Sunday, August 28, 2016

Premier League Match 2 - Manchester United 2 Southampton 0

Tom Daley Appeals to the Judges.

Manchester United, I hate these cunts. It almost feels like we've all had three years off from hating United as Moyes and Van Gaal have given us something to laugh at. Now though, by giving Mourinho the managers job and pissing a ridiculous amount of money up the wall, they look like they'll be a decent team and whilst there will be much to admire in players like Pogba and Ibrahimović, we can all get back to the normal state of affairs which is to think that they are all complete bunch of cunts. How much money for Pogba? Anywhere between £89 and £100 million depending on what you read. It's fucking ridiculous and if there's such a thing as hell (there isn't) then football is going there. This is before we mention the £200 grand plus per week that he's on and before we mention that he left them for nothing 4 years ago.  It's great seeing United fans justify it in commercial terms rather than in football terms. He's worth it cos he's 23 and marketable and good looking and FUCK OFF AND DIE, NOW!!!  So by that logic, if he was an ugly little twat then he'd be worth less regardless of what he can and can't do on the pitch.  Anyway, it’s time for #pogback.  Cunts.

A lot of the United hatred attitude of course will be fuelled by Sky Sports and the rest of the media who will be lapping it all up and forcing it on everybody relentlessly. With the new manager and huge new players it will of course be a 24 hour constant wankfest and any other team will merely be bit part players.

Friday night anyone? Fuck off. Tremendous news for the travelling supporters to have to take a day off work and travel the length of the country. Absolutely fucking ridiculous decision. These twats know exactly how far it is from Southampton to Manchester but do not give a shit and anyone who thinks otherwise is severely deluded. Aside from the distance, Friday night traffic anywhere in this country, especially in the big cities is fucking horrendous and the trains are all shit and you could never get back home afterwards but who cares.

To the game and I've decided to let the result pass me by. By that I mean that even though we've won the last two times here, they have a good manager now and it's a different ball game now with the cash they've spent so I'm not going to get down about it if we get beat and I'll only be annoyed if it's a last minute winner or a shite bent referees decision.

Claude has seen sense and picked Hojbjerg from the start instead of JWP and Jose Fonte is back for Maya which are the only two changes from the team that started against Watford. United give a debut to Pogba and its home debut time for Zlatan so the Wankometer is registering very high. Elsewhere, Luke Shaw is back for them after his broken leg last season but Morgan Schneiderlin is on the bench, destined it seems to follow the 'Saints to Big Club to Career Obscurity' route, favoured by many.

Pogba’s first touch is a swing and a miss, giving the ball away as millions of United fans in Malaysia, China, South America and Devon wank themselves into a frenzy.  We win an early frr kick chance as a result but Tadic hits the wall with it.  Why not let Virgil have a pop as it’s 35 yards out and he’s got a hell of a dig on him.

Romeu has collapsed in a heap which is not good and eventually he has to go off and is replaced by Clasie which is worrying if he’s going to be the sole defensive midfielder in the diamond formation.  It’s a temporary interlude to all the wanking that’s going on as Pogba has a shot which is straight at Fraser.  It’s now become apparent that Hojbjerg is playing as the holding midfielder and it suits him, spraying the ball right and left.  It’d be ideal with him next to Romeu but I promise I won’t moan about the formation until the end.

Saints are playing well and Steve Davis clips a lovely weighted ball over the left back to put Redmond in.  Tadic is unmarked in the middle but the cross is shite and sails over him.  Maybe I’m being harsh here but that is a cross that a Premier league winger really should be able to make.  Long puts another chance wide as he shoots on the turn following another free kick lofted into the box and it’s looking good…. Aside from out lack of goal threat.

Decent play from United on the break as Pogba floats a ball into Mata who heads it back and Zlatan tries an overhead kick wwhich sails wide and nearly takes Virgil’s head off.  Rest assured that if it had gone in, it would have been given.  We pinch the ball in the right back are and a couple of quick passes seen Long away on the left but instead of cutting in and te4sting out the defender for pace, he shoots left footed first time and scuffs it for de Gea to pick up.

It’s a miss we live to regret as United build and the ball gets fed to Rooney out by the right corner flag.  No one manages to go out and close down the fat little slow squirrel headed shit so he’s got all the time to turn and put over a cross and in exactly the same way that Redmond didn’t, he picks out his centre forward and Ibrahimovic gets above Fonte and bullets a header into the net.  Aside from a good crosss, it helps having a good target man doesn’t it.  Good goal, easy goal, bollocks.

Half time and work to do.  Basically we haven’t been bad but again, no goal threat and we’ve let in a really shite goal from our point of view.  We start the second half well and a driving run by Hojbjerg gets us around the penalty area before he crosses to the right and Cedric heads it back over and Tadic beats Bailly and flicks it into the net but it’s offside and it really is, about 3 yards.  Fuck it.

Game over.  United get a throw on their left and it’s worked from Martial to Shaw.  He takes on Clasie and collapses.  Penalty.  Replays show the slightest of touches by Clasie on Shaw’s trailing leg but he makes absolutely sure he goes down by clicking his heels together and going for it.  A classic case of a penalty earned by the attacking player throwing himself at the slightest touch.  I bet he practices that as well.  When Squirrel head used to take the penalties you knew you had a chance but Ibrahimovic is the new game in town and 2-0, easy as you like, sending Fraser the wrong way.

This could get messy now as United scent blood but Martial dallies on a shot when he should have just rolled it across to an unmarked Ibrahimovic and Virgil makes a superb block.  Then Valencia pisses past Targett and crosses and Zlatan inexplicably heads it back to an offside Rooney rather than going for goal.  We are still neat and tidy with Cedric again getting down the right well and putting over a ball which Long flicks wide of the far post.

We send on Austin and Rodriguez but it’s too little too late and a rather lame defeat when all is said and done.  United weren’t great but they didn’t have to be.

There is an element of business as usual for United.  Over the last three years they’ve struggled to put away teams that they should be putting away but they appear to have addressed the problems at the top end of the pitch and in the middle.  Last year they had Rooney as the main striker who hasn’t got any pace and isn;t great in the air so you could defend against him easily.  Ibrahimovic doesn’t have pace but he’s so strong and has great movement and he can stick the ball in the net and it brings their whole attacking play up a level.  We had a player like that last year but we haven't replaced him.  Pogba is also a huge physical presence in the middle of the park and him being there as opposed to someone like Carrick is a huge difference.  Spending all that money has changed the ball game and there was a sense of inevitability about this.  Like I said at the start, I’m not going to get too het up about the result but for me there are worrying signs.  We move the ball about nicely but there’s nothing in the final third.  Today, we added shite defending on the first goal into the mix as well.

Hojbjerg was a massive positive again and Virgil was immense at the back.  Jose Fonte won’t be happy with the way he was bullied by Ibrahimovic for the goal.  All the forward players reminded me of moths around a lightbulb.  They dart about and annoy you but ultimately they’re completely harmless.

Was it a dive?  There was contact but barely anything and Shaw hit the deck when he didn’t need to.  He decided to go down and therefore in my book, that’s a dive.  A bit shitty to do that against us when you did an interview before the game praising the club and supporters but there you go.  To be honest, we’d have lost anyway..

I am glad I don’t have Sky.  I could tell by the social media posts that it was just a massive cream-off over United.  It’ll be like that for the rest of the season so I guess we’d better get used to it.  Cunts.  As for us, well the next away game is at Arsenal so we really need to be winning the Sunderland home game which is up next.

Premier League Match 1 - Southampton 1 Watford 1

Primitive? Yep.

I've been on holiday and have some catching up to do. Due to a monumental fuck up on the holiday dates I've ended up flying out of the country on the day we play our first home game and flying back into the country on the day we play our second home game. To make matters even worse I have an internal flight on the middle Friday which coincides exactly with when I could've watched the Man United game at Old Trafford on the TV.  I hear that they are quite a popular club around the world so their home games are quite often televised. I will try and write to these as if they were written at the time in in my usual 'bloke down the pub spouting bollocks whilst no one listens' fashion. 

Watford at home and it's a must win. Well, it isn't really but with our first two away games being Man United and Arsenal then I guess you could say that it's pretty important. And Claude needs to get off to a good start and many fans who's temperature seems to be about the same as the average volcano need us to get a good start as well otherwise Southampton General it's going to be full of people with ridiculously high blood pressure.

Watford had the summer that they always seem to have and they are even more predictable than us. At least we only change managers every two seasons. They change every single season and usually replace 10 of the players. Walter Mazzaro is the new manager and I've never heard of him so we really have no idea what to expect from the Hornets.

No one has joined Saints after the two squad players last week and more and more importantly, no one has left either though Jose Fonte not exactly pouring cold water on the prospects of a move to Manchester United, has raised with the anxiety levels of many fans even more.  We may even get a glimpse of the future today as the rumour is that he is not starting and that Maya Goal-a-game is.  It's all about diamonds today and Claude's diamond needs to sparkle exactly the same way that it didn't in the preseason friendlies. Somewhat surprisingly, JWP was picked along with Steven Davis on the right and left and no place was found for the incredibly impressive looking Pierre Hojbjerg. Long and the Redmond were the two strikers at the expense of Charlie Austin and Maya was indeed next to Virgil at centre back with Matt Targett on the left in place of the injured Bertrand.

Away we go and the first chance is a free kick, awarded when JWP nearly has his head taken off by a high boot.  It’s a long way out so Tadic just smashes it and Gomes, as he always does, parries it out and there’s all sorts of carnage with a Watfoord player knocking it back towards his own goal, forcing Gomes to save again.  Good save to be fair.  It’s a much simpler affair for the keeper next as Cedric tries one from 35 yards but it must be easy for Gomes to actually catch it rather than punch it away.

If the confidence in the team and the crowd is like a big balloon then it gets a bastard great hole put in it from Watford’s first attack as a cross from the right i hung up for Deeney to compete against Cedric (only one winner there) and he heads down to where Capoue has made a run off off Romeu and he lashes it into the net for 1-0.  Fuck.

And breathe… back onto the attack with Tadic turning about four players inside out on the right before standing up a cross which Shane Long heads over the bar.  To be fair we’re playing ok and the full backs are getting forward well.  Targett’s cross if headed away and Redmond puts his laces through it but well wide and the last effort before half time is another long ranger from Cedric which is comfortably pushed aside by Gomes.  Is this a theme developing – hit it from anywhere within 40 yards.  Half time.

10 minutes of nothing at the start of the second half sees Hojbjerg on for JWP and he’s immediately involved in a charge up the pitch which sees the ball worked to Redmond on the left and another long ranger comes in which Gomes tips wide.  The corner is scrambled away for another corner from the toher side and Davis whips it in, Gomes punches it up rather than out and it comes down to Nathan Redmond who volleys it first time left footed into the net past all the bodies in front of him.  Come on!

Having worked for the best part of 50 minutes to get back into the game, we nearly piss it away straight away as Maya attempts to find Fraser with a back pass and instead gives him a 50-50 with Deeney and luckily for Maya, the big man was alert and cleared absolutely everything out.  Maya’s been decent so far but there it is again, the capacity to make a horrific, unforced error.

A Watford corner is cleared and Hojbjerg leads the charge again, putting the ball in front of Long who gets there for pace against Watson who just hauls him down with no effort to play the ball.  Off you go you wanker.  From the resulting free kick, Tadic drills it in again and it’s straight at Gomes so of course, he punches it out and there’s a scramble which doesn’t fall for us.  He’s a lucky fucker.  So, 20 minutes against 10 men and conventional wisdom tells you that to play against 10 men you have to have width and we don’t really have any so it’ll be interesting to see if there are any tactical changes to adapt to this.  Well Pied is on for Cedric in a straight swap.

Hojbjerg bursts into the box and goes down but that’s never a penalty and we have another substitution and it’s another straight swap with Austin on for Long.  How is that going to change the game Claude?   Anyway, some neat interplay on the edge of the box puts Redmond through and he buries it only to see a very predictable offside flag.  Austin rises to meet a Pied cross but can only head over and with that, we run out of time.  The final whistle goes whilst we are passing it about in front of Watford instead of putting it in the box and playing off of Austin.  Hmmm.

And bollocks. Whilst this is not altogether a surprising result, it is a pretty disappointing one given the incredibly limited opposition that we played and the fact that we had 20 minutes against 10 men. I am guessing that this is an improvement on last years first game at home which was 3-0 defeat to Everton. You have to take the positives where you can.

Watford really were pretty poor and aside from the goal they only really looked threatening when Maya fucked up but you can also look back and say that we had a really shit 0-0 draw with them at the start of last season as well.

It annoys me that we always seem to play the first game like a team of strangers. Newcastle away last year it was exactly the same as we tried a new formation which didn't work and I'm going to say it again, I feel that we would have been much better off playing at the same formation as last year in the first few games and then it gradually evolving into what Claude wants us to be.

The main positives were the two new players with Redmond taking his goal exceptionally well and Hojbjerg making a complete mockery of the decision not to start him. We will certainly improve with Ryan Bertrand back in the team though Targett was decent today but I hope to Christ we sign some more attacking players because I'm more convinced than ever now that a front three of Long, Tadic and Redmond is never going to score enough goals.  There doesn’t seem to be enough players in the box at any one time.  Over the past few years we’ve had a lot of ‘cross comes in, Lambert or Pellè heads down, shot at goal’.

Hojbjerg provided another memorable highlight during his post match interview when he described to Watford as primitive. I have to say that that is the first time I've ever heard a player describe the opposition as that.  It's spot-on though as they had little interest in attacking and in their mindset was illustrated by the red card which was a definite 'take one for the team' effort by Ben Watson.  Should 'last man straight red card' tackles result in a penalty wherever they are on the pitch? On days like today I think that they should, obviously.

Next up is the colossal wankfest that will be Manchester United at Old Trafford in Mourinho's first home game, Pogba's home debut, Zlatan's home debut etc etc... yawn.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Pre-Season Pre-amble

Off to America we went to ingratiate ourselves with Under Armour at their base and play a friendly against DC United’s Under 23.  I was expecting Captain America and Iron Man in the opposition but in the event it was a pretty poor side who we beat easily with two different sides in each half, not that the result was important but we won it 2-0 with a good left footed hit from JWP and a late penalty from J-Rod after Sam McQueen was fouled, only he wasn’t and it was a shit decision.  There were lots of interviews and features on the You Tube Channel where everyone praised Under Armour.  How nice and “Brand Focussed” of us… cringe.

Following that it was off to Holland for a training camp and to play friendlies in a location and against opposition that was obviously picked with Ronald Koeman in mind. First up was an easy 4-0 win against PEC Zwolle which came from three first half goals from Austin, Redmond and then Redmond again after a decent run and shot, before a boring second half and a last minute goal from the spot by Højbjerg after he was brought down at the end of a mazy dribble into the box.  Already the team shape is beginning to become obvious and the interesting thing is that Nathan Redmond is going to play as a striker.  This was followed by a 2-1 win over FC Twente.  Virgil put us ahead after loitering in the penalty area for a while and then Sam Gallagher scored a second when he basically picked up the keeper and threw him over before two defenders managed to kick the loose ball against eachother and into the net.  How it wasn't a free kick I’ll never know but 2-0 to us before they pulled one back after shite defending at a corner.  The last game of the week was a 1-0 win against Groningen which was a bit more competitive but it was ruined when one defender trashed badly through Redmond to get booked and then pick up a second yellow for a shirt pull on 35 minutes so we had the rest of the game against 10 men and Austin scored with a  flick header with 15 to go.

All three of these sides are in the Eredivisie but the bottom half of that appears to be Championship standard at best.  The highlight of the Saints media coverage of this tour was Jordy Clasie falling off a bike which was very amusing.  By the end of the week, all bar our Portuguese champions were back and training.

With the home friendlies coming up, we had time to bolster the squad with two players that had been rumoured for a while.  First up was Alex McCarthy joining from Palace to be an understudy to Fraser.  At 26 he’s a good age and fills the gap left by Superkelv’s retirement and Stekelenburg’s desire to be a sub for Koeman again.  Also, it allowed Gazza to go out on loan to Rayo Vallecano for a season so I assume we’re just going to go with two keepers and use one of the kids if needs be with Harry Lewis seeming to be the next in line.

Also coming was Jeremy Pied who is a right back who has played for Claude twice before, most recently at Nice last season.  I guess this is the death knell for Cuco Martina’s time at Saints but you never know.  As far as I’m concerned, this is going to be another upgrade in the squad so happy days but I don’t expect either of the new boys to be first choice.

I rocked up to the Espanyol game not knowing what to expect regarding players we'd have available or the strength of the opposition. We set up with a very obvious diamond midfield shape with Long and Redmond as the two strikers with Tadic just behind them, JWP and Clasie left and right with Romeu at the back of the diamond.  I could be all trendy and call it the pivot position but that’s American bollocks.  The back four only contained one player who you want near the first team and that was a Virgil, with the rest being made up of Sam McQueen, Yoshida and Martina. There was however the reassuring presence of Big Fraser in goal.

I was determined to watch this game, not giving a shit about the result but wanted to see a pattern of play and players looking comfortable in the formation. One of Claudio Ranieri’s major achievements last year was to not fix what wasn't broken with Leicester and they carried on with the same formation as they had under the previous manager, everyone knew their job and it worked pretty well to put it mildly.  We were amazing ourselves in the second half of the season so the question for me is, why change?

Straight away today you could see that McQueen was like a fish up a tree but others looked uncomfortable as well, notably Clasie who looked a bit lost whenever he strayed from the centre of the pitch. Oriol Romeu was charging around which is not necessarily what you want from your sole defensive midfielder and the first time he got caught the wrong side of the ball he just launched the Espanyol player up in the air. This was pretty funny but it would've been a yellow card in a Premier League game.

We played some nice football and created a few chances for JWP and Redmond with Redmond bringing a good save from the keeper and JWP hitting one sideways and straight into Redmond.  As the first half went on, it became obvious that the two strikers have been detailed to cover the wings when we don't have the ball so at times we were playing a 4-6-0 formation. Espanyol nearly scored when a short corner routine saw one of their strikers totally make Martina look like an idiot and he smashed it shot against the near post but I'm sure Fraser had it covered. We somewhat surprisingly took the lead from the corner as JWP’s delivery from the left was easily headed in by Romeu. Espanyol, clearly annoyed, weren't shy of putting a tackle in and we got another free kick on the edge of the box which Tadic curled over the wall only for the keeper to pull off a really good save.

The start of the second half saw the appearance of McCarthy, Austin, Steve Davis, and Pierre Højbjerg in place of Fraser, Redmond, JWP and Clasie. You could tell immediately that Pierre certainly has something on the ball to add to good physical presence. Maybe Guardiola knew what he was talking about after all. Chasing back on the left hand side certainly doesn't suit Charlie Austin's game much but he tried his best but Espanyol equalised after Virgil was penalised for going in clumsily on the edge of the box and the ref decided it was a penalty, of the very soft contact-outside-the-box variety. Alex McCarthy's first action a Saints goalkeeper was to pick the ball out of the net as he dived in the wrong way.

To be fair, Saints tried to win it and Austin flashed to the header just wide and McQueen put in a couple of decent crosses from the left but the pace inevitably dropped and so it ended 1-1.

I'm clinging to the fact that the formation didn't work because of the full backs that we had playing today who are essentially our third choices in each position. Cedric or Pied would've made things better down the right in the same way that Bertrand or Targett would have improved the left hand side. No need to panic as yet.

I thought Romeu looked good when he calmed down a little bit and Tadic was promising at the front of the diamond but he did get very sloppy around the hour mark and started giving the ball away a lot. The main new boys Redmond and Højbjerg were very impressive. I can't help feeling that a defensive midfield pair of Romeu and Højbjerg would be very impressive but that, it appears is last years formation. I'll stop going on about this when the diamond is proved to be effective in the Premier League.

Friendlies are funny things when you are a regular attender of games. Lots of people there of course aren't regular attenders so they don't really know how to behave or to stop the kids kicking the shit out of the back of your chair or to be more specific my 11-year-old sons chair. I found it all very amusing and reminded him that he was a royal pain in the arse he was when I first started taking him along. Also, unallocated seats also causes problems as you end up with people arriving late and just standing in the alleyway is looking for seats and blocking everyone else's view without the slightest awareness that this is what they are doing.

Fair play to the club though for putting on what is basically a free game though I do fail to see why everything in the refreshment outlets appears to have gone up 10%. There really is no need for a small bottle of soft drink to cost £2.20 when the same  bottle is £1.20 in the garage in Brittania Road.

Onto the Athletic Bilbao match and of course, as it’s the last game before the season starts I was expecting to see the first team in action more or less. Maya Yoshida was in the team instead of Jose Fonte who was a substitute but other than that we more or less got it. Matt Targett was at left back instead of the injured Bertrand but the diamond midfield was made up out of Romeu at the base, Højbjerg and Davis night and left with Tadic at the front. My previous reservations about the diamond midfield were quickly dispelled somewhat by the fact that as suspected, having proper fallbacks in the team made a huge difference. Cedric was playing with the confidence you'd expect from a European champion and Matt Targett started superbly out on the left. With Virgil controlling the defence and pinging ridiculous 70 yard balls out to the wings, things were looking very good indeed. Romeu was anchoring the midfield strongly and Højbjerg and Davis were closing down anything that moved in the Athletic midfield.  

It's just upfront. Tadic wasn't really doing it and though Redmond and Long were being complete pests with their harrying and closing down, there wasn't a lot of guile upfront nor many shots on goal. Targett poked one wide and then Davis fired over after the keeper had to save well from Redmond. Redmond did it go close when he got to play through on the inside right channel and he shot was partially saved by the keeper and bounced up onto the post and away. It was all Saints but we eventually scored on the counter-attack as Davis hooked a ball in behind the defence which had pushed up and Shane Long dealt with the last defender who tried to pull him back before calmly slotting past the keeper and into the far corner. Nice goal and a nice finish.

The second half saw the appearance of Pied and right back and interestingly, Højbjerg went to the base of the diamond with Clasie and JWP right and left with Davis instead of Tadic in the advanced role. Athletic were offering nothing as an attacking threat and it was hard to tell if they just weren't very good or if Saints just weren't letting them play. Certainly, we seemed to be all over them whenever we lost the ball. There weren't many chances created in the second half for either Long or Redmond or for the substitutes Austin and Rodriguez. Austin was putting himself about strongly but his only chance in front of goal what a header from a Pied cross which went just wide. Pied looked quite decent down the right hand side showing a willingness to get forward and showing that he is a safety first defender who doesn't look like he's going to fuck it up every time the ball goes near him, unlike Martina. Virgil went on a big slalom run through the entire Athletic team before trying to find a striker with a pass instead of shooting which I'm sure he regrets now.

In the end we won 1-0 without Fraser having to make any sort of save. I personally was encouraged by the fact the squad looks strong. If we assume that aside from Fonte for Yoshida, the starting 11 against Watford will be the 11 that started today, the back ups in most positions don't make the team weaker. For example, JWP and Clasie are not a significant downgrade on Davis and Højbjerg in midfield. Højbjerg was superb as a defensive midfielder so I'm sure he'll get that job when Romeu is suspended which will probably be in the sixth game of the season after he's picked up yellow cards in the first five. The one exception to this is at centre half where any long-term absence of José or Virgil would massively weaken us.

I just have this nagging doubt about the amount of goals we are going to score this year. If the front three that played today played all season then we need Long to get 15 goals and Redmond and Tadic to get 10 each. Do you see that happening? I have to admit that I do not.

So roll on Watford on Saturday. Without knowing anything too much about Watford's preseason and players they've signed, I can only speculate that we will be absolutely fine if we go ahead in games but we as supporters may have to learn how to be incredibly patient this season whilst home games in particular remain 0-0. As for the whole season, I would not expect us to finish where we did last year, in fact I'd be happy with finishing in the top half. If we can achieve that and get into the knockout stages of the Europa league then I would consider that a good season.

We will certainly play good football under Claude and I cannot imagine us ever reverting to banging the ball up to the front man like we did at times under the Lying Dutchman. I was reminded by a post on Twitter of the Midtjylland away game which was definitely the worst performance in terms of style of play by a Saints team since Ian Branfoot was the manager. We will play decent stuff this year and keep the ball on the ground.

Last years big points total was achieved by us being very good at getting results out of the big teams. We did that in the main by having two defensive midfielders who impressively screened the back four so it does concern me a bit how we will adapt to playing against teams who dominate possession against us. I guess we will find out soon enough as our second game is away at Manchester United and one would hope that Claude is not the sort to stubbornly stick to one formation and one way of playing no matter who we are against.

We still need to address the cover at centre back issue but that maybe isn’t as pressing as getting a No.10 who can definitely score 10-15 goals per season.  I’ve wanted us to bid for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all summer and that doesn’t change now.  Depends if he wants to play football or not I guess.  A player like him would be ideal at the point of the diamond which would give the option of playing Tadic up front on the left where he’s give natural balance and where all his good performances for Saints have come from.

We can but speculate until it all starts.  I’m a bit fearful but mainly optimistic and excited about what’s to come.  Bring it on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From the Lying Dutchman to the Portuguese Men of War

A New Shirt and Hodge-Bur-Jurg

Meanwhile, back in Southampton, whilst the Euros were going on…

First off, The Lying Dutchman Ronald Koeman completed his widely predicted desertion to Everton. As was befitting of a man whose stock had fallen massively, his first day as Everton manager was spent blaming Southampton for why he'd moved. Apparently, we wouldn't allow him to work the last year of his contract without signing another one so we forced him out effectively.  Why is he not suing us for constructive dismissal then.  Ah yes... I have a feeling that this is complete bullshit and that the £7 million big ones per year might have had something to do with it but to be honest, what else was he going to say? Still, it's done now, thanks for the two years but now you can go and fuck yourself and I hope you fail massively at Everton, trying to revive their 1980s glory days

It was entirely predictable that Victor Wanyama would leave and so he did for £11 million to bloody Tottenham. It hasn't annoyed me as much as it would have done last year but it's still disappointing that he's gone to them. In the same way as they did with Morgan Schneiderlin, Saints obviously told him to get his head down and he would be allowed to leave after another season. To be fair, in the main, Big Vic did this and had a good season aside from a couple of completely brainless red cards. He will be missed and is a lot better than many Saints fans give him credit for. I do wonder how he's going to get on at Tottenham because he's not going to be as automatic a first choice as he was here. I guess though, that Pochettino knows what he's buying.

With just the one year left on his contract, it was no surprise that Big Vic was leaving. However, Sadio Mané had two years left, so on the one hand it was a bit of a pisser when he left for bloody Liverpool, treading that well worn path from Southampton to career obscurity but on the other hand, we've completely pulled their pants down to the tune of £36 million. This is an obscene amount of money for a player who will be disappearing off to the African Nations cup every two years and even if he doesn't, he tends to have November to March off every year anyway.  Again, a very good player who will be missed and who definitely added an extra bit of unpredictability to our attacking play, when he could be bothered.  I know there's a new manager there now but it is quite ridiculous how they have now bought five players off of us, only to finish lower in the league than us. I see that Klopp has signed an extension to his contract so we are going to have a few more years of over the top antics on the touchline. Liverpool fans will lap it up of course but I guarantee most fans of other clubs will be thinking that he's a complete twat by the end of this coming season, if they don't think so already.  We’d do well to finish above them again this season but whilst they’ve still got shit like Moreno, Milner, Henderson, Lucas and Lovren – there’s always a chance.

The Big beautiful Italian Graziano Pellè is leaving and going to fucking China of all places to play for a team I’ve never heard of called Shandong Luneng.  They are not alone in being a Chinese club I haven’t heard of because I haven;t heard of any of them.  Apparently he will be the 6th highest paid player in the world on about £250,000 a week.  I mean – he’s good but he ain’t that good and a quick check reveals that Shandong are currently 14th in a 16 team league, with 13 games left to make up a 26 point difference on top of the league, Guangzhou Evergrande.  I wonder if they’ve signed him because the average Chinese defender isn’t that tall and at 6 foot 4 he’s going to have a lot of joy in the air.  It is not a football decision though of course but that much wedge though must make it an easy decision as he was never going to earn that much money in Europe.

Graziano leaves with my full blessing, not that he’d give a shit about that, as I think that his attitude and performances have been on the whole superb, since the day he signed.  The club have managed to get back more than we paid for him which is an amazing effort, considering he only has one year left on his contract, his knee is a bit suspect and he is now 31.  I don't know what Chinese is for “don't let him take a fucking penalty” but I'm sure it's written in the small print of his contract somewhere underneath all the money.  If he'd left to go to an Italian club then I would have been delighted for him as that was always his stated ambition is to play regularly in Serie A. I am pleased that he's not gone to another English club but I am slightly disappointed that he's put money before football career. I'm sure he could've earned a decent amount at an Italian club and still had an international career, which I assume is going to end as soon as he lands in China.  He could have gone to Juventus or Lazio for two years and then moved to China at 33.  His move does however mean that his last act as a Saints player was to produce one of the most wanky attempts at taking a penalty ever, in the history of football.

Incoming… Nathan Redmond, who has joined from Norwich. He's a winger who has always done it in flashes without bringing consistency to his game and he seems to have been around for ages because he made his debut for Birmingham when he was 16.  He is a regular in the England Under 21s side along with JWP and Matt Targett and on the face of it there is no downside to signing a promising English Under 21 international. From what I recall, the bastard always scored against us for Norwich so at least that’s stopped.  The question is whether he’s a replacement for Sadio Mané or for Juanmi.  If it’s for Mané then we are going to struggle to get the same amount of goals out of him over the season.  If it’s for Juanmi then he couldn’t really contribute less.

We have also completed the signing of a new midfielder, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich. The first thing that strikes me about this deal is that there is absolutely no way that my Dad is going to be able to pronounce his name so "Hoy-berg" will become "Hodj-bu-Jurg"or something like that. In all seriousness, I don't know too much about the guy but he was the youngest ever player to make a first-team appearance for Bayern, has 17 caps for Denmark and is highly regarded. I don't think anyone even knows which type of midfielder he is but at least he has some physical stature, standing as he does at 6 foot 1.  Again, at 20 years old, this can only be a good thing to get a highly regarded international footballer on a five year contract. The internet jokes about him signing for Liverpool are already really fucking boring, even if they are understandable.

It looks like another player coveted by Liverpool will not be joining them as Ryan Bertrand has signed a new five year contract tying him (in theory) to the club until 2021. It was nice to hear him saying in his interview how much he has benefited from a regular football. It's good to know there are still a few players who think that way. It is great news that he has signed a new contract as he was one of the ones I could see other clubs coming in for and along with the recent new contracts for Virgil, Fraser, Davo and JWP, reinforces that the players are happy with the ambition at the club even if the Lying Dutchman wasn’t.

What else do we need…. In my opinion we need another striker unless the medical staff have managed to find a way to get J-Rod and Charlie Austin through the season without getting badly injured. Whilst I think that the signings of Hojbjerg and Redmond are decent and it’s obvious that we are spending money on new contracts for key players, it would be nice to have one signing that has a real wow factor to it. However, the last couple of times we've tried to do this, it's ended up with Gaston or Osvaldo sized fuck ups. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be nice however and a bit more reliable than those two.

Away from the pipe dreams of signing name players, it is good to see that the philosophy of the club regards to buying potential and selling a couple of years later for top dollar, is alive and well. Sometimes as a fan however, it would be nice to have a summer where we could look forward to the new season without a level of uncertainty. For example, if everyone had stayed including the manager, we would certainly have been confident of finishing in the top 10. Now, we could finish anywhere between 5th and 17th. Personally, I think the signs are good but I'm just worried about the amount of goals that have been sold with Mane and Pellè leaving. I wonder if Antoine Griezmann fancies coming to England but staying in red and white stripes next season?

Oh yes, the manager. The new main man is Claude Puel who has a very good record from managing teams in France. He is therefore ideally placed to sign Griezmann for us for next season (ha!). Little is known of Claude over here so it's an interesting one. One thing that has been emphasised is his preference to promote youth players from within the club's Academy which is of course part of the club philosophy that went to shit under the Lying Dutchman. Claude seems to speak at a decent level of English which is comforting and seems to be quite a steely, determined kind of individual. His playing career was spent totally at one club, AS Monaco so just maybe we now have a manager with at least some appreciation of the idea of sticking around. In his playing career, he had a reputation for being a Roy Keane type of player but hopefully without the psychotic episodes. Hopefully, he will be a massive success… and then not sod off after a couple of years. 

Pre-season training has started for anyone who was not involved in Euro 2016 and now that tournament is over, we can all focus on August 13 when we start at home against Watford. Claude will need to get the boys hitting the ground running as of the first three home games are all very winnable, being as they are against Watford Sunderland and Swansea where as the away games are a fucking nightmare with Manchester United and Arsenal up first. The TV companies have stepped up to the plate straight away and fucked us around giving us Manchester United away on a Friday night, purely so they can cover Mourinho’s first home game and the fact that our fans have a fucking ridiculous journey on a Friday night now won't have even entered into their thinking.

When the Euro 2016 players come back I can imagine Davo being very happy with his summer, Shane pulling his Italian Goalkeeper face to anyone who asks, Fraser and Ryan with a resigned 'yeah, whatever' shrug and Jose and Cedric having stolen the trophy, filled it with alcohol and still being pissed, lurching up the corridors at Staplewood.  The Portuguese Men of War return.  It's comforting to know that our back 5 will consist of two European Champions, England's No 1-elect, England's no 3 elect and the only one not in the Euro's was Virgil Van Dijk.  Not a bad defence to base a team on for Claude.
Anyway, I hope that we have seen the last of outgoing first team players and we can look forward to another good season in the Premier League.  I feel like it may be a bit much to expect another season is of improving our league position but I think I've said that at the start of the last three seasons. Anyway, #WeFuckingMarchOn