic replaced by Gabbiadini.  4-4-fucking-2 – have it.  Of course, every time Pellegrino has tried 4-4-2 this season he’s done it with Steve Davis as one of the central two in midfield so we’ve just got completely fucked over in there but with the strength of Romeu and Lemina in the middle, Sims and Redmond on the wings and two proper strikers – this might just work.

Redmond has come to life and is suddenly looking like the player he should be, taking players on and going for it.  He takes a ball from Carrillo and tees up Cedric who gets his effort on target but Butland makes an easy save look really really flash indeed. 

Sims is scaring Pieters to death down our right so of course, he gets taken off and replaced with Boufal which sends Redmond onto the right wing where he’s best.  The newly confident winger takes Pieters on with his first touch and skins him before digging out a great cross which picks out Boufal about 6 yards out and he thumps his header down and fucking wide.  For fucking bollocks sake.

With one sub left – for me it should be JWP on at right back to get some quality on for set pieces but Pellegrino brings on Shane Fucking Long to bring his warm-up form to the party.  Just what we need.  Off goes Carrillo who has once again looked ok without ever looking like scoring.

Not much happens for the rest of the game but there is a bit of a mystery as only 2 minutes are added.  There have been 4 subs in the second half which are 30 seconds each so we can assume that there has been not one second of time wasted.  Ok then ref – utter bullshit.  We win a free kick when N’Diaye pointlessly trashes through Boufal and we don’t get chance to take it.  Maybe Anthony Taylor has a long trip home battle with the Beast from the East.  Wanker.  I don’t think he even added the two minutes indicated which I know is only a guide but it was a bit odd.  Not that it matters as we’d have never scored anyway. 0-0 and yet another draw at home.

If you took this game in isolation, you could maybe write it off as unlucky. We did after all dominate the second-half and created a few chances but either contrived to miss them or to see Jack Butland pull off some really good saves. However, this performance cannot be taken in isolation as we don’t have that luxury any more because we have got ourselves in a position where the result is absolutely everything and 0-0 at home against the team that sits below us in the table at this stage is simply not good enough.

We completely wasted the first half of this game. We were negative, lacking in any purpose and more or less exactly as we have been in just about every game back to August. For this reason, Pellegrino’s post match talk of ‘learning’ is the biggest pile of insulting shite that he could possibly come out with. There is no point in learning if you do not take whatever you have learnt into the next game and we never do. Today he said we have learned that we should be positive from the start. No shit Sherlock.

I was absolutely staggered to see Josh Sims in the starting lineup but it was ridiculous that it was in place of JWP.  JWP has been decent since the turn of the year and he gets triggered after one bad game at Burnley. So, Pellegrino has decided to leave out the guy who takes all our set pieces and surprise surprise, we don’t have a fucking clue what to do when we were given a corner. We started off with Sims knocking them short and after a couple of those where we didn’t actually get the ball into the box because we fucked up, we went back to Redmond from the left and Bertrand from the right and whilst the deliveries weren’t dreadful but they were nowhere near the standard that JWP brings to the table. All this against a team that has conceded about 30 set piece goals this season. Maybe Pellegrino should’ve learned that before the kickoff.  He says he learns but he learns fuck all.

It’s a common theme for players who are playing well to be bombed out. Hojbjerg worked really hard to get back in the squad and then in the team and then it was looking like he was going to be our player of the year but now he’s been bombed out again for no real reason at all. Boufal was playing well before he picked up a slight injury and Pellegrino has used that injury as a reason to not pick a player who he obviously doesn’t really like picking because he attacks, take chances and occasionally loses the ball and all that bad stuff. He prefers Dusan Tadic of course who does something decent about once in every 15 games. Needless to say, today wasn’t one of those matches.  We basically played with 10.

This manager has no idea about how to send a team out to actually win a game. We don’t go out to win games. We go out not to lose them and that is why we have so many fucking draws - 13 of the fucking things. Five wins and eight defeats would’ve been better but of course, Pellegrino wouldn’t see it that way. He actually highlighted that Stoke had the best chance when we had two strikers on the pitch. That tells you all you need to know-he sees having two strikers on the pitch as a negative because we might concede a goal. He doesn’t even mention that we created shit loads more chances once we had two strikers on the pitch. Basically, he is a fucking idiot.

Once more, as with Burnley last week, Pellegrino completely fucked up the first half and the substitutions when they came couldn’t fail to make the team better. Having said that, taking off Sims for Boufal turned out to be a mistake and bringing Shane Long was the complete waste of time that I knew it would be as soon as I saw his name amongst the list of substitutes.  Another two points have been left out there, in addition to the two points left out there last week.  With more positivity from the start we would have won both of these games against piss poor opposition.

I repeat, probably for about the tenth time, that we should’ve sacked him months ago and I still fail to see how it would be a negative to sack him now. There is though, as much chance of me shagging all five of Girls Aloud then there is of the Saints board admitting they made a colossal mistake hiring this bumbling idiot and sacking him. He is a few of our worst managers combined. He has the cluelessness and riddled communication of Poortvliet, the stubbornness Branfoot , the totally out of his depth air of Steve Wigley, the risk averse scared to death approach of Claude Puel and the bewildering team selection of George Burley.

When we are talking about players who played well today, we have to more or less forget all about the first half as no one did anything aside from the odd burst from Josh Sims. In the second half, Sims played really well until was hooked off and there was a welcome return to form from Nathan Redmond. He can be an excellent player when the shackles are off. When he was switched to his best side on the right, the run past Erik Pieters and the fantastic cross he put in for Boufal to head wide was his best bit of play this season by a mile. I also thought the central defenders handled the admittedly limited threat that Stoke provided. Credit is due there because let’s face it, I haven’t really handled direct teams very well in the past.  I am a big fan of the way Wesley Hoedt sorted out Mame Diouf.  You stamp on my foot – see what happens next time.

And so another winnable game goes by and onto the next, an away trip to Newcastle for another six pointer. Though our players are without question, better than theirs, Newcastle will probably have a better attitude and I’m going to be expecting Rafa Benitez to have too much tactically for our complete numpty. We will go there for a draw. Have no fear.