Saturday, December 3, 2016

EFL Cup Quarter Final - Arsenal 0 Southampton 2

Pick the Bones Out of That

It’s cold, in fact it’s bloody cold in North London and as a person who sends most of his life wondering whether Southern Rail will get me to where I intend to go, it’s with a resigned shrug that I greet the news that the tube is up the creek if you’re coming in from Cockfosters, which I of course am.  Eventually we get to the ground and it’s time for Bovril – it’s that cold.

When the League Cup Quarter Final Draw was made and we got Arsenal away, the spirits immediately sank as we didn’t get drawn against one of the Championship or lower end Premier League sides left in the competition.  Then I thought about it and it was guaranteed that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be picking a side bearing any resemblance to their league side as they are in their usual position of just about in with a shout of winning the league which they of course, won’t win.  Also, I didn’t realise that Arsenal have not won this competition under Wenger.  I remember them losing a final against Birmingham a few years back but no, they’ve never won it.  Something else I didn’t realise until I read it on social media was that we’ve apparently lost in the quarter finals of this competition in each of the last 7 seasons.  The reason I didn’t realise it was because it’s bullshit. as it’s only the last 2 seasons.  Before that, in 2013, Pochettino tanked a game at Sunderland in the 4th Round and the season before that came an Adkins spectacular 3-0 defeat at Leeds.  I found out later that the stat was actually, we have lost in our lest 7 Quarter Finals.

So, Arsenal made 10 changes from their last League game and we made 8.  They brought in players like Jenkinson, Gabriel, Gibbs, Ramsay, Elneny, Iwobi, Coquelin  and Lucas who I think have all played in the Premier League this season.  We changed two in defence with the Portuguese dropping out in favour of Coco Martina and Maya.  The midfield was completely replaced with Harry Reed and Jordy Clasie and Steve Davis making up what must be the shortest midfield ever.   Up front we replaced all three again with Boufal, Shane and Sam McQueen who was detailed to play on the right.  After his performance on Sunday, it was good to see Josh Sims involved again from the bench.

It's an amazing atmosphere here at the Emirates. Actually, that's not completely true. It's a really good atmosphere in our end but the other 58,000 seats may as well belong to the biggest library in the world.  After a minutes silence in honour of the tragic Chapecoense plane victims, away we go and we immediately looked like the more cohesive side. Arsenal looked really piss weak in attack with Lucas Pérez who I think it cost about 16 million quid… but he is shite.

On 12 minutes, Maya picks up the ball as we play out from the back and pings are fantastic ball out to Bertrand on the left wing. He crosses low to wear Boufal hits it and sees his shot blocked and back out to Clasie who absolutely creams it past Martinez and into the net. Fuck me, we've been clinical. One shot and one goal, get in you fucking beauty.

The decibel level amongst the Arsenal fans was raised by the goal up to the level of a whisper and this is not altogether surprisingly as their team is doing nothing. I was worried about our three midgets in midfield but of course Arsenal are trying to play through them with tippy-tappy football and Reed, Clasie and Davis are really snapping around and ensuring they are not getting anywhere. McQueen is a looking a bit like a fish up a tree on the right wing but he's doing his job which is to protect Martina who still gives me the shits every time the ball goes near him but he's getting by. When we do get the ball under control and upfront, Boufal is absolutely taking the piss leading the Arsenal defenders in a merry dance. The end product isn't quite there an and invariably he loses the ball but its good fun watching him take the piss out of four defenders for a while before this happens.

A combination of Reed and Bertrand nick the ball off of Jenkinson when he's trying to play out and puts Davis away. He drives into the box before feeding Boufal on the left and he decides that it's time for some end product after all the slides a great ball across the top of the box to Bertrand who takes one touch before drilling it past Martinez and into the corner for 2-0 from our second shot. I really hope this being clinical stuff catches on.

The remaining 10 minutes before half-time are very very comfortable as we keep Arsenal at arm’s length. The referee seems to want to play as much injury time as possible but we achieve mission number one and get to half-time without having letting a goal and to be honest, we haven't even looked like letting in a goal.  It's half time and I want another Bovril but I can't be arsed to go and queue up for one. Maybe it's because I'm fucking frozen solid and can’t move.

Arsenal start the second half in slightly more positive fashion as you expect and immediately Pérez has a dribbly shot which Fraser just picks up.  Alex Iwobi is looking like the best Arsenal player and he bundles past a couple of tackles in midfield and the ball eventually drops to Ramsey, who I do not like at all and he chips and incredibly lame effort straight to Fraser. Apparently, Ramsey could play in any team in the world, according to his international manager. Tellingly, he didn't say he could play well in any team in the world.

With Arsenal attacking a bit more it creates openings for us upfront. McQueen seems to be adapting to playing on the right hand side and his pass to Clasie is then fed out to Martina.  He for once gets in at a decent cross but Shane Long seems to time his jump completely wrong and heads it straight up into the air and it lands on the roof of the net.  It doesn’t stop Shane trying a long-range effort which nearly creeps in as Martinez makes real heavy weather of getting down and pushing it wide. Despite getting one on target, it really doesn't hide the fact that Shane Long is desperately out a form and confidence.

Saints win a corner which breaks out to Clasie who absolutely smashes it but it bounces off an Arsenal defender and they are away on the break. Martina manages to spoon the ball miles up in the air when he is the last defender but luckily it falls to Lucas Pérez is very obligingly turns around and passes it straight to Sam McQueen. He moves it onto Virgil, who has clearly read all this and therefore not bothered to get back after the original corner and he sets off on a mazy past a couple of players before finding Boufal in hits a left footed shot across and it’s deflected a couple of inches wide at the far post. In comes the corner from Bertrand and Virgil goes up with the keeper who punches out to McQueen whose shot is deflected just wide. The ref hasn't given a free kick at this point but he sees a goalkeeper on the ground and decides to fucking give one for no reason whatsoever.

Granit Xhaka is on for Arsenal in place of Elneny who has done absolutely fuck all and the new man immediately creates a chance for Coquelin, who is Elneny’s partner and doing fuck all and he drills in a shot which Fraser just falls on as easy as you like. It'll go down in the stats as a shot on target but in fact, it was fucking rubbish.

Hojbjerg and Sims are on for Reed and Boufal and Saints seem quite happy to restrict Arsenal to longshots which Coquelin and Ramsey are quite happy to put miles wide. Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on for Arsenal to a massive cheer which is surprisingly considering done precisely the square root of fuck all for them in the five years that he's been here.

Saints looks so good on the break with Davis leading the charge and feeding McQueen who is now switched over to his favourite left-hand side and he gets his head up before finding Davis again who seems to get caught in between heading it and volleying it and eventually cushion volleys it over everything and once again it lands on the roof of the net.  We've stopped being clinical again and no one more so than Shane Long who gets put through by lovely through ball from Davis, gets the wrong side of the defender and then just passes it wide of the goal in shit fashion. This really should be 4-0 by now.

Oxlade-Chamberlain clearly hasn't learnt how to shoot in the last five years as Arsenal create their best chance of the match with Xhaka funding him with a pass and from 10 yards he launches it miles into the stand in absolute bollocks fashion.  Arsenal are beginning to put us under pressure as we get to the last 10 minutes but really don't look like scoring and Aaron Ramsey confirms my theory that he is a complete shitbag by getting tackled by Martina and then throwing himself to the floor like a complete wanker.  Horrible dive and he should get booked but he doesn’t.

I really want us to score the third goal because if that happens, all the Arsenal fans will fuck off and we might actually be able to get into the tube station at the end of the game. Hojbjerg and McQueen combine superbly down the left and feed it into Sims who again takes it on the half turn and drills in the shot which Martinez does well to tip wide. There is a marvellous move down the right hand side involving Sims and Steve Davis with Sims eventually getting to the by line and pulling it back to when McQueen is steaming in but an Arsenal defender does just enough to make sure he doesn't get a clean contact on it and Arsenal smuggle it clear.

Arsenal have had enough and obligingly possible straight to Hojbjerg on the edge of the box and he has the last chance to make all the Arsenal fans fuck off and he hits a good shot shot which Martinez pushes away with a really good save. It's no good, the tube is going to be absolutely rammed.  The gaming is over on 94 minutes with Alex Chamberlain angrily kicking the ball away. Yes mate, you've just lost to your old club, again.

Well that was an absolutely fucking brilliant performance. We will get no credit for it of course and it will all be about Arsenal making loads of changes but the bizarre thing is that though they've obviously got a better first 11 then we have, hence their position in the league, below that then we have more players who are ready to step in to the first team without the level of the first team dropping. There wasn't anyone who played badly today and even though I'm ready to put money on Shane not scoring for the entire season, he did work incredibly hard.  His wife has just had a baby so he scored in the bedroom about 9 months ago which is roughly the same time he last scored on the pitch.  

Even my mate to go Martina was semi decent today though he still scary every time he has to make any sort of decision.  I have to say that there has been a marked improvement in that Maya Yoshida’s performances as the season has gone on and Virgil and Ryan Bertrand were as imperious as ever. I think that at the start of the season, we all thought the squad was a bit thin and in some areas it is but the emergence of McQueen and Sims has been a massive bonus.  Tonight for example, those two breaking through meant that Redmond could have a rest. The midfield three were all excellent today though I have a slight question over Harry Reed who seems to have Clasie syndrome in not finishing any game that he starts. Another major plus today was the form of Fraser. Who looks confident in dealing with high balls and coming off his line.

On our way out of the ground whilst we were trying to fight our way past the queue for Arsenal tube station, we heard the draw for the semi-final. First choice would've been Hull, second choice would've been Manchester United and last choice would've been Liverpool and that's who we fucking got. An additional piece of bollocks was the news that the first leg is at home. After initially thinking this put a bit of a dampener on things, I got positive and thought about it. The semi-finals will be played during the African Nations Cup so whilst Boufal will not be in our squad, Mané won't be in theirs. Coutinho will still be injured and Klopp will have one eye on the League, even more so than we will as they’ll be up near the top. Are Liverpool's squad players any better than ours? I guess will find out in January.

So, still in the EFL Cup, still in the Europa League and still in the bloody Checkatrade Trophy.

Great night, great win, great Bovril.  Bring on Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Premier League Match 13 - Southampton 1 Everton 0

Koeman: I Was Not Aware of This Young Player
Claude: I Was, I Do My Job Properly

Picture the scene as Ronald Koeman arrives at St.Mary’s.
“Good morning Mr Koeman, hope you had a pleasant trip”
“The changing rooms are through here and …. Well you know where they are I guess”
“Nice to see you”
(Behind hand)… “C**t”

Yes it’s the return of Mr Honesty and Integrity to St.Mary’s as Everton rock up, an Everton side who started the season very well on account of having some very favourable home fixtures but now have hit a bit of a wall and what a shame that is.  They came into some money in the summer from some bloke who used to be associated with Arsenal and Everton basically lost themselves and forgot their principles and tradition.  They prided themselves in being The Peoples Club but within five minutes of the money turning up, they’d turned into Liverpool.  It was all about how much money they could spend but as anyone with even a semblance of brain knows, chucking money around in random fashion isn’t always the best way.  The first money they chucked was of course at Ronald to the estimated tune of £7 million a year which made him abandon the principles he had and had repeatedly stated when at Saints. “I honour my contracts”.. “I would hate to be a manager who was all about money” and various quotes like that.  OK, leave for a ridiculous amount of money – I get that completely, even though he probably had already earned more money than most of us could dream of.  It clearly didn’t sit too well with him though because then the excuses and blaming Saints started.  Whatever, admit you left for the money or just shut up.  Trust in meeeee, trust in meeee!

Everton’s defence has been creaky since Moyes left and whilst it’s no wonder that Martinez made it worse, it was a bit of a surprise that Koeman replaced John Stones, their best young quickest defender with the old, slow and cumbersome Ashley Williams who usually forms a slow lumpy defensive partnership with Phil Jagielka.  At full back, Coleman is still an excellent player and then you have Baines who has never ever been able to defend.  The paceless defence is covered by Gareth Barry who is the only player on FIFA ’17 to have a minus figure in the ‘Pace’ category.  In goal is Maarten Stekelenburg who probably wasn’t what Everton fans had in mind then they started crowing about all their cash and taking players from Saints.  But for Jeremy Pied’s unfortunate injury, they would have got Cuco Martina as well.  Get well soon Jeremy.  They did spunk £30 million on an erratic winger in Yannick Bolasie as they needed an erratic winger to complement their other erratic wingers Lennon, Mirallas and Deulofeu.  Lukaku is of course a threat up front and Barkley should be pulling the strings in midfield.

After the shocking shower of shit that was Sparta away, Claude proved that he wasn’t impressed in the slightest and sprang a major surprise with Josh Sims starting on the wing ahead of both Long and J-Rod.  He couldn’t have picked a better day to throw him in given that another famous quote from the Snakey Bastard when he was here was that “none of the youngsters were good enough and putting them in the team would be like putting ketchup on your chips” – I’m paraphrasing there.  Redmond can feel somewhat lucky to have got a starting place which I guess is down to injuries to both Tadic and Boufal.  The midfield sees JWP get a rare league start alongside Pierre and Oriol.  The best back 4 and keeper in the country were all present and correct.

So, we’re at home, the Lying Dutchman is in town and the players owe us a performance.  Let’s go…. But before we go, the new PA system is being volume tested.  In the family section there were small kids holding their ears.  I have less issue with that and more with the shite music they were playing.  Said music went on far too long and the players had their pre-match huddle to deafening 80s Disco Shite.  The three of us had to do our score predictions using our fingers as we couldn’t shout loud enough to make ourselves heard.  Maybe it was a deliberate ploy to stop too much abuse getting through to the Slippery Slithering Snake.

Everton kick off and immediately Bertrand is in and winning the ball off of Lennon.  Down the left to Redmond and we work it back across to the right where Baines fails to clear, Cedric retrieves and there’s some great one touch interplay between Sims and Hojbjerg before Sims shot is blocked out to Cedric.  He crosses and the ball drops to Sims who hooks it across and Austin has a free header from about an inch out and even with our record in front of goal, he isn’t going to miss that.  1-0 and get in and have that you Slithery Tosser.

We look seriously fired up and are soon creating another chance as we give the defence the run around and Redmond finds space to cross and picks out Sims who should score but the header kind of slides off his head and Stekelenburg saves easily enough.  More ponderous defending from the Blue Billionaires and Sims and JWP work a chance for Hojbjerg which he drives a yard over from the edge of the box.  Look at what you left behind Snake Boy as Virgil picks it up in defence and strolls past Lukaku who can’t be arsed, beats Barry who can’t run before it goes to Hojbjerg and then onto Austin whose shot is rather tame and straight at the keeper.

Everton are actually here as an attacking threat and from their first attack Barry slides a pass in, it’s dummied by Lennon and Coleman is in behind Bertrand.  He produces the perfect pull back to the penalty spot and Gueye, another big money buy, is on hand to launch it miles over the bar.  Utter shit but Everton are improving and another cross from the right is met by Barkley but he gets the header all wrong and miles wide.  I want to like Ross Barkley but he is completely brainless.  How many times is he going to turn and run into Romeu and lose the ball before realising that he isn’t getting past him.

We’re still playing well with good combinations all over with Redmond putting Sims away, onto Cedric and his cross is just too high for Hojbjerg who heads wide.  The key thing here is that unlike the sideways and backwards of the past couple of weeks, a midfielder has made a great run into the box and got ahead of the striker, thus making the defenders actually think.
Half time and happy days so far.  The difference in our performance from the Sparta match is huge and Sims has made a huge difference with his desire to always go forward and his enthusiasm.  Sometimes it needs an Academy player rather than a £30 million signing doesn’t it?

We start the second half well and have a chance as everyone misses a JWP corner and Hojbjerg picks it up beyond the far post.  He easily beats a half arsed challenge before deciding that smashing it is a better option than trying to find any one of the 8 players in the penalty area and hits the outside of the post and behind for a goal kick.  Koeman’s half time chat was obviously completely lost on Lukaku, Bolasie and Barkley who are either completely not arsed or just shite.

It’s just a case of whether we can get a second to put it to bed.  A Hojbjerg cross towards Austin is half cleared to Sims whose half volley is comfortably saved.  Whilst it’s still 1-0 there’s always a chance it can go wrong and Evrton win a free kick on the right hand edge of the box when Gueye is dumped by the Rock of Romeu.  As previously said, Lukaku has been shite but he doesn’t have to move to take a free kick and up he steps before launching it miles over the bar.  Fellow lazy bastard Bolasie then runs at the Saints defence before hitting a shot closer to the corner flag than the goal.

Back up the other end and Cedric turns Baines inside out whilst Baines demonstrates his idea of defending which is to not close down but just wave his legs about in an attempt to block the cross.  He doesn’t block the left footed cross which clears Jagielka and Austin thumps a header towards the bottom corner but bloody Stekelenburg pulls off a brilliant save low down by the post.  Charlie really cannot believe it and nor can those who slagged off Stekelenburg all of last season.

Austin pokes another good chance over the bar as a Bertrand corner evades everyone and lands at his feet and then Sims has the crowd on its feet by getting back to rob Baines on the edge of our box and then taking off, making Ashley Williams look a complete mug on the half way line by knocking it one side and running the other as the Welshman looked worth every penny of the £12 million Everton spent on him.  Unfortunately, the clearly knackered Sims made a balls of the pass and they cleared it.

Koeman throws on the two wingers who he clearly doesn’t fancy in Mirallas and Deulofeu but it makes no difference to the general pattern of play with Sims again running at Jagielka and getting over a dangerous cross which Everton clear more by luck than judgment.  It’s ok though because it goes to Lukaku who inexplicably, considering he’s built like a heavyweight boxer, gets muscled off the ball and JWP drives forward and shoots, Stek spills and Austin squares it back to JWP who somehow manages to slide it wide from 6 yards with an open goal.  Why can’t we ever put games to bed FFS!!!

We’re still trying though and another superb Cedric cross clears Jagielka and JWP brings it down on his chest before smashing it but there’s the bloody goalkeeper to throw up an arm to block it and Jagielka gets back to clear it off the line.  Why can’t we ever put games to bed FFS!

Claude rolls the dice in the last 10 minutes with Clasie, McQueen and Long coming on for Redmond, Sims and Austin.  Needless to say that these were three separate substitutions and the standing ovation for Sims as he went off was one of those great moments, especially in view of the Snake’s comments on young players.  He’s one of our own.  Yep.  Full time.

Ha ha ha. Well, fuck you Ronald and do you want ketchup or fucking mayonnaise with that? A beautiful result at the end of a very good performance. The only minor gripe is that we didn't give them the hiding that they deserved. Ironically, the only reason we didn't was because of the performance of our ex-goalkeeper.  How ironic that for all the talk of the Everton project and the amount of money that they had to spend, their best player was a goalkeeper that Ronald decided wasn't good enough to be Southampton's first choice.  Football can still be the beautiful game sometimes.

The post match interviews were absolutely priceless and full marks to Conor McNamara of the BBC who asked the question about Josh Sims with obvious references to Ronald's comment about our Academy. True to form, the arrogant arse didn't want to be asked about Josh Sims and he admitted that he was not aware of him which is fucking hilarious considering he was an England age group International and made loads of appearances for Saints under 21 side last year, when the Lying Dutchman was the manager. If ever you wanted a reason to believe the widely held rumour that the Saints hierarchy weren’t too sorry to see him go, then that was it.

There was only one winner on the managerial front today and he wasn't Dutch. Claude had the guts to select a 19-year-old for his debut ahead of two experienced players and boy did it pay off. Sims was absolutely superb from the first whistle until the standing ovation he got when he got substituted. Always on the half turn and always looking to go forward which is something we've badly lacked in the past few weeks. He showed the way for others to follow with Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse playing with a lot more attacking intent that they have of late.  Austin got his goal and led the line well and was unlucky not to have a second goal with the save that Stekenlenburg made from his header.  Redmond gave the ball away a few times but his performance was again a marked improvement on the last couple of weeks. The back six were absolutely magnificent with Cedric in particular being a massive improvement on the clown of Martina. His defensive work and his crosses are improving all the time as is Bertrand as he gets up to full speed after a couple of injuries. Aaron Lennon hardly touched the ball for Everton and this was because he spent the whole game trying to defend against Bertrand's runs forward.

Virgil had one of those games that gets every media pundit in the country trying to sell him to one of the big boys, or Everton, comically. He is the best defender on the pitch and when he steps into midfield he is the best midfielder in the pitch as well. If he does move on, which inevitably he will at some point, I really hope it's to one of the big three European clubs in Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich as he is that good. He doesn't do it on his own though as Jose Fonte was once again showing European championship winning form next to him and the two of them combined to make Lukaku look absolutely shit. In front of them was of the Rock of Romeu who made Ross Barkley look like a kid playing in a man's game.

You can't mention how good we were without commenting on how shit Ronald’s Everton were. The defence were as slow and pedestrian as we all knew that they would be and the fullbacks, especially Baines, couldn't get forward at all because the wingers in front of them weren't doing any defending. Bolasie, all 30 million of him, like Lukaku, is another one who will only apply himself when he fancies it. Gareth Barry is another one that I just don't get. A bit like Michael Carrick at United where everyone says he's brilliant and is this and is that.  The fact of the matter is that he is 36 and he can't run any more, not that he ever could so in a fast paced game where the opposition midfield get about him, he is not going to be effective. Is it amazes me with all that money to spend, they've got a team with very little pace in it and they didn't even spend the money they got for John Stones, let alone the warchest that they allegedly have. I loved Ronald Koeman when he was with us but I can't help but hope it all goes disastrously fucking wrong there is and he's about as likely to get the Barcelona job he so covets as I am. I guess there's always football manager games Ronald.

The final comment has to be about young players.  Of our young players that the Asshat said weren’t good enough last season: Reed, Hesketh, McQueen, Olomola, Stephens and Sims have all played at some point this year and Saints are a grand total of two points behind Everton in the league and still in Europe and still in the League Cup, which Everton are out of. A quick read of their fans forum reveals that they have quite a few good prospects as well who many fans think would make the first team better. Don't hold your breath on that any of them are getting given again any game time soon. Perhaps Saints should have a look at some of these Everton academy players and see if they fancy joining a club where they might actually get a chance.

Ronald must be feeling lower than a snakes belly after that.  Good.  Off you fuck.

Meanwhile, we’re off to Arsenal for the League Cup Quarter Final on Wednesday.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Europa League Match 5 - Sparta Prague 1 Southampton 0

Sideways, Backwards, Sideways, Backwards

A trip to Prague to play Sparta who evidently are much improved from when we played them the first time round when they were pretty dreadful. It looks like they've appointed the youth team coach as manager and he's had a positive effect. Since they played us, they've won every game in the group which includes both of their home games so far. There is some stat that says Sparta haven't beaten an English club since 1982. Here we go then.

I strongly suspect that this game would be taken lightly by the management and that we were not going to put our best team out because even if we lose tonight, we have another chance in the final home game and so it proved with Cedric and Bertrand making way for Martina and McQueen, Maya instead of Jose in defence and even Romeu was rested with Hojbjerg playing defensive midfield. The weakest of our wide midfielders in JWP and Clasie were in the starting line up and the forwards looked full of running but not much else with Long, J-Rod and Redmond picked. I kind of understand the weakened side but at the same time I kind of don't.  I would say the better policy is to get it done tonight and rest players for the home game against Be’er Sheva.

Off the pitch since the Liverpool game, fans have had to deal with at the Alex Crook bullshit machine saying that Liverpool are going to sign both Virgil and Sam McQueen from us with Daniel Sturridge coming in the other direction. Hold it right there for fuck's sake. Now, even though I spent the whole of the last blog slagging off Daniel Sturridge, He would be an absolutely dream signing for Saints which is exactly why it will not happen because he's probably on at least twice as much as our highest paid player. Virgil to Liverpool in January really isn't happening either and any time there's a swap deal mentioned, it never happens.   If you forget money for a second, maybe it’s possible that Sturridge wouldn't say no to a move down here if he looked at how our other big club rejects like Bertrand, Romeu and Hojbjerg have improved in the time down here. I do however strongly suspect though that he is Billy Big Bollocks so wouldn't even contemplate moving to a team that's not a big club.

Anyway, regarding the outgoing rumours, if only in the club could block Alex Crook from writing about them in the same way that he blocks most of us from following him on Twitter.  It’s not just what he writes but it’s the fact that he writes it and a million fan pages and Twitter accounts flood the market with it.

Away we go and almost immediately, McQueen threads a ball down the line to Long who bundles past the full back and squares it to Clasie who could shoot but presents an easy chance to J-Rod who takes the shittiest of shithouse first touches and instead of tapping in, tries to dribble round a defender and loses it.  JUST FUCKING HIT IT MAN FOR FUCKS’

Sparta’s first attack ends with Virgil waving a lazy leg at it and whacking it straight up in the air.  Down it comes, hed tennis carnage and then Pierre tries to sort it out by heading it back to Fraser and it just gets there as Lafata swings a boot at it.  Virgil has another dodgy moment a few minutes later when he doesn’t seem to be concentrating and takes out Julis in the air to give Sparta a free kick about 30 yards out.  Dockal chips it in and Costa has ambled into the box with the freedom of fucking Prague and volleys it past Fraser at the near post.  Martina and Clasie have just watched him go.  Oh fucking terrific.

Straight away we respond with a great ball from Redmond which puts McQueen in and he hits it first time but straight at the keeper who blocks well.  We create a coupld of chances as the half goes on but nothing much.  Long gets his head on a JWP frr kick and the keeper easily pushes it wide and then Redmond puts McQueen away again and he squares for J-Rod whose shot is blocked before rebounding to McQueen’s right foot and he shanks it wide with the swinger.  Half time and it’s already shaping up to be one of those games.  Basically, we are not going to score all the time Austin is not on the pitch so we may as well hook J-Rod and get him on now but no, we start the second half with the same side, playing the same sideways and backwards way.  Claude appears to have told them to shoot more and so Maya does, from 45 yards and what a surprise, it was shit.

Hojbjerg goes down with what looks like a dead leg and on comes Romeu in his place, with Boufal coming on to put Rusty Rodriguez out of his misery.  It makes no difference though and Sparta enjoy a bit of possession and work a neat 1-2 on our left and the shot is straight at Fraser but he decides to palm it straight back out into the middle to make sure that the defenders are on their toes.  They win a free kcik when Costa gets challenged by Boufal and just stands still and then does a forward roll and rolls around until the ref gives a free kick.  It’s bizarre and so is our defending as it’s chappied in, no one goes with Lafata and he just misses it… oh hang on it’s going in but Fraser sticks out a hand to paw it away.  More pressure and this time Clasie gives it away and Dockal gets in alow shot which Fraser does well to get down to.

Sparts have had their ten minutes so now it’s business as usual, sideways and backwards, sideways and backwards, 11 behind the ball, no forward runs.  Garbage.  I gave up 10 minutes ago on us scoring and every opportunity that we fuck up is just a shrug of the shoulders from me.  Boufal chips in a good ball to JWP who has made a decent run but he misses the ball.  Shrug!

Austin is on for Clasie but we are shit with overhit passes from Redmond and diabolical crossing from Martina.  Straight to the keeper, straight behind the goal, wank.  Long comes short and picks up a ball, turns in midfield and runs with purpose to the edge of the box and wildly slashes miles wide. Shrug!  Long again as JWP put him in on the right, crosses instead of shooting and cleared for a corner.  Shrug!  Corner comes over and Virgil smacks a free header over from 6 yards.  Shrug! Shrug! Fucking Shrug!

The final ten minutes which should be like the bastard Alamo is ten minutes of nothing.  We do nothing except sideways and backwards.  It’s fucking painful.  The last chance isn’t really a chance because Maya is offside as JWP’s free kick comes in but it hits his face and bounces down to the keeper anyway.  Shrug!, Bollocks! Shit!

Well that was fucking dreadful from the moment that J-Rod decided to fuck about in the first few minutes until the end of the 94th minute. We were absolutely fucking shit – nat as bad as Midtjylland but not far off. I've completely given up on the fanciful idea of scoring or even working the goalkeeper from about 55 minutes onwards. We were so clueless in the way we were playing and so many individual players were having shocking games. Like I said at the start I understand Claude picking a weaker side for this game and in his defence, that side should have been strong enough to beat this Sparta side who let's face it, are pretty fucking average at best. He chose a side of that he thought would do the job and they completely and utterly didn't. 

Where do you fucking start with individual players. I know, I'll start with the worst of the lot, Cuco Martina. We would have been better off taking him off when we had already used all three subs and played with 10. If he wasn't on the pitch then we wouldn't have been giving him the ball and expecting him to do what a full back is supposed to do and actually cross the fucking ball into an area somewhere near our strikers in the middle. If we do substitute him without putting anybody on we possibly would have been given an extra 30 seconds of extra time at the end to try and get a goal.  As we all know though, that would've been just another 30 seconds of complete fucking shit. Martina was the worst closely followed by J-Rod. Rusty Rodriguez as he's known now was absolutely diabolical again like he has been in every single game he's played this season. There comes a point when the excuse of being rusty just doesn't cut it anymore. This is top level sport and you can't carry people.  We need him to contribute as he is one of the main strikers in the squad and at the moment he just isn't contributing at all. That miss or rather, that lack of shot in the first couple of minutes is as bad as it gets. He shoots he scores we are 1-0 up. Instead, five minutes later we are 1-0 down. Game changer.

Then we have Shane Long who at the moment is just running about. All season he's just run about with absolutely no quality in his play whatsoever. I understand that he had a bit of a go at some fans who are booing at the end of the game. That's really fucking dodgy ground to be on when you are a striker who hasn't scored for 8 months including all of this fucking season and it's nearly December.  Redmond...? Stationed wide left and pretty average though did link up with McQueen quite well. He's never a goal scorer though. Never.

Apparently we are going to start seeing the best of Boufal according to Claude. Well we fucking didn't see it tonight as he barely touched the ball when he came on and added absolutely no spark to a team that was completely and actually flat anyway.  Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on him as trying to put life into that performance was like trying to jump start a car with no fucking engine or battery in it.  Dusan Tadic is becoming a better and better player with each game he misses. 

Now the midfield and JWP had a completely anonymous game contributing the square root of fuck all. Another game where he had the chance to step up and completely failed to do so. Clasie was okay for the first 30 minutes and then he did what he always does and fade completely out of the game before we have to take him off.  Maya was a fucking nightmare waiting to happen at the back and his shot from 45 yards was awesome and Virgil had quite possibly the worst game I've ever seen him have the Saints shirt. He really looked like he didn't want to be out there and played in a really half arsed lethargic way.

The players that leaves who had relatively decent performances (and a couple of these are 'at a stretch') are Hojbjerg, Romeu (who was sorely missed from the start), Forster who was looking unconvincing but at least made a couple of saves and Sam McQueen who was easily our man of the match.

With Hapoel beating Inter 3-2, we are now dead level with the Israeli's going into the last game against them at St Mary's. This game is the most important game that Claude will have as Saints manager. If we fail to get out of this group then the crowd will turn. Some are turning already but in my opinion if we fail to get out of what is a really easy group with Inter being crap, then people will have the right to ask serious questions of the manager.  Part of the reason he was brought in was because of his experience of European competition. Three away trips and no fucking goals?  Sideways and bastard backwards and no forward runs from midfielders and strikers playing miles apart.  Tactically – something is severely wrong at the moment.

So, I get that we have to rotate players and the weaker players only seem to play in the European games and the League Cup games. When do performances become so bad that players get left out of the rotation? I would personally rather see Harrison Reed playing ahead of Jordy Clasie. I would also prefer to see Sam Gallagher playing ahead of J-Rod and to be honest I think I'd even rather see the incredibly raw Olomola. There has got to be an alternative to playing Martina at right back. Why not play Yoshida there and play Jack Stephens alongside Virgil?  Promote the England U21 player instead of playing the journeyman donkey.  It was kind of okay when Martina was a novelty player who played occasionally but this season he is playing far too much and he just isn't good enough to string three decent games together. At the moment is not good enough to string 10 minutes together.  If the fullbacks don't deliver any quality from the wings then we severely struggle.  Claude knows this as it’s his system so why is he picking a player who just isn’t capable of playing this way.

Lots of interviews afterwards with the manager and players saying I'm ever so sorry, we let the fans down. Yes you fucking did. It's not just tonight though, we have let a painfully average team win the group so even if we managed to scrape our arses through in a couple of weeks, we are heading for a last 32 tie against a team who has dropped out of the Champions League and the way we are playing at the moment, that will definitely be the end of that.

Next up and back to the league and we have the visit of the Lying Dutchman and his Everton side. They have Stekelenburg in goal and we all know he has a weakness with shots at the goal. Right now I'm wondering if we will actually fucking have any.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Premier League Match 12 - Southampton 0 Liverpool 0

Virgil Plays On as Firmino's Legs Fall Off

What’s been going on.  Oh yeah, loads….

England.  The Under 21’s were of course in action at St.Mary’s against Italy so I went along.  When the teams were warming up I realised a couple of significant things.  One was that the two men who are managers of the two main England sides are Gareth Southgate and Aidy Boothroyd.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Gareth ‘yes sir’ Southgate and Aidy Hoofroyd.  The other thing was that Calum Chambers was actually playing football after two and a bit years of almost exclusively not doing so after his defection to Arsenal before he was out of nappies.

To the game and there were three Saints players in the line up in Jack Stephens, JWP and Nathan Redmond and an early lead as Leicester’s Demerai Gray knocked in a rebound.  1-1 as the Italian right back made 80 yards without a challenge on our left.  When left back Galloway went to block, it looped over the keeper and in.  2-1 down soon followed as a corner was flicked on to an unmarked forward.  The second half was better for England and we hit the woodwork a couple of times through Gray and Baker (one of those Chelsea players who are always out on loan) before Baker squeezed a shot past a very chocolate wristed keeper.  93 minutes and a corner from JWP, a header from Chambers and knocked in by Jack Stephens which was a nice end to a pleasant evening out.

It’s remarkable how a goal can change perceptions.  Stephens was the hero when in truth, he’d had a poor game as part of a defence that was pretty atrocious.  People always get blinded by goals.  Man of the Match awards and Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week are all exclusively the domain of goalscorers.  Demerai Gray was Man of the Match and he was one of our better players but his tap-in goal won it for him.  Our best player by several miles was Nathaniel Chalobah of Chelsea (Reserves) – season long loan to Saints with an option to buy for £3 million would do him some good.

To be honest, all of the Saints boys were pretty average.  Redmond had a couple of moments but was on the periphery for most of the game.  JWP hit the first man a few times with his set piece delivery but got it right when it mattered.  He was lively in midfield but did give the ball away a few too many times.  Stephens was playing on the left of Chambers at centre back and looked uncomfortable having to use his left foot.  He didn’t make any horrific mistakes and I think part of the problem was his centre back partner.  Talking of whom…

Calum Chambers was awful throughout, absolutely awful.  Indecisive, slow, poor touch, powder puff in the tackle and in the air.  Terrible.  He’s not stood still for the past 2 years but gone backwards alarmingly.  It’s a cautionary tale that not many will heed.  The big clubs will not develop you as a player – they are only interested in the here and now so unless you are brilliant and Big Club first team level then you really are better off staying at a medium sized club who gives a rats about all their players and there you can become the best player you can be.  Earn the move on footballing ability, not because of the big clubs and their player harvesting.

Anyway, 5 goals and an entertaining game – now for the first team against Scotland.  Southgate has made Rooney captain again which brings me deep joy.  Scotland have a team of Championship players and are the very definition of average but they play better football than us as we’re content to turn the game into a scuffle and John Stones is trying to play like Beckenbauer at the back.  There are a couple of problems with this.  One is that he is not Beckenbauer and the other is that the rest of the defence certainly aren’t so if he beats two players and gives one of them the ball, someone like Cahill will invariably Row Z it or give it away.  Out of nowhere and against the run of play, the ball deflects out to Walker on the right and his cross if expertly diverted home by Sturridge who does the wanker dance.  It’s his first touch and the celebration was the first time he moved.  He only found space because a Jock defender got felled by the original shot.  The Jocks pass up a couple of decent chances with a shite final ball and the second half starts with more of the same with Scotland being the better side.  They miss a sitter from the edge of the box and then Stones actually pulls out a decent block to deny Snodgrarse and up the field we go, Rose crosses, Lallana scores with a header.  On the hour, Rooney takes a corner and Cahill gets up and heads in easily and that’s it.  There is half an hour to go but we’re done.  We could go on and absolutely bury them by 5 or 6 but we just pass it about.  Very unconvincing aside from the finishing.

The main thing that this game said to me was that Rooney is finished, done, past it.  He’s so far past it, it’s not funny.  In the form he’s in now he’d struggle to have an impact in the Chinese Super League or wherever he’s going to end up.  Like in the Malta game a few weeks back, Sturridge scored but he did fuck all else including running against a bang average side.

When I saw the team for the Spain friendly I thought it might be better because the two static players weren’t playing and sure enough it was as England played good football throughout, initially inspired by Lallana whose penalty put us 1-0 up.  Just after half time, Henderson of all people curled a superb cross onto Vardy’s head and Steptoe buried it past Reina for 2-0.  All was still going well until the excellent Danny Rose was taken off and Cresswell from West Ham was given a debut.  Cue two goals down our left hand side with the last one apologetically bobbling between Heaton’s legs.  To me, the result was unimportant but what it did show was how good a side England can potentially be if we play with pace on the break and everyone works hard.  So – no more Sturridge and Rooney for me.  The last time England played well was in the Germany friendly which we won 3-2 and neither of the statics were playing in that game either.

Southgate still hasn’t been given the job but he will be.  There will be a token scout around for other candidates but he’ll be given it.  The media have decided that he should be given it and there’s not one ex-player voicing a contrary opinion.  Not for me but I struggle to see who else is out there and available unless you go down the recently retired ex-pro route and appoint Shearer which would be an almighty punt in the dark.

Anyhow, club before country…

We seem to have had some success over Liverpool in the recent past but right now they are developing into a fucking scary outfit as Jurgen Klopp's ideas get through to the players and he begins to fully unpick the shambles left by Brendan Rodgers…. and they are currently top of the league and speak to any Red Scouser and "it's our fucking year".  The buying from Southampton policy has not altered without Rodgers and Sadio Mane has started well for them this year much to my annoyance as he is exactly the sort of player we could do with now to make our attack look better than tepid. I was hoping of course that he'd have an indifferent to start at Anfield, so that the entitled morons in their fan base and the Liverpool dominated media would quickly turn on him but of course he's started like a fucking house on fire so he's the best player ever. The one hope is that he does what he did in his two seasons with us and basically have December to March off. This year he will definitely be off for a bit of it as Senegal will be playing in the African Cup of Nations.  I hope they win it and he's out of the country for ages.

Of the other ex-Saints, even Lovren is playing quite well now due in part to the signing of Matip to take the other centre back position. Matip is an interesting player in that he's fucking enormous. Clyne has been doing as well as you'd expect and Billy Big Bollocks Lallana is possibly playing the best football of his career... what a shame he picked up an injury in the pointless England friendly. Elsewhere, they've got Coutinho who invariably smashes one of the top corner from 30 yards against us and attacking threat will also be provided by Roberto Firmino who I'm not 100% convinced about as yet.  Oh, and James Milner is at left back which is something I never would've seen coming but that's got to be a weak link hasn't it?

Claude names a very strong looking 11 for this game with Hojbjerg is preferred to Clasie but the big news is that the first choice back four are all present and correct with the Cedric returning from injury and Cuco the Clown returning to the bench. On the bench next to him is Shane Long, making a return from the hamstring injury he picked up in the San Siro. Hopefully when he gets on he'll be at full throttle because Liverpool play a very high line and for all his qualities as a footballer and a human being, Lovren is not the quickest and he is a massive fucking twat.

Away we go and the first time Lovren gets the ball there is loud booing and chant starts about the gardener who was putting the love into Mrs Lovren. Not big, not clever, not funny, much... oh that’s not funny either, Twattenburg is refereeing. Liverpool are pressing like madmen and we are trying to play the ball around but it’s seat of the pants stuff.  Cedric gets away on the right and sees his cross blocked before taking a pot shot with his left foot and lashing it well wide.

It quickly settles into a pattern of Liverpool being the dominant side and us just living off scraps and defending the crap out of it.  However, we creak as Clyne gets in a low cross from our left and via Mijnaldum the ball finds Mané and his sidefooter is heading for the top corner before Fraser takes off and somehow tips it over.  World class save.

In the main we are defending pretty well and we’ve obviously learned the Coutinho lesson.  Every time he picks it up within 40 yards he’s got players flying at him and he drags an effort along the ground and wide.  We haven’t noticed Twattenburg for 25 minutes so of course, that has to change and a rare attack by us on the right is halted deliberately by Milner trashing through the back of Redmond.  It’s cynical and late and nowhere near the ball and through the back of him but it’s not a yellow card according to Twatt.  The terrible refereeing has riled the players so for the next few minutes the gloves are off and tackles are flying in everywhere.  The Twatt is at it again as Davis breaks forward n the left and Henderson just hauls him back – play on.  Twattenburg then dramatically turns and wags his finger at Hojbjerg, assumedly because Pierre had said something Anglo-Saxon at him.  Twattenburg is happy now – he’s the main man in the game now and that’s just what you want from a referee.

Oh crap, a 1-2 on the edge of the box and Wijnaldum puts Mané through and he’s away.  He’s gonna score isn’t he and no one’s gonna catch him… along comes Virgil and blocks the shot away for a corner.  Brilliant defending.  We have a rare foray into their half as Austin superbly controls a ball forward but he has no support and is eventually crowded out.  Getting crowded out in their half counts as an attacking highlight today.

There is quite possibly the worst half time entertainment ever as two blokes bundle through some oversized footballs and score a goal.  Who cares?  Makes the guys holding the footballs rugby players and allow them to smash the contestants.  At least make it interesting.  Kenzie called it entertainment.  It wasn’t, it was shite.

The second half starts in much the same manner as the majority of the first with a ball being flipped over the top to Firmino who is behind Virgil.  Virgil clearly grabs a handful of shirt and Firmino decides to collapse, meaning that he gets given nothing because it looks like he’s dived.  Yes it was a foul but outside the box anyway. Phew.

The pressing from the Liverpool team makes us our own worst enemies at time as we try and play through it and Hojbjerg shanks a pass straight to Firmino who puts Coutinho in on the left but Fonte steams across and gets close enough for Coutinho to shat himself and lash it well wide.  Austin then narrowly avoids an own goal as a free kick is crossed in and Charlie’s the only one who goes for it.

My Christ we had a chance as Redmond picks up loose ball, plays Cedric away on the right and he fires over brilliant first time cross first time and Austin gets above the much smaller Clyne and meets it well but well wide.  Poor effort in truth and should have done better considering who he was up against.  We don’t have a monopoly on poor efforts though as Coutinho threads Firmino in and he basically has an open goal but decides to hit it with the outside of his boot and casually rolls it past the post.

In quick succession, Long is on for Boufal who hasn’t done much and J-Rod is on for Austin with Sturridge coming on for them, if he can be bothered.  His first contribution is to turn Redmond inside out on the left wing and stand up a superb cross for Clyne to steam in and meet and plant his free header wide of the far post.  Another huge let off.

Into the last 10 and Firmino has a dig from distance which takes a deflection and Fraser pushes it away well before we actually got up their end of the pitch and Bertrand’s cross is nowhere near a Saints player but Milner clearly handles it as it goes across his body.  The lino is looking right at it, nothing.. and none of our players are anywhere near it so no one appeals aside from those in the Chapel who all saw it.

As the game runs down we have no intention to play for anything more than a point and Liverpool seem to rely on hope more than expectation.  Twattenburg has had a quiet few minutes and so he pings Bertrand for making a few yards on a throw in.  There’s no way Twatt would have given it if Klopp wasn’t right there making various angry faces.  We survive the combined might of Liverpool and Twattenburg and full time.

Bloody hell that was a tough game.  You can certainly see what Klopp has brought to Liverpool as the soft mentality they’ve had for the last couple of years has certainly gone.  They will see it as a bad result whereas we can see it as a bit of a relief as we got virtually nothing going in the final third, defended superbly but did rely on some horrific finishing by Liverpool to get a point.

It was a strange game for us with some players having exceptionally good games whilst some were dreadful.  On the positive side, Fraser was back to his best with the pick of the bunch being the stunning save from Mané in the first half.  It was brilliant to have Cedric back and he certainly added to the defensive solidity that just isn’t there was Cuco the Clown is playing.  Virgil and José were magnificent as usual and Ryan Bertrand was quietly effective defensively but struggled to get forward at all.  Part of that was down to the horrific performance of Steve Davis in front of him. The game just looked to be to fast for him and he always seemed to be arriving just as the ball had been moved on.  Romeu proved again that he is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league and it was good to see Hojbjerg back in the Premier League side. 

Though lack of possession was an issue, the three up front were a problem.  Austin worked hard again but we needed him to bury his one chance and he really should have done better with a header against Clyne which went well wide.  Boufal didn’t really get into the game and Redmond had one of ‘those’ games.  By that I mean that he was bollocks.  There seems to be no inbetween with Nathan.  I’ve seen three games from him this season where he looked like a player who has no ability whatsoever – Arsenal away, Liverpool home and the England Under 21 game at St.Mary’s – and he’s had games where he’s looked like a great player.

Claude declared himself happy with a point and I think he’s right but we have to be doing a bit more than that going forward at home.  It’s a shame that Shane Long wasn’t fit enough to play a bigger part as I feel that his pace would have ensured that the relatively pedestrian Matip, Lovren and Milner wouldn’t have had such as easy afternoon.  Maybe it was a tactic specifically for today but with Austin up top and Boufal and Redmond playing very wide, we had precious little going on with Charlie having virtually no support and no pace to give the Liverpool defenders any issues.

It was the finishing and lack of it that means that Liverpool are only the second best team we’ve played this year behind Chelsea.  None of their regular front four (Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana, Mané) are prolific natural goalscorers so maybe this will be their problem this season.  Their one natural goalscorer is a lazy bastard which is why Klopp won’t play him.  The giant Matip looked like a good signing for them but the back 4 is the main issue which will mean the wait for winning the league will go on.  You aint gonna win the league with Milner at left back and the keeper has looked a bit dodgy – not today as we didn’t do anything.  I still dislike the arrogance around Liverpool and their fans in general are deluded fuckwits with a massive sense of entitlement.  Some of the dislike has gone with the departure of Rodgers and I’m warming to Klopp now he seems to have toned down his pitch side antics.  As for our ex’s – well Dejan was a Twat as usual but he had a solid match, Mané flitted in and out without damaging us and Clyne missed a sitter.  Out of the three (four if you include Adam the Twat) I guess it’s only Mané who we haven’t really replaced as yet, unless Redmond or Boufal are really going to step up.

Match of the Day was shit again in the way it was edited.  No mention of the Milner handball incident or Twattenburg’s shit refereeing but they shat on all day about Liverpool’s penalty shout.  Apparently their players were tired because they were all away playing internationals.  Well so were ours you fuckwits and we’re playing in Europe as well this year whereas they are not.

Oh yes, Europa. Next up is the Europa League and Sparta Prague away – win that and we’re through to the knockout stages and a win has got to be the aim against a team we beat easily at home.  I can see Yoshida, McQueen and bloody Martina coming into the defence, Clasie into midfield and probably Shane and Jay into the attack but no matter, we should still have enough to make Thursday a good day.