Friday, April 28, 2017

Premier League Match 32 - Chelsea 4 Southampton 2

Yoshida and Stephens Practice 'Heading the Fucking Ball'

Before the game, yours truly was interviewed for the SFC Dellivery podcast.  If you want to hear me talking rubbish as opposed to just writing rubbish, then the link is here....

A trip to Stamford Bridge, scene of quite possibly last years’ best performance and result when we walked away with a 3-1 win with Sadio and Graziano in perfect harmony. Those were the days. Sigh!  We didn't realise at the time the Chelsea were going to be pretty shite by their standards last season, nor that José Mourinho wasn't going to last too long in the job. Antonio Conte has taken over this season and you couldn't really grade the job he's done as anything less than 10 out of 10. Top of the league and in the FA Cup final.

The reason we are playing here on the Tuesday night was because the fixture was originally scheduled for this Saturday just gone but Chelsea were in the FA Cup semi-final in which they beat the second best team in the country, Tottenham by 4 goals to 2. Watching that was fucking scary as they managed to play and beat the aforementioned second best team in the country and leave out two of their best players in Hazard and Diego the Bastard. They both came off the bench in that match, as did Fabregas and completely turned what was a pretty even game in Chelsea favour.

As far as Saints and Claude are concerned, this game is a bit of a free hit. We, on the face of it do not have much to play for whereas they have rather a lot with Tottenham just four points behind them in the race for the Premier League crown. I can't imagine they'll be in the mood for any slipups tonight.

I don't often get the chance to go to many away games but I’m here today and it makes me smile to think of previous visits to Stamford Bridge like the time Gianluca Vialli was their player manager and we got told to fuck off by Graeme Rix for calling him a pretend manager as he was the one given instructions when Vialli was on the pitch. Little did we know that Rix was going to disgrace himself by becoming the manager of Portsmouth and a fully paid up member of the sex offenders register.

It is a different ground now of course and it's a good ground still maintaining some interesting features from before the time when all grounds tend to look the same. Getting into it is a bit of a performance and they certainly take security seriously. And I don't know if you remember that 7 foot 2 Russian boxer that David Haye won the world title against a few years ago, well he works security at Stamford Bridge. My son was just staring at him as this guy was huge.

As the ground fills up, the painfully small allocation of tickets that we've either been allowed or have chosen to take becomes apparent. We are away in one corner of the Shed End and the surrounding Chelsea fans don't seem bothered by our presence at all. The big screens are showing highlights from down the years of Chelsea specially loads of goals against us including last years game when Willian scored a free kick from miles out. Oddly enough, They don't show the three goals that we scored afterwards to win that game.

The Chelsea team is as you'd expect with Hazard and Diego the Bastard restored to the starting lineup. And there is one surprise in our team in that Nathan Redmond is on the bench and Boufal is starting. As the teams line up it looks like we are tinkering with the formation today with a return to 4-3-3 with Tadic on one wing and Boufal on the other. This is the formation where we basically pump loads of crosses into the box to one player but at least now, that one player is Gabbiadini. I am not looking forward to seeing how Yoshida and Stephens deal with Diego the Bastard. He has managed not to score for about his last 10 appearances and you know… It just wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Away we go and Chelsea look incredibly dangerous as soon as they get the ball.  The speed of passing and movement leaves us chasing around and it takes a shite touch from the Bastard to give us the ball back.    We don’t look too shabby ourselves when we win it and we create a chance when Cedric’s cross is not dealt with and Gabbiadini is sniffing around as Courtois dives on it.  Kante then absolutely trashes Davis and it’s a 100% booking but not today because a) it’s the first minute and b) it’s the big club at home.  We work a nice free kick but Stephens can only shank it across goal to the keeper.  From the throw out, Chelsea build and one long ball puts the Bastard away on the right hand side of the penalty area and knocking it back to Hazard who is totally free and he screws a shot across goal and into the far corner past the diving Fraser and into the corner of the net.  It’s shite from Stephens who has turned his back on both Hazard’s run and the subsequent shot and it’s also shit that Hazard has cut in from the left and no fucker has noticed him.  Cedric should have picked him up and Romeu isn’t close enough.  Such an easy goal.

We nearly fuck it right up again as Davo tries a backheel in midfield and loses it.  Fabregas through to Bastard, to Hazard and thankfully he has a Shane Long moment and balloons it.  We make sure we keep the ball for a bit to try and play our way into the game and at least give Chelsea something to think about.  Boufal is looking decent when he gets it but there’s not much change to be had out wide where Moses and Alonso defend strongly.  A shot from Davo takes a deflection and we win a corner.  Over it comes from JWP, it flicks off a Chelsea head and it finds Gabbi on the back post and he takes his time before knocking it across and Romeu bundles it into the Chelsea net.  Get in!  All the Chelsea fans who had been somewhat smug in watching their team just roll us over, suddenly realise they’re in a game.

A bit of showboaty fuckwittery from Boufal gives Chelsea possession in our half and it’s carnage as the ball pings around our penalty area and Bastard sees an opportunity to have a dive which he does.  Clear fucking dive – cheating fuck.  Luckily, Lee Mason, who has a reputation for being shite, doesn’t give it. We are scrambling about and eventually a shot from Matic deflects wide.  Stephens is not happy with Bastard and has a word. 

Defending too strongly is Luiz who is marking Gabbiadini.  The Saints man holds him off, controls the ball and tries to move away with it but Luiz just grabs his arm to stop him going.  Free kick but no booking for deliberately grabbing someone.  Another fucking home town big club referee.  Free-kick expert JWP (1 out of about 200) hits the head of someone in the wall from the free kick and it deflects away for a corner.  In it comes and again Chelsea don’t deal with it and it bobbles around before Boufal hammers it into the side netting.

As we approach half time there’s another Chelsea attack and Alonso tries a volley which Cedric should clear left footed but he chooses his right and skewers it off for a corner in shite fashion.  In it comes and Mason makes them take it again as Bastrad grabs Bertrand round the nexk and throws him to the ground.  Over it comes again, half cleared, back in and Cahill is completely free to nod into the net.  Who the fuck was marking him?  Bertrand has Costa so I assume that our two centre back Colossus’s have Luiz and Cahill.  Yooshida was on him for the original corner but Cahill came out when the ball was cleared and Cedric picked him up.  Of course when he went back into the penalty area then Cedric and Yoshida should have communicated and Maya picked him up again.  It’s shit defending – we put no pressure on the crosser and then lose two headers.  Shit - we really needed to get into half time at 1-1. Kante then trashes Davis again and gets booked, 45 minutes too late.

As the players go off for half time, Bastard is half a step behind Stephens and giving it loads.  Just as they’re about to go out of sight and into the tunnel, Bastard gives him a dig in the back.  Obviously, as a Saints fan I think he’s a complete arsehole but we really could do with a couple of players to intimidate the opposition.

The second starts and Tadic has half an opening when Gabbi plays him in but his pull back towards Boufal is miscontrolled by Cedric who is having a mare.  More Chelsea pressure and more shit defending from us and no one dominates and heads it away and Fraser remains nailed to his fucking goal line.  Corner and eventually they work it to Fabregas and he’s ran off Cedric and crosses and there’s Bastrad up against Bertrand and he just nods it easily intot the net for his first goal in fucking ages.  Utter shite.

Boufal is having a mare now and giving the ball away all the time and he’s off to be replaced with Nathan Redmond.  Saints are creating the odd chance and winnign corners and from one of these, JWP’s delivery is perfect and Yoshida has a free header but totally misses the ball and the chance goes as Gabbiadini tries to react and hits the side netting again.  Our centre backs are not a danger of getting a strong header on the ball at either end of the pitch.  There’s a lightning fast break from Chelsea with Hazard leading the way and playing in Kante but Fraser actually gets off his line to stop the shot from the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year.

Tadic thrown a pathetic wobbler when he doesn’t win a throw in and gets booked and Long is on for JWP as Claude decided with 8 minutes to go that we’re fucked unless something changes.  Score the next goal and we have a shout and we have a chance as Long gets away on the left and with two men in the middle and just one Chelsea defender, he predictably picks out the defender as if he was trying to.  No quality whatsoever.

Oh here’s some quality.  Two 1-2’s, one with Hazard and one with Pedro and Bastard smashes it past Fraser who doesn’t move, for 4-1.  Fucks sake.  J-Rod is on for Gabbiadini and he doesn’t look interested.  I know it’s only a few minutes and we’ve lost already but at least try and look interested instead of just ambling about.  nJoy of joys as John Terry warms up in front of us.  There are the predictable but nonetheless amusing chants about Wayne Bridge, Anton Ferdinand and his mum.  He comes on for Moses – I guess they can risk him with a 3 goal lead and 4 minutes to go.

At 4-1 down and as we tick into the 90th minute, the travelling Saints fans show what we’re all about with a huge ‘Oh When the Saints’ chant.  It’s proud stuff even though we’re getting battered.  I ask my son if he want to go now and beat the rush as it’s a school night and all that but he’s not interested and wants to stay.  Good lad!  And, he’s rewarded as Cedric gets down the right, puts over a really good cross with his left foot and Ryan Bertrand has got up from the back and flicks a superb header past Courtois and into the net to give our two ex-Chelsea players goals at Stamford Bridge.

Full time and back to Fulham Broadway Tube which is a fuck site better organized than Wembley or the Emirates have been this year.  On the tube back towards Wimbledon, we’re reminded again about how success is expected at the big clubs.  There’s o real excitement or babble about the game from the Chelsea fans.  Most of the noise is coming from Saints fans laughing about stuff or slagging off Diego the Bastard.  One Saints fan says ‘Too fucking soft’ to me as he gets off the tube.  He’s right – we’re too soft and too easy to play against.
In contrast to the Manchester City game where we turned up and didn't have a go, at least we had a go tonight but it makes you realise the futility of it all. If you come to places like this and play an open game then the chances are that they are going to be better at it than you are. And so it proved. The opening 10 minutes, even before they scored was scary as whenever they got forward we seemed to get cut to ribbons with very little organisation. I’ve been reluctant to admit it but we have an issue with Fraser Forster.  He doesn’t get off his line and it doesn’t help the defenders because they have to defend deeper than they should be.  Any keeper should be dominating the penalty area but Fraser even struggles with the six yard box.  If there was a three yard box he’d struggle with that as well.  The centre backs were exactly as predicted – weak and lacking at the vital moments.  Stephens stood up to Costa quite well in the first half, accused him of diving and got in his face.  I don’t know if the tunnel incident at half time had any bearing but he didn’t get near him in the second half.  Yoshida looked very shaky as well but as usual, the pair of them did some good things but it can’t be denied that we are letting in too many goals.  The ball just isn’t cleared – we have chances to clear and it just doesn’t happened, usually plopping off someone’s head and bouncing down for the opposition to pick it up.  A defender is judged on 90 minutes – you can’t just play well for 75 minutes and call that a ‘good game’.  They weren’t the only problem with the midfield not helping much when we lost the ball – Hojbjerg and even Clasie would have competed more than Davis and JWP who were both poor.

Hazard’s goal was a superb finish as he found himself space in the box and then put it in just about the only place in the goal where he could. Having got back to 1-1, the goal before half-time was a killer and at the time it was undeserved. In the second half though, they were just better than us and it became the Diego Bastard show and predictably, we couldn’t deal with it. We are not nasty enough as a team and it was pretty easy for him to be honest.

In my opinion, Claude got the selection wrong. Hojbjerg should have started to give us a bit more height and weight which would have been useful and at least enabled us to match them for height at set pieces (goals 2 and 3) and at risk of sounding like a broken record, Caceres should have played as well. You don’t win 60 odd caps for Uruguay without being a bit nasty or not being able to play a bit.  He would not have let Diego the Bastard take the piss like he did.   It really is time to take Stephens out of the firing line for a bit.  I get annoyed with reading about the value of ‘giving him experience’.  He’s had 10 or so games now which is experience and it’s positive but now it’s time to take him out for a bit before it becomes counter-productive.

I see that Chelsea had less possession than us but of course, did more with it. They go forward with real purpose. It's almost like Conte has a rule where they've got 10 seconds to get in the penalty area and up to Bastard or Hazard. We were too slow in build up again.  It's hard when you have Kante and Matic to get past but there were numerous times when Gabbiadini made darts away from Luiz and we instead preferred sideways and backwards.  Boufal was a positive in the first half though defensively he’s a nightmare.  I know we didn’t play with a No.10 today but that’s his position – stick him out on the wing and he doesn’t do enough. Tadic was as frustrating as always, only really coming to life once Boufal went off and he switched and found himself on the left.

Lee Mason, the referee wasn't a major factor in the result today but he had a form of blindness when it came to booking Chelsea players. A foul in the first minute should be dealt with in exactly the same way as a foul later in the game. There is no doubt that Kante should've been booked after one minute and as he wasn't, he was allowed to keep rampaging around the pitch until eventually did his deserved yellow card. Also, how can Gabbiadini hold off David Luiz and when he goes to move away from him, have Sideshow Bob holding onto his arm.  It’s not even a shirt, he’s grabbed hold of his fucking arm and held it. Sure, we got the free kick but why on earth does he not get booked for deliberately pulling someone back?

Anyway – moving on.  A defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge does not define a season.  Games like our next one at home to Hull do define a season.  They are battling relegation for a reason and that’s because they’re pretty shite, despite Marco Silva’s positive impact on their results.  It’s worth noting that it’s only a positive impact in home games as away from home they’ve been absolutely dire.  Three points – no less.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Premier League Match 31 - Southampton 0 Manchester City 3


Today's visitors to St.Mary’s are the multibillionaires of Manchester City. They were one of the big clubs to in the summer who employed a superstar manager and spend yet more millions to propel them towards silverware.  It hasn't really worked out and I don't think that Pep Guardiola has found it as easy as we and he thought it would be. Whilst their performance could probably be deemed as acceptable they have been some moments when it's all looked decidedly crap.  After one game, which I think they actually won despite a couple of dodgy refereeing decisions, Pep appeared to be having a meltdown of Kevin Keegan/Rafa Benitez proportions and I seriously wondered if he was going to walk away.

He also has this bizarre insistence on playing a goalkeeper who cannot catch the ball. Claudio Bravo is so bad that you really may as well put A midfielder in goal or pick someone who hasn't got any arms. Regardless of all this, I look at the list of players they have and it's fucking ridiculous as there are world-class players all over the place. It really does make you wonder how the fucking hell we going to be able to compete with these guys in a match, let alone over a season. This is why cracks me up when I see some Saints fans crapping on, on social media about how we should be challenging for the top four.

There was another example of what we are up against during the week when it emerged that Jesse Lingard at Manchester United have been given a new contract on £100,000 a week. If he was a Saints player he would be on about a quarter of that. Do you want to play for Southampton or do you want to play for Manchester United and earn four times the amount? Tough one.  All you can do is hope that whatever player sees his long term career benefiting by playing for Southampton but it hardly ever fucking happens as we know only too well.

This brings us all rather nicely to the vast increase in transfer noise around the destination of Virgil van Dijk at the end of the season. It seems that every club is instructing their pet media outlets to put their name in the frame, possibly to sell season tickets but more likely with an agenda to unsettle the player. Everton are the latest, joining Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City and I've just read that Real Madrid are interested as well.  Well, if all those are genuinely interested and we are going to sell then we are hopefully going to be looking at north of £70 million. Everton though? Fuck off.

Social media brought us another incident during the week when an alleged Saints fan very misguidedly praised the atmosphere at Fratton Park over and above what we get at St.Mary's.  Of course, he tagged Pompey so of course the knuckle draggers are all over it. well played you stupid little twat.  You just don’t do that if you don’t want to get dogs abuse.  Just so you know, I’ve been sent a screenshot of that tweet by four separate Pompey mates.  Maybe it’s my fault for having too many Pompey mates but in the main Alex, it’s your fault you stupid twat and enjoy your day at Notts County.

Judging by the footage released from training at the end of the week, it looks like Manolo Gabbiadini will be back for today which has to be a good thing. We will not be creating too many chances today as we will not have the ball often enough, so when we do get one it would be handy if we had a striker who would actually hit the target especially bearing in mind the absolute ass clown who is in goal for the opposition.  Maybe stay in the game and bring him on with 25 to go.

Steve Davis is back for us today and take the place of Clasie in midfield and Gabbiadini starts instead of Shane Long which is a bit surprising. I am resigned to the fact that Maya and Jack will be the centre backs and this will be a huge test for them. City’s team on paper looks ridiculous. There are potential weaknesses there with the goalkeeper and Navas at right back but elsewhere the team looks ridiculously strong. There is not one English player with Sterling and Stones nowhere to be seen but a front four of Aguero, DeBruyne, Sané and David Silva gives me the shits.  It’s almost the perfect front four - pace, artistry, movement and a deadly finisher.  In midfield they have Yaya Touré and Fernandino so that's not bad either and Vincent Kompany is back. If he had been fit all season then they would be a hell of a lot closer to Chelsea than they are.

Away we go and we sit back and let City have the ball and they don’t take long to carve us open on our right with Clichy getting a cross over and Aguero putting it wide.  We compound that problem with Fraser shanking the kick, one pass and Aguero is through again on the left but he screws his shot across the goal and wide.  Keep playing like this and it really isn’t going to take too long.

We’re struggling to get hold of the ball and in true Guardiola fashion, as soon as we do then City flood towards the ball and invariably win it back again.  We do get forward on 15 minutes with a great move up from the back with Redmond finding Gabbiadini who gets his head up on the left and finds Tadic on the penalty spot, totally clear, left foot and shins it over the bar.  Fucking rubbish.  Gabbi did exactly the right thing in picking out the better placed Tadic but I’m now wishing he’d just hit it like he did against West Ham from a similar position.  We’ll pay for that.

Whilst we’re waiting for that to happen though, we have a decent spell where Bravo flaps away a Tadic cross and eventually Cedric works it to JWP whose cross finds Davo who heads over.  Bravo really is a liability but Pep would argue that it works as he pisses about with it and gets closed down but eventually finds a way out and City tear up the pitch with Aguero putting in a cross from the left which deflects up and Silva really should score on the volley at the back post but puts it wide.

We pick up a flurry of bookings as Hojbjerg and Davis both pick up deserved cards and then Bertrand rakes Aguero but somehow gets away with it.  Also getting away with it is Kompany who trashes through the back of either Tadic or Gabbiadini for the 3rd time and not even a word.  We stay in the game by almost rigidly playing 4-4-1-1 but eventually Sané gets through.  Fraser comes rushing out, dives at his feet and makes what looks like a great save, pushing it wide for a corner.  Sané leaves the appealing to the City bench.  Good lad and refreshing to see a young player at a huge club reluctant to throw himself and make a big deal out of things.  No doubt that will be beaten out of him eventually.

Half time and 0-0.  Could we hang on?  I don’t really see it happening but you never know.  Of more concern is that Gabbi has hardly touched the ball and Tadic is having one of those shockers where he just might as well not be there.  Anyway, a positive start to the second half and Davis makes a run across the field, looking for all the world that he has no idea of what to do with it so being tripped by David Silva was a good result for him.  The free kick is on the left and in prime JWP territory.  Everyone knows he’s going to aim it at the near post and everyone knows that Bravo is shit.  Over the wall and well wide.  Crap.  Unforgiveable to not get it on target.

On the hour mark, Stephens makes his first mistake of the day by getting mugged by Aguero and he has to pull him back and give a free kick away.  De Bruyne’s delivery is crap and it gets cleared to Navas and he pings in a decent first time effort which Fraser helps over the bar.  In comes the corner and Kompany manshames Yoshida to a massive degree and batters the header straight at Fraser who can only fumble it into the net from close range. All their pretty football and we get done with the good old fashioned corner and a header – again showing the glowing weakness in our central defensive partnership – no one who is dominant physically in the air.

Claude rolls the dice and seems to go from mega defensive to ‘shit or bust’.  JWP is off for Boufal and Gabbi off for Long.  In the recent Bournemouth home game, taking JWP off led to the shape of the team going completely to shit so will lessons have been learned or will history repeat itself?  Immediately is looks like the latter as it’s all City with de Bruyne causing havoc on the right and firing over a perfect cross which Fraser comes for and ends up heading Aguero’s knee but whetever – we got away with it.

Boufal has been brought on to give us something and to test out Navas at full back but he’s picking it up too deep and usually giving it away.  When we get the ball to him further up the pitch, he works his magic and gets the cross in but Shane can’t do anything with it. We have a decent chance soon when Tadic puts in a right footed cross from the left and Yoshida is still up from a corner and meets the header cleanly but should do more than head it straight at Bravo.  The City fans are celebrating because their keeper has saved an on-target shot – fucking hell, anyone with two arms would have saved that.

Game over -Saints attack and the ball goes up in the air and de Bruyne pulls off this turn that takes three Saints players out of the game, a 1-2 with Silva and he’s gone up the right and away, drawing ht elast defender before slipping it to Sané who buries it.  Really good goal that.  It looked to me that Sané was offside but he probably wasn’t so that’s the end of that.  Oh look, thousands of Saints fans leaving when there are about 20 minutes to go.  Just fuck off.

So – what did the deserting thousands miss?  Not much really – we offered nothing in attack needless to say and then Otamendi thorough Long with what looked like a nasty tackle, play on though and de Bruyne ends up with the ball again out on the right and he sends over a perfect cross for Aguero to head in from two yards to make it three.  Easy as you like.  Shane Long is off for J-Rod – I assume because of the effects of the Otamendi assault but he seems to be kicking off big style at the bench.  A shit end to a shit day.

Thank Christ that’s over. Now I can go home and whato do you know, it took a lot less time to get out of the ground today because about 50% of people have already fucked off. About half of those left when the second goal went in (75 mins) and our section was embarrassingly empty by the end. In fact, it was a very embarrassing day for the general image of the fans of Southampton FC. As well as providing the football community watching on television with images of half empty ground by the end, there were also some wonderful images on match of the Day of some of our fans actually filming Manchester City players celebrating one of the goals. Proud of you guys, you complete fucking melts. Personally I would ban any twat over the age of 12 who is recording an opposition goal, presumably so they can watch it back later.  Fucking awe-struck at the superstar players you see on Sky… mind you – same could be said for our players and manager.

Don't get me wrong, we played a vastly superior team to ourselves today and that should be absolutely no surprise bearing in mind how much the team cost and who the manager is. What sticks in my throat is that we basically turned up, had a little run around, waited to get beaten, got beaten and then went home. We seemed absolutely paralysed with fear and even before City scored their first goal, we hardly committed anybody to attack, no one gambled making an overlapping run etc and it must've been one of the easiest games that's the clown in the Manchester City goal has ever had. A completely embarrassing effort.

For once, Claude said something interesting in his post match interview in that he echoed my feelings about going in out we just weren't good enough and didn't make enough options for ourselves.  All but you have the power to change that Claude.  Half time saw no change in the pattern whatsoever with us basically playing 4-5-1 and getting nowhere.  Then at 1-0 down we go suicidal and take JWP off and bring on Boufal, giving us absolutely no shape whatsoever (exactly what happened in the Bournemouth home game) and in addition, it brought on a player who gives the fucking ball away every time he gets it.  I’m all for trying stuff but when Boufal gets it on the half way line I shit myself.  If he gets it and can run at full back then fine but otherwise he’s a nightmare.  Tadic should have been taken off as he was useless but post-tantrum, he seems immune.  Boufal for Tadic and we would still have lost but certainly by less than we did.

Maya Yoshida has come out and said that we needed to be braver and he’s dead right. In an away game at City, I think it's fine to sitting and try and play on the break but at home it is not acceptable and you have to say that if you just let Manchester City and sides of the quality have the ball and pass it around then there is no way that they are not going to score.

It was also a bit of a reminder of what we have lost. If we'd had Virgil and Romeu playing today then we would have at least had a better chance of defending solidly for 90 minutes but with the players we have out there today, there was absolutely no chance. Yoshida and Stephens again did ok but they were always going to crack at some point and goals 1 and 3 were poor from their point of view.  There is no point in pretending otherwise.  The central midfield screen did ok but not well enough to plug all the holes - Steve Davis was one of our better players today and Pierre Hojbjerg, despite putting in two or three shocking passes that went straight to the opposition, actually had quite a good game. Going forward we offered very very little. The line of attacking midfielders, so good in recent weeks, where non-existent aside from the old dart by Redmond.  JWP was missing in action but at least he was working hard and adding to the defensive effort.  Tadic is either a 9/10 player or 4/10 and today he was at the lower end of the scale. Against teams like City you really have to take your chances and we had the first and best chance of the first half but Tadic managed to hopelessly waft the ball over the bar from the edge of the box. I thought at the start that Shane Long should've started today with Gabbiadini coming off the bench. As it was it wouldn’t have mattered as the striker had no support so Otamendi and Kompany could mark the Italian between them as our three attacking midfielders had very very average games. The full backs, usually two of our best players haven’t got forward either as they were too shit scared keeping an eye on De Bruyne and Sané who I have to say were both excellent.

Also, we would've lost to whoever the referee was but it was another one way performance in favour of the big club. How we can have three bookings yet Vincent Kompany can go through the back of players about four times with no punishment says it all and also the tackle by Otamendi on Shane Long was ridiculous but ‘play on’ and oh look they've scored a 3rd goal.  Oh yeah… what the fuck was that all about with Shane Long getting substituted 20 minutes after coming on. Apparently one of the medical staff said he was injured so Claude took him off. One thing is certain, Shane did not wanna come off and certainly let his feelings known.

So, in summary… Manager – crap, team – crap, fans – crap.

Next up we have a similar assignment in that it’s Chelsea away.  Chelsea were walking to the title a few weeks ago but now they are shitting it as Spurs are only 4 points behind them.  In my view, this game has just got a whole lot more difficult unless we can play on any nervousness they might have.  Sit back and let them boss everything and there’s only one way that one is going to go.  I’m going to this one so if you’re going to film Chelsea goal celebrations – make sure I’m not sat near you.

PS – Whilst I have been putting this together, the Skates have managed to clinch promotion from League 2.  I would like to say that I am pleased for all my mates who support them.  A couple of them had had really tough times the past year with divorces and deaths in the family and all that shite that’s more important than football.  It’s good for them to have something good to take their minds off it for a bit.  Football is great for that.

On the other hand, the team with the largest budget, largest wage bill and biggest crowds by miles has just scraped out of the 4th tier of English football in 3rd place.  Whoopee-do!  The fact that they made a loss last year in a clear example of not learning from your mistakes, will be glossed over by a fawning media who will crap on about where they have come from and not mention how they got there in the first place.  All their fans who I don’t know, who will be giving it the large one can go and do one – and so can Alex.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Premier League Match 30 - West Brom 0 Southampton 1

Jordy Laughs At Ben Foster's Time Wasting 

There comes a point in the season when you realise that you’re not going to get relegated and also that you’re not going to qualify for Europe either.  Manchester United’s win in the EFL Cup Final (sniff!) means that European qualification will come down to 7th place and there’s no way I can think of that means it’ll go any lower.  This year we have the traditional top 6 and Everton, having spent a fortune and got Honest Ron as a manager are nailed on to finish no lower than 7th – they are however having their one good season before their team gets dismantled by huge bids for Lukaku and Barkley… and no one’s got the Barca job as yet…  No worries on that score though as Honest Ron always honours his contract.

Anyway, West Brom are currently the team directly above us in 8th place, 7 points ahead so some could and will call this the 8th place final.  The excitement is huge.  Excitement is not something you associate often with West Brom as they have Tony Pulis in charge and are the definition of workmanlike.  It's all long ball and percentages and long throws and winning dodgy free kicks and time-wasting.  The graphic below explains most of it (credit @WBA_BARACUS).

Pretty uninspiring but they’ve had a really good season and have progressed through the 40 point barrier with ease.  Usually there are 4 centre backs playing as the back 4 and midfielders who don’t fuck about like Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher.  If they have any inspiration it’s on the wings with Matt Phillips looking like a decent player again and either Chris Brunt (who has a great left foot) or James MacClean who let’s just say, is a character.

In addition to the injury list we already have including Gabbiadini, Austin, Virgil and Boufal – Steve Davis has done himself a mischief running into Delaney of Palace last week and he’s out too, as is Oriol Romeu who has managed to whack 10 players up in the air. These are just the ones that the referees have spotted.  In to the team come Hojbjerg and Clasie to form the defensive midfield but some good news is that Ryan Bertrand is back.

West Brom are clearly going to play the only way they know which is as an away side.  I wonder how long it will be before Ben Foster starts wasting time.  For now anyway, Bertrand and Redmond combine to release Tadic who crosses it behind Shane Long who is not offside and it’s cleared by Nyom.  When West Brom get forward it’s a similar story as Phillips fires the ball over and it perfectly finds no one.

Saints have started pretty well with Hojbjerg and Clasie showing no signs of rustiness and controlling the midfield.  We’re playing decent stuff whereas our opponents are resorting to belting it up to Rondon and the big fat lad does well to knock it down to Morrison, onto Chadli and the ex-Spurs player puts it well over.  Chadli was one of those brought into Spurs to replace Gareth Bale – needless to say, he didn’t.

Having noted West Brom playing Pulis-ball, we have a go as Fraser whacks it long and Shane Long manages to manoeuvre the much bigger McAuley out of the way and bring it down perfectly.  He breaks forward and finds Tadic in the box but he has his back to goal and nowhere to go so he plays a simple ball back to Clasie who absolutely creams it right footed and it flies past Foster who doesn’t move and into the top corner.  What a fucking strike that is.  An almost exact replica of his goal at Arsenal in the EFL Cup.

Having done really well with the goal, Shane reverts to type a few minutes later and it almost costs us.  Tadic wins the ball and plays a perfect ball through the defence and Shane is through but he cuts across Evans and just falls over.  I do not know what the fuck has happened there.  Has he just got his feet in a mess and fallen over or has he anticipated contact that didn’t come and gone down.  Either way, West Brom have the ball, break and a cross comes in from the right and Rondon is up well to head back across but there is Fraser, sticking out a big left mitt to slap it away.  Good save.

Shane is now the pantomime villain with the Baggies fans but they should be grateful when we fizz the ball around in their box, only for Shane to fuck it up with a piss poor touch.  There’s some more great interplay before Redmond crosses for Shane to put wide.  Half time and 1-0 to the good and looking relatively comfortable but this game would be dead already if we had a striker.

Stephens starts the second half looking comfortable in possession and ambling forward with the ball which eventually falls for Tadic to put an ambitious volley wide.  Matt Phillips makes his first contribution to the game by scything straight through Clasie which is a challenge that would have got him sent off against a big club.  Chris Brunt is on for them and we can’t afford to give away too many free kicks in our half now as he’s got a great delivery on him but we of course, use his introduction as a cue to give away some free kicks.  Pulisball dictates that his side must be good at free kicks as they’re hardly going to score goals any other fucking way and in it comes, headed out by Stephens and Livermore shoots over.

Pulis takes off Phillips and it’s a like for like swap in that it’s a winger for a winger.  It’s not a like a like for like swap in that as far as I know, Matt Phillips is not an ‘character’ but he’s been replaced with James McClean.

We need a second goal to kill this off as West Brom are looking more dangerous.  The match winner from the return game at St.Mary’s, Hal Robson-Kanu is on.  This news reminds me that we all need to celebrate and make videos of ourselves doing it if Wales fail to get to the World Cup finals.  We are dangerous ourselves with some great play by Cedric, linking with Tadic and JWP up the right before putting the cross over and Redmond meets it on the volley but Foster saves well at the near post.

Both teams then have a go at gifting chances to the opposition as a Cedric mistake presents it to Morrison, onto Character McClean and eventually Chadli who takes aim and hits it straight at the big bloke in our goal.  No danger but there’s plenty as Foster proves that he’s not a great when it comes to playing football and shanks a kick straight to Tadic on the right who advances, cuts in and then curls a shot just over the bar.  A foot lower and Foster didn’t have a prayer.

Claude rolls the dice with 20 minutes to go and us on top.  He has faith in the youngsters to see it out and McQueen and Sims are on for Redmond and JWP which is no negative slant on either player as they’d both had decent games.  The rest of normal time passes without incident but you just know that they’re going to be launching everything into the box and here it comes.  The Character crosses and Fraser makes his first mistake of the day, flapping the cross out to Hal Sheep-Shagger and he launches it over the bar, because he’s shit.

Another free kick to defend on 92 minutes and in it comes from Brunt, half cleared and Chipped back in and there is Dawson, onside and fifteen yards out.  He volleys and Fraser takes off to his left to parry it away and then watches as Nyom, lashes over the bar.   93 and surely we’re not going to give them another chance – of course we are.  Another free kick which comes in from Brunt and headed away for a corner.  That wanker Ben Foster is up but it’s flicked on by someone else and Johnny Evans has a free shot from 8 yards which he kind of falls over and Fraser paws it away again.  Just blow the fucking whistle.  Thank you.

Get the fuck in there.  A win in the 8th place final which at least gives us something to aim for.  It was great to see a strong performance from Fraser and once more, everyone contributed.  The two lads brought into the midfield did an excellent job and Tadic and Redmond again continued their good form.  Whisper it quietly but the Stephens and Yoshida partnership is beginning to look decent at last though I still think that Virgil will come back into the team when fit …. And what a goal from Clasie! – fucking pick that out.  I’ll never forget Ben Foster time wasting from the 3rd minute onwards at St.Mary’s a couple of years ago so it’s always nice to see that particular weapon taken out of his armoury when the first goal flies past him and we take the lead.  It would have been a lot less nerve wracking to have notched a second goal but that’s where we are whilst Gabbiadini is injured.  Shane Long is always going to miss loads, fall over when clean through, dive when he should shoot etc.  Having said that, it was a great touch to bring down the ball from Fraser’s bomb forward and feed Tadic who teed up Clasie for the goal.

Fraser does need an extra mention as in the main this year, he’s been Stekelenburg-esque in his ability to not let in goals that are obviously his fault but save absolutely nothing.  The saves from Rondon’s header that was going back across him and from Dawson’s volley in the 92nd minute really were top class.  Maybe The Great Wall is back.

So well done Claude, 40 points and a Cup Final from a season disrupted by lots of injuries to key players, shite fixture planning, Jose Fonte being a cock and the board not reacting until after the transfer window had closed.  We are staying up and we still look motivated and hungry, despite having on the face of it, not a lot to play for.  However, we’ve won the 8th place Cup Final so now we have a chance to finish… 8th

Next up is a small matter of Manchester City at home who can look absolutely brilliant going forward but are a shambles defensively so it’s definitely one we have a chance in.  Hopefully they’ve have Claudio Bravo in goal so we know that any shot on target is a goal.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Premier League Match 29 - Southampton 3 Crystal Palace 1

Sammy Lee Forgets Who He Works for as he Celebrates our First Goal

A quick return to St.Mary’s to play a Crystal Palace side on the up and three days after they’ve just won at Chelsea which was their 4th win in a row.  Mind you, we played then when they were shit and had lost 5 games in a row and we got tanked 3-0 in one of those games against a relegation threatened side which we totally failed to show up for.  That was back in the pre-Gabbiadini days when we would have 65% possession and not score.  Now it’s different of course… oh no it’s not with the main striker injured so who would be the striker missing all the chances tonight, Shane or J-Rod?

After initially making no difference at all in terms of results, Fat Sam has got Palace playing and giving themselves a good chance of staying up.  With the players they have they shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom really but that’s where they still are.  In January they added again when they paid the ridiculous money Liverpool were after to loan in rumoured Saints target Mamadou Sakho.  They also got Patrick van Aanholt from Sunderland and the holding midfielder they desperately needed in Milla Jovovic was brought in from Russion side, Resident Evil  I get a lot of Palace knowledge from my boss at work who is a home and away Palace fan.  He’s still convinced that they’re going down, especially if they lose tonight, despite the last 4 results.  The reason for his pessimism is Fat Sam’s natural conservatism in trying to draw six-pointers and the fact that they have horrible fixtures left.

On that score, we might have games in hand but we have all the top boys left to play.  Lose this tonight and I think we could be as little as 4 points above the drop zone.  So, Claude needs to get this one right having not got the Bournemouth game right.  Well, the starting XI is disappointing in my book,  Once again we have the same centre backs and the only changes are Shane in for J-Rod and Ryan Bertrand is missing presumed injured which gives a start to Sam McQueen.  Boufal is injured yet again so Sims returns to the bench and the bench full-back is Jeremy Pied, back for the first time since season Day 1.

I have to say that I have no expectations for this game.  Any discussion about potential scorelines and I’ve been saying 1-0 to Palace.  There’s a natural pessimism about us scoring with no Gabbi and I anticipate Benteke causing havoc in the air.  They’ll bomb it up there – of that there is no doubt and I bet Benteke parks himself next to Stephens and just wins everything.  I’m not worried about Zaha – even though he’s been on fire recently.  He never does anything against us except dive about and throw his toys out.  Andros Townsend on the other hand, always seems to score against us.

Palace kick off and it’s straight back to Kelly and booooom up towards Benteke and no one gets near him as he brings it down on his chest and just lays it off.  Not a positive indicator to how we’re going to deal with him.  Anyway, we get hold of the ball and Romeu finds Long who plays a give and go with Redmond and he’s in away from Kelly on the left and he shoots across Hennessey and inches wide of the far post.  It’s close and it’s a good effort but it should be on target.

We completely dominate the first 15 as Palace just seem to sit off and low us space.  JWP plays a brilliant first time ball, curling between Sakho and Schlupp and into the path of Long but he seems to take a panicky swing at the ball and just grubs it through to Hennessey.  Another chance goes begging.

Palace’s first chance comes when Zaha gets binned about 20 yards out by Romeu.  It’s a left footers free kick so I (and Fraser I think) am expecting Puncheon or Townsend to hit it but Milla Jovovic goes the other way and it hits the outside of the post whilst everyone including Fraser stands still and watches it.

There are chances at both ends with short arse Redmond beating Skate Ward to a Cedric cross and forcing a scrambling save out of Hennessey and an Fat Sam classic long ball and knock down from Benteke forcing Romeu to get himself in the way of Zaha’s shot and send it over the bar.  Whilst it’s now an even game, we’ve still butchered so many chances and of course, when you do that, you go behind as Palace got it down and Zaha weaves across our box with everyone scared to tackle him, shifted it on to Puncheon who played Townsend in behind McQueen who should have cut out the pass.  Townsend fires it over and Benteke scores from 3 yards. Shit.  Good goal but shit!

The referee today is Roger East and he’s determined to prove why he doesn’t referee in the Premier League much.  Redmond skins Skate Ward and digs out a deep cross which reaches Tadic.  He tries to flip it over Schlupp who basically slaps it away with his hand as he turns.  No penalty – fuck knows why.  Arm in an unnatural position unless his shoulder is fixed on upside down.  A minute later and Tadic beats Sakho and puts a perfect ball into Long, in behind Resident Evil, contact and down he goes.  From the Chapel End (the other end) it looks like a dive and it’s Shane so it probably is and it’s not given.

It’s looking like we’re going in 1-0 down and that’s depressing but then the ref and lino cut us a break.  Cedric puts in a low cross from the right and Sakho clears it out to the wing.  Zaha gets there first and Davis puts the shoulder in and knocks him flying.  Play on.  Davo hits it over and it arrives with Redmond at the back post and his brings it down and screws it across and into the far corner.  Get in you beauty.  Palace are going nuts at the ref now but the lino was right next to it.  Methinks Wilf and Shane are paying for past indiscretions of the going down too easily variety.  Half time and the great news is that the goal has meant that the second half won’t immediately be a time wasting bore fest.

Cabaye is off for them and replaced with Sako which weakens their already weak midfield but does give them another huge bastard on the pitch.  Whilst Sako might be huge, he is ‘proper shit’ as the phrase goes. The second half starts in much the same vein as the first.  We’re on top in the main but being whatever the opposite of clinical is.  Redmond creates the first chance on the left again – dunno where Skate Ward was and plays it over.  Shane plays an airshot, JWP sees two efforts blocked and it eventually falls to Cedric on the edge of the box and he once again shows why he’s never scored for us as his effort flies just wide.

Tadic is having one of those games that he always seems to have for the Serbian national team when he looks like one of the best players in the world.  He slides a superbly weighted ball in behind the defence and Shane Long is through again.  Hennessey hesitates slightly and when he eventually comes out, Shane clips it over him and unlike the identical chance against Bournemouth which he clipped wide, this time he mixes it up and clips it up, up and over the fucking bar.

At the other end, Benteke is now winning everything and Palace are noticeably going longer.  On one occasion when they get it down and play, Zaha is halted by some shite refereeing by Roger East to give Palace a free kick 30 yards further back.  Never mind though and in it goes to Benteke and it falls to Kelly who hooks in a shot which crashes off the post and Zaha lashes the rebound wide.

Tadic creates another chance for Romeu which he hits, sees it deflect and Hennessey gets down to push it wide.  JWP’s corner is spot on the head of Yoshida but again, Hennessey saves comfortably enough.  Tadic then yet again superbly puts Long through but Hennessey is out quickly again and makes a superb save to leave Shane wondering why the world is against him.  Fat Sam has taken off Schlupp and brought on Delaney but instead of switching Kelly to left back as I expected, they’ve decided to go with 3 at the back with Townsend as a left wing back.

Ten minutes to go and we’ve made no subs as yet which is a bit strange bordering on a miracle and we must score, surely this time.  Nope.  Redmond and Tadic combine to set up Davis and his first shot is goalbound but the human mountain Sakho gets in the way and then Delaney blocks the follow up shot and Davo makes the mistake of running into him and it’s like a brick wall across a motorway and Davo needs treatment for a few minutes.

Redmond has been tormenting the shit Skate Ward all game and lines him up once more and does him again on the outside.  His pull back is knocked square (not altogether intentionally) by Stephens and there is Maya Yoshida stealing in to knock it into the empty net whilst all the Palace players appeal for offside rather than defending.  Can we hang on for the remaining 5 or so minutes?  A long ball forward from Palace and then we get our answer as we break and the ball goes from Tadic to Long to Tadic to JWP to Tadic to Cedric and across for JWP to score from 6 yards and then pull out the shittiest knee slide in the history of the game but no matter, 3-1.  What a goal and absolutely brilliant from Tadic who was involved three times and spot on with every touch.  It won’t be goal of the month because no one has smashed it into the net from 30 yards but it’s absolutely brilliant.

Davis is off to be replaced with Hojbjerg and Redmond takes a bow to give J-Rod a run on the left.  There is only time for Fraser to push a Puncheon free kick over the bar after Yoshida had carted Zaha up in the air.  Full time and job done.

Get in.  Well I never saw that coming at all.  I was pissed off and resigned to a 1-0 defeat when we missed chance after chance in the first 20,  annoyed up until our first goal, happy enough at the start of the second half, pissed off that we kept missing chances and then on top of the world at the end.  All over the place, like the Palace defence in the 2nd half once Fat Sam went to three at the back.

They gave us a bit of space and we exploited it.  When you think about who played well for us then you look at all the attacking midfielders.  Tadic was a genius today.  As individual performances go it was up there with Eyal Berkovic against Man United in the 6-3 win.  Watch the replay of the move that led to the third goal.  Tadic was involved three times and every time it was a superb touch, followed by a superbly weighted pass.  The assist will go to Cedric and the goal to JWP but that goal was all about Dusan Tadic – which is another example of why stats can be bollocks.  Nathan Redmond was fantastic throughout.  His highlight was burning up the Skate twat Ward and setting up the second goal.  Again the assist and goal will go to others but Nathan was the man on that goal.  After being ropey against Bournemouth, JWP was superb tonight.  The tone was set after 5 minutes when he hit a superb first time curling pass to dissect the defence and Shane fucked it up of course.  Christian Eriksen played one of those passes against us and it was highlighted massively and everyone was creaming themselves over it.  JWP’s pass didn’t even make it into the Match of the Day highlights though they did talk about it at the end.

Did we handle Benteke… no quite frankly.  He won every single header but Palace didn’t get enough players round him frequently enough so we were usually able to pick up the 2nd ball and clear the danger.  Fraser continued his recent improvement in goal and Sam McQueen was solid enough though I did feel he got caught out a bit on the Palace goal.  Oriol and Davo were decent in midfield and bossed it in the main though Oriol did eventually pick up his tenth booking of the season and will miss the next two games which is a shame but it gives one of Hojbjerg or Clasie a chance to stake a claim to play more often.

Shane Long – fucking hell.  Maybe he should be a goalkeeper because he’s as expert at keeping the score down.  He works so hard and if he had even average finishing ability he’d score 20 a season every year.  I would persevere with him against West Brom next week… a) because it’s West Brom and he used to play for them and b) because their central defenders are about 35 each and not the quickest.

Fat Sam of course made a big deal out of the Davis challenge on Zaha for our first goal.  I feel that with Zaha, like with Shane Long, referees know they dive about and so unless it’s nailed on, there’s a decent chance that they won’t get the free kick or penalty when they hit the deck.  I’m amazed that it wasn’t given as a free kick but there you go, play to the whistle chaps.  I thought Fat Sam killed Palace when he brought on Delaney and changed formation to 3 at the back.  The game was fairly even until that point but suddenly they had Townsend at left back which he clearly hates and there was even more space in the central midfield for us to our through.  The second and third goals both came from wide areas which are not so well protected when you have 3 at the back.  So, that formation change was the biggest fucking he’d given himself since he decided to comment on getting round the rules 3rd party ownership of players.  Fat Twat.

So – the league table certainly looks a bit better now and we’re up to 9th and there’s no way we’re going to get dragged into it.  All the other results in the midweek games were good to us on that score as well so we can move on and have a crack at West Brom away on Saturday.  They reached 40 points in record time for them this year and have been in beach mode on occasions since so it’s a good time to be playing them and why not.  Hopefully Gabbi will make it back at least as far as the bench and maybe it’ll be the game where Shane Long has five chances and scores three.  A bit late for April Fools that one…