"Not a Penalty, Not a Penalty.... Oh it's the big club... Penalty!"
Spurs away today and that isn’t easy. They haven’t lost at home all season and though people are pointing out that we were the last side to beat them at White Hart Lane – that was when they were on the beach after Leicester had won the league last season. It’s annoying but Mauricio Pochettino has turned them from perennial 5th placers to a team that is there or thereabouts, right at the top of the league. An incredibly hard working team with very physically strong players like Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dier in defence, Wanyama and Dembele in midfield and a sprinkling of stardust from Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane. They are a very difficult team to play against and we got our arses handed to us at St Mary’s earlier on this season to the tune of 4-1. They absolutely dumped on us in midfield that day so that’s one area we’re going to have to compete strongly in if we are to have any chance today. They have a bit of a nasty streak in them as well with Vertonghen, Dembele and Dele Alli all capable of being complete shits. Good players but horrible fuckers. Something we are lacking in our team. As well as our ex-manager, they also have some of our ex-players in the aforementioned Toby Alderweireld and Big Vic who would both still be Saints players if most of us had our way. Can you imagine a back four of Bertrand, Virgil, Toby and Cedric with Big Vic and Romeu in front of them. Goals conceded – very few.
The full ridiculousness of our fixtures this season came into full view when Chelsea won their FA Cup tie last week and we had yet another postponement as a result, meaning that three more games now have to be shoehorned into April and May. It suddenly occurred to me how predictable this was in that on the weekends of the FA Cup 5th Round, 6th Round and Semi-Finals, we had pencilled in League Fixtures against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea who are three huge clubs who are almost guaranteed to be still in the FA Cup on those dates. Ok, we knew the Europa League would give us a game every three days at the start of the season but we got needlessly shafted with the 3 games in 5 days at Christmas and we’re going to get shafted at the end of the season as well. All entirely preventable is the FA had any nous.
There was some positive news with the England squad announcement in that JWP and Nathan Redmond both got their first call-ups for the full squad, joining Fraser Forster and Ryan Bertrand in Southgate’s first squad as permanent England manager. That word ‘permanent’ seems to have emboldened Southgate with him binning Walcott and Rooney from the squad. Walcott is a strange one as he’s been playing this season and doing well but Rooney has had it coming on form grounds for a while. Then the spoilt it by picking Luke Shaw who has played about 3 games since he left Saints two and a half years ago.
To the teams today and Claude has gone with the same side again, again pairing the calamitous Maya and Jack at centre back. Harry Kane being injured might not mean it’s as bad as I fear but I reckon the chances of letting in less than two goals are slim. I always had a go at Pochettino for not having a Plan B but he seems to have now, going 3 at the back with Walker and Davies playing as wing backs. Referee today is Andre Marriner, who we last had at Wembley when of course, as far as we’re concerned, he didn’t cover himself in glory.
We don’t start that well and Tottenham’s Kane replacement, Son Hueng Min has the first chance. It’s a brilliant ball from Eriksen out on the right which curls in behind the flailing Yoshida and Son hits it first time only for Fraser to be in the right place to block well. We’re just holding on at the start with no real presence in midfield but Redmond attempts to break on the left and gets to the ball well before Dier who comes launching in and carts Redders up in the air. It’s a bad one and you’d be fearing a red card if it was one of ours but of course it’s just a yellow.
We still haven’t really done anything in the game when we go 1-0 down. Dembele, under no pressure gives it to Eriksen and he cuts in from the right into a gaping hole where one of Davis or Romeu should be protecting the centre backs and just passes it into the net from the edge of the box. It looks like a really good goal but fuck me, how easy did we make it for him?
We learn from this mistake by trying it again as Vertonghen passes it into Alli. The nearest player is Stephens who is scratching his fucking arse about 5 yards away and marking no one but luckily, Alli’s shot on the turn was scuffed and straight at Fraser. Apparently, Dele Alli doesn’t want to be called Alli anymore and wishes it to be first name only but he’s such a twat I’ll carry on with Alli.
From our first bit of positive play, JWP’s cross is headed up in the air and JWP does well to win the header. It drops to Romeu who tries a sort of scissor volley which he hits well and it deflects of Alderweireld and just wide for a goal kick. Yep, you read that right.
The Romeu effort is a bit of a brief interlude as a long diagonal from Alderweireld is won easily in the air by Alli as Stephens didn’t get off the ground and eventually we smuggle it away for a corner. From it, Alderweireld has a free header and Fraser gets down well to claw it out. How one long ball caused this much grief is plain for all to see. Be big, be strong, mark your man and just head the fucking ball.
We finally have a bit of pressure and some link up play with Bertrand finding Gabbiadini, to Tadic and a pull back and Gabbi swings his left foot, catches it superbly on the run and it curls just wide and into the side netting. Good effort but oh fuck, it looks like he’s pulled something. Gabbi carries on – another attack and Cedric hoists in a huge cross which looks like it’s out but Redmond manages to keep it in beyond the back stick. The lino has flagged for a goal kick and anyway, Tadic creams it over the bar from 6 yards with an open goal. On the replay it’s nowhere near out so why the fuck has the linesman flagged. I guess we’ll never know if Tadic knew the flag was up or whether his finish was just shit. What we do know is that if he’d scored like he should then Marriner and the lino between them would have disallowed it.
Whilst the fume is rising about all this, Gabbiadini is done for the day and Long is on but not yet as Spurs attack again. Vertonghen plays it into Son and there’s some Keystone cops pinball carnage involving Cedric, Romeu and Yoshida who tries some sort of wanky scorpion kick clearance thing and as it comes out towards Davis, Alli comes in, dives over his leg, crumbles and Marriner does the rest. Cunts. There’s contact and I can see why it’s given but he’s completely bought it. With Kane missing, is Alli going to score? Of course he fucking is and 2-0 it is. We’re then allowed to bring Shane Long on to give us 11 players to play against the 12.
So 2-0 down and our main striker off and for a moment it looks like we’re getting buried with Eriksen pulling the strings and nearly putting Son through again.
Right on half time, Redmond attacks on the left and there’s a decent chance but Dembele cynically blocks him off when he tries to go past him. It’s a ‘good’ foul from a Spurs point of view and 100% deliberate and no attempt to play the ball but Andre the Cunt decides it’s not a yellow card. We make a laughable bollocks of the free kick with JWP rolling it to no one but Cedric makes something of it by smashing in a shot which Lloris funbles out to Tadic. Ben Davies takes a swing to try and clear it but misses the ball and whacks Tadic who takes a step before throwing himself. It’s the same as the Alli incident basically in that the defender didn’t mean to make contact but he did and the forward makes a meal of it. Needless to say, Andre the Cunt thinks this one is fine and so it’s play on. What’s the fucking point? Half time.
To be honest we deserve to be behind as the midfield and defence haven’t competed. Big Vic and Dembele are just shitting all over Davis in particular and in my opinion we need more presence in there in the shape of Hojbjerg. Anyway, whilst I’m still trying to come up with a substitution and a tactical switch, the second half starts and Bertrand gets away on the left, fires over a low cross which Alderweireld misses and there’s JWP at the back post to control and ram it into the net. 2-1 – game on!
We are suddenly at least having parity in midfield as Romeu has woken up and we’re getting the ball to Tadic and Redmond but forays forward keep getting halted by Shane Long either mis-controlling or being offside. Fucking hell man – you’re the fastest player on the pitch and they are leaving half a pitch for you to run into. Just time your fucking run…. He eventually does time a run and Davis slots him through but his shot from an angle is comfortably saved by Lloris who then for some reason, drops the ball and falls over it.
Boufal is on for Tadic who has again struggled to make much happen and Harry Winks, another little shit in the attitude stakes, is on for Spurs. Whilst we’re having a decent amount of the play, we not creating much as a combination of Long being offside, being flagged offside when he’s not and Boufal playing like a man who is playing football for the first time, is hampering things somewhat. The last throw is J-Rod on for Redmond and us going 4-4-2. I don’t see why J-Rod doesn’t come on for Davis or maybe even a defender. We’re 2-1 down and not going to get another goal unless something changes. Like for like – basically replacing a player with an inferior one who was sub for a reason – is unlikely to cut it.
We try going long with Cedric pinging it but J-Rod can’t be arsed to jump and it’s headed back with the lumbering Janssen knocking it past Stephens who doesn’t commit himself when he really should be taking everything out and he eventually hammers in a powerful shot at the near post which Fraser again saves well.
90 minutes are up and we do have one chance as good play by Long and JWP tees up Boufal on the right hand edge of the box and he cuts infield, it all opens up and then he shanks it wide. Arse. The end.
To be honest, I'm not that gutted when it's over and our defeat has been confirmed. I honestly didn't expect to get anything out of today. The only thing gnawing away at me yet again is that we have definitely had the shit end of the important refereeing decisions. The two penalty shouts are so similar it's crazy. Neither Steve Davis or Ben Davies meant to commit a foul but both caught the forward and brought them down without touching the ball. Yes, Tadic made a meal of it but so did Alli as he always does but they get the penalty and we don't. The one that really gets me ultimately didn't matter because Tadic whacked the ball over the bar from 3 yards. Southampton cannot go away to places like Arsenal and Tottenham and not get a fair shake of the refereeing decisions and expect to win. It just isn't going to happen. It probably all seems like sour grapes and to be shitting on about the referee after the game but this is Andre Marriner and maybe he shouldn’t have refereed us this soon after the EFL Cup Final
It’s interesting reading the columns by ex-pro referees in the papers the next day. Graham Poll was incredulous about us not getting a penalty for the Tadic incident and Mark Halsey was up in arms that Eric Dier didn't get sent off for the launching of Nathan Redmond in the first half which would have made a bit of a difference if Spurs are been down to 10 men after 10 minutes.
Claude afterwards was moaning that we let in two goals despite not being under any pressure. That's what happens if you keep playing the same players in central defence and expect to get different results. It’s the definition of madness. I don't understand why Martin Caceres isn't playing yet? We are wedging out loads of cash to have him here as a non-playing a substitute at the moment whilst the players in his position continue to fuck up on a daily basis. He must be fit enough to start a game now and he must play for the last 11 games of the season. The only thing that I can think of is that we haven't yet another two week break before our next game so he really has to be 100% fit by then.
With the unfortunate injury to Gabbiadini we are now back to where we were before the January transfer window which means playing at the permanently offside Shane Long upfront or J-Rod who still looks nothing like the player he was before his injuries. When you've seen Gabbiadini for a few weeks, you realise quite how limited Shane Long is. Yes he is quick but this is nullified by his brainless running into offside positions. It should've been tailor made for him today with Spurs playing such a high line but he was caught offside about 6 times and on the one occasion when he wasn't offside, he got flagged anyway, probably because the linesman took one look at who it was running after the ball and decided that he must be offside on the balance of probability.
We started to slowly today and let Spurs dictate the game. The first goal was down to our old favourite of no one closing down the player on the edge of the box and the second was of course a soft penalty. We only really started playing with any intent after half time, got our goal back but I never really sensed that we were going to get another at any point.
Annoyingly, Spurs are a very good side with a good balance of steel and flair. They are definitely the second best side in the Premier League this season. Big Vic did a good job in winning the ball though he did often give it back to us if he tried anything more ambitious than s 5 yard ball. Dele Alli is of course a very good player but a horrible little shit and it seems that Harry Winks is determined to follow in his footsteps. He is not as good a player yet but he seems to have a bit of an attitude about him and is the sort of player that you would like to see get fucking slapped by someone.
There were good performances for Saints from the usual suspects, Romeu in the 2nd half, Cedric, Bertrand. All of Redmond, Tadic and JWP had their moments but were all a little too in and out of the game. Steve Davis really struggled against the physical Tottenham midfield and this is something that I've noticed when we come up against the big sides in that he seems to get out run and outmuscled and caught in possession which doesn't happen to him against the more rank-and-file members of the Premier League. He's had a bit of a ropey old season so it was nice to see Fraser Forster pulling out a few good saves today and looking more like his old self.
Next up, guess what, a two week break but at least this time it's everyone as its international week. After that we return to Premier League action with a home game against Bournemouth who much to my surprise have managed to haul themselves away from the relegation zone with two recent narrow home wins. With Gabbiadini in the team I was really looking forward to playing them but hopefully J-Rod will be able to reproduce the form that he showed at Dean Court or the Vitality Bowl or whatever the fuck it's called these days.
After today’s defeat, the league table says we are still in the top half with two games in hand so it's not all bad, as opposed to Andre fucking Marriner who is very bad indeed. He doesn't have the personality of Clattenburg in that you want to punch him in the face but he is proving to be just as incompetent.