Monday, September 29, 2014

Premier League Game 6 - Southampton 2 QPR 1

Another bad day for 'Arry Ballsack

Ah Mr Redknapp – we’ve been expecting you...

Mr Redknapp is a bit predictable.  The last time he was in the Premier  League with QPR he decided in time honoured fashion to try and buy his way out of the relegation zone in the January transfer window, spunking millions up the wall on past-it mercenaries and giving them ridiculous length contracts on ridiculous money.  They got emphatically relegated.    Naturally, when a tactic has completely failed and you’ve nearly bankrupted the club, it makes perfect sense to make your first signing of the new season, a 35 year old Rio Ferdinand who was gone as a top level player about 3 years ago but propped up by the last knockings of Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford.  He was found out big time last year but ‘Arry still bought him…. Because he could.

Another sortie into the transfer marked have seen Steven Caulker arrive who got relegated with Cardiff last season.  He’s a decent centre half when paired with a quicker one so the partnership of him and Rio is always going to work out great.  Loic Remy has departed to Chelsea and he was the man who scored the winner in the last meeting at SMS when QPR came into the game as underdogs and left with the win.  This had better not happen today.

‘Arry can’t understand it of course but we all hate him.  In a year when two of our players were dreaming of Liverpool when they were still our players, it’s worth remembering that ‘Arry’s ‘heart was never in it’ when he was manager of Southampton and whilst he was still our manager, he got himself a job at Portsmouth.  Oh.... he made sure we got relegated first.  No doubt the way he’d see it was that he set in motion the chain of events that saw us rise to where we are now. 

Since the Arsenal game we’ve been basking in the glow of positive publicity and now we’ve got some more good news in that Toby Alderweireld is back in training.  The questions today are Mané or Long, Toby or Florin and which two out of Big Vic, Steve Davis or Corky.  Come 2pm we had the answers that Gardos had a knock and so Tony Autoharold started, Big Vic and Davo were in midfield with Morgan and Long was benched again in favour of Mané.  The bench saw Jason McCarthy for the first time and Harrison Reed was there in place of the injured JWP.  The 7th sub, as in the sub that will be put on the pitch after Kelvin Davis has been given a run in midfield, was Emmanuel Mayuka.  QPR include Ferdinand and Caulker but there was no place for Frank Lampard and Jermain Defoe even though their triffic top top players and surprisingly, Jamie Redknapp was left out as well.  He was probably at home playing the Wii with Rosie the Dog.

Aside from injury speculation, since the Arsenal game, the only story that had emerged about Saints was that the players asked Ronald Koeman to cancel their day off as the senior players (led by José Fonte) decided they would be better for it.  A seriously good touch by the players.  Could you imagine some of the old school players like Mick Channon or Jim Steele coming in voluntarily instead of having a day off?

Good old Twattenberg is refereeing us for the first time since he was cleared of any blame for the ‘Lallana has changed’ incident at Everton last year.  Vindicated he may be but he’s still a very dodgy ref.  We make a decent start and within 30 seconds, Tadic is playing Mané away on the left and his cross is held by Green.  A few minutes later and Pellè and Clyne combine to sent Tadic away on the right but his attempted lob is well smothered by the onrushing Green, who has started confidently.  We really need an England v USA 2010 performance from him.

The fast start that we’ve made is stopped dead as Sandro and Mané compete in a competition to see who has the hardest head and Sadio wins. Sandro is out cold and as it’s a head injury they can’t move him off the pitch and so five minutes later, we’re still waiting as he is helped back to his feet and goes off to be replaced by Karl Henry.

The game become bitty and fragmented and that was down the Twattenberg and his bright shiny whistle which he wanted to make sure everyone noticed.  QPR were having some possession in our half but nothing really dangerous.  Saints should really have taken the lead and wasted three good chances.  Firstly Tadic got a shot away from the edge of the box and was unlucky to see it bounced off of Caulker, beat Green and hit the post and bounce away.  Then Pellè got played into the inside right channel and went near post instead of far and smashed it wide in what has to be said, was a pretty poor effort.   QPR were carved open again in the same channel just before half time as a 1-2 between Morgan and Mané gave the Frenchman a chance which he sidefooted just wide and so we arrived at half time at 0-0.  We’ve been the better side by a mile and you can see why QPR are near the bottom but as it stands, they’re hanging in there.

The second half starts I much the same way as the first half ended with Saints on top.  Mané tricks his way through and scuffs a shot at Green.  Ten minutes are gone and QPR are looking comfortable until Rio Ferdinand chips a horrible, casual, aimless ball into the midfield and it’s picked off by Morgan who feeds Tadic.  His cross is overhit and behind Mané but the new guy retrieves it, waits for Bertrand’s run and backheels it to him through the defenders legs.  Bertrand runs on and smashes it low and hard, under Green and into the net and the deadlock is broken and our other full back has scored, something that last years left back never managed to do.

Hoilett is on for QPR but Saints are looking for a second with Mané playing through Pellè on the left and his pull back is flashed at by Davis but the ball breaks to Tadic who is too close to Green who deflects it over the bar as Tadic tries to scoop it over him.  We nearly scored from the resulting corner through Graziano but out of nowhere, our profligacy in front of goal comes back to bite us in the arse as Hoilett cuts in from the left and feeds Vargas whose cross is brilliantly controlled by Austin who swivels and buries the volley.  Bollocks and is ‘Arry going to do us again?

Almost immediately, Shane Long is on for Mané and his first involvement is to cut inside and hit over a cross. Tadic heads it down and Graziano flicks it up before it bounces and overhead scissor kicks it over Green and into the far corner.  It’s fair to say that we went fucking mental.  What a goal.  Theirs was good, ours was better and you’re not singing any more is repeated back at the QPR fans tenfold.

Corky is on for Big Vic who has been magnificent today and Saints are hell bent on putting the game to bed.  Long is a pest down the right and robs Traore.  His cross is half cleared to Davis to curls a beautiful left footed shot past Green and smashing into the post.  Back come QPR and Austin should have done better with a free header but put it wide and it’s end to end as Davis slides Long clean through cutting in from the left but his finish is piss poor when 1v1 with Green and is more like a back pass.

Bobby Zamora, another relic on a fortune per week is on and QPR resort to hoofing it up to him and to be fair, it’s working.  He’s giving Alderweireld and Fonte a hard time and the ball is dropping down and in the absence of Big Vic, no one is picking it up.  It’s allowing Kranjcar to get on the ball in the dangerous areas and he’s their best player by a mile.  Graziano goes back to help out and does the opposite by bringing down the Croat who goes down like a sack of shit and Twattenberg buys it.  Up steps Kranjcar and it’s over the wall and crashing down off the bar and we’re all mighty relieved as Caulker gets to the rebound but can only loop it over the empty goal.

Up the other end we go and Hoilett decides to shoulder barge Tadic in the chest and give us a free kick in the same position as the one QPR just had.  Dusan is obviously told to leave it by Davis after an earlier piss poor effort and the Northern Irishman curls it over the wall and inches wide of the near post at crossbar height.  QPR are done now and leaving gaps all over the place and Tadic breaks away on the left onto Corky’s return pass and smashes his shot against the near post and away again before being replaced by Matt Targett who is making his league debut.  He slots in on the left, we waste a bit of time and Twattenberg brings the game to a close.

Tough game but another win to maintain our ridiculous 2nd place in the league table.  We made heavy weather of beating a very average QPR side but it’s all about the end result.  On another day, with more clinical finishing, it could easily have been 4 or 5-1 but 2-1 is more than adequate.  Goal of the month should be interesting this month as our last three games have seen screamers from Big Vic and Clyney and now Graziano tops the lot with today’s effort.  It’s a fantastic effort and the guy just seems to be getting better and better with a place in the next Italian squad beckoning.  As if being 6 foot 4, Italian and beautiful with a model girlfriend isn’t enough... he can also score overhead kicks to win a game in the Premier League.  Hasn’t got much going for him has he?

The goal is going to take all the headlines but for me, the stars of the show were Steven Davis, Big Vic and Sadio Mané.  Vic and Davo were everywhere in midfield, constantly winning the ball back and along with Morgan, forming an excellent midfield unit.  Steve Davis of course didn’t score again but at least today it was down to a bit of misfortune rather than crap finishing.  We notably looked more dodgy defensively when Vic went off as Corky wasn’t quite at the races when QPR started going Route 1 up to Zamora.  Sadio is going to frustrate at times but the unpredictability he brings is going to create a lot of openings for us.  He seems to have a brain as well as being quick which is good because as we well know, just being quick like Mayuka or Papa Waigo, really isn’t enough.

Ronald Koeman is finding this ‘managing in the Premier League’ lark really easy and his post match interviews  are all running to the same template.  He talks about his surprise at our great start and then talks about the latest worldy which has flown into the opposition net.  Hopefully the post-match interviews will run to the same template for a quite a while yet.

I think part of the problem with QPR is them trying to score in the specified minute of a game to make ‘Arry’s bets come up trumps.   His post match interview was along the lines of... “Charlie Facking Austin, don’t give me Charlie Facking Austin... I facking had him to score in the 72nd minute, not the facking 71st.... ‘ave a facking word saaaan. ... I mean Rio (twitch), great professional, great lad... gave the ball instructed for their first goal but Pele, not bad for 72 with Viagra.... (twitch) nice goal saan, triffic, gave ‘im ‘is break at West ‘Am in the 80s, top top player,  like Trevor Brooking – he’s 60 but ‘ees a triffic pro, fit as a fiddle and I’ve offered him ‘undred grand a week... ee can still do a job.  I’m off to Sandbanks with Rosie the dog that I aven’t got and a text message from Steve G on the phone I don’t know how to use... (twitch) just me, Sandra, Jamie and the Wii and Louise made the tea saaan, triffic”.

Redknapp’s actual reaction was fair enough in that he talked up the world class goal and then it was all ifs, buts and maybe’s about QPR’s prospects.  He seemed a bit down did ‘Arry.  I’d feel a bit sorry for him if I didn’t think he was a complete helmet.

Next up we have a rather tasty trip to White Hart Lane.  Forgetting the dishonourable shitbag they have as manager for a moment, we really owe Spurs one.  4 games in the Premier League since we got back and we haven’t even got a point yet.  Two one-man-team-Bale defeats, a Gazzaniga / Hooiveld production and a capitulation from 2-0 up.  This is the one where that changes.  With Pochettino in charge, we know exactly how Spurs are going to play and we will know how to counteract it buy turning defence into attack quickly, either through the pace of Sadio Mané or by going more direct up to Graziano Pellè.  After an indifferent start to the season, a defeat at the hands of Southampton at White Hart Lane could see the notoriously fickle Spurs fans start to show some dissent at Levy’s latest manager.  We’ve put one former manager in his place this week and next week I quite fancy us to do the same again.

Mr Redknapp, you can leave now...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Capital One Cup 3rd Round - Arsenal 1 Southampton 2

Bastards! They Didn't Play Their Kids for Me to Look At

The Carling Cup has in living memory, been a glorified Reserves competition for the big clubs and for the last few seasons, we’ve been treating it as that was as well.  Pochettino certainly didn’t give a shit about any cup competition and the same was true of Nigel Adkins before him.  Maybe it was a Cortese thing but whatever the reason in the past, Ronald Koeman showed against Millwall that we are going to have a right go at it.  This new intent from the club has been noted by the fans and hence, we have 5200 people in the Emirates tonight.  It has to be said though that prices of a tenner a ticket which I assume had to be agreed with Arsenal have definitely played their part so fair play to both clubs.

I started guessing who Wenger would put in his side by looking at their squad.  How ridiculous is it that a club with that much money and resources and 100 consecutive years of Champions League qualification can only have 6 defenders.  I can’t think of any outside of Debuchy, Mertersacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Monreal and Chambers.  Wenger has obviously done marvellous things as Arsenal manager but that is bordering on the negligent, rivalled only by the situation at Old Trafford.  Anyhow, with Debuchy being injured as well I really can’t see too many of the first choice defenders being picked.  Maybe a couple of the 400 attacking midfielders they have can fill the void – there’s an opportunity for us here.

Sadio Mane is picked to start and forms a front 3 with Pelle and Tadic with the prolific Big Vic recalled to partner Morgan and Steve Davis in midfield.  The defence sees Matty Targett picked instead of Bertrand and Florin Gardos comes in to partner Jose as Maya is still recovering from the Bony assaults at the weekend. The Master Child Catcher has caught some children from elsewhere other than Saints and they are all in the defence as predicted, along with Calum Chambers who I wish well in his Arsenal career but I hope he’s complete shit tonight.  Wenger’s defender issue has at least given him an opportunity to play a few games for his new club, unlike some of our other dearly departeds.  There are familiar international names elsewhere though with Wilshere, Sanchez, Rosicky, Diaby & Podolski, along with World Cup stars Ospina and Campbell.

It’s a fairly open game from the start and we carve out a great chance as Pelle knocks down to Tadic who clips a lovely ball into Davis who has broken from the midfield.  He gets there before the keeper but just pokes it at him and the chance has gone.  To me, he should have done better having got to the ball first but never mind.

Arsenal have some serious players up front and in midfield and look dangerous when they get the ball in and around our defenders.  Wilshere and Sanchez combine before Sanchez is breathed on by Fonte and hits the deck.  The ref buys it and the free kick is about 20 yards out, just to the left of centre, up steps Sanchez and curls it over the wall and into the top corner.  All Fraser can do it wave it goodbye.  It’s a brilliant free kick but it pisses me off that the decision is soft to say the least.  It’s also worrying for the rest of the game because you know Arsenal’s little midfielders are going to be diving around everywhere.

Sadio Mane has had a few darts at Coquelin at left back but he switches sides to have a run at Bellerin at right back who looks about 12.  Arsenal’s Academy players come from two sources, abroad or from Southampton.  Targett and Davis get the ball out to Mane who runs at Bellerin from the left wing and the youngster does well and stops him getting to the line.  Mane tries to head across the box and is heading away from goal when Rosicky comes flying in and catches him. Down he goes in slightly theatrical fashion and penalty given.   Definite foul regardless.  Rosicky is making that wasp chewing face and is waving his arms about but he hasn’t got any cause to, other than at his own stupidity.  Dusan Tadic is on the penalties and he calmly puts it down the middle as Ospina dives out of the way.  I must admit that I prefer the Lambert style of penalties where you’ve got a 99% chance of a goal even if the keeper goes the right way but it’ll do for now.

I like Alexis Sanchez.  He’s a great player and was marvellous for Chile in the World Cup but in my mind he goes from that to being a complete twat and figure of hate with one wave of an imaginary yellow card.  Big Vic has clattered him to be fair but keep your imaginary cards in your pocket you fucking twat.  The real yellow card comes out for Vic and the big man is going to have to be very careful from now on.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, imaginary card waving should get you a yellow card straight away.

Saints are creating the better chances still and Targett feeds Pelle who superbly puts Mane in again behind Bellerin but the ball seems to get stuck under his feet and Bellerin gets back to clear.  There’s another decent chance for us as Tadic runs at the right hand side of the defence.  The ball gets away from him but an Arsenal clearance hit Clyne on the knee and bounces loose to Pelle who turns and hits it an instant and grazes the outside of the post.

Our midfield are absolutely bossing it in there and feeding Mane whenever they can.  Another attacking run from the wide man wins us a corner and Tadic’ kick from the left is nodded clear by Chambers to Clyne.  He’s 40 yards out, one touch to control and bang!  GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!! He’s absolutely leathered it and Ospina has no chance as he shifts his weight the wrong way and it rips past him into the roof of the net.  What a fucking goal. Have some of that then.

The most pressing task is to get back to the dressing room 2-1 in front and we have a good go at not doing that as Sanchez plays Podolski in but he goes near post and Fraser calmly deflects it away with his forearm.  One does not simply beat Forster at the near post.  The corner is shite and over everyone and so we are deservedly leading.

The question of whether we’d try and soak up pressure or go for a third goal is answered straight away in the second half as Mane releases Targett with a superb backheel and he swings it over to Tadic on the right who cushions a cross behind Pelle and Davis comes steaming in but hits it straight at Ospina.  Again, the ginger master of the baize really should have scored.

It’s all Saints again and Arsenal are beginning to show signs of desperation in appealing for a penalty as Campbell hits the deck having been brushed by Fonte.  Even though it’s never a foul in a million years, when you’re away at a Big 4 club, it’s always a relief when the ref actually doesn’t give something.  He give us a free kick however when Diaby has a shocking first touch, Mane nips in and Diaby hoofs him up in the air and truly looks like a player who is not in control of his legs.  The free kick is roughly from where Sanchez scored from and though Tadic beats the wall with a low drive, Ospina get across to save well.

Wenger is getting a bit frustrated on the sidelines.  The John Cleese silly walks are coming out and so are some big guns from the bench as Cazorla and Chamberlain come on, the latter to a largely positive reception.  Their arrival coincides with a bit of Arsenal pressure and Bellerin gets away on the right and crosses into Sanchez who toe pokes it but the ball hits The Bohemoth in the chest and is cleared.  Cazorla might be good going forward but he’s a liability if there’s a tackle for him to win and Tadic does him completely with a turn and we’re away again as the ball moves to Davis, to Pelle and finally to Mane on the left who shoots across the goal and it looks close but it goes for a throw so it can’t have been really.  It’s more or less the last contribution from the new man as he’s substituted and Shane Long comes on to basically be annoying.

Chamberlain makes his one positive contribution and skins Targett who seems to pull up but Fonte reads the cross beautifully to clear.  The biggest threat to us is that the ref is going to fall for a dive and Rosicky flops over an imaginary leg and buys one which luckily they waste with Gardos clearing.  There is classic Jack Wilshere a minute later as he runs headlong at the defence, knocks the ball too far and then launches himself into Fonte and dives on the floor.  He’s a little twat and the ref should book him but of course, instead of that he gives Arsenal a free kick right on the edge of the box.  If he’s dived a bit further they’d have had a penalty I assume.  Luckily it’s a bit too close and Sanchez can’t get it over the giant Pelle and Gardos section of the wall.

We should make the game safe with a great break down the left.  Steve Davis and Graziano combine to feed Tadic in the middle and he should step over it or poke it to the totally unmarked Shane Long but he seems to get caught in two minds, gets tackled and a great chance is lost.  We have another great chance as we win a corner and Davis swings it over.  It’s a totally free header for Graziano from 10 yards and he rises superbly and heads it over the fucking bar.  I’m sorry but that has to go in. Fuck.

The clearly struggling Targett has had a magnificent game but he’s cramped up and Bertrand is on.  I’m sure Matty was taking the piss a little bit but getting booked for not limping off quick enough is a bit harsh.  90 minutes are up and you just know that as we’re away at a big club that it’s gonna be at least 4 minutes despite there being no stoppages and sure enough it is 4.  Wanting the make sure that Arsenal have the maximum opportunity to equalize, the ref manages to book Fraser for time wasting and then rightly books Pelle for running back 30 yards just to grab an Arsenal midfielder round the shoulders.  We are in truth the only team who looks like scoring again and a Tadic break down the left results in a cross which cuts out the keeper but Long arrives just after the ball flies past and careers into the net.

The generous 4 minutes of injury time were up and then we had 90 seconds more but finally the ref got fed up with waiting for Arsenal to score and blew the whistle to confirm our first win at the Emirates and our first win away to Arsenal for donkeys. Marvellous stuff and totally deserved.  These are great days and every game seems to bring new positives to the table.  Today it was the exciting debut of Sadio Mane who though he gets shoved off the ball a bit easily, proved to be a right handful and seems to have a speed of though and movement which is going to hopefully means he doesn’t turn out to be another Mayuka.  It was also a full debut for Florin Gardos who was playing against Sanchez who cost £35 million and Podolski who has about 50 goals for Germany.  He played with a real air of calmness about him and didn’t seem rattled at all, brought the ball out comfortably and really looked the part.  With Toby Alderweireld also competing for a place at centre back, we can confidently say “off you fuck, Dejan”.  We got both of those players for about 60% of what Liverpool gave us for Lovren.

The defending as a whole was superb but the game was won in midfield where Morgan, Big Vic and Steve Davis were magnificent.  Big Vic in particular played well after his booking to ensure he didn’t give any Arsenal players a chance to dive and get him sent off and he looks more of an all-round midfielder, now he’s not limited to instructions which were basically “sit in front of the centre backs and don’t move”.  My only gripe is that we should have scored more as there was some wasteful finishing from Pelle and Davis and some chances butchered with a poor final ball.  Davis gets in positions to score 10 goals a season but his finishing is woeful.  The approach play to set up the chances though was excellent with Tadic at the heart of most things but Pelle is looking more at home as an attacking spearhead with every game.

Oddly, the two main ‘Meltdown’ merchants in the media, Neil Ashton and Ben Smith, both chose tonight to break with their usual bollockspeak and give Saints some praise.  To be honest, you can’t help but praise the start to the season we have made.  A win at Arsenal, albeit a rotated Arsenal, will make even a blind man see it appears.  Wenger gave Saints credit too which I felt was genuine but it also deflects any criticism away from him for disrespecting another cup competition and away from his players who in the main, didn’t do it tonight.  I’m sure there will be plenty saying Arsenal had a weak line up and all that shit but it’s Arsene Wenger’s fault that he has no reserve defenders who have any experience.   Him moaning about us committing fouls in midfield is a bit rich when all his midfielders do is dive about like little bitches to try and cheat free kicks out of referees.  They don’t need to do that as the players concerned are all better than that. He's probably just pissed off that with the exception of Matt Targett, we didn't have a team full of youngsters for him too salivate over.

Ronald Koeman was obviously delighted with the win and the performances of Targett and Mane and with the team as a whole but most pleasing for me was the insistence of ‘feet on the ground’ for the QPR game on Saturday.  Ronald knows that no one wants to lose to that twitchy bastard.  

And what about ‘that’ goal.  I’m sure Clyney will get picked for England now as the goal will be reshown everywhere and everyone will be talking about him.  In truth, the goal should make no difference to whether he gets in the England squad or not.  He’s the best right back we have by miles and that was true before and after the goal.  What a fucking goal though.  There is nothing quite like the ball hitting the roof of the net from miles out and a goalkeeper lying on his back, wondering what the fuck just happened.

So into the last 16 and the draw is being made tonight.  (Stop Press: We got a shite draw away at Stoke).  A bit of bad news came through that JWP has a fracture in his foot and is likely to be out for 10 weeks which is a bummer but on the upside, we have players to cover that position and it’ll maybe give Harrison Reed a chance to join the 18 and step up.  Now it’s back to the Premier League and come to us you twitchy bastard and bring Rio Ferdinand with you and let’s see what he’s like with Sadio running at him.  Come on You Reds!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Premier League Game 5 - Swansea 0 Southampton 1

Big Vic:  Too Tough for Goal Celebrations

A trip over the Severn Bridge and then on until the land runs out to play Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.  Most experts that you see on TV or write columns in the press, would have been expecting this to be a game of 16th versus 17th or whatever but of course it’s not – it’s 3rd versus 4th.  Swansea started the season with a trip to Old Trafford and won and it was all plain sailing until they went to Stamford Bridge last week and lost 4-2 but still put on a decent display.  Ex-Saint Garry Monk appears to be doing things the right way and having been at Swansea as a player for years, has had no problem in carrying on with the philosophy of the club.  They play decent football so it should be a decent game.  Mind you, I said that last year and it wasn’t really a good game and the goal bounced in off Rickie Lambert’s shoulder having come down with snow on it.

Ronald Koeman’s press conference had brought the news that Sadio Mane’s work permit had come through but that he wouldn’t be available for today’s game, probably because he hasn’t met anyone yet. Other news is that King Artur has gone out on loan to Bournemouth.  Excuse me?  Bournemouth.  So, we’ve loaned out the guy who was one of the best keepers in the Premier League last season… to Bournemouth.   Let’s just ponder that for a second.  It’s an emergency loan for a maximum of 93 days but I don’t know if we have instant recall within the 93 days.  If not then it seems a gamble as we’re a Forster injury away from having a League 1 standard keeper in goal.  Artur obviously wants first team football and there has obviously been some sort of issue behind the scenes.  It annoys me though that we’ve helped out the team with the most ungrateful set of supporters ever and how the hell is it an ‘emergency’ loan when they have at last 3 other keepers who are fit?

There have been rumours before the game that Toby Alderweireld has a bit of a hamstring issue and the Twitter Medical Fraternity have diagnosed that he’s out for a month, or a year, or a week.  Whatever the length of time, the rumour has some substance as Toby is not in the 18.  With mention being made of Swansea’s lack of height in the build-up, I wondered if the giant Florin Gardos would come in but Maya Yoshida was back in the team and the only other change sees JWP in for Steve Davis.  Sam McQueen is again on the bench and (I know I said this last week) Emmanuel Mayuka is making his final appearance on the bench before being loaned out to a random Championship Club which hopefully won’t be Bournemouth. Swansea of course have ex-Saints and ex-bag thief Nathan Dyer and since last season have re-signed Gylfi Sigurdsson who thought the grass would be greener at a bigger club but it turned out that it wasn’t.  There’s a few ex-Saints players who might be learning that lesson this season.

Away we go and Saints are immediately reminded that Swansea are the only team in the league who keep the ball better than we do  and we struggle to make any impression at all.  Swansea aren’t creating anything much either aside from a Routledge cross which is too far ahead of Dyer.  He’d have got it if it was in a handbag.  Sigurdsson rifles a shot straight down Forster’s throat and Saints at least get up the other end as Pelle aims a massive scissor volley at Clyne’s cross and gets a free kick given against him for nearly kicking a defenders head off.  The first real incident is Bony getting booked for ignoring the ball and just charging into Maya Yoshida while he was in the air.  It’s a real cowardly, malicious tackle and it’s only going to injure the opponent.  Bony either knew that or he’s really thick.  Saints are not impressed with the tackle and the next time Bony gets it, Captain Fonte steams in, wins the ball but trashes through Bony on the follow through and he gets deservedly booked as well.

It’s still all Swansea though and Routledge should have scored when Maya dozed off and Sigurdsson found the winger in space but he clipped his shot off the bar and over.  Saints responded briefly with Pelle half hitting a shot after a Bertrand cross which Fabianski saved easily before Bony got his head to a corner and saw his header cleared off the line by Bertrand. 

A scuffle in midfield saw Yoshida come away with the ball and Bony decided to launch a tackle on him from behind.  It was a kind of scissors effort, nowhere near the ball and anyone who was remotely surprised at a second yellow coming out clearly knows nothing about football.  Off you go you idiot.  The one remaining incident of note in the half was Jose (rather stupidly) lunging in at a loose ball and Routledge got there first and cleared it, before hurdling the Fonte lunge.  Swansea’s bench went nuts and demanded a 2nd yellow, I presume for kicking fresh air.  I mean, it was similar to Bony’s 2nd tackle except for the fact that he didn’t touch him and didn’t leave him in a heap on the ground.  To emphasize the point further, Maya looks like he can barely walk at half time.  So, 0-0 but a one man advantage.

If anyone doubted the extent of the punishment that Maya took from Bony then they’d have noted with interest that he didn’t emerge for the second half and Florin Gardos came on.  Swansea didn’t make a change and left Sigurdsson up front on his own so there were expectations that we’d have a bit more of the play.  Sure enough we did, after working out that every time we put in a tackle, Swansea players would roll around a bit and everyone in the crowd and on their bench would be screaming for a card.  Bertrand fouled Dyer and the ref wasn’t going to book him until the panto kicked off on the bench and then he decided to.  So, after dominating the first ten minutes without looking dangerous, Dusan Tadic cut in from the left, worked some space and curled in a shot which flicked off Dyer’s toe, went to Portsmouth, nicked a handbag and back to today, looped up over the keeper and landed on top of the net.

Graziano was having a quiet game but become more of a threat as Clyne got away down the right and fired over a cross which the big man connected with but Fabianski comfortably saved.  He was again not extended by Pelle from the next cross which came from Steve Davis (on for Corky) so still no breakthrough.  Fabianski is another example of a player who always looked dodgy when he played for Arsenal as he was playing once every three months or whatever but now, as an undisputed first choice, he looks very accomplished.  He’s at Swansea because last years first choice Michel Vorm decided to kill his career by moving to Spurs and being their 2nd choice.

JWP got injured and on rumbled Big Vic for the last 20 minutes.  It’s all Saints now and just a question of whether we can fashion an unmissable chance or not. Ashley Williams was determined that this wasn’t going to happen now and trashed Shane Long to give us a free kick 25 yards out on the right of centre.  With JWP off the pitch, Tadic had no one to argue with over who took it and up stepped the Serbian to hit it low but Fabianski again got across well to grasp it by the post.

It’s been the season of the goal from unexpected sources.  However, we are now almost expecting the unexpected with Corky having scored twice and Morgan 3 times this season.  Taking the ‘least likely’ route would lead you to putting money on Bertrand or Fonte I guess but I bet no one got the first goalscorer except some blind optimists from Kenya.  As Pelle slipped the ball behind the left back, there seemed no danger as Big Vic picked it up but he barged past two defenders, stretched and smashed it across Fabianki and into the top corner for 1-0.  The celebration that followed was a bit odd as he just stood there and stared at the Saints fans without so much as a smile or a wave to the fans, a point which Graziano Pelle seemed to want to make to him but if he scores goals like that he can do what he fucking likes as far as I’m concerned.  Also, if Big Vic stared at me, I don’t think I’d be making an issue of it with him.  Maybe it’s because the last time he scored it was disallowed and he was over doing forward rolls by the corner flag and still there when the opposition restarted the game.

The half expected Swansea onslaught didn’t really happen and in truth, there was only one team who were going to get a goal.  Tadic put Pelle clean through but his first touch was fucking awful and it bounced through to Fabianski.  Pelle fired well wide and then Steve Davis, who is rapidly becoming the last likely to score, wafted a horrible effort miles over the bar.

At the final whistle I cast my mind to the league table that I have in my head.  A quick bit of mental maths and with Villa getting stuffed by Arsenal, I’m pretty sure that we’re 2nd.  Let that sink in for a bit – 2nd.  Whilst that’s sinking it, Liverpool have gone 2-0 down in the opening 10 minutes at Upton Park so I get to laugh at the probability that at least one of those goals will be Lovren’s fault.  It’s turning into a beautiful weekend.  As the weekend went on, Liverpool with Lovren and Lallana - lost, Man United with Shaw on the bench – lost and then to cap it all, Spurs with Pochettino and his lack of Plan B – lost at home to West Brom.  It will be beginning to dawn on Spurs fans now that once they go 1-0 down, they may as well go home.

Finally people are beginning to notice that we are not in meltdown.  Martin Keown and Neil Lennon on Match of the Day were much more objective that the clownish Murphy and Neville from a couple of weeks back and Ronald Koeman is being given the credit and rightly so.  It’s been a brilliant start and long may it continue.  Ronald acknowledged that we weren’t great in this game and it was difficult and you get the impression that he’ll have learnt from this.  Big Vic will have given him a nudge – both with his goal and the fact that in his absence, we did struggle to win the ball in midfield.  The sending off undoubtedly helped us and Garry Monk was a bit of a whingebag afterwards but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he hasn’t seen replays of the Bony challenges.  When he sees them again he’ll be wondering whether to fine his striker for gross stupidity.

It was a game where everyone did their job and no one really stood out.  Big Vic will get a lot of attention because of the goal and it’s great that all three of our nominal defensive midfielders; Morgan, Corky and Big Vic have all shown an eye for goal this season and benefited from the managers’ flexible and unrestrictive approach.  Florin Gardos got 45 minutes and though not under much pressure, that’ll do him good and with Maya and Toby Alderweireld struggling, he should make his full debut in the League Cup on Tuesday.  With Hodgson in the crowd our English contingent all had solid games with Clyne again being the pick of the bunch but Ryan Bertrand won’t have done himself any harm.  It would be mildly amusing if he got back in the squad while Shaw struggles at Mid-table United.

Next up we have a League Cup game versus Arsenal which should see Sadio Mane make his debut against the Arsenal kids.  I would imagine that we’ll put out a decent line up so should have every expectation of winning.  Arsenal have so few defenders on their books that there’s no way they are going to risk then in a League Cup game.  Hopefully the Master Child Catcher will be expecting to see some young fresh meat in the Saints line-up but I really hope we pick more or less our strongest side and give us our best chance of winning the game.  The next league game is against ‘Arry Redknapp and his team of overpaid, over-the-hill mercenaries.  We will be overwhelming favourites for that game but a word of caution – the last time we played them at home, we were the favourites and they did a right number on us and won 1-0.  Not this time though – we have a Plan B should it be going pear shaped. Bring it on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Premier League Game 4 - Southampton 4 Newcastle 0

Text "BIGR55 £3" to 70070.

Benali Puts More Effort into Lap of Honour after 1000 Miles than Newcastle put into 90 minutes

Newcastle at home and the first game of Alan Pardew’s bid to save himself from the sack.  Personally I don’t have a problem with Pardew.  He did well for us and put together the first post-administration squad which was the basis of the squad Nigel Adkins used to get us promoted back to the Premier League and of course, he won a trophy.  Putting that aside for a second, it is a surprise that he still has a job after an abysmal 2014 which included a 4-0 defeat at St.Mary’s in one of the worst visiting performances I have ever seen.  With regular 50,000+ crowds, they really should be challenging for Europa League places but right now you wouldn’t be surprised if they’re fighting relegation. 

We’ve had an international break since the last game in which England were terrible in winning 1-0 in a Wembley friendly against Norway and decent in winning the important game away in Switzerland.  As the rest of the group contains Lithuania, San Marino, Hayling Island and Angelsea, I think we can safely assume that we’ll qualify.  All our internationals came back unscathed and Sadio Mane was playing for Senegal and was supposed to be available for today’s game but the old chestnut of ‘work permit issues’ has reared it’s ugly head so we’ll have to wait for red tape to be cut.

The international break was being cited on the radio for the reason that Toby Alderweireld makes his debut today as Maya was half way round the world with Japan.  I really don’t think so.  It’s harsh on Maya as he’s been solid so far this season but the new man was always going to start.  The only other change from the West Ham team is that Jack Cork gets a start in place of the benched JWP. The bench looks strong and as well as JWP and Maya, it contains Florin Gardos and Big Vic as well as Sam McQueen and for the final time before Sadio Mane’s work permit comes through, Emmanuel Mayuka.

Having missed the West Brom game through being on holiday, I take my seat in the family centre and a quick scout round reveals that the groups of adults who had no kid with them have been moved on and I have four kids who are about 8, right next to me.  Swearing will be off the agenda this season except in frustration at my Dad attempting to pronounce new player names

Dad: “Auto-warold... “
Me: “No... it’s All-der-vi-reld”
Dad: “Aldo.... what is it....”
Me: “All-der-vi-reld”
Dad: “Ardo-harold.... is that it”.
Me: “ Just call him “Toby” for fucks sake – sorry kids”.
Dad: “Tony it is then”

So, Tony Autoharold takes his place as the left sided centre back with Captain Jose on the right.  In the words of Toby’s predecessor, who was a wanker and pissed off to Liverpool.... Let’s Play.

Playing for the managers future is clearly not high n the agenda for Newcastle as from the first attack, Coloccini lazily waves a leg at a backpass and sells Krul short.  Shane Long is charging it down and Krul’s kick smacks into Long and bounces a couple of feet wide.  Later replays showed that it hit Long’s hand but handball wasn't given so it would definitely have stood.  Long is being a pest a few minutes later as Alderweireld puts a ball over the defence for his diagonal run and Long gets there before Krul who flattens him with a punch to the head, getting nowhere near the ball.  It’s a penalty all day long but the ref decides that it isn’t, I assume because Long has pissed him off in previous encounters.

When you’ve had two big let-offs like Newcastle have had, you’d expect them to keep it solid but they’re not capable.  Tadic takes a throw on the left to Cork who plays it back to Tadic who volleys it first time, infield to Bertrand.  The full back lobs it over and Graziano Pelle walks in between the statuesque Coloccini and Williamson and heads past Krul into the top corner as easy as you like.  Jesus, they’re shit.  They finally manage to concede a goal at the 3rd attempt after giving us a chance every 2 minutes.

Newcastle have a couple of attacks down our left through some ineffective tackling from Bertrand which Alderweireld has to sort out which he does with a calm efficiency.  Pelle is showing what confidence does for a striker by shooting from everywhere and his shot from somewhere near the Itchen Bridge is clawed away awkwardly by Krul.

As we approach 20 minutes, we load the gun again, hand it Mike Williamson who shoots himself in the bollocks again.  A long ball and a piss poor 50p head skewed header by Williamson sees the ball drop to Graziano who tries to burst the ball with a shot which is so bad if flies sideways straight to Tadic on the left who calmly controls and lays it back across for the big man to run it into the net for 2-0.  Krul has his hand up to appeal for two mythical offsides and Williamson is appealing for Newcastle to sign a better centre half so he doesn’t have to embarrass himself any more.

Saints then collectively take their foot off the gas and allow Newcastle a spell of pressure. Sissoko runs from deep, plays it to Gouffran wand gets on the end of the low cross before smashing it straight at Big Fraser who has made himself even bigger and then playing a big air shot at the rebound.  Colback (who Roy Hodgson laughably referred to as the Ginger Pirlo … I shit ye not) smacked one straight at the keeper and the Bohemoth saves with ease.  It’s annoying that we’ve allowed them back into the game and just before half time, Gouffran sees his shot deflect wide off of Davis.  We’ve made heavy weather of the last 20 minutes but we’re in at 2-0 so all’s well.

It’s Benali o’clock as the great man entered the stadium though a guard of honour of ex-Saints which included Matt le Tissier, Lawrie McMenemy, Glenn Cockerill, David Armstrong, Mark Dennis, Gordon Watson and David Hughes.  1000 miles and 20 Premier League football grounds completed in 21 days.  The bloke is mad but he did it for Cancer Research.  If you haven’t done so already... go and donate something.

Franny is the same age as me and I think I could have just about made it round the pitch once but not if I’d done the 1000 mile warm-up first.  Our paths crossed in 1984 when we were 15 year old schoolboys – him representing Southampton Schools and me representing Havant Schools.  You’ll be pleased to know we got battered 8-1 and Franny (including his tache) and Rod and Ray Wallace tore us apart.  He was a striker then and of course became a legendary defender.  Here’s my favourite tackle ever.

Get yer money out.

Back to the game and Big Vic on for Long who has concussion as a result of the Krul non-foul after 5 minutes.  It must be a bit of a depressing substitution for Newcastle as Koeman has brought on a player who is not going to allow them to get back into the game.  Steve Davis has pushed up the wing and the Big Man has slotted into midfield with Morgan and Corky.

We are immediately better than at the end of the first half and Colback is soon under pressure and thinking he’s still playing for Sunderland and passing to the red and white striped shirts.  He gives it to Corky who gives it to Pelle who tees up Tadic but the midfielder crashes his shot straight into Krul’s stomach.

There should be a few nerves at this point that Newcastle might bring it back to 2-1 and we’ll be in trouble but not a bit of it as Newcastle are fucking awful and not offering anything going forward. Just before the hour mark it’s all over as the ever-excellent Clyne feeds a ball into Steve Davis, his pass is deflected away from it’s intended target but Williamson and Krul dither which allows Corky to knock it past the keeper’s right hand side and slot it into an empty net for 3-0.  Two goals in three games for Jack Cork – you have got to be kidding me.

It’s substitution time and JWP comes on for the visibly disappointed Tadic who has had a superb match. Ronald obviously feels that he’s not quite got the fitness to play full matches right now but to be honest, with this game won it’s best to take him off.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that I had a fiver at 45-1 on Saints to win 3-1 with Graziano Pelle as the first goal scorer.  It was getting to stage when I was beginning to think that a Newcastle goal wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world when Haidara swung over a cross from the left and everyone including Forster missed it.  Sissoko teed up Riviere who is their new super striker, with an open goal from 10 yards and he scuffed it completely and Ginger Pirlo couldn’t turn it in.  At that point I mentally tore up my virtual betting slip as Newcastle were not going to score if they played until next week.

JWP has taken over from Corky as the midfielder who is never going to score and he had another go and curled a right footed effort over the bar.  It’s time for another debut as the gigantic Florin Gardos came on for Jack Cork who has been superb in a more advanced position that he was ever trusted to play by the previous manager.  The resulting reshuffle sees Alderweireld slot into midfield alongside Big Vic.  Get past those two then.

And so 90 minutes arrived and Steve Davis won the ball in the right back position.  3 minutes later with 11 players having contributed to the move and 39 passes later, Pelle flicked on Big Vic’s pass to JWP, he played it to Morgan on the left hand corner of the penalty area and he cut inside Janmaat and curled a shot over Krul and into the far top corner to make it 4-0.  A brilliant goal and one in the eye for all those who pissed off on 83 minutes because you missed it.  Match of the Day only showed the last 3 passes.  If it had been scored by a big club you would have had a mass-wankathon from the pundits but not to be.  Never mind... a brilliant end to a brilliant day.

The press will no doubt focus on Newcastle being bad and Pardew heading for the sack.  As we know, they’re only interested in the negative unless you’re one of the really big boys but if any of them bothered to look, they’d see that there were some seriously good performers in red and white today.  First up is the new boy Toby Alderweireld.  My Dad can’t pronounce his name but he was absolutely rock solid and despite being right footed, has more than enough to slot into the left sided centre back role.  He won everything in the air, was decisive on the floor and dug Bertrand out of the shit a couple of times and never stopped shouting.  Not too shabby at all.  Though Gardos only had a few minutes he managed to win one tackle in uncompromising fashion and you can see him getting a game if Toby is posted elsewhere which he no doubt will be from time to time.

I love the fact that the midfielders are getting forward and having shots now.  We’re not trying to pass it into the net any more and are only leaving one at most as a defensive midfielder.  When Big Vic came on, Morgan and Corky could get forward and both scored and no one seems frightened to shoot any more.  The only slight moan is that Steve Davis is a great footballer but the closer he gets to the opposition goal, the bigger the chance of him cocking it up.  It seems the Ronald Koeman is going to rotate Corky, Vic, JWP and probably Steve Davis but any two of those four along with Morgan is a seriously decent midfield.

It was obviously going to be important that Graziano Pelle scored goals and adapted to the English game and now we (and even the twats who booed him against West Brom) can see that we have a player on our hands.  He so obviously wants to prove himself and do well which is a complete contrast to the last Italian striker we had.  Up front we have Pelle and Tadic as certainties and Shane Long was decent until he had to come off.  Sadio Mane and J-Rod will make competition in the wide areas seriously decent as well.

Newcastle?  Yes they were shite and the players didn’t give a fuck and it looked like Pardew wasn’t bothered either as he just sat there and did nothing.  Mind you, that’s better than nutting someone but he seems frightened to make his own decisions out there.  They've got some technically decent players but the attitude out there was shocking.  I take no particular pleasure from it as my Grandfather was a Geordie and I’ve always had a soft spot for them but I can’t believe they can get dicked 4-0 here a few months ago and then come back here and do it again.  They were as bad as last time when they players they had out that day, also didn’t give a fuck.

It’s time for a gloat.  It’s not big and it’s not clever but it’s definitely time for a gloat.  I know it won’t last but the league table shows that Saints are 4th and the teams that all our players and manager left for are all lower down the league than us.   Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and Spurs…. All below us and fuck you.  Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Shaw, Pochettino….  Long may it continue.  If we finish above just one of them this year it will be fantastic.  Until the season is done though I’ll just take pleasure in Lovren fucking up again for Liverpool to give Villa an Anfield win and Lallana playing his usual 60 minutes before getting knackered and being replaced.

I guess that being in 4th place means that the Ben Smith BBC scripted meltdown isn’t really going to plan either.

Next up Swansea away.  Man of the Match today: see the picture at the top.