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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Premier League Match 28 - Burnley 1 Southampton 1

Bobby Madley Celebrates His Assist

Here we go then, the five games that would decide the division we’re in next season, starting at Burnley away in a fixture where we’ve lost 1-0 in a dreadful game in the last two seasons.  This season seen Burnley safely in the top half of the table due to decent fist half of the season but they’ve gone 10 games without a win and we should be going here looking to extend that run and leave with three points.  Their win at St.Mary’s earlier on in the season neatly summed up things for both clubs this season.  Burnley sat deep and made it a horrible game and then threw on a big striker and went even more direct and Saints couldn’t deal with it and lost 1-0.  The change in tactics from ‘basic’ to ‘even more basic’ from Sean Dyche was too much for Pellegrino to deal with, so he did nothing in what was a complete shambles of a performance from us.

Aside from Pellegrino, the other shambles this season has been the transfer window and this was brought into focus again this week with the news that we’d be playing these 5 do or die games and the FA Cup Quarter Final without Maya Yoshida in the squad.  I know he’s not a regular at the moment but we are now one injury or suspension to Hoedt or Stephens from having Bednarek in the starting XI and an untried kid – probably Alfie Jones – on the bench.  Bearing in mid we knew Virgil was leaving sometime in December and that we did the exact same thing last year as well, it’s a complete dereliction of duty by Les Reed and the football side of the board.  Talking of Les, he’s at Turf Moor along with Ralph Motivational Hockey Guy – hopefully they’ll be honest about the shambles they’ve helped to create.

An hour before the kick off is always a great time to be alive as a Saints fan at the moment as we get to see if Pellegrino has been taking his strong meds this week or just the standard ones.  Romeu for Hojbjerg is the only change so Redmond keeps his place despite the presence of Boufal and Sims on the bench who should both start ahead of him in my opinion.  Burnley have left out Sam Vokes and have the same 4-2-3-1 formation as us which proves my earlier point.  You would think that being 7th and at home against the team in 18th, you’d keep the same formation you had last week with two strikers but Dyche has set up to strangle the shite out of the game and probably play like the away side.  Bobby Madley is the referee, oh deep joy.

I can probably sum up the first half in either one paragraph, one sentence or one word beginning with ‘S’ but to describe the highlights in more detail – Burnley had a volley from Lennon which went straight at McCarthy for him to pick up after they’d bombed a ball long and it had been headed out.  Saints fashioned a chance after a poor keeper clearance with Redmond playing in Tadic and he had a decent effort with the outside of his left foot well saved by Pope.  That was it.  There was nothing except banging in long from them, banging it long from us and no intent from either side.  Carrillo was isolated for us, Barnes for them and it was abysmal.  Best League In the World – ha! Best Top 6 perhaps and the rest is atrocious.  With just the slightest bit of attacking intent and a little bit of ability, this game is there for the taking.

We start with a bit more about us in the second half but that quickly subsides to mind-numbing bollocks and Burnley are just doing what they do, throwing crosses into the mixer and hoping for the best.  They get a corner which is cleared by Carrillo, crossed back in and Barnes puts a decent header wide as no one bothers to jump with him.  We’ve got nothing going forwards at all.  Stephens and Cedric are engaged in a competition to see who can reach the goalkeeper with a clearance and none of our ‘creative’ players, JWP, Tadic and Redmond are doing a thing to hurt Burnley and Carrillo is lucky if he gets a ball within 20 yards of him.   It’s appalling and you know what’s going to happen.

Jack Cork wins a battle in midfield and gives it out to Lennon on our right.  Lennon is completely one footed so rather than showing him down the line, Cedric thinks it’s a good idea to allow him to switch it onto his good foot and cross it unopposed.  It’s met by someone at the back stick who is unmarked, McCarthy pushes it out onto the head of Hendrick who knocks it goalwards and there’s that shit Ashley Barnes to bundle it over the line from 6 inches out.  On first view it looks like a bit like a handball but Bobby Madley has given it.  Surprise, surprise, 1-0 down.

Josh Sims is on for JWP which suggests to me that Boufal is not fully fit.  JWP has been crap but Tadic and Redmond must be wondering what they have to do to get substituted and get one of those nice warm substitute coats to wear.  We have a go at totally fucking it up as a long ball over the top is gathered by McCarthy on the right hand edge of the penalty area and he clearly carries it out of the box (he’s nearly carried it out for a throw in) before dropping it and hoofing it out.  Lots of moaning from Burnley as Madley doesn’t give anything bar a throw.  At best for them it should have been a free kick and a yellow card but they’d shitting on like it should have been a red.

We wake up as an attacking threat and it starts with Hoedt winning a decent tackle out on the left and away we go with a ball up the line, Redmond to Carrillo and the big man finds Sims inside who goes directly at the goal, beats a man and then curls a shot at the top corner and the fucking goalkeeper somehow gets a finger to it and deflects it onto the post.  It’s the first bit of attacking quality all game from either side and it deserved a goal.  Bollocks.

As time ticks down, Pellegrino decides that we might actually need a goal so he hits the ‘random’ button taking off Tadic and Romeu and bringing on Gabbiadini and Boufal.  The formation has gone to shit and no one really knows what’s going on, including Pellegrino I suspect.  Sims has a lash which flies over the bar and the 3 minutes extra board goes up.  Bobby Madley takes centre stage.

Burnley have the ball in midfield and a loose-ish pass is played sideways to Westwood who turns and runs straight into what looks like a pitch invader but it’s in fact, Bobby Madley who is in the way.  Redmond picks it up and drives forward, skipping past a challenge and finds Sims on the right.  He crosses to back stick, Carrillo heads down and Gabbiadini holds off a defender, swivels and crashes it into the net on the volley.  Fabulous finish and Burnley are all round Bobby, giving him shit.  It’s hilarious.  Burnley’s bench is giving it the large one and they’re mood is not helped in the last minute as Barnes decides to sit down in the box rather than try and win a header against Hoedt and cries for a penalty.  Fuck off.  Bobby blows for full time.  What a legend.

I guess this is a decent point given where we were when 90 minutes and given that any away point is decent in some regards … so why am I disappointed and find it hard to accept that this is a decent result.   I guess it’s because Burnley are one of the most limited teams in the division and for anyone to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.  They are seventh in the league because they won a lot of tight games 1-0 at the start of the season. Fair play them to doing that but they could just have easily drawn three or four of those games and they will be down there with us at in the bottom of the table.  I have nothing against Burnley but the amount of moaning bollocks that came out in the aftermath of this game from Sean Dyche (mainly) was quite staggering. Listen lads, you don’t play any football and you just smash the ball from back to front. You didn’t deserve to win the game and moaning about every fucking decision that might possibly have not gone your way just makes you look like twats. You could maybe get away with it if you acknowledged that Ashley Barnes bundled your goal in with his arm but you didn’t acknowledge that so you can take all your whingeing and moaning and fuck off as far as I’m concerned.

Dyche Gets Ready To Give It the Big One, Pellegrino looks Bewildered as We Score.

Let’s be honest, Ashley Barnes put that ball into the net with his arm. It’s not like Doucoure at Vicarage Road but the bottom line is that ball is not going into the net without a second deliberate movement by Barnes with his arm towards the ball to push it over the line. I’m not saying he’s a complete fucking cheat like Doucoure is but it’s a hand ball and with VAR, that goal would probably have been ruled out.  I don’t blame the officials for missing this one.  Talking of officials, our goal on the other hand was hilarious because Bobby Madley got an assist. He’s a fucking diabolical referee and has cost us on many occasions but on this time he played an absolute blinder by getting in the way of Ashley Westwood and allowing Redmond to start the attack which led to the goal. I can’t believe Burnley are saying that Gabbiadini fouled Kevin Long before he smashed into the net. That is just absolute bollocks. So are you saying that the referee did it on purpose Mr Dyche? The referee is part of the fittings and exactly the same way that the posts and the corner flags are. Occasionally these fittings are going to get in the way. I learned that when I was seven years old and have accepted it ever since so stop with your fucking moaning.  As mentioned, Dyche won some tight games 1-0 by basically boring the shit out of games and winning on a set piece or a long ball goal.  You need luck to win games when you play no football and you’ll get the breaks  sometimes and sometimes you won’t.  For him to be talked up as a future Arsenal manger (for example) as he was at the start of the season is laughable. 

Ashley Barnes’ interview on Match of the Day was hilarious. He looks like he was going to cry, acting like some sort of innocent victim.  Anyone remember that tackle he put in, halfway up Nemanja Matic’ standing leg a couple years back. Yeah, that’s how much of an innocent victim Ashley Barnes is, so spare me all your whingeing moaning, hard done by bollocks.

This game, from both sides was absolutely atrocious. I watched the rugby in the afternoon and there was less kicking long for territory in that than in Burnley versus Southampton. The first half was as bad as there has ever been and the second half wasn’t much better. It was entirely predictable that we would let in a goal in the manner that we did and be 1-0 down and it was not thanks to a manager that we got back into the game. He got lucky as there was absolutely no plan with his substitutions other than throwing on attacking players and hoping for the best. No one seemed to know where they were playing and there was no discernible formation as such.  It might have been 4-1-3-2 or it may have been 4-1-4-1 or it might have been something completely different entirely.  What it was however there was nothing that had ever been practised before.  Redmond and Boufal both seem to be playing on the left wing, Sims was on the right and Gabbiadini and Carrillo where upfront. Sims was absolutely electric once he came on and contributed more in 20 minutes then Redmond has contributed all season. All of a sudden we had someone with intent to make something happen, forcing the keeper into worldy save, putting another chance over the bar and setting up the goal should earn him a starting place next week.  It won’t of course but it should.

Then you have the fact that Sims put in a cross, Carrillo headed it down and Gabbiadini smashed in the net. We actually had players in the box and we had probably our most natural goalscorer on the pitch and in a forward position, with support from a bigger stronger strike partner. Again, both scorer and supplier should be starting next week but unless the manager can actually bring himself to drop his golden boy Tadic, then Gabbiadini will be on the bench again and Carrillo will be isolated. 

Before the last few minutes panic, there was a massive lack of intent in our play and a lack of desire to score a goal. Even the bloody mainstream media are beginning to notice it now. Jermaine Jenas called it out on Saturday afternoon.  Pace, power and intent of the three things that you have to have in your side. The frustrating thing is that we are not far away but under this manager, it is never going to happen. We have full-backs who want to get forward. We have a central midfield player in Lemina who wants to drive the team forward but whilst we have a manager who picks his attacking midfielders based on how well they can defend, we are always going to struggle.  I understand it against good sides but Burnley, regardless of the league position, are not a good side. If you go back to the pace and power intent thing, Tadic is none of these but he is the first name on the team sheet because Pellegrino values the defensive things that he does.   

I heard and interview Gary Neville a week or so ago we kept going on about how Alex Ferguson encouraged the Manchester United players to take risks, especially in the final third. Ferguson would’ve picked Boufal, would have given Hesketh a chance  and he would pick Josh Sims and he would play with one striker dropping off of another striker. Sadly we have a risk-averse shambles of a manager which is why we can go to a team as limited as Burnley and only show intent when we are one down with five minutes to go. I said after a few games but if you offered Pellegrino 36 1-1 draws and that kept us up, then he would’ve snapped your hand off for it and there is nothing that I have seen in the 28 games we have played so far to make me change my mind.

And breathe… having said all that, at the end of the day the point here is what I expected as a minimum so it’s not a horrific result and it has moved us up to 16th in this ridiculously tight relegation battle that we are in. Next up is the massive acid test for Pellegrino. Stoke at home.   Stoke, along with West Brom and Swansea are the three teams that look worse than us at the moment so in this game, a draw really is no fucking good so he has to send a team out to win the game. I won’t be holding my breath.