Saturday, December 16, 2017

Premier League Match 17 - Southampton 1 Leicester City 4

Claude is The Man

Leicester at home and one of the games that was marked as winnable in our nightmare run of fixtures in December.  As unbelievable as it may sound though, Leicester have had a ‘new manager bounce’ under Claude Puel of all people.  He who was not inspiring in the slightest but he’s undoubtedly a decent guy so fair play to him.  I winder why he’s doing better with Leicester… Jamie Vardy or Shane Long… Riyad Mahrez or Dusan Tadic… Demerai Gray or Nathan Redmond…. Charlie Austin or Leanardo Ulloa…. We win that one but Ulloa is about 8th choice for them.

So, Claude is in the house and the wider footballing world wants us to get beat because Claude finished 8th and got us to a cup final and ‘who do they think they are’ Southampton sacked him, in what was Ralph Krueger’s last public act before he disappeared along with Les Reed to their Magic Bunker where all the evil deeds are plotted and they stick pins in very little voodoo dolls of Nicola Cortese.

The only thing of note sine the last game was what appeared to be a social media tantrum by Wesley Hoedt.  I can guess what’s happened – he was not picked against Arsenal and the three centre backs that were all played ok in the main.  We’re going to two centre backs tonight and Pellegrino now has him 4th in the pecking order and he’s not on the bench.  Sure enough, when the team is revealed it’s a back 4 with Cedric returning for JWP, Jack Stephens has been left out in the change of formation but most ridiculously of all, there is no place for Pierre Hojbjerg.  Boufal is in for Redmond, Lemina for Hojbjerg and Steve Davis starts as well.  So, it looks like Tadic on the right where he is shite and both he and Davis in the same starting Xi means ‘one paced’ central.  So, overall it’s a formation change and 4 changes from a team that played well, including the two best players from the last game.

Claude Puel has rotated a few as well with Gray left out and Okazaki coming in.  Also Albrighton isn’t playing which I feel is a good thing.  Both Vardy and Mahrez are there though and so is Harry Maguire whose name caused much horror when he was touted for Saints in the summer but has joined Leicester, looked worth every penny of the £17m they paid for him and now has a good chance of going to the World Cup.  In hindsight, would have been a good replacement for Virgil and we’d have had about £50 million left over.

Away we go and we immediately put Leicester under pressure with quick counter attacking and win a corner.  Davis’ kick causes confusion, Yoshida takes a swing at it and it squirts wide.  We have started well and Lemina has a shot which is blocked before it goes anywhere.  When Leicester break on us however, the ball goes to Okazaki who has a 50-50 with Virgil but Virgil decides, with the January window approaching , not to go for it and stands off allowing the ball to move to Mahrez who falls over and with no challenge is allowed to get up and carry on.  He heads across the pitch and towards goal as Lemina falls over and Tadic jogs beside him and he gets to about 25 yards out, Yoshida doesn’t close him down and he just hits it, no chance for Fraser, 1-0 and what the fuck was that?

Having started well, we are now deflating like a punctured tyre and Leicester sense a chance to put the game to bed.  Okazaki again finds himself running at goal as defenders back off.  When he shoots, Virgil can eventually be arsed to stick out a foot and it deflects and Fraser makes a decent save by the post.  We’ve completely gone.  Vardy gets away, on it goes to Chilwell and Okazaki and his shot is cleared off the line by Lemina who has at least shown the desire to get back.  Out of nowhere we string together a bit of one touch and Austin has a dig from 20 yards which is a decent effort but straight at the keeper.

The next Leicester attack is set up by Kasper Schmeichel as he drills a long ball forward straight to Vardy and on it goes to Mahrez and we manage to get a foot in and hoof it for a corner.  From the corner, Mahrez has spotted Fuchs creeping up from left back on the edge of the penalty area.  I’ve spotted it too because Mahrez is clearly looking at him but none of our players get to the unmarked Fuchs as Mahrez drills the corner straight to him.  A volley into the box, it hits someone and goes loose and unsurprisingly, Leicester players react and we don’t, Okazaki, 2-0.

The reaction from Saints and the manager is non-existent and on the next foray it’s 3-0.  Maguire refuses to give up on a loose ball in our box and reacts whilst Bertrand and Virgil watch on and he fizzes it across the goal to where King is unmarked 3 yards out.  Lemina and Cedric are in the vicinity it you coult being 10 yards away as in the vicinity.  Fucking useless.

We try and keep a bit of possession which at laest means that despite us knocking it around in our own half, Leicester haven’t got the ball so they can’t score again.  We end the half with a semi-decent move with Cedric crossing, Bertrand heading down and Virgil volleying over the bar.  All defenders you notice.   That’s because the front half of the team have been wank.  That decent move doesn’t stop the players being booed off.  Totally deserved the gutless sacks of shite,

Our resident managerial genius takes off Romeu and puts on Gabbiadini at the start of the second half which basically says to me that he’s given up and saving players for Saturday.  We now appear to be lining up in a 4-4-2 with Davis in a midfield two.  Jesus wept.  The half starts fairly evenly but Leicester have done the hard work so you can tell they’re just sat in a holding pattern and playing the game out.  We geta  free kick in a decent area when Tadic feels a touch in the air from Simpson and flings himself.  Bertrand gets the free kick up and over the wall and under the bar but it’s staright at Schmeichel who shovels it over.  Bertrand swings over the corner and Yoshida rises highest to head down and it bounces down through a ruck of players and bounces in with Schmeichel being distracted by Tadic swinging a big airshot at it.  Maya’s goal, 3-1 and plenty of time to go.

Redmond is on for Boufal who hasn’t done much at all and out of nowhere, the team in red and white remembers how to play football and the ball goes from Lemina to Tadic, across to Redmond who finds the overlapping Bertrand and his perfect low first time cross is right into the path of Austin and we all shout ‘Goaaaaaa-fuckofffffff’ as he slides in but can only direct it into Schmeichel and wide.  Has to score – absolutely has to score.  What happens in this game if you don’t take your chances?

Well in this game, Leicester wake up and realise that they are having a go at fucking up a game that they’ve already won once and they start playing again, given a helping hand by Saints of course.  Cedric is trying to get an attack going out to Bertrand but he shanks his pass horribly straight to Okazaki, leaving Bertrand stranded upfield, on it goes to Vardy on our left and Virgil is over there but he doesn’t lift a leg to stop him and the ball is knocked back to Okazaki who gets in front of Yoshida and smashes it in.

A mass exodus of people with 15 minutes to go and that’s it really.  The second half has been shit and a non-event apart from the two goals and Austin’s miss.  I reckon there are about 10% of the Saints fans left in the ground when the final whistle goes.  What a load of shit.  They could have won by more if they needed to and the final whistle goes and Virgil has the ball so he lashes it into the crowd – it looks like the only time he’s done anything with intent all game and the only thing he’s really meant.

Apart from a couple of exceptions, that was as stinking a shithouse of a performance that you could ever hope to imagine from top to bottom from the manager down. Credit where it’s due, Leicester City and Claude Puel were absolutely excellent from the first minute to the last with the slight exception of the five minutes from when we scored to when we should’ve made it 3-2. Other than those five minutes they were absolutely superb and totally deserve to win and you can see that they are a really good team. They didn’t even have to be a really good team to beat us, they just had to be organised like Watford were  and like Burnley were. Most importantly, they played like a team that was carrying out instructions and they all worked for each other and for their manager who had been playing in a shape and in a style that suited them.

Needless to say, our manager Mauricio Pellegrino didn’t do any of that and he looks like he hasn’t got a fucking clue what sort of team we are, hasn’t got a clue about how to set the team up, is tactically inept and has no fucking idea what is best team is. Other than that, he is fantastic. Our little three-game bubble of optimism where fans (me included) were thinking “oh maybe we are not that shit after all and maybe this manager does know what he’s doing”, was all completely shot away within about 15 minutes of the start of today’s game. We didn’t have a fucking clue and deserved what we got. No ability on display, no guts and no effort.

The team he packed was questionable but on paper at least you can see that it was supposed to be a 4-2-3-1 with Steve ‘Lampard’ Davis as an attacking midfielder. On paper it looked like Tadic would be on the right (where he’s proven shit) and Boufal the left.  In reality, Steve Davis played far too far forward on the shoulder of Austin and Tadic seem to want to play in the middle and only occasionally found himself out on the right hand side. The net result of this was that Mahrez on the right and Chilwell on the left had the freedom of the fucking park to do whatever they wanted. One thing you don’t do is give Mahrez the freedom of the park.   There’s a reason he was the Premier League Player of the Season two seasons ago.  The first goal is fucking criminal – there is so much space for Okazaki because Van Dijk decides not to go and close him down and Mahrez can afford to fall on his arse, have a bath and put new kit on still no one gets anywhere near him.  He is a brilliant player but then anyone would be with no one closing them down, he is not going to miss, he scores goals like that every fucking week.  Pathetic.

Having conceded that goal, Pellegrino makes absolutely no tweaks tactically and five minutes later the game is dead. We had absolutely no belief once the first goal went in.  I think we have a set of players crying out for a leadership and they know they are going to get absolutely none from Pellegrino and the bench and we have no one on the pitch to do that either. So, we get to half-time 3-0 down and he takes off the one midfielder who is running around putting tackles in (yes Romeu was shit but at least he was trying) and drops Steve Davis back to position where he is consistently been proven to be useless.   So Pellegrino’s best tactic for approaching the second half is to go for the 4-4-2 approach which he admitted, we don’t have the players to play after the Burnley defeat when we tried it then.  OK, we have a little rally and get a goal back, due to Leicester just trying to see the game out but all it takes is for us to have a sniff of 3-2 and then they up a gear and score again easily.

The fourth goal sums us up and sadly, it sums up certain individual players. I didn’t realise the full horror of it until I saw it on TV later.  Firstly, Cedric plays a horrific ball across the park which gets intercepted. Steve Davis is marking Okazaki but he just lets him run like he always does. The ball goes wide to Vardy and Virgil is the nearest defender but he just can’t be fucking bothered to get close to him or to put in a tackle so Vardy rolls it into the middle we’re Okazaki is now being picked up by Yoshida, only he isn’t because Yoshida is stationary and Okazaki darts in front of him and smashes it in the net.  Crap from all four players but in the case of the last three, typical.  Davis never tracks runners which is the primary role of the defensive midfielder, Virgil can’t be arsed and Yoshida isn’t very good.  There is clearly an issue at the moment with Wesley Hoedt who seems to have been made a scapegoat for the goal he gave away against Bournemouth. Yoshida coughed up a goal against Arsenal which he does virtually every game so I can understand Hoedt getting the right arse over double standards.  I repeat that I have no time for pathetic social media statements from players.

As for the players who did play, well fucking hell. I’ll start with Virgil van Dijk because he is the easiest one to deal with. He is playing at roughly 70% and he’s good enough to still stand out at 70% when compared to the rest of our team. However, his attitude is fucking disgusting and poisonous and if Pellegrino was to show any sign of being a leader he needs to drop the fucker from this point onwards.   It looks like Manchester City are interested so that’s good news – we get rid of the fucker, get a load of money for him and he doesn’t go to Liverpool.  He couldn’t be arsed today because it was Leicester so comparatively few will be watching.  He’ll be great next week against Chelsea.

Cedric did not look fit to me and Yoshida was just like he always is, decent at times but can’t go 90 minutes without chucking a goal in.  In midfield, Mario Lemina was absolute dog shit in the first half. What the fuck has happened to him? He actually improved in the second half mainly because he couldn’t get any fucking worse. Romeu I thought was doing a manful job on his own in midfield in the first half but here course got substituted by the twat of a manager who basically gave up on this game at half time to save ourselves for the much more winnable trip away at Chelsea at the weekend.  I assume that’s what he’s saving Pierre Hojbjerg for as he has been the best player on the pitch in the last three games that he’s played so of course he gets dropped. Then we have Steve Davis who cannot have played that badly in any single game in his entire life.  He was absolutely useless but it’s nothing that we should be surprised too much about. Whenever he plays against athletic physical midfielders on the opposition, like Ndidi was for Leicester, he just disappears and might as well not be out there. I could not believe that he was still on the pitch after half-time.

On the wings, Tadic after his brief holiday from Bollocksville against Arsenal was right back there today, pathetically throwing himself to the ground or giving the ball away. Boufal hardly got the ball in the right areas but when he did invariably dribbled into the nearest player and lost it. Boufal is a good player but when you compare him to someone like Mahrez, you realise how much of an unpolished diamond he is. Mahrez is on a different level altogether.  Pellegrino stuck Redmond on the left where he is proved to be not very good and that he tried his best, he was unable to make a difference.

Austin tried his best with absolutely fuck all service and had to take a booking from the team when Lemina fucked up and lost the ball in midfield.  He has to score that chance at 3-1 though.

That leaves, Ryan Bertrand who was decent and has put away is obvious disappointment at not moving in the summer and is turning into a consistently high level of performance. The obvious stand out again today was Fraser. Who was in no way at fault with any of the four goals and made some good saves to keep the score down.

How ironic that Claude’s team scored four goals at St Mary’s which would’ve taken him about 10 games to do when he was Saints manager. Fair play to him and hopefully he can keep his good players in the transfer window and continue to do well for Leicester, unless he fancies selling a few of them to us.

There’s not much more to say really. Absolutely everything was wrong, the selection, the performance of the manager tactically, the performance of the players and even the weather was shite.  I’m sure it has happened in the past but I can’t recall ever seeing as many empty seats at the final whistle as I saw last night. For once it’s hard to blame people for leaving early.  Lots of players don’t seem to give a fuck so why should the supporters. After a little three game break, reality is back and we are struggling this season with an average manager, some average players and some piss poor attitudes.

I guess  the Claude thing will bite us today.  Hindsight is wonderful of course but I still stand by the decision to replace him at the end of last season.  The Pellegrino appointment is brought into sharp focus by today's result though and you can hardly say that he's an upgrade on any level.  Good luck to Claude, a decent guy.

Chelsea away next.  We’ll play better because the players will care.  We’ll park the bus and it’ll be like the City game.  We may get a point but I doubt it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Premier League Match 16 - Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

Save This You Bastard
It’s Sunday, it’s stupid o’clock and it must therefore be a Saints match moved for TV, this time BT Sport.  Luckily, the clash with the under 14s team that I help run was averted by our pitch being underwater. Happy days, sort of.

Arsène Wenger has been manager of Arsenal since the 17th century and after the apocalypse and the destruction of the human race, all that will be left are cockroaches and Arsene Wenger who will still be the manager of Arsenal. They are going to finish fourth or fifth this year and next year is going to be the shit storm because Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will both have left. Having said it will be shit storm, I do wonder how much they will actually miss two players who are brilliant on the day but on other days, don’t seem to give a shit.

The main thing I’ve noticed from the world of football since our last game is Eddie Howe. Of course he spent all the post match from the game against Saints shitting on about the penalty when Adam Smith clearly dived.  He shat on about the apology they got from the ref who probably only apologised to stop Eddie’s moaning cos he wanted to go home.  They played against Crystal Palace yesterday and had two penalties awarded against them. The second one was missed but Eddie is still shitting on about it as according to him it shouldn’t have been awarded. Shut the fuck up Eddie you boring little twat. Unless you’re going to talk about the ones that should’ve been given against your team like Josh King’s assault on Wesley Hoedt at every single corner we had last week, then shut the fuck up.

So it’s the usual drill and I’m on the Itchen Bridge and I check my phone to see what the line-up is. I’m reading the 11 names and I’m thinking ‘what the fuck is he doing?’.  The surprise names are Stephens (who hasn’t even made the bench for the past few weeks) and Yoshida and the surprise omissions are Hoedt, Lemina and Boufal and to a lesser extent Jeremy Pied. Pied’s omission means there is no recognised right back in the 11 so who the fuck is playing there? If it’s 4 at the back then I guess it could be Stephens or Yoshida. If it’s five at the back then I guess it could be JWP. Either way, we are going to have someone playing out of position in the area of the pitch that Alexis Sánchez plays in. Okay then.

During the warm up I notice that the shooting drill is going on and with Austin, Tadic and Redmond are JWP and Bertrand which tells me that they’re going to be the wing backs or else why would they be there – so it’s obviously 3 at the back which will be our default formation against strong sides.

We start well and Arsenal look all over the place.  They’ve bought in Mertesackofshit to bolster their defence and he’s scuffs a dreadful clearance straight to Austin.  He plays it first time up to Tadic and he holds off mertesacker who falls over and slips a reverse ball back to Austin who controls and lifts it over Cech and into the net. 1-0, fucking easy and any complaints about Pellegrino’s line up can wait for a bit.

We’re all over them again straight away and Stephens plays a decent ball up to Tadic and once again, it’s a lovely turn and pass through to Austin running in from the right.  He pulls the trigger but Cech gets down well to save low down to his right.  Balls.  Another chance comes as Arsenal gift possession to Redmond and Austin brings another save from Cech but he was offside anyway.

We’re playing some fabulous stuff with Hojbjerg and Romeu ruling the roost in midfield against the shit Xhaka and the Ramsey, the rat faced little twat who is still presumably making videos about England failing to qualify for the World Cup… oh no that was Wales wasn’t it.  Away we go down the left with Bertrand and it’s a great low ball behind the defenders and Austin connects again and once more Cech saves, this time onto the post and away.  Needless to say, Austin was offside again so it wouldn’t have counted.

Arsenal have done nothing but then an overhit corner from JWP puts them away and it’s scary as it’s 3 on 1 at the back for us.  Luckily, the golden trio of Sanchez, Lacazette and Ozil combine to fuck it up and Hojbjerg makes it back to knock it out for a corner.  This boy really wants to stay in the team.

Now it’s all Arsenal with us defending deep with 11 players and Arsenal playing it around the edge of the box and not getting anywhere.  The concentration breaks though and Sanchez comes to our left and plays in a ball to Ramsey and the twat hits it well first time and it’s heading for the bottom corner but Fraser gets down with a strong left hand to push it out.  World class save right there.

We’re still only 20 minutes into the game and the rest of the first half is Arsenal attacking and keeping possession between the half way line and the edge of our penalty area.  They’re really not doing much.  On one occasion when they do get into the box, Lacazette

You know that the 2nd half is going to start much the same.  Wenger will stubbornly carry on the same way and Pellegrino will want more of the same from us as well.  The frist action of note is on 53 when Bertrand wins the ball in defence and we’re off with Redmond carrying the ball forward, playing a 1-2 with Tadic and then taking aim from distance only to smash it straight down Cech’s throat.

They’re having possession but we’re looking the more dangerous and a great passing move featuring Romeu, Hojbjerg, Bertrand and Austin ends with Romeu taking aim from 20 yards and Cech watching on as the ball pinged off the bar and over.  Yet another great chance is forthcoming not long after we break again with Bertrand finding Tadic and the Serb once more finding a ball back to the person who gave it to him and Bertrand holds of Koscielny and is suddenly through but as Cech comes out he dinks it over him but I’m sat directly behind the path of the ball and can see it going wide.  If he was a striker you’d go ‘wanker’ but the general mood is ‘oooh unlucky’.  We’re going to bastard well pay for these misses aren’t we.

Arsenal’s pressure is always going to lead to some chances and Monreal drills wide after a corner is cleared and Arsene decides what the game needs is a diving little twat to run into the nearest player and throw himself to the floor whilst he turns to the ref and throws his arms in the air appealing for a free kick.  Yes, it’s Jack Wilshere who takes the place of Granit Xhaka, named after a rock because he moves as quick as one.  Pellegrino’s first roll of the dice is to take of Redmond who has been pretty desperate and bring on Boufal who immediately starts committing defenders.

Up the other end Wilshere has a dive and a rant and gets nothing so the next time he tries it, Romeu hits him with a ‘this is a proper foul you little twat’ and bins him.  It’s 25 yards out and Sanchez is over it and it’s a throwback to The Emirates a year ago as it arrows over the wall and towards the top corner but Fraser’s footwork is good and he gets across to punch it away quite comfortably.  Can we do this?  Welbeck is on and so is bloody Giroud.  It strikes me that we should bring Hoedt on at this point but we don’t , we bring on Gabbiadini for the clearly blowing Austin and guess what happens with 3 minutes to go.

Sanchez who has done nothing all game finds himself out on our right and a couple of spaces buys him a yard and he clips it into the box to where Giroud loses Yoshida and before Virgil can react, he’s flicked a header just inside the post.  Fuck off!!!

We have no real time to do anything and it seems that both sides immediately settle for a point.  Steve Davis comes on for Tadic but there’s nothing of note in the last few minutes and so the points are shared.

And bollocks. A point against one of the big boys is never to be sniffed at but when you’ve been ahead for 85 minutes it is a little bit hard to take. The bottom line is that we should have buried them in the first 15 minutes and we missed chances throughout the game to win it. They really only created the one chance at the other end other than their goal but they managed to get a point from it.

With Yoshida and Stephens in the team, we were always going to be susceptible once they sent Giroud and Welbeck and it was a great header by the Frenchman as he ghosted in between Maya and Virgil and perfectly flicked a header into the corner. Suave good looking French bastard. The only thing at this current Arsenal side has in common with the good Arsenal sides of Wenger’s first eight years is the fact that they are called Arsenal. That’s it. Cech is still a superb goalkeeper as he proved today but there really wasn’t much else. The much vaunted front three of Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette didn’t really do much. Sanchez pissed around and eventually chipped aimless balls into the box.  Ozil came alive are occasionally butand you can see why they get so frustrated with him and Lacazette did absolutely nothing. It was a shame that Wenger recognised this because if he’d left like it was out there and there is no way that Arsenal would’ve scored. Still it was good to see our old boys Theo Walcott and Calum Chambers playing for Arsenal, only they weren’t playing for Arsenal and they weren’t even on the fucking bench. In Walcott’s defence, he has just fallen out of favour. Chambers was never in favour but he still signed his new contract and he still doing fuck all with his career like the total Oxlade-Chamberlain waste of space that he is.

I have to begrudgingly admit that Pellegrino’s selection in the main worked. The three at the back worked well against Arsenal diminutive strike force but maybe it would’ve been good to have kept a substitute in hand and shoved Wesley on when Giroud came on.   Pierre Hojbjerg was man of the match without a doubt and you would think it would be really hard to Pellegrino to leave him out of the next game but don’t be surprised if he does. He is managing to leave Mario Lemina out of the starting line-up at the moment so anything is possible. The one thing that Pellegrino definitely got wrong was the selection of Nathan Redmond over Sofiane Boufal. Sure Redmond works hard defensively but whenever he got the ball he had absolutely no fucking idea what to do with it. If he had a choice of 20 options and only one of them was wrong, Redmond would pick that one.  He played well on the right against Bournemouth so just maybe playing the right footed winger on the right is the answer.  As I’ve said before, I know that this theory is a bit wild and out there.  I also know that Pep Guardiola thinks he’s a great player but the insane one would not have been impressed today.  Mind you, that is certifiable so maybe he would’ve thought the opposite.

A word from Dusan Tadic. I am not his biggest fan and after 18 months I feel that it’s about time we got some performances out of him and today he was right on it, causing all sorts of problems for the Arsenal defence. I do hope that Pellegrino perseveres with only playing one out of Tadic and Steve Davis. Tadic would’ve had more than one assist today if it wasn’t for Charlie Austin‘s tendency to be offside. Long may continue though and hopefully Austin can bring the best out of Tadic like a Graziano Pellé used to.

Other stand outs today include Fraser who was superb throughout, especially the save low to his left outside which was world class. He was also coming out for crosses as well and catching them all and he must be doing something right because the moron show have canned the ironic clapping and cheering.. I thought JWP did okay in an unfamiliar position. There were times when he drifted inside and the player on the ball had no option out wide on the right but he performed his defensive duties well in the main and it’s always good to have them on the pitch for set pieces. Jack Stephens again showed was composed player he is and three at the back formation really suits him.

Virgil - I don’t know. I find myself looking for mistakes from him now for signs that he doesn’t actually give a shit and today was one of those games where I thought it was sloppy.  He has got a lot of quality obviously so when he’s taking a free kick and it goes straight off for a goal kick and there is no Saints player within 30 yards of it, I wonder if he’s actually giving a shit.

Next up we have a visit of Claude Puel and Leicester City. Claude seems to have found a way of harnessing Leicester’s good attacking players which is mildly irritating because he never managed it with us. Maybe he’s just got better attacking players now. Anyway, the whole of the football world outside of Southampton who saw his sacking as being very harsh will be hoping that Leicester win . In the context of the run of fixtures that we have, this one is of course one of the more winnable ones, so we have to be at it from the first whistle and Pellegrino has to get his selection right. Boufal has to play and I would suggest that Lemina has to play as well. Bring it on.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Premier League Match 15 - Bournemouth 1 Southampton 1

Calm Down

Bournemouth away and another stupid Sunday kick off, this time at 1:30.  A short trip through The New Forest to the Vitality Dean Court Subbuteo Tiny Shit Small Ground which holds 11,000 people. Slightly surprisingly in this age of Financial Fair play that they can afford £20 million for defender and £20 million a week for Jermain Defoe’s pension fund. The good news for Jermain is that Bournemouth is full of old people and the funny smell around the town is the unmistakable musk of piss and Werther‘s Original‘s.

Regardless of the huge amounts of money that they’ve spunked up the wall, Eddie Howe has to be praised for the job that he’s done in keeping them up for two seasons and to be fair, it would be a shock if they didn’t stay up the season as well. I don’t see them progressing much from last season despite the investments they’ve made but they have too much to struggle near the bottom with the real shite of the division.

The FA did eventually decided that Pep Guardiola should probably be sectioned, or at least that he had a case to answer for the Nathan Redmond thing and so the FA charged him, probably because representatives from Manchester United on the FA Committee kicked up a stink about the fact that Mourinho only has the fart out of place and he gets charged and a touchline ban. I haven’t seen the outcome of any enquiry into Guardiola and his behaviour, but I would be willing to bet my house on the fact that fuck all will happen. The guy clearly thinks he’s a legend and the FA will clearly agree with that and as he hasn’t done anything to seriously piss them off in the past, he will get away with it, sure as Lukaku can volley Brighton player twice and not get banned.

Away from domestic football, we had the draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with England getting about as good a draw as they could possibly have got, being in a group with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama. It will be interesting to see how we can fuck that one up. I haven’t even looked at who we are likely to play in the next round if we finished second in that group because as you know with England, it never pays to think too far ahead.

So having had a good performance against Everton and having changed half the team and had a good performance against Manchester City, what would Pellegrino do today Well, I could kind of understand it but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the line-up. First of all, Charlie Austin was picked as a striker which absolutely had to happen. Behind him, Sofiane Boufal came back in as did Dusan Tadic and JWP. Then the issue that I wasn’t too impressed with. The two defensive midfielders were Oriol Romeu which is fair enough and the other was Steve Davis. No, just no. With Lemina and Hojbjerg both available, there is absolutely no way that Steve Davis should be picked in that position. To me it has to be probably one out of Davis or Tadic else we have not enough tacklers or not enough pace in the side. We reverted to a back four with Jeremy Pied coming in for the injured Cedric and big Wes was preferred to Yoshida.

We start the game on the front foot and are moving the ball quickly and looking dangerous with Boufal linking up with Bertrand and he played a great ball outside the full back to Tadic whose pull back towards Austin was poked clear by the lunging Ake.  With Pied playing his first game for a while it was going to be interesting to see if the delivery from the right was any good and the first chance he got was when Virgil strode out of defence and gave Pied loads to time and space to pick out a player but he expertly picked out the first defender though we did at least get a corner out of it.  Seeing as it was from the right, Tadic swung it over instead of JWP and up went Virgil with a free header and it slid off his head and just wide.  Shit – has to hit the target there.
We react to the near miss by sitting back and allowing Bournemouth to get a foothold.  I have no idea why we do this but we do and are lucky not to go one down as a cross from the left finds Smith on the right and his shot is deflected goalwards by Defoe and Fraser flinches up an arm and it pings off him for a corner.  Miracle save to be honest seeing how quickly the ball was moving and how close Defoe was.  From the corner, Ake gets in front of Pied and heads goalwards only for Fraser to parry it out and we get it away.

From the next corner Bournemouth win, it’s worked short to Smith and he runs into the box, toes it away from Boufal’s lunge and goes over.  Shit, that looks like a penalty, but the referee Jon Moss has given it as a dive and booked him and Defoe for arguing.  I’m watching on TV and the first replay looks like a foul but the second shows he’s on his way down before the tackle so spot on ref.

Serves You Right You Rat-Faced Cheating Fucker

Meanwhile, we decide that it might be good to get the ball up their end for a bit and JWP fires over a superb cross but Austin’s header is saved by Begovic and bounces down to Tadic whose shot is blocked by Francis’ elbow at close range.  All our players are appealing but no chance lads.  There would have been zimmer frames all over the pitch if that had been given having not giving the Smith one.

Having briefly been positive and having an attack, it’s back to defending and Hoedt makes a mess of a header and it rolls to Daniels who absolutely creams it with the outside of his left foot and it doesn’t miss the top corner by very much.  Hoedt’s dodgy few minutes gets worse as Davis needlessly gives him the ball when he could have gone forward but then Hoedt fucks around trying to beat King, loses the ball and Bournemouth work it from King to Surman to Fraser and with Pied nowhere near him, he drills it into the net.  Pathetic and that’s all she wrote until half time.  It’s bloody ridiculous – we are clearly better than them individually but we’ve allowed them to dominate the last 20 minutes – why?

The second half sees Pellegrino basically admit he got the selection wrong but it’s not Lemina coming on but Redmond for JWP.  Maybe Guardiola’s one call for the day from the Asylum has been to Mauricio, telling to put his man on.  Anyway, we start well with Boufal working a shooting chance on the left and Begovic saving well low down.  We have a go at being out of the game when some shambolic defending by half our team where no one gets a foot to the ball ends with King scuffing a shot across the goal and Stanislas being unable to turn it in at the back stick.

It’s a temporary foray for Bournemouth though as it’s all Saints now. A neat 1-2 between Bertrand a Boufal sees Austin get an effort on goal and saved by Begovic and another spot of pinball, this time in their box and Tadic’ shot deflected over the bar by Francis.  The corner is half cleared and Lewis Cook tries to run it out of defence but he’s hunted down by Romeu who takes the ball and feeds Redmond on the right and his low cross is expertly drilled low into the net by Austin.  His celebration of goading the Bournemouth fans to calm down was really quite funny – it was as funny as they are pathetic so yes, very funny.

Bournemouth fans Fuming at Austin

He should have been able to bring the celebration out again two minutes later as Boufal put Bertrand away and for once, there was no quality on Berty’s deliver and it neither threatened to goal nor connected with Austin who was in space and 6 yards out.

Lemina in on for Tadic but he goes deep and Davo is pushed forward.  Straight afterwards we have a scare when King shoots and Fraser again parries out and it hits Wilson and bounces wide.  Wilson has come on for Defoe who has done the square root of fuck all.  It should be the winner…. Romeu feeds Boufal who plays a superbly weighted ball to Bertrand on the left and he reaches it at full pelt as it reaches the goal line and the cross is met by Austin at the near post but he thumps it just over.  Fuck… needed a bit more of a deft one like the first against Everton.  Nothing much happens in the 3 extra minutes with the only real chance coming with the last kick as Smith’s corner is met by Ake who no one has bothered to mark but he gets it all wrong and heads miles over.

Final whistle and I can’t help but be a little bit disappointed that we didn’t win it but over the 90 minutes you have to say it was probably a fair result. Personally, I really don’t think Bournemouth are very good and if we played the whole game on the front foot like we played the second half then this game was there for the taking. To me, though they had a few chances, Bournemouth didn’t ever look likely to score unless we fucking handed it to them and sure as shit, that’s what we did with Wesley Hoedt paying the price for overconfidence. Having said that, Fraser Forster produced one of his worldy saves to keep out Defoe’s close range effort when he deflected a shot with his zimmer frame. The ridiculousness of Bournemouth giving a three or four year contract to an ageing Jermaine Defoe looks ridiculous at the moment. He was very very average today before he got substituted.

We had the Adam Smith penalty incident in the first half which got everybody talking and mostly talking bollocks.  I’m sorry, whatever you pundits say, that was a big horrible fucking dive and he totally deserve to get booked. What the fuck the referee’s doing allegedly apologising to him afterwards is beyond me. He was on his way down well before Boufal got there and though it was a stupid tackle to be going for, the fact is that the rat faced little twat was on his way down before any contact happened. How anyone can watch the slow motion replay and think he didn’t dive is completely fucking beyond me. Forget all that shit about him having a right to go down. Fuck off. If he gets put down then it’s a foul if he doesn’t get put down and he manufactures it himself then it’s not a foul. It really isn’t that hard to understand that.  He didn’t get put on the deck by Boufal, he got there completely on his own and he’s a fucking cheat.

As for TV pundits - I would like to see a promotion and relegation for pundits in the media. Phil Neville has proved to be a complete fuckwit so he is now relegated from MOTD2 to MOTD3 on the red button.   If he proves to be a fuckwit on that as well then he gets relegated to Radio talkSHITE alongside such twats as Robbie Savage and Joey Barton and the non-footballers who think they know what they’re talking about like Mike Parry and Adrian Durham.

So, back to why we didn’t win. I thought the team selection was very suspect today. Leaving out a fully fit Mario Lemina is questionable at best and leaving out Pierre Hojbjerg after the couple of games he has had is a bit strange also.  As said at the start, I feel that only one of Steve Davis and Dusan Tadic should be playing. I understand that the decision to play JWP after the Everton game, but he was fucking dreadful today and was deservedly substituted. Pellegrino got that one right though because Nathan Redmond had a good 45 minutes, with him setting up the goal for Charlie Austin.  Right footed Redmond on the right perhaps.  Mad ‘out there’ idea I know.

I’m changing my mind about Charlie Austin. He still looks cumbersome and he still looks like he’s drunk 10 pints before he plays but he’s given our team a focal point and we now look more like a team when we’re attacking, rather than like a collection of individuals not playing together and all being frightened to go anywhere near the penalty area. For someone who can’t run, he has a brilliant habit of finding himself space in the penalty area and he will know that he should’ve scored the winner from the Bertrand cross to the near post. Anyway Bournemouth fans, I thought we were your new super rivals But it seems that you can’t let go of your non-league mentality and have to reserve extra vitriol for the player who used to play for Poole Town.  I guess we can’t be too disappointed with four points from the last three games but it really should have been six.  Six would have been good, four is average.

Next up we have Arsenal at home and this Arsenal side is really no different to any other Arsenal side of the last 10 years. They can destroy you on their day but you know if you get about them, then they are flaky and it is an opportunity to get a result against one of the big clubs. It’s an opportunity that we need to take next week and if the manager gets the midfield selection and the mindset right, I see no reason why we can’t add a further three points to the total.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Premier League Match 14 - Manchester City 2 Southampton 1

Redmond Confronted by Asylum Escapee

Manchester City away free hit. They’ve been demolishing everybody with 12 wins out of 13 so far, easy progression in the Champions League group and no worries at all. It seriously wouldn’t surprise you if Manchester City won the trouble of Premier League FA Cup and Champions League this year. So, it’s a free hit.

We come here on the back of the thumping win against Everton which will have injected some confidence back into the squad. Having stumbled upon a winning formula, I fully expect Pellegrino out to change all that round tonight and pick up the players probably in three at the back formation which we saw a glimpse of in the last 10 minutes against Everton.

City are ridiculous this year, usually managing to put five out of Jesús, Aguero, Sané, David Silva, Sterling, de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva on the pitch at any one time. Yaya Toure doesn’t get a look in and nor hardly does Ilkay Gundogan. They have so many players that they paid so much ridiculous money for that it’s not actually a fair fight. It is fucking ridiculous. Also of course, they have Pep Guardiola as the manager. Now you can argue that he managed Barcelona in Spain and Bayern Munich in Germany and now City in England so in fact he’s had the most resources of any club in every league but he’s managed in. Regardless, he happens to be quite good at getting results with the cards loaded in his favour so no one can complain really. You can see the difference it is made in some of the players who have got much better since he’s been there with Raheem Sterling being the most obvious example. It’ll be interesting to see if the other English players that he has like Kyle Walker and John Stones improve massively as well. Ryan Bertrand was heavily linked with them in the summer and recently the rumours have been saying that they may be in for Virgil in January or in the summer. To be honest, with Guardiola as the manager and Sheikh Mansoor pumping ridiculous amounts of money into the club, who could blame them if they wanted to go to the blue side of Manchester.

Pellegrino surprises no one by changing to a more defensive line up.  In comes Yoshida, Lemina and Romeu so it’s obviously going to be three centre backs with a solid midfield.  Austin is rested for the Bournemouth game and Shane Long is picked, purely I would expect to to the Jack Russell thing and chase about after the City defenders all game..  Nathan Redmond has been picked to add a bit of pace as well but as we kick off, it looks like a back five, with four in midfield with Hojbjerg right, Redmond left and Long up front on his own.  All the lightweight players like JWP, Davo and Boufal are on the bench.

City of course have possession a lot and whoever has theball has about 7 options and there appears to be danger everywhere.  Fernandinho has the first effort which goes well wide.  We have our first break on about 5 minutes and it’s Hojbjerg up the right to Long who tries to find Redmond but we win a corner.  Over it comes from Bertrand, flicked on by Yoshida and Wesley meets it from about 6 yards, unmarked.  It’s an absolute sitter but he nods it onto the bar – fuck it.  Ah well, it would only have annoyed them if it had gone in – hang on, they’re breaking like lightning and Sterling sees his shot well turned aside by Fraser and Jesus gets the rebound on target by Fraser saves again.  Jesus is very much present for someone who doesn’t exist.

It’s of course going to be  massive effort in concentration and Lemina pulls out the skills but then loses it and Fraser has to pull out another save to deny Fernandinho.  It’s now like the Alamo with City playing ridiculous football.  Otamendi heads over and then Aguero forces a save and Gundogan hits the side netting.  The wek part of City’s side is of course the defence but you can’t bloody get to it often.  We doso when Lemina megs Kompany on the left ahnd side of the penalty area but runs out of room and con only poke a ball at Ederson.  Shane Long does soom to have Kompany rattled though and he breaks past him only for Kompany to take one for the team and just grab him for an inevitable yellow card.  Keep running at the old crumbly bastard.

Right on half time we miss another sitter – this time it’s a Redmond corner and Virgil rises unmarked, nods it down to Yoshida who is again unmarked and shins it over the bar from 6 yards.  As ridiculous as it seems, with our approximately 10% possession, we’ve had to two best chances.  Half time and a good half – digging in as well as possible and carry a bit of a threat at the other end.  I feel that Pellegrino has got this one right.

The concentration has to be maintained and it takes all of 3 minutes for it not to be.  City build on our right and when the ball gets knocked infield to Jesus, Yoshida runs up behind him and nails him to a fucking cross.  It’s a ridiculous tackle because he was facing the wrong way – just stand your ground and let him have it.  Anyway, incoming free kick from Kevin de Bruyne and he whips it near post, past our pointless one man wall and it deflects off of someone and flies into the net at the near post with Fraser having no chance.  City run to Otamendi but body language tells you that Virgil’s stuck that in his own net.  Bollocks.  Plan A has gone South so now what.

Plan B appears to be to let City put the game to bed as soon as possible as a loose ball in midfield gifts possession away and Jesus cuts in from the left, turns some bread into fish or somesuch bullshit and whilst he’s at it, curls one wide of the far post.  Instead of attempting to perform miracles, he could try scoring a goal as three minutes later he had a chance of resurrection when Maya fucked up and gave Aguero the ball but Jesus took the offering and saw Fraser save again.   Fraser is on it tonight, saving a long range blast from de Bruyne and watching on as Aguero put one over the bar.

Rather than just wait for a second goal to go in, Pellegrino takes of Hojbjerg for Boufal and immediately Saints look more of a threat.  With 15 to go something unbelievable happens with has nothing to do with Jesus.  Bertrand hoiks over a cross from near the corner flag on the left and Boufal shapes to volley from beyond the back post.  This is enough for Dlph to jump out of the way and defend like and 11 year old as Boufal instead, takes it down with a sublime first touch before pulling it back for Romeu to smash high into the net.  Fuck me, we’ve scored.

Pellegrino seems to think now that another substitution might get us another goal and Austin is on for Long.  The last 15 is all City as you’d expect but we’re holding out and wasting time like we’re West Brom after 3 minutes in an away game.  A cross comes in from oue left but Fraser is fouled and despite Sterling putting it into the net – no bother.  5 minutes extra….shit.  Cedric goes down injured and we bring on McQueen – I’m not sure what formation we’re playing – Bertand is still on the left in front of McQueen so it now is possibly 4-5-1 with Maya at right back.  Can we hang on… fuck it.  Sterling and de Bruyne torment us with the ball on our right as the clock ticks 95 and Sterling jinks across the top of the box, finds a bit of space and curls it into the far top corner in just about the only place where Fraser couldn’t reach it.  Sterling goes mental, City go mental, Guardiola is on the pitch, fuck off.  We kick off, one pass, whistle goes, fuck off.
For Fuck Sake. 96 minutes into a 90-minute match and we concede the winning goal. What an absolute pisser.  We deserved a point for the way we played and the effort we put in.  No complaints at all though and we come out of it with immense credit.

The first thing to say is that Pellegrino got it absolutely spot on today managing to find a balance between resting players for the game against Bournemouth and picking a side that least had a chance of upsetting Manchester City and we almost did it. If you take it the heroic defending and goalkeeping as part of the deal, you could argue that we really should of won it on clear chances as all three centre backs had good chances to score on our set pieces with Wesley hit the bar and Virgil and Maya putting very presentable chances over the top. It's not exaggerating to say that Manchester City are very much like Guardiola’s Barcelona side in that eventually they just wear you down and it's an absolute miracle if you can keep the levels of concentration and discipline needed to keep them out. Everything has to go your way and it very nearly did but today, unfortunately on 96 minutes, the luck ran out.

The fallout from the game has been very interesting. I was absolutely raging when five minutes was added at the end but it appears to have been acknowledged that we were wasting time throughout so perhaps five minutes was justified.  It’s funny how you don’t notice it when it’s your own side doing it.  The injury to Cedric meant that five minutes became six and it was in that last minute that Sterling scored the winning goal. It was a completely heroic performance by side today and one which would not have seen possible just a couple of weeks ago. Like I said, Pellegrino got it spot-on and for the first time, tactically showed that he is prepared to be adaptable to suit the situation. Let’s not kid ourselves that was three at the back. It was basically a five with four in midfield and one upfront with Redmond and then Boufal trying to give Long some support.

All of the focus after the game has been on the antics of Pep Guardiola are as the players left the field.  He has clearly been skipping his meds.  Not only was he celebrating like a lunatic and the kind of way that would certainly have got Jose Mourinho banned from the touchline, he then ran onto the pitch to talk to Nathan Redmond and was jumping around like a maniac and grabbing him and pushing him and yelling at him. Pep’s explanation was that he was telling Redmond what a good player he was and tell him that he should attack more as he is one of the best one on one attackers in the country. The media then tried to make out that Pep called him a wanker according to a mind reader and then Redmond himself cleared up the issue by basically saying that Pep’s version of events was correct and that Redmond replied that he was doing what is manager told him to do.  Pep has since admitted that he said roughly the same to more of our players – that we should have attacked more.  Well it would certainly be entertaining if he was our manager.  He had me until he said that Shane Long had quality – sorry Pep, that’s one thing he doesn’t have.  Pace and Jumping.  That’s it.

Here’s little challenge for any manager who is playing against Manchester City and the next next few weeks. Go up to Kevin De Bruyne and tell him that he’s decent but whay’s he playing so deep – he should attack more.  Grab him and push him around a bit as well and mention that he should basically not do what his manager has told him to do. Let’s see how Pep reacts to that. There has been a bit of criticism of his actions in the media but the mood seems to be that as it’s Pep and he’s a legend, that’s okay. No it isn’t. If I was Pellegrino I would be absolutely steaming about it.  Part and parcel of being a professional footballer is doing what your manager tells you to do even if you don’t agree with it. Years and years ago, I had a conversation with Jimmy Case in the car park at The Dell where he basically said that if your manager tells you to smash 80 yards up the pitch then that’s what you should do otherwise you’re gonna find yourself out of the team next week. It’s pretty obvious really. Guardiola has absolutely no right to talk to anyone else’s players and also for that matter has no right to complain about teams playing defensively at Manchester City. What the hell does he expect? He has 20 players at his disposal that all in the £50 - £100 million bracket and he’s playing against a team that has Shane Long upfront who scores goals with about the same frequency as Halley‘s comet turning up. It’s like bows and arrows against nuclear warhead. It’s unbelievable to hear so much sour grapes from the manager when his team actually won.

It’s not that we defended superbly well all match because there were times when I was looking at Virgil and Maya in particular and wondered if they never play football before as they were taking it in turns to dawdle on the ball will be caught miles out of position but somehow, we almost pulled it off. The main reason for this was of course the much-maligned big man in goal who was magnificent throughout and he really deserved better than to be on the losing side. The heavily armed midfield of Hojbjerg, Romeu and Lemina did what was expected from them and we really could’ve won this game.  However, there is no doubt about it but this City side is going to win the league by mile.

Saints go to the Vitality Dean Court Very Small Bag of Shit and Resentment Stadium on the weekend to play Bournemouth who have just lost at home to Burnley, checking their mini revival. If we can go there and get a result like we did last year then it would really set them back as well as propelling us up the table. There is real reason to be optimistic now as we seem to have been shaken out of our malaise for the dismal defeat at Liverpool and you can see now that we can actually look quite a good side. No doubt we will have the return of Charlie Austin, Steve Davis, Dusan Tadic and Sofiane Boufal for this game. The Moroccan only had 20 minutes tonight but showed sort what sort of form he’s in with the setting up of Romeu for the goal. What a touch that was to make the defender look absolutely stupid before he rolled it back to the big man to smash into the net. Come on then Bournemouth, what have you got?