Thursday, February 4, 2016

Premier League Match 24 - Arsenal 0 Southampton 0

No chance Bug Eyes

Gooners away and a bit of a free hit after winning at Old Trafford the last time out.  With Arsenal having their best chance for years to win the title and still smarting after our relatively recent 4-0 dicking of them – it isn’t going to be easy.

You kind of feel that it has to be Arsenal’s year this season as both Chelsea and Man United are poor and we’ve just had the news that Man City will have Pep Guardiola as manager next season which will not only bring a brilliant manager to the wealthiest club but also the ability to attract some really top players.  Pep doesn’t usually come second.  Wenger’s probably stubborn enough to think Arsenal can finish above City next season with Giroud as their main striker, no decent defensive midfielder and Mertesackofshit at centre back.

Wenger ‘s pre-match press conference of course revisited the 4-0 defeat at St.Mary’s and he once again needlessly brought up his assertion that the first three goals should have been disallowed and our perceived (by him) strong arm tactics.  He didn’t mention the two disallowed goals we had that should have stood.  All of this is moaning and revision of history is designed to put pressure on the referee, who today is Lee Mason who is one of those referees that I don’t think anyone likes.  I guess Arsene must be worried about playing us and so he should be.  I can’t think about Arsenal though with thinking about last year at The Emirates when we got a complete bag of shite off the referee in the league game and I’m expecting the same today.  It never happens in favour of Arsene’s team though.

The transfer deadline day was a bit of a non-event for Saints, as promised, with just Jack Stephens going out on loan to Coventry.  I’m a bit surprised at this to be honest as we are currently playing three centre backs and we only really have Goal-a-game Yoshida as a backup.  Florin Gardos isn’t fit yet and Jack is the most senior other than that.

To The Emirates and my seat is right on the very edge of the Saints allocation and I’m next to a gangway which is about a metre wide and then it’s the massed ranks of Gooners.  I got chatting to a steward who told me that the season tickets for behind the goal next to the away end cost over a grand and were the cheapest in the ground.  For that price I guess they have the right to do whatever they want, even if that’s sitting there very quietly, taking abuse from the away fans.  I can’t imagine the fans in that area have much fun when Spurs are in town.  One amusing thing that I found out about the expensive Arsenal season ticket is included in the astronomical price, this season they get 5 home cup games.  Unfortunately for the fans, the 5th was a shite FA Cup tie against a Championship side and the 6th and therefore not included is Barcelona at home which many season ticket holders won’t get tickets for and you can’t imagine it’ll be a Category Cheap game for the one’s that do, so they’ll have to find near on another hundred quid if they want to go.  The steward might have been talking shite so don’t shoot the messenger.  Whilst we’re on about ticket prices though, our tickets tonight were priced at £26 whereas my Palace supporting mate had to pay £46 to sit in the same seat at the Emirates last year.  Bollocks isn’t it?

I was expecting a more or less unchanged team as we were off the back of three wins in a row but no.  When the list of names was read out I first noticed that there was no Matt Targett so we’re obviously going with 4 at the back.  Romeu was in for Clasie and JWP was playing.  No Charlie Austin due to a slight knock apparently – bollocks!  Still, Graziano is back and on the bench.  Arsenal, clearly mindful of the mauling that Shane gave them last time have left out Captain Mertesackofshit and have picked Gabriel who I assume is quicker.  All I know him for really is allowing himself to be wound up a treat by Diego Costa and getting himself sent off.  When you see names on the team sheet like Ozil and Sanchez you do think that it’s going to be a tough one.  Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom were linked with loan moves to us during the past month, are continuing their career breaks by taking up their positions on the Arsenal bench.  I wonder if they have a seat with their names on it or at the very least, I wonder if they always sit in the same bench seat?

It’s a promising start all round as we settle down and play some decent stuff and the referee allows a couple of hard but fair tackles from Big Vic and Romeu.  Ramsey is already having a whinge and we’ve only just started.  We win a free kick of our own out on the left as Tadic is trashed by Bellerin.  It looks like Mason is going to let a lot go cos that would be a booking in a lot of games.  JWP curls it in and it just goes over Virgil’s head and bounces goalwards, forcing Cech to shovel it round the post.

We’re looking good and dominating possession but then Arsenal get the ball and Dirty Sanchez looks up and pings an amazing ball over Virgil to Ozil, whose eyes are clearly offside.  One ridiculous bit of ball control and he shoots but Fraser is down to block with his feet.  Bit of a warning there.

Arsenal’s next attack is on 20 with Bellerin crossing under no pressure from Tadic, Giroud flicking on and Ozil, eyes clearly offside, stabs it goalwards from about 4 yards but Fraser throws up his left arm instinctively and knocks it away for a corner.  It’s not quite up there with his save from Charlie Austin at QPR last year but it’s pretty close.

There’s a guy two rows in front of me who is taking time out from watching the game to check his phone and he’s found out that Spurs are 2-0 up at Norwich and is enjoying baiting the nearby Gooners with the news.  Amazingly, they don’t bite, not even one of them and they just carry on sitting there quietly.

We are creating chances of our own though but we seem to have a lack of conviction.  Firstly Tadic picks it up on the edge of the box and makes space before curling a tame effort into Cech’s midriff, then following a half cleared corner, Virgil flicks a ball across and for a second Mané looks like he’s in but instead of hitting it first time he delays and allows a defender to get close before squirting a shot across goal and wide.  Romeu also tries a long range curler which is over Cech and flicks the roof of the net as it goes behind.  With a bit more quality from the front men we could have a great night here.

The second half starts with Arsenal in the ascendency.  Having refereed the first half very well, Mr Mason seems determined to give Arsenal absolutely everything in the opening few minutes and I wonder if Wenger’s been in his ear at half time.  Our first sniff is from a shocking pass from Flamini which is intercepted by Long and he takes off before treading on the ball like a twat and now Arsenal are away and on the edge of our box.  Giroud curls one towards to top corner and Fraser takes off and flips it over the bar.

More over playing from Arsenal and this time it’s Bellerin giving it away and Mané is running at the centre backs but instead of burning past Koscielny he allows himself to be pushed wide and then scuffs his shot straight at Cech from the edge of the box.  There are ironic cheers on 61 as Mason books Cédric for pulling back Dirty Sanchez and the first ex-Saint makes an appearance with Theo Walcott coming on for Joel Campbell who has done very little but more than Oxlade-Chamberlain.

There’s an immediate chance for Walcott as the ball somewhat fortuitously breaks for him on the right and he has a free shot by Fraser gets a big boot in the way and then pushes the follow up effort round the post.  The Wall is back.  Dirty Sanchez then gets up well at the back post and heads across but Fraser is down again to push it around the post.  Another glorious chance goes begging as Koscielny meets a Walcott cross from about 6 yards out and heads over the bar.  Maybe it’s going to be our day.  The Meerkats are still silent and still not rising to the bait being offered from in front of me.  ‘Spurs are winning lads... so are Leicester’.

Graziano is on for Tadic and Mané has moved to the left wing.  It makes sense as we’re now going very direct anyway and Fonte goes down injured and the Arsenal fans get really annoyed about it.  Two minutes later with a turban bandage applied to his head and they’re still getting irate about it even though he’s clearly not time wasting.  I guess I’d be the same if the roles were reversed.

The sub has not stemmed the tide though and Arsenal and Dirty Sanchez actually get the ball past the wall but JWP is there to hack it off the line.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING RONALD! JWP is going off and fucking Juanmi is coming on.  We now have four strikers on... why not Clasie for fucks sake.  We immediately win a free kick on the right and with no JWP to take it, Bertrand curls it straight to Cech.  Aaaargh!

Mané is having a strange time of it at the moment.  Back in the day when he was scoring goals and confident, he’d quite happily fall down too easily and get booked if there was a chance of a penalty.  He had a golden opportunity as Gabriel went off his feet in the penalty area but he stayed up and nothing came of it.  I’m not advocating taking a dive but it’s odd that he didn’t given his past history.

With 10 to go the only sub I’m worried about coming on for Arsenal is Oxlade-Chamberlain and from where I am it looks like he is as Flamini trots off but in fact it’s Coquelin coming on.  Is Arsene Wenger taking a point?  Hardly a game changer is he.  The first thing he does is get booked for a cynical scythe into Long.  Perhaps realising that we have too many attackers on the pitch, Ronald pulls Mané and puts Targett on the left wing and he immediately breaks forward only to be brutally taken out by Gabriel who really is a bit shit.  We again waste the free kick.  Threr is of course time for some pinball in our box as Arsenal go all Tika-Taka with Ozil, eyes still offside, at the centre of it and he’s about to shoot when Virgil appears like a missile and takes man and ball.  For good measure, Fraser stops a Dirty Sanchez follow up with his face.

We got the ball up their end one more time and it broke to Juanmi on the edge of the box and he tried to take a touch and fucked it up and lost the ball which prompted my first serious outburst of swearing and a ‘hit it you useless little cunt’.  My new steward mate was pissing himself laughing and said ‘you do realise you’ve been swearing at him since the moment he came on’.

6 minutes added time said the scoreboard.  Shit…. But it passed without much incident, the highlight being Virgil taking off from defence, pursued by Arsenal players and every time one caught up he put on the burners and ended up nearly at the corner flag in front of us before winning a throw.  Brilliant.

Final whistle, 0-0, get in!  It’s a great result coming as it does, on top of the United win.  Four points from two away games at Arsenal and United.  Snap. Hand. Off.  Throughout the second half there was that horrible growing feeling that it was going to be like last year here and we’d concede late and go home with nothing and we certainly lived dangerously at times.  It’s not lucky though as we have Fraser Forster.  The Wall is fucking back.  Four games after missing the best part of a year and he’s still to concede a goal.  It’s been said that he didn’t really have to work too hard for the other clean sheets but it was obvious that just his presence is huge.  It’s not that Maarten Stekelenburg is a bad keeper, it’s just that he’s not as good as Fraser but then, not many are.  The big man has it all and aside from the saves today, his command of the penalty area was massive as well and much better than how I remember it pre-injury.  Of the saves though the one from Bug Eyes Ozil in the first half and Walcott in the second stand out.  The Ozil one in particular because it was right in front of me, his eyes were offside and the massed ranks of Gooners to my left were celebrating already… well stood up in full Meerkat pose anyway. 

The Arsenal fans are a funny lot.  They sit there as if in a silent prayer meeting for the majority of the game and then do Meerkat impressions if something vaguely exciting happens for them.  That moment though will be completely random – winning a throw-in on the half way line etc.  Mind you, paying what they do I guess they can do what they want.

All the headlines will be about Fraser and rightly so but there were other heroes as well including all of the defence and in front of them, Big Vic and Romeu were immense.  Romeu was both brilliant and hilarious at the same time.  He’d pile into tackles, win the ball, flatten the Arsenal player, then fight his way away from three more players before passing it five yards straight back to Arsenal.

The only disappointment is that we had chances and situations that should have resulted in clear shots on goal but we butchered them.  The reluctance to shoot from the edge of the box was back again with Big Vic, JWP, Mané and Tadic all being guilty of not pulling the trigger at times.  When we did shoot it invariably ended up as a back pass to Cech which he just picked up.  Arsenal’s defence was there for the taking with Gabriel and Koscielny making it seem that Merteasckofshit was still out there.

There was a lot of Arsenal moaning about timewasting which was pretty groundless to be honest and how dare José get his head stitched up and a bandage put on it.  Wenger was apparently at his moaning best after the game and it sounds like Ronald might have pointed out that he’s always moaning and it all got a bit feisty.  I have a feeling that the ‘first three goals should have been disallowed’ shit from the St Mary’s game got right under Ronald’s skin.  Wenger blamed the ref for the first three goals at SMS and he’s blaming the ref again today.  He’s not blaming the fact that he had £200 million to spend in the last two transfer windows and he’s brought in one outfield player who is a lightweight squad player.  I feel that most of the Arsenal players arm waving and moaning was down to the fact they weren’t winning and they were copying their manager and blaming the ref.

For what it’s worth, I thought Lee Mason refereed the game pretty well overall, especially in the first half.  In the first 15 minutes of the second half he seemed to give us nothing but otherwise I thought he was fair.  Last year in this fixture we had Andre Marriner and every time Big Vic went near Cazorla, Ramsey  or particularly Sanchez, they hit the deck and got a free kick as the ref totally bought the dive or got ‘big club at home-itis’.  For example, last year at The Emirates, Jack Cork was kicked out of the game and the next 6 weeks of the season by a Ramsey tackle and the ref didn’t even give a free kick.  Wenger doesn’t mention this of course, just what goes against his side.

It really is a huge point for us.  I heard an interview with Eddie Howe a couple of weeks ago when he said that you have to respect every point in the Premier League, so if you’re level with a few minutes to go, especially away from home, your first priority is ensuring you don’t lose.  He’s dead right.  A goal for them at any time in the second half and there looked no way that we would score.  Mané has no confidence, Long was working too far away from the danger zone and everyone else seemed frightened to shoot.  There was Juanmi of course... why bother.  He’s fucking useless. 

Ten points out of the last twelve and up to 7th in the league, above Liverpool on goal difference, nice!  Next up is a chance to consolidate that against the team immediately above us and five points ahead, West Ham.  Five clean sheets in a row anyone?  Don’t bet against The Wall.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Premier League Match 23 - Manchester United 0 The Other Team 1

Have I Told You How Much I Hate van Gaal?

The single most enjoyable result of last season was winning at Old Trafford.  It’s great because you know that they eyes of the plastic football supporting world are on you and gnashing their teeth as you have the impertinence to go to Old Trafford and leave with 3 points.  You know that no one is going to acknowledge that you deserved to win and you know that all the coverage will focus on United and if your team could be edited out altogether, then they would be.  It was absolutely brilliant to beat them up there for the first time since 1988 and I don’t want to be greedy but I want some more.  We seem to always find a way to make a mess of the home game against them so this will have to do.

Considering that they are the biggest club in the country, if not Europe in terms of revenue and expenditure, the Manchester United of this season have been absolutely shite in terms of entertainment and style of football.  It’s been hilarious watching Louis Van Gaal spend £250 million and totally fail to mould all their ridiculously expensive signings into a cohesive unit.  There was no thought when recruiting of what style of football the manager wanted to play and they just spent money and loads of it when they could, horribly over paying more often than not.  Nearly all of their post-Ferguson buys haven’t been great.  Even Morgan Schneiderlin has spent most of his time on the bench and he’s not been the worst of the signings.  Darmian has been woeful, Depay has hardly set the world alight and Martial has been shunted out to the wing to accommodate a clearly past-it Rooney.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a decent player but he’s not top level and isn’t good enough for a team who has designs on winning things.  As he gets older, the grannies he hangs around in become more socially acceptable as conquests though.  

Talking of old - they’ve still got the pedestrian Carrick, they’ve signed the clearly unfit and immobile Schweinsteiger who still has the laughter of Bayern Munich ringing in his ears as they took however many million of United’s money for him.   Also, United have still got Plan B Fellaini, the haircut who they can smash the ball up to.  Phil Jones unbelievably still gets a game when fit and Daley Blind is towing a caravan and a bus and a lorry at the same time.  The joke is that they’re currently 5th in the table despite all this.

We play them at a time when their results have picked up, much like ourselves.   They went through a crap run at the same time we did but three of their last four games have resulted in narrow wins at home to a freefalling Swansea, at home to League 1 Sheffield United with a last minute penalty in the cup and a spawny as you like one-shot-on-target win at Anfield.  The one entertaining performance was at Newcastle when they proved they couldn’t attack and defend in the same game in a 3-3 draw.  Their results may be holding up but they really are nothing to be scared of.  Having said that – they have only lost once at home in the league this season.

Saints should be going into this game with confidence and the main question is what formation Koeman will go with, with the 3-5-2 bringing the two home wins.  I’m expecting the same formation and the same starting XI as last week but could well be wrong.  Last years win there was built on a solid defence with Big Vic and Morgan ruling the midfield and Pellè battering them up front.  Maybe Romeu will be selected with Vic.  I do feel though that with the slow Blind at centre half, Mané and Long will give them more problems than Graziano.  The more pace we can get in the side today the better.  Then of course there’s Charlie Austin who is apparently fit and I imagine will be on the bench.

When the United team was announced, I was delighted to see Fellaini in it because he’s shite.  If he’s playing you know that a large part of the United tactic is going to be to lump it up the field which will play into the hands of Fonte and van Dijk.  In the last few years against United we’ve had to worry about Robin van Persie who always scored against us and was genuine World Class but this year we’re up against Jesse Lingard who looked average playing in the Championship for Brighton.  Morgan is playing, probably due to the absence of Schweinsteiger and Carrick so that’ll be an interesting battle with Big Vic.  There is a surprise in our team in that Steve Davis isn’t fit and is replaced by Tadic.  JWP has also returned to the bench despite his two goals last week and Clasie is back.  It looks like a subtle change in formation then as I can’t imagine either Mané or Tadic playing the midfield role like Davis does.  Charlie Austin is on the bench, Pellè is nowhere and for novelty, we’ve gone for our second choice keeper in Stekelenburg for the bench so Kelvin is now reduced to sitting in the stand wearing one of those hate with bells on it in his role as Court Jester.  Come on Saints, we can beat this shit.

The start of the game is a typically cagey Man United home game type of affair.  The ball is not really sticking up front for us and we allow United a break and the ball ends up with Martial, running at us from the half way line.  As we retreat, Bertrand pulls out a perfectly timed ankle tap to bring down the one United player I’m a bit worried about and gets away without a booking.  It’s promising that the ref doesn’t appear to be immediately swayed by where he is.

There really is not much going on.  We look very solid and they don’t look like breaking us down.  As they can’t get past our defence, Blind tries a shot from 40 yards.  It’s a decent strike but straight at Fraser who doesn’t have to move.  We all know Rooney has a slow brain and it seems to think that he’s 18 again as he tries a long ranger from the left and it nearly hits the right corner flag.  Those used to fly in a decade ago.

Every United great that there’s ever been must die inside a little every time they see Fellaini on the team sheet.  What’s his purpose?  As far as I can see it’s for de Gea to aim kicks at and he flicks them on.  Well that’s what he does if he wins the ball.  If he doesn’t then he elbows people and there’s a blatant one on Big Vic and the referee who is five yards from it, does nothing. Not only is Fellaini complete shit, he is a fucking animal piece of shit as well.  Two minutes later there’s a challenge for a loose ball with Clasie and Clasie ends up with stud marks down the top of his hamstring.  Play on…. And this time Bertrand pulls out a superbly timed challenge to stop Martial.

Our best first half chance comes on about 35 minutes as Clasie plays a nice first time ball up to Mané and he plays a 1-2 with Tadic whose chip back to him is perfect by Sadio makes a bollocks of controlling the ball coming over his shoulder and it bounces off his left knee and he ends up playing an air shot as the ball runs through to de Gea.  Falling on your arse isn’t going to impress the Old Trafford hierarchy is it Sadio?

It has to be said that Sadio is having a bit of a mare.  He’s working hard and closing United down well but the ball keeps bouncing off him and coughing up possession.  One last bit of excitement for the United faithful before half time as Lingard cuts in from the right and scuffs a shot which clearly flicks off of Bertrand and gets given as a goal kick.  Excellent – we’ve got Wayne pulling his vein-popping-forehead thing at the ref.  Puce with rage. Twat.

Half time and I have never been so comfortable in my belief that United are incapable of scoring.  It would be nice if we could put a bit more together up front but for that to happen, Mané has to keep the ball a bit.  Our midfield has been excellent so far with Clasie and Big Vic totally eclipsing Schneiderlin and that Spanish bloke who they paid £30 million for, whatsisname?

Van Gaal has decided that the Dirty Elbowing Poodle Twat is an embarrassment to the United shirt and replaces him with Juan Mata who is a good player and you wonder how he didn’t get selected in the first place.  United start the second half well and are playing with a bit of purpose.  It’s still not hurting us though and Fraser hasn’t had any dodgy moments at all.

After 15 minutes of mainly United possession in front of us, Mané wins the ball and runs it out of defence down the right with United players trailing in his wake.  He gets his head up and hoofs a huge crossfield ball towards Long, Darmian gets up and flicks it away and Shane batters into him.  Everyone’s down, trainers on, Shane gets up and Darmian doesn’t, so on comes McNair, who is shite.

We’re not being helped by the ref who is not giving Long anything despite Smalling and Blind taking turns in sitting on his shoulders when he tries to win the ball.  Shane manages to get a clean jump at a Clasie corner and his header flicks off a defender and away from another corner.  Bertrand’s delivery from the other side finds Big Vic at the back post who eases Rooney out of the way and heads a foot wide.  Both of these corners feature Virgil van Dijk’s shirt being pulled off his back by Smalling in full view of the referee.  Last week Smalling gave a penalty away at Newcastle for wrestling at a corner so you’d think the ref’s would be looking out for it like they were then Ryan Shawcross got pinged two weeks running for Stoke for the same thing.

It’s sub time for us as we approach 70 minutes with Tadic and Clasie being replaced with JWP and Romeu which makes us more combative in midfield and more dangerous from set plays.  No team looks like creating much in the next 10 minutes and then the moment we’ve been waiting for as Mané is off to be replaced with Charlie Austin.  Van Gaal has sent on Januzaj, who as you all remember was going to be the next Pele when he scored on his debut a couple of years ago.  Since then he’s done  nothing expect get loaned out to Borussia Dortmund where he did fuck all and they sent him back as not fit for purpose.

85 minutes and Austin flicks the ball over Blind and heads for the corner.  He holds off Blind before Januzaj comes steaming in and barges him over.  What a fucking stupid challenge as he was going nowhere.  Free kick to us and JWP delivers it, Austin loses McNair and powers a header down into the bottom corner…. And Southampton go mad.  Get the fuck in there.  It’s as amusing as you like as all the Saints players run to the corner where the away fans are up in the gods and all you can see on the replays is dumb looking United fans filming the Saints celebrations on their iPads.  Arseholes.

There are three minutes of normal time remaining and we’ve won.  Sorry but we have.  They’re shit and even the board going up with 5 minutes on it doesn’t bother me too much because they’re shit, our defence and keeper are amazing and it’s over.  We create another chance as Austin breaks forward, finds Shane and the ball bobbles out to Romeu who shoots first time and brings a decent save out of de Gea.  There is time for one minor wobble as Cédric challenges Rooney for a header and the ball drops to Januizaj but luckily, he’s shite and his shot goes wide of the far post and Fraser had it covered anyway.  Rooney didn’t see it because he was pathetically arguing with the referee for a penalty for no reason at all other than that he was losing again, to Southampton again, at home again.

Game over – I await in interview with the granny shagger who will no doubt say they were the better side and were unlucky and all that shit.  Bollocks – we did a job on them pure and simple.  Defend properly and they can’t hurt us and take your chances.  Not bad for a game plan and it worked a treat.  I expect Ronald enjoyed that.

It doesn’t matter how shit United are.  When this game is put in a box, it’s still going to have ‘Manchester United, Old Trafford’ written on the side.  We’ve been dicked many times up there before so to come away with a win at any time is marvellous.  The most predictable thing in the world now is that for the next three days it will be all about them.  We’ll barely get a mention and whilst that would have boiled my piss a few years ago – I’m intending to just sit back and enjoy the teeth gnashing, sense of entitlement and the window licking.  Hopefully I’ll get some Twitter abuse from twats in Thailand, America and Cornwall like I did last year.  Louis van Gaal will get most of the flak and all the focus will be on him which is somewhat disrespectful for a manager who has won practically everything there is to win in the game.  His arrogance doesn’t help him but it seems to draw attention away from the players he has – who are shit.  I’m sure that Ronald will feel sorry for his fellow Dutchman, he said sarcastically.

Match of the Day was incredible on Saturday night in that unless you were concentrating, you would have wondered who United were playing as they weren’t mentioned.  The papers next day were running a story that Mourinho has written a six page love letter to United about how he wants the job.  Utter shit, just like the story that they’d interviewed Guardiola last week.  No chance United fan boys, you have van Gaal and shit owners and a shit CEO who pays £30m for players who are worth £10m.  Long may it continue. Twats.

Anyway, fuck United.  We were the better side out there and played the better football and when we attacked we attacked with pace and purpose, comfortably keeping United at arms length and just waiting for the moment.  I never felt for one second that United would score and I thought we were guaranteed a 0-0 at least as the game went on… and then Charlie came on to win a free kick off the clueless Januzaj and then to get on the end of the cross.  What a debut that is.  The keeper and back three were in ‘cigar’ mode today – so cool and unhurried.  As a unit they were superb and if any of them were ever beaten, then another would cover over and sort it out.  It’s no coincidence that since we’ve had Virgil, José and Ryan as the back 3, we haven’t let in any goals.  Part of that of course has been down to the return of Fraser Forster who fielded the one shot on target that United managed – the 40 yarder from Blind that was straight at him and that was it.  His presence is as huge as the effect he has on the defence. Cédric and Targett both had effective games without being too much involved as United don’t attack much at all and especially down the wings.

It was really interesting to see Clasie on the same pitch as Schneiderlin today.  Clasie was brilliant in his 65 minutes on the pitch with his tenacity and passing and he also threw the old decent corner into the mix as well.  His partnership with Big Vic looked immense today and the two of them totally ruled the roost against Morgan and the Elbowing Poodle Twat in the first half and against Morgan and the Invisible Whatsisname Thingy Herrera after the break.  You can say (and I have) that Big Vic plays well against the big teams because he’s auditioning but just maybe he needs the big games to truly perform.  He was outstanding today, even after picking up that oh so accidental elbow in the forehead from that useless twat.

Tadic and Mané flattered to deceive a bit but combined superbly for the chance in the first half when Sadio played an airshot and Shane Long did his usual and chased absolutely everything without in truth, looking like scoring.  And then there was Charlie.  Any incidental coverage we will get in the aftermath of the game will centre on him and the fact that fans of other mid-ranking sides like ourselves, didn’t buy a player who is a proven goalscorer at this level.  It was widely predicted that he’s come on and score and so it came to pass.  The way he found space in the crowded penalty area was key and gives great encouragement that if we create the chances, he will finish them off.  That’s three games in a row when Ronald has put a sub on and within 5 minutes he’s scored.

3 wins in a row, up to 8th in the league and ahead of Stoke and Palace who are widely thought to have had good seasons so far.  Next up we have Arsenal away on a Tuesday night and they are attempting to make a mess of their best chance to win the league for 12 years.  It’s the FA Cup next Saturday which is a competition that we’ve decided to withdraw from this year so hopefully they’ll be knackered and pick up a few injuries and we can give them a real run for their money.  They’ll be keen to avenge the 4-0 defeat at SMS but maybe they’ll be scarred by that.

Now to sit back and continue with watch the media Man United show.  Twats.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Premier League Match 22 - Southampton 3 West Brom 0

Charlie Ponders Getting Linked to Liverpool by the End of January

Playing against a Tony Pulis side usually means you’re in for a boring game and so does playing against West Brom, whoever their manager is.  Now the two are I harmony I’m not expecting too much in terms of free flowing football and entertainment.  We never seen to play well against bus parking teams.

The mood in the Saints camp is certainly much better than it was before the Watford game and the mood of the supporters was lifted considerably before this game with the announcement that we’d signed Charlie Austin from QPR.  I don’t know if I’m more pleased or surprised at this.  As he was in the last 6 months of his contract, he appeared to be just biding his time in the Championship with QPR before moving at the end of his contract, hence the surprise.  It appears we’ve paid £4 million to get him now.  The wages are of course a question but I think you can safely assume that the drain on resources that is Gaston Ramirez will be gone in the next couple of weeks.

The most predictable thing is that this will make the media assume that we’re selling one of the strikers now. Mané will be off to United, Pellè to Italy and Shane Long to Liverpool.  What?  Yes, you heard me… Shane Long has been linked to Liverpool.  This is because he played well in midweek and scored a goal so naturally he’s linked to Liverpool.  Most amusingly, when Liverpool needed a goal in midweek they threw Stephen Caulker on up front.  Ronald is of course going to have issues with keeping everyone happy as you would think they’ll only be room for two of Austin, Pellè, Long, Rodriguez, Tadic and Manè in the starting line up…. Oh, and Juanmi.  How could I forget him.  For what it’s worth, I think we’re future proofing – I can’t see Mané or Pellè being here past the summer with big beautiful Graziano probably heading home to Italy.

Back to today and I was hoping for the same side as the Watford game which of course meant no Big Vic so as I watched the names come up on the scoreboard, it was not a surprise to see Big Vic instead of Clasie but bloody annoying that he was in the side and Oriol Romeu was not.  Two of the ‘squad’ players who have been playing superbly in the last few games are Romeu and Long.  Long had kept Graziano on the bench but I would imagine Romeu was very pissed off when he heard the teamsheet and found he’d been benched as soon as the bloke who got brainlessly sent off at Norwich and who hasn’t given a shit all season, was available again.  Clasie was nowhere to be seen so I think we can assume that playing 90 minutes has done for him and JWP got a start.  The bench again included our 4th choice keeper and Juanmi who obviously has some compromising pictures of Les Reed somewhere.

West Brom of course have Sir Rickie Lambert but he’s of course not playing with West Brom going for the wardrobe that is Anichebe up front.  He’s crap and I have no idea why he’s preferred to Lambert, Rondon and Berahino who are all on the bench.  As far as I can make out, West Brom have a flat back 5 with 4 midfielders, two of which are not going to move more than 5 yards from the defenders.  I wonder what the 0-0 Gameplan is then Tony?  It’s interesting that the Baggies have a number of players who I just don’t like – my impressions of some of them from afar are Dawson – Thug, Gardner – Whingy diving twat, McClean – Arsehole.

Saints start in positive fashion against the massed ranks of West Brom defenders.  Targett feeds a ball into Mané who gets to the ball before Dawson who leaves a predictable ‘kick him early’ marker on him and we get a free kick, 25 yards out, left of centre.  Dawson points at the ball which is what he should have kicked.  JWP stands over it and goes for it near post and it absolutely flies in whilst Myhill in goal just collapses on the ground.  At fucking last – he’s actually scored one.  Glorious start, get in!!!

Within 5 minutes, Pulis has changed tactics as his game plan is out the window and it’s 4-4-2 with Evans at left back and McClean being an arsehole on the wing.  He does however get a good cross in for an arsehole and Gardner gets a head to it but well wide and no alarms.

A good cross on the run from Cédric leads to us winning a corner as Mané challenged one of the 4 centre backs still on the pitch. JWP’s delivery is right on top of Myhill who is playing like he’s a quadriplegic at the moment and he just collapses on the floor again and there’s some momentary carnage before a Baggies boot connects with the ball.

There’s a heart-in-mouth moment when JWP is heading back towards his own goal on the edge of the penalty area and he goes to hook away a bouncing ball and Gardner gets a toe to it and JWP catches him and he goes down.  Gardner’s pulling his best wasp face and Fletcher is not happy.  It’s a free kick at best as it looked outside the box to me but the ref’s having none of it.  Well played ref.  However, I don’t think we could have been too surprised if it had been given and it at least gave us a glimpse of Fletcher in his full ‘United Squad Player’ pomp as he moaned like bitch and chased the ref.

West Brom look so limited that I’m suspecting that one more goal will more or less do it.  Targett once more feeds into Long who takes his time before sliding a superb ball in to Targett again and Dawson, not content with giving away the free kick for the goal, gets caught out and bundles him over.  Penalty.  Fletcher runs to the referee in typical Man United pose and points to the other end of the pitch, presumably for the Gardner incident.  Yes mate, the ref’s really going to change his mind on that one you dick head.  You’re not at United now and that shit won’t work.  Up steps JWP, Myhill virtually runs to the right and collapses and JWP rolls it in to the left for 2-0.

It’s nearly 3-0 straight after that with Long and Davis working hard to tee up Mané.  His shot is blocked but Targett hammers the rebound goalwards only for Arsehole McClean to pull out a superb goal line clearance by backheeling the ball away as he hurtled back into his own goal.  Myhill was collapsed on the ground so he probably was unaware of one of the best goal line clearances I’ve ever seen.  McClean though is still an arsehole.

Half time and you know that with all those strikers on the bench that Pulis will do something.  Not enough we hope and I think there’s part of all of us that would like to see Sir Rickie come on but he’s gone for the twin wardrobe approach with Rondon coming on one of the centre backs and joining Anichebe.  Chris Brunt in on as well for Fletcher which is a shame as I was looking forward to him moaning his way all through the second half. 

The Baggies attack a bit at the start of the second half but we don’t look concerned at all.  I have to say that Big Vic is having a superb game but all the back 5 look good.  A break up the left win with Mané and Davis ends with a hooked cross from Mané, a nod down from Long and Cédric has somehow got himself up the park but can’t get over it and ends up putting it into Jack Cork territory high and wide.

Steve Davis is amazing. No words can describe how good he is all over the park and how he sets the tempo for everything.  We struggle to clear a ball into our box and Davo picks it up on the edge of the box and he just runs it out of defence and gets us moving before pinging a ball over the full backs for Long to run onto.  His first time low cross finds Mané but unfortunately sends him a bit wide and he drags his shot across and wide of the far post.  Like on Wednesday against Watford, a miss is his last contribution and on comes Tadic to replace him.

Berahino is on for West Brom meaning Sir Rickie isn’t coming on and he’s involved with setting up a chance which falls to Anichebe who turns and gets a shot off but well wide.  Wardrobe.  Romeu is coming on for Saints to a great reception from the crowd who know a ‘hard done by’ player when they see one.  Meanwhile though, Long holds off a defender and flicks a great ball through to Relentless Davis who runs at the defence and plays in Tadic on the left and he pulls out a brilliant shot across the keeper and in at the far post.  3-0, game over.  Steve Davis’ work is done and he’s the one coming off for Romeu with Martina, another who is possibly hard done by, coming on for Cédric.

The rest of the game ticks by with no incident and no alarm for us.  There are songs for Sir Rickie which must have made him smile inside and that was that. Two wins, two clean sheets and we’ve signed Charlie Austin.  A perception changing four days.  The two wins, achieved with the minimum of fuss were against opposition who either didn’t fancy it or just played badly.  Ok media world – nothing to do with us then?  We played very well and totally deserved to win both games.

Pulis acknowledged that we were the better side but he also went for the ‘deflection’ route so favoured by managers when they’ve fucked up and blamed the fact they’d had two away games in four days.  I doubt they even went back to the Midlands after playing Chelsea on Wednesday so why are they tired.  That’s why you have squads Tony and that’s why we rested Clasie and Romeu today. How about that you put all your eggs in the ‘draw 0-0’ basket and left all your forwards on the bench.

Ronald was predictably pleased and was happy to wax lyrical about the signing of Austin and his goalscoring record.  It remains to be seen where he fits in but I can’t see us changing formation for a while as this 3-5-2 has worked superbly in the last two games.  We are of course away from home in our next two games against Man United and Arsenal so who knows.  We’ve looked so solid in the last two games though with Forster back and Bertrand on the left of the three instead of Yoshida.  The revelation has been Matty Targett at left wing back.  He’s been excellent and maybe with Bertrand at left centre back, would be ok against a quick winger.

I repeat that I don’t think Big Vic should have played today but he was superb and JWP also admirably stepped into Clasie’s position and the two goals were a bonus.  His all round game needs days like this for the confidence it brings to him.  His set pieces are great for us so he needs to do more from open play to get him on the pitch more often.  The main man though was Steven Davis who has been amazing in both games.  Up front, Long was as tireless as on Wednesday night and Mané just needs a goal.  Mind you, Tadic will be pushing for that spot if he keeps making the impact off the bench.  I’m guessing that Mané will start against Man United.  It’s an audition after all for him. 

I know they’ve started winning again but United really aren’t that good and we have every chance of repeating last years win. We have nothing to fear there at all.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Premier League Match 21 - Southampton 2 Watford 0

"I Have Come to Fix Ze Washing Machine, Ya"

Our recent run of ‘less than convincing’ results (ok... ‘shite’) means that this is suddenly a huge week, containing as it does, two winnable home games against Watford and West Brom.  Watford are up first and I have to say, I predicted them to go straight back down and never to be seen again, not scoring any goals in the process as all they had was untried foreigners all over the pitch.  Irritatingly and to their great credit, they’ve proved so far that I don’t know what I’m talking about by being solid and consistent all season and winning enough matches to be comfortably in upper mid-table.  The main focus has been on the strikers, Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo who have been rattling in the goals that have meant Watford probably aren’t in the remotest danger of ending up straight back in the Championship.  Of course at some point they’ll probably get pillaged by the big boys, especially if Ighalo continues to score at his present rate but anyway, for now they still have their main man and we have to stop him and the rest of them today.

As he always does before a game, Ronald Koeman did a press conference and was asked about disparaging remarks he made about the Under 21s.  He pointed out that he was asked if anyone had impressed him in the under 21s in the game against Chelsea when we were poor despite winning 1-0.  He said ‘no’ which got interpreted as ‘none of the Academy are good enough and never will be’ as well as meaning he had fallen out with the board and didn’t believe in the philosophy of the club.  So, in short, it was taken out of context.  What a shocker that is.

A rumour did the rounds that someone was impressed with our Academy – Man United allegedly wanted to sign Jake Hesketh who has played half an hour for the first team.  Sounds like an agent trying to make a name for himself to me so we won’t bother too much about that one.

Over the past few summers we’ve had much teeth-gnashing as player after player departed from Southampton to join Liverpool.  Lambert, Lallana, Lovren and Clyne have all left with varying degrees of antagonism and disappointment from our point of view.   Brendan Rodgers may have gone but they now have Jurgen Klopp and he’s at it as well by taking another jewel in our crown, Steven Caulker.  It’s not big or clever to laugh at your own jokes but I just have.  Here’s a club who are telling everyone they’re returning to the good old days and the good times are coming back etc and a new manager preaching ‘heavy metal football’ . Well they’ve got the ‘heavy’ bit right.  Who is Caulker’s agent?  He’s a genius whoever he is.  How do you sell that to a Premier league Club of Liverpool’s stature?  Relegated with Cardiff one year, relegated with QPR the next, can’t get a game at Saints ahead of Maya Yoshida, plays badly when called upon and his last game was a 6-1 defeat by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool when he was torn a new arsehole but not before showing his full range of skills ranging from chronic ball watching to turning like the Titanic – after it had hit the iceberg.  He’s left, no one cares, Florin Gardos is nearly fit again and Jack Stephens is back.  The reaction of Liverpool fans is funny as it mirrored my own when we signed him....”give him a chance”...”the manager will bring the best out of him” .... “it’s only short term cover”... etc.  Good luck with that – he makes Lovren look like Bobby Moore in comparison.

It appears, according to Ronald, that Stekelenburg had a hamstring injury after the last match and this is why he pulled Fraser Forster out of the Under 21s match on Monday that he was due to play in.  The bottom line is that if Maarten isn’t fit then Fraser will start and if this comes to pass, whilst Fraser would probably have wished for another practice game, this is great news.  If not tonight then it’ll be in the next week or so.  I’m sure he’ll be a bit rusty but having a keeper who actually makes some saves might be a good thing.  Other titbits include the expected return to fitness of all of Graziano Pellè, Ryan Bertrand and Cédric Soares.  The first two will most likely start if fit and I can’t believe I’m saying this but it doesn’t really matter who plays out of Cédric or Roberto Carlos Martina.

On the way to the ground, I’m half way cross the Itchen Bridge and the ground is shining brightly over to the right and it’s a really clear evening.  I verbalised that to my two daughters who have replaced my son and Dad as attending this game and then it pissed down.  I love it when it rains when you’re walking on the Itchen Bridge as there’s nowhere to hide and you just get fucking soaked.  We eventually get to the ground and are about to get through the turnstile and someone turns up the intensity of the pissing rain for 30 seconds, long enough to get absolutely fucking soaked.  Terrific.

Team news is that both Targett and Bertrand are playing and Pellè is not.  The big news is that Fraser Forster is back in goal which is terrific.  So, we have our first choice goalkeeper on the pitch and with Kelvin Davis, our 4th choice on the bench.  I don’t get the last bit as Gazzaniga was there for the warm up.  Are we playing Bertrand in midfield then?  No – as the game kicks off it become apparent that Ryan is on the left of a back 3 with Targett at wing back where he was crap on Saturday.  Cédric is back on the right which is harsh on Martina who was decent against Palace.  The first action of the game is Romeu thinking he’s got a chance from 40 yards and sending it into orbit.

Watford are sat very deep whenever we get the ball with all 11 in their half.  Maybe it’s because they have an oil tanker playing at centre back.  Yes, the one player who stands out aside from Deeney and Ighalo for Watford is the centre back Prodl who is fucking enormous.  I mean, he’s tall but he’s properly fat and slow as fuck.  I don’t like to take the piss out of opposition players (that’s a lie) but he has one of those stupid ponytails sticking out of the top of his head and the tache makes him look like a fat 70s porn star.  Sheffield Wednesday used to have a player who I nicknamed ‘Ron Jeremy’ for the same reason.  So, Ron is at the back and he looks shit.  Watford actually play nice football at the back and try and knock it around but they’re not quite good enough to do so and there’s always a sloppy pass waiting to happen.

After a quick burst of trying to be clever at the back, the ball goes to Watson who gives it away to Ryan Bertrand.  A quick pass puts Targett away on the left and before Nyom can get out to him, he has time to measure a cross and curl it behind the defenders, in darts Shane and flicks a header down and past Gomes and into the corner.  Great cross, great header, great start, 1-0.

Watford immediately push out more from the kick off and give the ball away once more to Bertrand and we’re away, to Targett to Mané and he’s running at Ron Jeremy who is going backwards as fast as his big fat legs will carry him.  Sadio gets to the edge of the box, cuts in side and it all opens up perfectly but his right footed shot is too close to Gomes who sticks an arm up and claws it away.  The resulting corner is taken by Bertrand and though there is no one near him, Gomes punches it out to Matt Targett who is a good 40 yards out but he’s full of confidence so fuck it, why not and it flicks off a defender and goes narrowly past the post.

We’re not letting Watford have any time on the ball and it’s great.  It’s led by Clasie and Romeu who are steaming around but they’re being back up by everyone else with Targett closing down Nyom who tries to clear but it hits Targett and bounces kindly for Shane who is on the bye line.  He has no angle to work with so he tries some sort of wildly optimistic chip over the 6 foot 6 goalkeeper and Gomes flaps it out into the middle where Cédric comes in and clatters a defender and gets somewhat harshly booked.  The defender who Cédric has clobbered stays down and the Northam try to get Fraser to give them a wave.  He’s not having any of it.

Cédric has a cunning plan to start an attack and does this by losing the ball on the right and allowing Watford to attack us.  Ighalo lines up Fonte and beats him but Bertrand has read it well and slides in to block the shot.  Virgil heads the corner away and with Watford having players forward, we are gone with Davis leading the charge, giving it to Clasie who has a chance to show his passing skills and put Mané clean through but he butchers it and underhits it, allowing Watford to clear.  It’s as bad as missing an open goal from 10 yards and Clasie knows it.

Wait, did I say ‘open goal from 10 yards’… More pissing about in defence from Watford and Jurado finds himself in the left back area which is the prefect place from which to try a suicidal ball across to Ron Jeremy.  Sadio is in before Ron can adjust his dressing gown and is clean through with just Gomes to beat.  He goes low and beats the keeper but he ball trundles into the outside of the post and wide.  Fucking hell… still only 1-0.

Jurado is obviously not happy with us only being 1-0 up so he tries again and again Mané gets in but he is wider this time and Gomes is smartly off his line to save at his feet.  It’s half time, we’ve played well and we should be 4-0 up and the fact that we are not means we are still susceptible to the ‘one on target shot scenario’ from the opposition.

Anyone who was expecting Watford to be better in the second half was probably immediately disappointed as the pattern continued with Targett putting in another great cross which resulted in Mané challenging Gomes and the pair banging heads.  Amazingly the ref didn’t blow for a free kick but no matter as the ball was headed off the line anyway.  It was another near miss though and each one from here on in was going to make things just that little more anxious.

Following a very over-enthusiastically received catch from Fraser, we attack again and Romeu plays a great ball over the top to Steve Davis who controls well and lashes it across Gomes and into the net.  Those who hadn’t seen the linesman’s flag go up celebrated the goal whereas the rest of us just sat there wondering how close it was. Very close as it turned out and there was no way that Ron Jeremy’s arse wasn’t playing him onside.  From the Chapel End where I sit there was a shout from behind me of ‘I could see that was onside from here lino’ which never fails to raise a smile.

Romeu is on fire and he crunches in a left foot shot which Gomes has to beat away and the keeper is back to his amusing best a minute later as a Cédric cross dies on him but he’s already made up his mind to punch it and ends up punching it about an inch off the ground.  There’s another loud groan as Virgil gets on the end of a free kick (which was awarded for Ron Jeremy slapping his arm across Long’s forehead) and knocks it across the goal and a sliding Long misses it by inches and Mané can’t turn it in at the back stick.  Shiiiiit.  And another as Long gets away on the right and squares in unselfishly to Mané who once again can’t get his shot on target.  Ron (Koeman, not Jeremy) has had enough and Mané is off to be replaced with Tadic.

Tadic is playing right up front which is interesting and whilst I’m still deciding whether I think it’s a good idea or not, Cédric chips forward, Steve Davis flicks on and Tadic is on the ball on the edge of the box.  He turns Anya and Ron Jeremy inside out to find space and shoots under Gomes and into the net.  Impact sub.  Get in.  Relax.

There is no reaction for Watford at all and Long nearly gets n the end of a Davis pass but for once, Big Ron Jeremy gets in the way.  We have time for the return of Graziano as he comes on for Davis.  It’a bit odd but Long has gone back into Davo’s position on the right of midfield, I assume to run around like a lunatic, allowing Tadic and Pellè to stay up front.  Yoshida is also on for Cédric at right wing back he only has 15 minutes to give away his usual goal.  Hang on... Clasie is still on the pitch... is that right?

Following a poor clearance from Tadic, Watford actually have a shot as Cathcart has a go but Fraser gets down well to smother it easily.  There’s an amusing incident where Long sprints down the right and then his legs seem to stop working in a co-ordinated fashion and he falls on his arse and injures himself.  Thirty seconds later and he’s up and chasing down the ball on the left wing.  The work rate from the Irishman has been nothing short of phenomenal.  Tadic lashes a late chance over the bar when he should have really passed it but it doesn’t matter and we’re back on track for today at least.

Awesome.  Basically it was a superb performance from first to last.  We started the stronger team, scored early and never let them have a sniff.  Most importantly, we kept playing for 90 minutes regardless of the match situation which was beginning to get a bit nervy until the second goal went in.  It’s no exaggeration to say we could have won by six and it was only down to the eccentric Gomes and poor finishing from us that kept it to two.  I will take a win though of any description and we can go into the West Brom game on Saturday, knowing that a win will have us all looking up the table again, rather than down it.

You can go down the whole team and everyone was excellent really – from having the Big Man back in goal too Shane Long running around like a lunatic up front.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player run as much as that in one game as Shane did tonight.  I’m not one for looking at Opta Stats as no matter what stats say, I know certain things like that James Milner gives the ball away every 30 seconds and that Michael Carrick will give the ball away 90% of the time if put under pressure.  For distance covered and amount of sprints – Shane must have been off the charts today.

Following the Arsenal win, Ronald went to West Ham with a different formation and different players and we lost.  I hope that for Saturday against West Brom, we keep the same starting XI.  Graziano should stay on the bench especially seeing that West Brom have Olsson and MacAulay at centre backs and they’re both old and slow.  Elsewhere, it would be an absolute fucking travesty if Oriol Romeu gets left out to accommodate Big Vic coming back.  Romeu and Clasie were brilliant today.  Romeu is a better footballer than Vic with a better range of passing and he gets forward more and has more of a goal threat.  Also and most importantly, he wants to play for us and has his mind on the job and hasn’t acted like a tosser since the start of the season.  Vic is probably stronger in the tackle but that’s about it.  Clasie has his best game in a Saints shirt tonight and played for the whole 90 which is excellent news.  He was still going strong at the end too and this will prove to him that he can do it.  Hopefully he recovers well enough to play on Saturday.

When not confronted with a flying winger, Matty Targett has a great game at both ends of the pitch and there were a couple of calls in the back 3 which Ronald got spot on.  Playing Bertrand instead of Yoshida was really obvious but a great decision but also swapping José to the middle of the 3 was a great move too as he can organize things better from there and Virgil is quicker so why not give him more ground to cover.  Maybe if we persist with this formation then Bertrand and Targett could swap if the right winger is quick.

Watford… were shite.  Their captain Troy Deeney said they were shite after the game and they were.  A lot of it was down too us making them look shite as we bossed the midfield and never gave the defence time to play out from the back which is clearly what they wanted to do.  Ron Jeremy was properly funny in their defence though.  Massive great fat lump who couldn’t run, up against Shane Long.  Shite or otherwise though, they’re still above us in the table.

Another false dawn or a genuine turning of the tide.  Tune in Saturday to find out.