Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Premier League Match 35 - Aston Villa 2 Southampton 4

Dusan Congratulates Champions League Bacuna on his Assist.

Aston Villa are shit.

There really is no dancing around this subject.  They have had the season from hell and this has been coming for about the last 5 years.  It must be bloody awful to be a Villa fan right now.  Ever since Martin O’Neill left in 2010, their roll call of managers reads like a horror story.  What could possibly go wrong with Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert, Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde.  That’s an absolutely horrible list whatever way you look at it.  Villa have been an imploding club for a while but always had a couple of players that raised them above the level of the clubs that ended up getting relegated.  Last year they had Benteke and Delph who just about dragged the team safe and somehow got them to an FA Cup Final.  Having flogged off both of those in the summer and replaced them with Gestede from the Championship and a whole load of disinterested mercenary shit in midfield, they’ve died on their arse since about match 2 of the current season.  Tim Sherwood was in charge then and was a massive bell end but at least he looked like he cared.  His replacement Remi Garde clearly had zero fucks to give about anything.
The players have been a disgrace too though with Joleon Lescott being complete shit and then responding to twitter abuse for one shit performance by tweeting a picture of his flash car as if to say, “I drive this so I must be great”.  No you’re not Joleon, you were passable about 8 years ago but now you’re shite.  One player they signed this year was the once good Micah Richards who was a right back and a very good one but wanted to be a centre back and now he is – a shit centre back.  He’s too small to be a centre back and it’s obvious.  Then there’s Agbonlahor.  He’d put on so much weight even his head looked fat and he couldn’t run which was 90% of what he could do when he was fit.  He’s been pictured in the papers, out on the piss and toking on shisha pipes and basically looking like a fat, pissed up stereotypical Club 18-30 Englishman abroad.  You’re supposed to be an athlete you fucking idiot.  Banned twice by his club, once for the shisha incident and once for being a fat twat.  Then there’s Jack Grealish who has hardly played this year.  Hyped to the heavens last year for reasons unknown, pissed up and passed out on the pavements in Ibiza or somewhere and declared he wanted to play for England rather that Ireland.  That’s a bit like me declaring that I want to play for England instead of France (my great great (times seven) grandfather was French).  I’m 47 and 16 stone but if both countries come knocking, it’s England for me or no one.  Another player (Okore) is refusing to play, another (Traore) has slagged the club off in public and funniest of all, Leandro Bacuna has played shite all year and has said he wants to play Champions League football next season.  Better check out if Andorra have got a club in it you twat.

We laugh at them but only because they don’t play for us but as Saints fans, we’ve been there in the not too distant past.  These players are a complete disgrace and they’re not alone as the management of Villa from top to bottom has been a complete shambles for a number of years.  It's almost as if they've been trying to get relegated for a while and have finally succeeded.  I can empathise with the Villa fans though.  The players clearly don’t give a shit about playing for a huge club with a proud tradition and I just hope that these joke players end up with a massive wage cut and no route back to the Premier league unless they earn it through performances for Villa in the Championship, rather than moving to a desperate newly promoted club based on their decent reputation from days gone by.

Ronald has decided to ring the changes for this game with J-Rod starting which is really good news.  He’s in along with Cédric, Romeu and Davis and out go Pellè, Mané, Clasie and Martina.  It looks a strong starting line up to take on a Villa side which looks pretty desperate aside from Jordan Ayew up front who has actually managed to look half decent this season amongst the car crash.

Away we go and we quickly set about proving how bad they are as long ball forward is missed by J-Rod and Richards and suddenly Long is past Lescott with just Guzan to beat.  It’s an easy chance but he lobs the keeper and sees it bounce down off the bar and away.  Bollocks – that’s a sitter. Should be 1-0 but isn’t.

They are truly terrible though and it’s not long before another chance comes along.  Bertrand takes a throw in and it’s a simple nod back from Tadic and one touch later, Bertrand has whipped in a cross around Hutton who can’t be arsed to get in the way and there’s Shane all on his own to head past Guzan to make it 1-0.  Lescott was marking him but his mind was elsewhere, probably wondering who was going to key his car.

Villa do mount a couple of attacks and Champions League Bacuna is involved, first firing a free kick from a very good position straight into the wall and then getting his head on a Hutton cross and nodding it well wide.  We look purposeful in attack but ragged in defence and the next chance falls to us as Bertrand crossed following a short corner, Big Vic saw his shot blocked and then Virgil took his time before thumping it against the base of the near post.

Villa are attempting to pop it about in midfield and then it goes to Champions League Bacuna who tries to just knock it back to where it came from and he ends up ballooning a ball over his own defence to give Shane a chase for the loose ball with Lescott.  Perhaps instead of tweeting a picture of a sports car, Lescott should have tweeted a picture of a caravan as he was clearly carrying one as he got burnt up completely.  Long tried to skip round Guzan but the keeper got a hand to it but Shane had the presence of mind to turn and roll a pass to Dusan Tadic to knock into the empty net to make it 2-0.  I expect that Bacuna and Lescott will be checking their pay packets this week to see if they got their bonus for an assist.

There’s just a few minutes to half time and a professional performance would see us playing the half out and making sure that we go in 2-0 to the good but we fuck that right up as Ayew gets down the left and is allowed to get a cross in which everybody misses, including two Villa strikers who run into eachother and it breaks somewhat fortuitously to Westwood who scores easily.  Bloody hell that was crap defending from both full backs.  Cédric getting done by Ayew and Bertrand turning his back on it.

Half time and the Villa fans contented themselves with lobbing cardboard aeroplanes on the pitch whilst Ronal Koeman no doubt was going mental at the players for allowing such a shite side to get a goal and give themselves hope, just before the half time whistle.  When the teams re-emerged, Ronald had replaced Big Vic with Clasie and Villa had decided that Micah Richards is that bad that an 18 year old debut centre back is a better bet.

We set out to pass them to death at the start of the second half and we quickly reassert our authority.  J-Rod is denied a certain goal as his acrobatic volley hits Lescott and goes wide following good work by Cédric and Virgil to set him up.  Villa are being managed by Eric Black for today and he makes himself popular by at 2-1 down, making a like for like swap up front but the player coming off is the decent Ayew and the man coming on is Donkey Gestede.  “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” rings out.

Another great opening goes to shit as Tadic pushes a lovely ball through to Long but his attempted poked finish is smothered by Guzan who is again equal to a Davis free kick from the left hand edge of the penalty area and once more as J-Rod takes aim from 20 yards and smashes it straight at him.  It’s so easy to create all these chances and we’re finding it easy to miss them all.

Mané is on for J-Rod for us and horrible little Ibiza Party Boy Grealish is on for them and we put some deserved daylight betweent he team again as Long breaks forward and rather than burn past Lescott, he gets his head up and rolls it in for Tadic who via a slight deflection, rattles it first time into the net. The confidence in Tadic as opposed to the ‘half an hour to shoot’ version of a few weeks ago is massive.

Shane misses another gilt-edged chance as Guzan droops a routine cross at his feet and he pokes it over and then Hutton picked up a deserved injury in a clash of heads with Mané.  I say deserved because Hutton is a non-footballer who belongs in League 1 and all he tries to do is foul people.  How the fuck has he stolen a career?  He’s not the most unpopular Villa player in the ground through with the loudest boos being reserved for every touch by Lescott and Champions League Bacuna.

As we approach the end, Hutton gets forward and has a lash at the near post which Fraser juggles over the bar in completely unconvincing fashion.  The corner comes over and like the first Villa goal, everyone misses it including two Villa players who have a swing and Westwood arrives to steer it into the net.

How the fuck are we only winning by one goal against this lot?  A brilliant combination of wasteful finishing, lack of care over the final ball and sloppy defending have left us potentially hanging on against the worst premier league team I’ve ever seen.  I was limbering up for a good old vein popping sweary rant of epic proportions, especially after Shane hit the side netting with another glorious chance which should have gone across the keeper.  Then Guzan threw it straight to Davis who again teed up Shane who took too long to get the shot away.   Swearing stopped when some neat interplay between Davis, Tadic and Cédric whilst Grealish stood and watched (whilst drinking an alcopop) gave the full back space to chip in a cross and Sadio Mané got away from Lescott and powered a header down past Guzan and into the corner to make it 4-2.

Well that was a very odd game.  Villa were so shite that we should have at least matched the 6 goals we put past them at this stage last season.  We butchered so many chances with sloppy passes or wasteful finishes and I don’t think our players could really get up for it because it was so easy.  Go on lads – we’ll even throw you a couple of goals with shit defending to make it slightly interesting.  Shane Long had scored one and set up two but he was doing my head in.  He was the reason we were in front and also the reason we weren’t out of sight with some horrible finishing.  Quite rightly though, he should be applauded for the positive things he did achieve in this game and the fact that he made Lescott look the complete mug that he is.  It was of course, a positive that J-Rod managed to play nearly 70 minutes.  He certainly seems to have bulked up and hopefully this will help him stay injury free in the future.  It was a perfect game for him to play in and the right decision by the manager who I’m sure knew that Villa’s defence would be appalling.  Man of the match for me was Oriol Romeu who was everywhere.  This guy needs to play more often and next year of course he will as Big Vic will almost certainly not be with us.  A final word for Dusan Tadic who is always going to be the kind of player to drift in and out of games but today he was pretty much on it for 90 minutes and the goals and chances he created will only boost the confidence of a player who has a massive difference between him at his best and him at his worst.

As it stands, 6th place is the lowest to get a Europa League spot and in order to get that, we have to finish ahead of one of Liverpool, West Ham or Manchester United.  In order for the qualification to go any lower than 6th, we want Manchester United to win the FA Cup and we want Liverpool to win the Europa League.  Cheering for those two sides is not going to be easy.  Can you imagine watching the Europa League Final and it’s a penalty shootout and up steps Lallana or Lovren and we need them to score.

There was some good news today as Liverpool tossed a 2-0 lead at home to Newcastle and drew 2-2.  We can’t really worry about others though and have to concentrate on winning our remaining games which are at home to Manchester City, away to Spurs and home to Palace.  The City game is sandwiched in between the two legs of their Champions League Semi-Final with Real Madrid so that gives us a chance and for Palace, it will be their last game before the FA Cup Final so that helps as well.  With any luck, Leicester will have won the league by the time we play Spurs so they’ll have nothing to play for either, though it would be delicious beyond belief to screw them up.  I always had a problem with Spurs and Pochettino, Alderweireld and Mitchell have made it worse…. So it was with great delight that I watched them fuck up against West Brom on Monday night and leave Leicester only needing three more points from three games to win the league.  The two snakes looked close to tears at the end.  Good.

Next up is Manchester City at home.  If we found it hard to play with intensity today because of the appalling opposition, then we should have no such problem next Sunday (unless they move the fucking day and time for the 4th time before then).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Premier League Match 34 - Everton 1 Southampton 1

How the Fuck Did We Not Win This?

So – we haven’t won here since 1997 apparently.  That’s not very good is it.... especially as Everton have had periods of not being terribly good since then though they evidently coincided with us being worse.  That’s not the case now though with Saints being one of the form teams in the entire country and Everton being ... a team managed by Roberto Martinez.  It took him a while but he’s done what I predicted – gradually dismantled the resolute Moyes-era Everton and now play nice football but lose regularly because they can’t defend for shit.  With every passing week he’s turning into Brendan Rodgers – great reputation from not many results and post-match interviews which have become a joke.  He’s always crapping on about their fantastic world-class players which kind of makes you as manager look rather silly when you’re lower in the league than West Brom.  Everton are though, a ‘proper’ football club with sound foundations and their fans are decent and they seem to have seen through Roberto’s bullshit and aren’t happy – even with an FA Cup Semi-Final against Man United coming up next week.

News from the Saints camp is that Steve Davis is fit but Charlie Austin is not.  We have 5 games left and with Spurs and Man City being in the other four, we need to win today to give us a shout at finishing 6th and getting into the Europa League again.  Ronald and the players have been talking a good game anyway so we shall see.

Hold the back page, we’ve got an unchanged team which means that Steve Davis hasn’t come straight back in and the Cédric is stil behind Martina in the pecking order.  Everton on the other hand are decimated by suspensions and injuries and their manager having one eye on a Merseyside Derby in midweek and an FA Cup Semi Final next Saturday.  Lukaku and Barkley are on the bench and ‘world class’ Gareth Barry is nowhere to be seen.  They have some good players like Stones, Coleman & Mirallas but we really should be beating these today.  I’d be surprised if any of those 5 decent players (not Barry) I’ve just mentioned will fancy being around next year, especially if Martinez is still the manager.

It doesn’t take long for a pattern to be established and we are clearly the more confident side as you’d expect.  Martina hits over a shite of a cross which I nowhere near anyone but it’s dropping right under the bar so Robles has to shovel it over the bar.  The next opportunity is Big Vic trying an optimistic daisy cutter which is easily saved.  Everton are managing the odd break with Mirallas seeing a shot blocked by Fonte and then the first big chance as Martina’s cross is headed down by Long at the back stick and Tadic volleys first time over the bar.  We’ve been slaughtering Tadic for taking too much time but ironically, he could have taken a touch here.

It’s all Saints and the Everton fans are getting annoyed already and we’ve only played about 20 minutes.  They are there for the taking if we can get in front and Long latches onto a ball over the top and tried to Vardy it and hit it first time as it drops but he fucks it right up and smashes it into the crowd.  When Everton get back up our end, the game is stopped as José is wandering around not knowing what day it is.  O have no idea why the Everton fans think he’s putting this on and eventually he has to go off to be replaced by Maya Yoshida which means we’re probably going to have to score two to win now.  If I was Martinez I’d put Lukaku on straight away as he’s exactly the kind of striker that Maya can’t deal with.

Everton are trying to play out from the back but they neither have the movement or ability to do this.  Funes Mori loses it to Big Vic after an awful touch and we work it to Long who is away until Gibson cynically takes him out with a slide tackle that was so late it evoked memories of Paul Wotton.  For me there’s a case for a red card here.  There are covering defenders and if he’s just tripped him or pulled him back then yellow and fair enough but he’s absolutely deliberately binned him and Shane’s in a heap on the ground.  It’s deliberate and dangerous.

Unfortunately we can’t take full advantage as Bertrand’s free kick is near the top corner but Robles reads it and saves well.  Ryan then makes a balls of the short corner and instead of crossing it, stabs
Bertrand short corner, rubbish, stabs it into our half and Deulofeu is away until Big Vic executes a perfect slide tackle which would have seen him sent off had he missed it.

We win another corner as Tadic gets in a good cross from the right and Stones beats Pellè to it to knock it behind.  Bertrand’s corner is delivered first time this time and Long gets up and his flicked header hits the inside of the far post and is cleared.  Bollocks.  More corners won, more corners delivered and more scrambled clearances from Everton until one lands with Virgil on the edge of the box and he takes a touch before putting it over the bar.  Half time and we’re going to regret not scoring aren’t we?  The atmosphere is so flat and the Everton team so poor that us going in front would be match-winning.

The second half starts with more of the same with Long having a shot blocked and then, after some good possession football around the edge of the box, Tadic cuts in and onto his left foot before shooting and seeing it flick off of Gibson’s head and smack against the bar and out.  Balls.  Everton are really only getting in our half when we fuck something up when we’re attacking and one such break ends with Pellè clumsily fouling Osman about 25 yards out.  We’re waiting for Mirallas’ free kick to fly straight into the top corner but in the end he lamely chips it over the wall and straight to Fraser.  It’s crap to be honest.

Graziano is not having a great game but he does get on the end of a low Martina cross and puts it wide but Ronald rolls the dice and removes our main, in form striker and replaces him with Steven Davis.  That’s a strange one… I could have understood a like for like swap with J-Rod…. We’ve got control in midfield anyway.  Everton are forced into a sub straight after as Coleman tries to keep pace with Irish team mate Long and does a hamstring to be replaced by a kid called Connolly who looks about 13.  The new lad adds a bit of energy to Everton and gets down the right to win a corner.

Over it comes from Mirallas and Funes Mori gets a free header which is blocked back out to him and he smashes the rebound through a ruck of bodies and into the net via a deflection.  Oh fuck off.  This is fucking ridiculous.  Two effort from the same player suggests that no one was marking him… guess who was supposed to be… yep. Maya Yoshida.

As if by magic we’re now straight back on the attack again and Mané teaches Connolly about the other side of being a right back and totally skins him before hanging up a cross for Graziano who….. watches on from the bench.  Tadic is having a field day on the right against Oviedo and beats him every single time and makes room for a cross before doing something shite with it.

J-Rod come son for Big Vic who copped a knee in the back in the first half and Jay immediately takes on Oviedo, burns past him and then runs out of pitch.  Just when you think it’s not going to come, it does as again we keep possession around the Everton box and eventually Tadic bursts infield and the ball squirts though via a deflection to Mané who puts it away to make it 1-1 with 12 minutes to go.  Letting in the goal sparks a pitch invasion by one bloke who has a chat with Leon Osman before getting all arsey in the direction of the Everton manager.  I bet he looked behind him at one point to see all his mates and none had followed.  Enjoy your banning order you twat.

Can we do it?  The last ten minutes is all Saints.  Long gets played through on the right but can’t get a shot away so he tries to lay it back to Jay who has it taken off his toe before he can shoot.  J-Rod then gets a chance and stings the palms of Robles with a blast from a narrow angle and then Mané skins Osman on the right but again, Everton manage to get away with it.

And shit!!! Whilst a point at Goodison is never to be sniffed at – today it’s a shite result both because we needed a win and because Everton were desperately bad.  We were the better team by a mile and really should have won comfortably but we blew it with an inability to find a final ball or get the shot on target.  Dusan Tadic was at his most frustrating today - I just know that he’ll be picked out as Man of the Match by lots of people because of the way he continually beat Oviedo but what’s the point if every ball you put into the box picks out an Everton defender?  to be fair though, a majority of our chances were created by him but it still does my head in.  Usually I ‘get’ the reason why people were subbed at the time but when Graziano got subbed, I gave that decision the benefit of the doubt to start with but the desired effect just didn’t happen so we wasted about 20 minutes until Big Vic had to go off and we threw J-Rod on.  Then we looked more of a threat but couldn’t fashion a decent chance in the last ten despite being camped in their half for most of it.  I guess that having to take José off cut down on the flexibility that Ronald had with the subs in the second half. The good news is that Clasie was forced to play 90 minutes.

Afterwards, Ronald made no bones about the fact that our lack of goals away from home is damaging our Europa chances and he’s right of course.  The flip side is that we are very solid away from home in that we don’t let many.  What can we do…. Both Tadic and Mané create opportunities but too often the final ball lets them down (as mention earlier and about 80 times this season) and they don’t score enough.  Another problem is that our midfielders don’t score enough – I think of the regulars, it’s Vic 1, Jordy 0, Davo 2 this season.  Maybe we need to get JWP in the side ahead of Clasie in away games.  We will lose a bit defensively but gain on the free kick delivery etc.  In the context of our team, Steve Davis has to contribute more goals as well.  I know he was a sub today but playing where he does, he has to contribute more than 0 to 2 goals per season.

With United and Liverpool winning and West Ham drawing at Leicester – we haven’t done our chances of finishing above any of these teams much good today.  There’s a few midweek games this week so we may have a clearer picture after those because of teams catching up their games in hand.  So – we want a Watford win at West Ham, an Everton win at Liverpool and a Palace win at United.  No chance.

Next up we have a trip to the walking disaster that is Aston Villa who got officially relegated on Saturday, having been relegated in spirit since about October.  Ronald is bemoaning our lack of away goals but if we can’t get a few against Villa then we really are struggling.  We’ve already dropped two points in the home game against them and I can’t imagine many teams have failed to beat them at least once this season.   Maybe J-Rod to start?  Bring it on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Premier League Match 33 - Southampton 3 Newcastle 1

The Time is Quarter to Release Clause

Newcastle really need to beat us to have a chance of staying up and here’s the thing – I’ve never felt more confident about a home win since the League 1 days.  Despite spending loads in the summer and loads more in January, they’re still shite and have no defenders who are any good.  The fans seem to uniformly blame Mike Ashley and I get that to a degree.  His appointments at board and managerial level have been shocking… I mean, John Carver and Steve McClaren – that’s two of the worst managers in Premier League history.  I don’t know who’s responsible for scouting and buying players but whoever it is, is shit at their job and Ashley appointed him.  Wasn’t it Joe Kinnear at one point?  Jesus.  On the positive side for Fat Mike, he has sanctioned spending loads of money and he’s no Randy Lerner who is completely absent and hardly spends a penny.  Another problem the Geordies have with Ashley is that they see the identity of the club being eroded… I mean, the Sports Direct Arena… for fucks sake. 

This season was always going to be difficult from the moment Ashley appointed Steve McClaren – who is and will always be useless.  The error was then compounded by leaving him in position for far too long when he really should have been gone by November.  In the managerial seat for the next few games is Rafa Benitez.  I say ’next few games’ because he has a break clause in his contract should they get relegated.  I am pretty confident that he’ll be checking the small print on that clause to make sure his exit is cut and dried, once he gets home from today’s game.

The news from midweek was that Steve Davis would be missing and that Shane Long would be back and that was the change made to the starting XI, along with Cuco Martina returning in place of Cédric.  It’s a mark of Martina’s improvement that this doesn’t have me effing and blinding in annoyance any more.  Newcastle have on the face of it, quite a strong starting line up but in the mix they have two dodgy players in Steven Taylor who has always been incredibly average and Vurnon Anita who is a joke player, pure and simple useless not-fit-for-purpose mercenary circus midget.

Newcastle are known for their tentative starts to games and we have another one here as we win a corner in the first minute.  Bertrand’s delivery is met by Virgil and Garziano tries to head it on towards goal but it’s straight at Darlow.  Within three minutes we’re bouncing up and down as Mané plays a ball down the middle to Long who beats Shelvey with ease and it bounces via Pellè back to Long and he runs a Taylor who shows him towards the goal and unsurprisingly, that’s the way Long goes and slots it under Darlow as easy as you like for 1-0.  It’s so easy that you look at the linesman to see if he’s got a flag up as the Newcastle players all seem to have stopped but no, that’s how they play.

Newcastle try to calm things down and play the ball about from the kick off but after going across the pitch a few times, Saints close them down and Taylor gives Darlow a shite backpass which gets three quarters there and Long is alert and gets there first.  Darlow has to come flying out and steams into Long and is lucky that he gets at least part of the ball.  Shane is in a crumpled heap on the ground but after a bit of treatment he’s ok.

With Anita being at left back, it’s surprising that most of our play is down the other side with Tadic and Bertrand terrorising Janmaat who is not being helped much by Townsend and Sissoko.  The full back can’t be arsed to put a tackle in so just blocks the ball with his hand and gives us a free kick.  It wouldn’t have been a free kick against Leicester.  Clasie swings it over and it curls about a foot wide of the far post.

It’s so easy for us.  If they have the ball then usually they either give it away with a poor pass or Mitrovic gets out-muscled by José or Virgil.  When we have it they kind of just lumber about with none of their front 6 being particularly interested in covering the defenders.  From a Newcastle foray into our half, they give the ball away and Mané has it in midfield.  His pass out to Tadic on the left is poor and the crowd groans as it’s straight to Janmaat but the groans turn to a cheer mixed with laughing as he falls on his arse and misses it.  Tadic is away and he feeds it behind Graziano who falls over and into Long who takes a heavy touch which luckily bounces back to Graziano who is up again and he creams it past Darlow and into the net for 2-0.  Great finish.

Janmaat is pretending that he’s injured to cover the fact that he’s fallen on his arse and make himself look stupid and so he’s off and replaced with Siem de Jong which means that Sissoko moves from not giving a shit in midfield to not giving a shit at right back.  Half time, 2-0, easy, really easy.

As Newcastle emerge for the second half, sadly, Benitez has had enough of the Steve Taylor comedy show and replaced him with Lascelles and it looks like Anita has gone to be a joke circus midget at right back and Sissoko to not giving a shit at left back.

It’s Sissoko who has the first chance of sorts in the second half as Fraser shanks a clearance and the Newcastle player has a brief chance for a shot from miles out but he completely shanks it as well and it all ends in a goal kick. We’re still the better side and win a corner on the right.  Bertrand’s kick is flicked by Pellè’s quiff and hits a defender and out and so we go again.  This time Ryan plays it short to Mané who is allowed to run at Wijnaldum who puts in a real half-arsed effort, allowing Mané to the line.  His pull back is hit by Fonte, Darlow saves with his feet but the ball is back to Big Vic who takes a touch before ramming it into the net for 3-0 and game over, if it wasn’t already.  The big man certainly enjoyed that.

JWP is on for Long which is a bit disappointing as I’d like to have seen a like for like swap with J-Rod and Newcastle decide that they’re actually going to play and create some openings.  Mitrovic tees up Perez for a shit which is straight at Forster and we hear the Newcastle fans for the first time with an ironic “we’ve had a shot” chant.  Then they have another shot to cheer about as Townsend has a decent pop at goal which Fraser has to extend himself to keep out.

Andros Townsend is nothing if not predictable.  Everyone knows that he’s a left footed player, playing on the right and he wants to cut in and get it on his left foot and hit it.  He’s scored some very good goals like that and all match, Saints have been aware of it with all out players covering this move when they came up against him.  Maybe it’s because JWP has just come on but when Townsend turned inside Clasie, JWP should have been there with the tackle but he’s not and sells himself, sending Townsend onto his left foot and bang, top corner, no chance Fraser and a really good goal.

With 15 minutes to go it’s time for Clasie to leave us and be replaced by Romeu.  We’re still playing well and there’s no hint of a wobble and Pellè produces a superb headed pass to put Mané away in the inside right channel and he squares up the defender before curling a shot just wide with his left foot.  On 83 minutes there’s the biggest cheer of the day with Jay Rodriguez coming on to replace Tadic.  He looks sharp for the remaining 10 minutes and there’s great anticipation as Mané stands up a cross to the back post.  Anita, the useless circus midget, is defending it and for a second it looks like there may be an opportunity for Jay to head everything into the net but to be fair, Anita does well and clears it.  Well played useless circus midget.

Well that was a piece of piss.  We played as well as we had to, to win the game comfortably – no more, no less.  It was as comfortable as it could possibly be once Shane put us ahead in the 4th minute.  Shane really showed us what we were missing against Leicester and ran himself into the ground for the hour or so that he was on.  Star of the show for me was Graziano who bullied and battered the Newcastle centre backs around all afternoon.  Nothing summed it up better than in the last minute when Fraser launched a clearance and Graziano held off both centre backs, one with each arm and still managed to perfectly control the ball with one touch.  Brilliant performance from him and a deserved goal again.  I saw a stat after the game which said that he’s scored or assisted 7 of our last 8 goals or something like that.   There are many who don’t rate him and just want to see Charlie Austin play but guess what, Austin got injured in the warm up so he can’t really be relied upon.  Also, even if he was fit, I know who I’d rather have in the side.

Elsewhere it was workmanlike – Clasie and Wanyama ruled the midfield even though outnumbered and it was good to see someone different get a goal when big Vic slammed in the 3rd.  The defence were there when we needed them to be with José and Virgil combining to not let Mitrovic have a sniff though I’m sure the Newcastle striker would have liked to have actually had some service.

Highlight of the game was J-Rod coming on to a great reception and it was just a shame that when he closed in on that cross to the far post, that he didn’t smash Anita and the ball into the net and let the referee sort it out afterwards.  Ronald said afterwards that he was going to be managed back into it but he sounded genuinely excited about the prospect.  He had a little moan that we should have scored more goals but I don’t expect he’s that bothered really.

Newcastle – bloody hell... my Geordie grandfather will be turning in his grave... well he would be if he hadn’t have been cremated.  I remember games when the travelling Newcastle fans were loud for 90 minutes but today there was nothing, as if the spirit of the fans has been eroded by the team and now there’s nothing left.  Can you blame them if they travel all over the country watching that every week.  Utter shite.  Even our friend The True Geordie is so pissed off with it all, he’s declined to make a video report of a Toon game for the first time this season.

Rafa set them up to attack with Wijnaldum, their top scorer deployed as holding midfielder along with Shelvey.  With that ‘screen’ in front of the defenders, it meant that when they didn’t have the ball it was so easy to get to their back 4 which was embarrassingly bad.  You can’t set up, basically without a defensive midfield when you have a defence like that.  I’ve seen better non-league players than Steven Taylor, Anita is just an apology for a footballer and Janmaat’s performance, especially when falling over for the second goal was hilarious.  No way was he injured – he just wanted to get off and go home.  Mbemba and Lascelles at least tried and then there was Moussa Sissoko, a player who is in the France squad at the moment where Morgan Schneiderlin isn’t.  He started off as a 10, behind Mitrovic and then went to right back when Janmaat went off but just kept wandering off and not bothering to come back.  Their best player by a mile was Andros Townsend who scored a great goal but if we hadn’t lost concentration because it was so bloody easy, then he wouldn’t have got that shot away.  They’re going down.  End of.  No chance, No fight, No hope. Down with the Villa.  Rafa Benitez – started the season with a forward line of Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo and ended it in the Championship with Mitrovic, Perez and Sissoko.  Started the season with Sergio Ramos at centre back and ended it with Steven Taylor... not exactly career progression.

We have 5 games to go and Europe is still a possibility.  I reckon 4 wins out of the remaining 5 games will do it but all will become clearer after the next round of midweek matches which will even the number of games played out.  With Chelsea looking like they’ve packed it in for the season and actually playing some youngsters, we should finish above them and we should also finish above Stoke who appear to be limping towards the season’s end.  Liverpool are just 2 points behind us (2 games in hand), West Ham 2 in front and Man United 3 in front (both with 1 in hand).  At the moment, most would predict us finishing 8th which will mean a nice long break as the lowest qualifying position is likely to be 6th.   Stranger things have happened – I’m sure Newcastle might try in one game before the end of the season.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Premier League Match 32 - Leicester 1 Southampton 0

Simpson Clears the Danger

There was a strange occurrence in the build-up to this game in that I was reading here and there that some alleged Saints fans wanted us to lose today.  You what?  I get that we all want Leicester to win the league because we can’t ourselves and I get that we don’t want Tottenham or one of the usual suspects to win it but wanting your own team to lose… do one!  If you have this attitude then you should really question whether you should bother going to Saints matches or commenting on social media.  Pathetic.

Hopefully the Leicester supporting Saints fans won’t be buying one but this week we’ve also had the announcement of the season ticket prices next year which was pretty disappointing as far as I’m concerned.  Billions received on a TV deal and it really wouldn’t have killed the club to drop all the prices.  As far as I can see, a few blocks near the corner flags are cheaper but that’s it.  Personally, as my boy is now over 11, I’ll be paying £100 more than last season.  I knew his ticket would be more expensive but was kind of hoping that this would be offset by a reduction in the adult ticket price.

So, Leicester are top of the league and yes it is a good thing.  It’s highly amusing in this age of massive money that a team can win the richest league of all by resorting to basics.  4-4-2 for starters with defenders that defend, a central midfield that defends, pace and trickery on the wings, pace up front.  That’s it!  Oh yes… they play as a team and everyone grafts their bollocks off.  What’s not to like?  It’s brilliant.  This is their one shot – the players know it, the manager knows it and the fans know it.  Win the league though and they players should hang around for another season but you know that Vardy, Mahrez and Kante will be in demand.  Liverpool and the like will assume they can sign any of them with the logic being ‘but we’re Liverpool’.  The big clubs of course are all about marquee signings though so will paying £30 million for a striker who came from non-league who looks like old man Steptoe sit comfortably with the money men and image marketers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Jamie Vardy as a player and I wish he played for us.

With Spurs having dropped points on Saturday, Leicester have the chance to go seven points clear with six games to go if they beat us today.  The Daily Mail obviously want this to happen because they’ve run a story, based on nothing, regarding players not liking Ronald Koeman’s methods.  There are no quotes of course but Tadic, JWP and Mané all have a problem with him apparently.  Here we fucking go again.  On a more positive note, we have a fully fit squad with the exception of Shane Long who came back from playing for Ireland with a knee injury.  This bad news has been offset by the good news of the return of Charlie Austin and J-Rod.  Ronald decided to revert to the 3-5-2 formation which brought Cédric and Targett back into the side and Big Vic was preferred to the very unfortunate Romeu in midfield.  Last seen tearing up Liverpool – we had Sadio and Graziano up front.  A quick check of the bench and YESSSSS…. Juanmi is not on it, useless little fucker.

Leicester have distributed those bloody plastic clappers to their fans so there’s a sound which sounds like a swarm of locusts as the kick off approaches.  This is on a par with vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup or playing applause through the speakers.  I know we’ve done the piped applause before the clappers would be step too far.

The start of the game is very cagey as we sit deep to try and make sure that there’s no space behind us for Vardy to run into.  Also, Mané is playing to the left of a midfield 4 with Davis on the right which kind of gives us a 5-4-forty yards-Pellè formation.  It’s tough on the Italian and he barely gets a decent pass and has no support even when he does get it.  Consequently, the game is being played in our half but Leicester aren’t doing much with it.  It is worrying every time the ball goes towards Vardy though as by comparison, José has got a caravan on his back.  Mind you, Vardy has controlled that with his hand which enabled him to have a run at him.

It hakes half an hour for us to have anything resembling a chance as Cédric gets down the right and for once, fires over a decent cross with some pace on it and Graziano flicks his immaculate hairstyle at it and nods it just over the bar.  The big man is warming to the task now and takes a ball on his chest and Mané is on his bike and is found with a slide rule pass.  Sadio is away from Simpson and Morgan and it’s him gain Schmeichel.  Round the keeper he goes and shoots but in the time it takes for him to do this, Simpson has got back and it hits him and is cleared.  It’s hit his arm, surely that’s a penalty... and a red card.  Not a bit of it.  In his defence, his arm was tucked in to his body but he’s definitely moved his arm towards the ball deliberately and knocked it away.  In my opinion the referee has bottled it but the rules, such as they are, make it easy for him to do so.  No one on Sky is even talking about it being a handball.  Great clearance, great defending, I love Leicester, fuck off.

Ooooooooh! José’s had a thump from 35 yards, forcing Schmeichel to tip it over the bar.  Where did that come from.  It’s all us but we make nothing of the corner and hen guess what.  Leicester attack down the right and Bertrand scuffs a clearance.  We appear to have recovered but the ball ends up out on our right and Fuchs finds space and just delivers it and Morgan gets up above his marker to head it past Forster.  Bollocks.  Why the fuck is 5 foot 4 Clasie marking their centre back – oh hang on, Morgan has shoved him right out of the way in order to head the ball.  That’s a foul all day long.  They’re gonna win the league.  Two decisions, two bottle jobs from the referee and Niall Quinn in the commentary box is knocking one out with excitement. 

The one remaining incident before half time is a Leicester break and Vardy takes a heavy touch allowing us to win the ball.  He then steams into Steve Davis and takes everything out.  Yesterday, Kouyate at West Ham got sent off for similar but it’s Leicester so not today.  Not even a free kick and Michael Oliver was probably surprised that there was some handbags as a result as José took issue on Davo’s behalf.  Half time.  Bullshit.

It seems to be the way of things that if we set up for a game with three centre backs and then go behind – we swap to 4 at the back and Targett gets hauled off.  This time his replacement is Dusan Tadic.  Almost straight from the kick off the ball gets knocked to Vic who looks like he’s had tranquilizers at half time and he takes a crap touch, loses it to Vardy and then forearms him in the face to stop him getting away.  Here’s comes another red card.... oh it’s yellow.  Saved only by the relative proximity of Jose and Virgil.

The opening 15 minutes aren’t really going anywhere.  We’re OK without looking dangerous and of our three players behind Pellè, only Tadic is doing anything but when it comes to the business end of the pitch, the crossing is poor.  He doesn’t shoot on a couple of occasions when he could have and then, following a good period of pressure on the edge of the Leicester box, there’s a woeful pass to Pellè, straight off the pitch.  He’s fighting for the ball well though and Drinkwater picks up a booking for wrestling him to the ground which is the first thing the ref has given against Leicester all day.

José has a go at gifting them another goal as Drinkwater escapes down the right and curls in a low cross which Fonte needs to prevent going to Vardy, which is achieves by looping it at the top corner and it’s a good job our keeper is 7 feet tall as Fraser gets up and flips it over the bar.  Though we’re having most of the possession, it’s Leicester who look the more dangerous in the final third.  Vardy burns past Cédric and slides the ball across to the back stick.  Fraser is on the front post and Simpson has the whole goal to aim at but he sidefoots it at the middle of the goal and Fraser gets across to block it when we’d all given up.

Charlie Austin is coming on for Davis who has been pretty average and I expected J-Rod to be joining him but oh no... of course we have to take Clasie off because he turns into a fucking pumpkin or something if he plays longer than 65 minutes so JWP is on. 

Charlie Austin is making a nuisance of himself and gets the ball on the right and hammers over a cross which is blocked at close range by the hand of Huth.  His arm is miles out from his side and it hits the palm of his hand.  It’s not even worth appealing to be honest.  Not today lads, it’s Leicester.  Leicester have taken off Okazaki and brought on Ulloa who is probably going to be the answer to a quiz question in a few years... name the worst striker ever to win a Premier League Winners medal.  He’s dogshit.  Immediately we are grateful for Ulloa’s inability as he gets played into space on the left but butchers it with a horrific first touch. We’re very open now and Leicester carve us open on the right and Vardy bears down on goal but there’s a big Fraser boot to negotiate and he can’t.

The remaining 10 minutes is played out comfortably by Leicester.  They play keep ball for about five minutes in our right back area and we get out of there eventually when Austin dives to win a free kick.  Vardy does a full length comedy dive in front of the ref which is usually taken a dim view of and gets a yellow card.  Not today lads, it’s Leicester.  We eventually win a free kick out on the right which JWP can’t put in the right area and so Leicester, Sky, the watching millions who aren’t Spurs fans and those thundercunt Saints fans who wanted Leicester to win... go nuts.  Hurrah.

Not happy.  We got the shitty end of the stick regarding decisions with the Simppson one being the game changer but the bottom line is that we didn’t create enough to unduly bother the watertight Leicester defence.  How many saves did Schmeichel have to make?... one I reckon which was a pot shot from our centre back.  Ronald was off on one afterwards pointing to the fact that over the last 3 games we’ve had 3 good shouts turned down.  He was only talking about the Simpson one from today and not the Huth one.   I know Simpson’s arm was by his side but he deliberately moved it towards the ball so that’s a penalty.  It wasn’t there as part of his natural running motion unless he’s a cripple.  If the Simpson one wasn’t given because his arm was by his side then I guess the Huth one wasn’t given because he didn’t mean it.  Why is his hand out there then?  There is no need for his hand to be out there?  If you look at the shithouse Alderweireld when he goes to block a cross – he’s always got his hands behind his back and he’s probably the best defender in the country.  The rules are so vague and so referees are always going to err on the side of not giving anything.  Fact is that Mané should have scored.  He should have either slotted it past the keeper or buried it low once he went round him.  It was similar in a way to the Tadic chance at Stoke where the striker had to make ultra-sure he was going to score before having a shot...oh dear.  Just hit it lads...

Judging by what I’m reading I’m in the minority but I thought Pellè had a good game for us up front.  The support from Davis and Mané was lacking today and we created little and the crossing into the box was pretty poor.   The one moment of genuine quality from us today was Pellè’s through ball to Sadio which deserved a goal.  Shane Long was definitely missed as he would have pulled Leicester’s defence about more though I have a feeling he would have spent most of the game offside as they are so well organized.  I was hoping we were going to get J-Rod on in the second half but having made the tactical change at half time, we then had to save up a substitution for when Clasie inevitably has to come off.  That’s getting annoying now.  If he can’t play 90 minutes then don’t start him ahead of Romeu or JWP as it restricts us tactically if we want to change things.  I found José Fonte’s performance a bit alarming today as he was towing the proverbial caravan.  Maybe this was accentuated by the pace of Vardy but the skipper needs to sort himself out or else he’s going to find himself under pressure for his place next season as long as we sign another centre back.   Another disappointment was Cédric whose crossing was almost uniformly woeful.  There was no quality on the deliveries which made it easy for Huth and Morgan to knock everything away.  The one cross he was involved in that had any quality was from Fuchs for the goal as Cédric failed to get close enough to him.

As for Leicester – well Sky certainly got the result they wanted.  It was amusing to hear Ranieri describe Simpson’s block as a ‘save’ but I think we can excuse his command of the English language for that one.  The performance of Kante was analysed afterwards, mainly the ground he covered and the amount of times he won the ball back.  They didn’t talk about the number of fouls he did though which must have been up near double figures by the end of the game.  He never appears to go off his feet though so he’s not going to get booked.  There’s a lesson for Big Vic in there somewhere.  Other interesting stuff is that Leicester allow more crosses than any team and they just concentrate on defending the middle and the evidence seems to show that that works just fine and it certainly did against us – a team that known for getting crosses in.  We, on the other hand, allowed their cross to come into the box and then left Clasie to mark their giant of a centre back.

In summary, I do like it that Leicester play 4-4-2, all know their jobs and work incredibly hard with pace up top, skill on wings and proper defenders and as a rule, they pick the same side each week.  I hope they win the league but I hope they win it without too much help from referees and too much fawning from the media.  As for us, well we can of course help Leicester (if they haven’t won it already) by messing up Tottenham and the twin shithouses of Pochettino and Alderweireld on the penultimate day of the season.

Today’s defeat leaves our target of 6th looking a bit further off seeing as we’re 4 points behind West Ham and they have a game in hand.  Even if we don’t make it, I’d prefer us to still be in with a shout so the season doesn’t just peter out over the remaining six games.  Next up is Newcastle and Rafa Benitez at home and they are right in the shit having failed to beat both Sunderland and Norwich in their last two games.  We usually do well against them at home and there’s no reason why next week should be any different.