Big Vic: Too Tough for Goal Celebrations
A trip over the
Bridge and then on until the land runs
out to play Swansea
at the Liberty Stadium. Most experts
that you see on TV or write columns in the press, would have been expecting
this to be a game of 16th versus 17th or whatever but of
course it’s not – it’s 3rd versus 4th. Swansea started the season with a trip to Old
Trafford and won and it was all plain sailing until they went to Stamford
Bridge last week and lost 4-2 but still put on a decent display. Ex-Saint Garry Monk appears to be doing
things the right way and having been at Swansea as a player for years, has had
no problem in carrying on with the philosophy of the club. They play decent football so it should be a
decent game. Mind you, I said that last
year and it wasn’t really a good game and the goal bounced in off Rickie
Lambert’s shoulder having come down with snow on it.
Ronald Koeman’s press conference had brought the news that Sadio Mane’s work permit had come through but that he wouldn’t be available for today’s game, probably because he hasn’t met anyone yet. Other news is that King Artur has gone out on loan to Bournemouth. Excuse me?
Bournemouth. So, we’ve loaned out the guy who was one of
the best keepers in the Premier League last season… to Bournemouth. Let’s just ponder that for a second. It’s an emergency loan for a maximum of 93
days but I don’t know if we have instant recall within the 93 days. If not then it seems a gamble as we’re a
Forster injury away from having a League 1 standard keeper in goal. Artur obviously wants first team football and
there has obviously been some sort of issue behind the scenes. It annoys me though that we’ve helped out the
team with the most ungrateful set of supporters ever and how the hell is it an
‘emergency’ loan when they have at last 3 other keepers who are fit?
There have been rumours before the game that Toby Alderweireld has a bit of a hamstring issue and the Twitter Medical Fraternity have diagnosed that he’s out for a month, or a year, or a week. Whatever the length of time, the rumour has some substance as Toby is not in the 18. With mention being made of
lack of height in the build-up, I wondered if the giant Florin Gardos would
come in but Maya Yoshida was back in the team and the only other change sees JWP
in for Steve Davis. Sam McQueen is again
on the bench and (I know I said this last week) Emmanuel Mayuka is making his
final appearance on the bench before being loaned out to a random Championship
Club which hopefully won’t be Bournemouth. Swansea of course have ex-Saints and
ex-bag thief Nathan Dyer and since last season have re-signed Gylfi Sigurdsson
who thought the grass would be greener at a bigger club but it turned out that
it wasn’t. There’s a few ex-Saints
players who might be learning that lesson this season.
Away we go and Saints are immediately reminded that Swansea are the only team in the league who keep the ball better than we do and we struggle to make any impression at all.
Swansea aren’t creating anything much either
aside from a Routledge cross which is too far ahead of Dyer. He’d have got it if it was in a handbag. Sigurdsson rifles a shot straight down
Forster’s throat and Saints at least get up the other end as Pelle aims a
massive scissor volley at Clyne’s cross and gets a free kick given against him
for nearly kicking a defenders head off.
The first real incident is Bony getting booked for ignoring the ball and
just charging into Maya Yoshida while he was in the air. It’s a real cowardly, malicious tackle and
it’s only going to injure the opponent.
Bony either knew that or he’s really thick. Saints are not impressed with the tackle and
the next time Bony gets it, Captain Fonte steams in, wins the ball but trashes
through Bony on the follow through and he gets deservedly booked as well.
It’s still all Swansea though and Routledge should have scored when Maya dozed off and Sigurdsson found the winger in space but he clipped his shot off the bar and over. Saints responded briefly with Pelle half hitting a shot after a Bertrand cross which Fabianski saved easily before Bony got his head to a corner and saw his header cleared off the line by Bertrand.
A scuffle in midfield saw Yoshida come away with the ball and Bony decided to launch a tackle on him from behind. It was a kind of scissors effort, nowhere near the ball and anyone who was remotely surprised at a second yellow coming out clearly knows nothing about football. Off you go you idiot. The one remaining incident of note in the half was Jose (rather stupidly) lunging in at a loose ball and Routledge got there first and cleared it, before hurdling the Fonte lunge. Swansea’s bench went nuts and demanded a 2nd yellow, I presume for kicking fresh air. I mean, it was similar to Bony’s 2nd tackle except for the fact that he didn’t touch him and didn’t leave him in a heap on the ground. To emphasize the point further, Maya looks like he can barely walk at half time. So, 0-0 but a one man advantage.
If anyone doubted the extent of the punishment that Maya took from Bony then they’d have noted with interest that he didn’t emerge for the second half and Florin Gardos came on. Swansea didn’t make a change and left Sigurdsson up front on his own so there were expectations that we’d have a bit more of the play. Sure enough we did, after working out that every time we put in a tackle,
players would roll around a bit and everyone in the crowd and on their bench
would be screaming for a card. Bertrand
fouled Dyer and the ref wasn’t going to book him until the panto kicked off on
the bench and then he decided to. So,
after dominating the first ten minutes without looking dangerous, Dusan Tadic
cut in from the left, worked some space and curled in a shot which flicked off
Dyer’s toe, went to Portsmouth,
nicked a handbag and back to today, looped up over the keeper and landed on top
of the net.
Graziano was having a quiet game but become more of a threat as Clyne got away down the right and fired over a cross which the big man connected with but Fabianski comfortably saved. He was again not extended by Pelle from the next cross which came from Steve Davis (on for Corky) so still no breakthrough. Fabianski is another example of a player who always looked dodgy when he played for Arsenal as he was playing once every three months or whatever but now, as an undisputed first choice, he looks very accomplished. He’s at Swansea because last years first choice Michel Vorm decided to kill his career by moving to Spurs and being their 2nd choice.
JWP got injured and on rumbled Big Vic for the last 20 minutes. It’s all Saints now and just a question of whether we can fashion an unmissable chance or not. Ashley Williams was determined that this wasn’t going to happen now and trashed Shane Long to give us a free kick 25 yards out on the right of centre. With JWP off the pitch, Tadic had no one to argue with over who took it and up stepped the Serbian to hit it low but Fabianski again got across well to grasp it by the post.
It’s been the season of the goal from unexpected sources. However, we are now almost expecting the unexpected with Corky having scored twice and Morgan 3 times this season. Taking the ‘least likely’ route would lead you to putting money on Bertrand or Fonte I guess but I bet no one got the first goalscorer except some blind optimists from Kenya. As Pelle slipped the ball behind the left back, there seemed no danger as Big Vic picked it up but he barged past two defenders, stretched and smashed it across Fabianki and into the top corner for 1-0. The celebration that followed was a bit odd as he just stood there and stared at the Saints fans without so much as a smile or a wave to the fans, a point which Graziano Pelle seemed to want to make to him but if he scores goals like that he can do what he fucking likes as far as I’m concerned. Also, if Big Vic stared at me, I don’t think I’d be making an issue of it with him. Maybe it’s because the last time he scored it was disallowed and he was over doing forward rolls by the corner flag and still there when the opposition restarted the game.
The half expected Swansea onslaught didn’t really happen and in truth, there was only one team who were going to get a goal. Tadic put Pelle clean through but his first touch was fucking awful and it bounced through to Fabianski. Pelle fired well wide and then Steve Davis, who is rapidly becoming the last likely to score, wafted a horrible effort miles over the bar.
At the final whistle I cast my mind to the league table that I have in my head. A quick bit of mental maths and with Villa getting stuffed by Arsenal, I’m pretty sure that we’re 2nd. Let that sink in for a bit – 2nd. Whilst that’s sinking it, Liverpool have gone 2-0 down in the opening 10 minutes at Upton Park so I get to laugh at the probability that at least one of those goals will be Lovren’s fault. It’s turning into a beautiful weekend. As the weekend went on, Liverpool with Lovren and Lallana - lost, Man United with Shaw on the bench – lost and then to cap it all, Spurs with Pochettino and his lack of Plan B – lost at home to West Brom. It will be beginning to dawn on Spurs fans now that once they go 1-0 down, they may as well go home.
Finally people are beginning to notice that we are not in meltdown. Martin Keown and Neil Lennon on Match of the Day were much more objective that the clownish Murphy and Neville from a couple of weeks back and Ronald Koeman is being given the credit and rightly so. It’s been a brilliant start and long may it continue. Ronald acknowledged that we weren’t great in this game and it was difficult and you get the impression that he’ll have learnt from this. Big Vic will have given him a nudge – both with his goal and the fact that in his absence, we did struggle to win the ball in midfield. The sending off undoubtedly helped us and Garry Monk was a bit of a whingebag afterwards but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he hasn’t seen replays of the Bony challenges. When he sees them again he’ll be wondering whether to fine his striker for gross stupidity.
It was a game where everyone did their job and no one really stood out. Big Vic will get a lot of attention because of the goal and it’s great that all three of our nominal defensive midfielders; Morgan, Corky and Big Vic have all shown an eye for goal this season and benefited from the managers’ flexible and unrestrictive approach. Florin Gardos got 45 minutes and though not under much pressure, that’ll do him good and with Maya and Toby Alderweireld struggling, he should make his full debut in the League Cup on Tuesday. With Hodgson in the crowd our English contingent all had solid games with Clyne again being the pick of the bunch but Ryan Bertrand won’t have done himself any harm. It would be mildly amusing if he got back in the squad while Shaw struggles at Mid-table United.
Next up we have a League Cup game versus Arsenal which should see Sadio Mane make his debut against the Arsenal kids. I would imagine that we’ll put out a decent line up so should have every expectation of winning. Arsenal have so few defenders on their books that there’s no way they are going to risk then in a League Cup game. Hopefully the Master Child Catcher will be expecting to see some young fresh meat in the Saints line-up but I really hope we pick more or less our strongest side and give us our best chance of winning the game. The next league game is against ‘Arry Redknapp and his team of overpaid, over-the-hill mercenaries. We will be overwhelming favourites for that game but a word of caution – the last time we played them at home, we were the favourites and they did a right number on us and won 1-0. Not this time though – we have a Plan B should it be going pear shaped. Bring it on.