Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Premier League Match 8 - Southampton 2 Newcastle 2

Rafa and Mauricio Dressed as Wankers

After what seems like ages, we’re back at SMS for the first of four season defining games.  Four games in which we need to put some serious points on the board – I’m talking 8-10.  Get that and there won’t be as much pressure on the December fixtures when we take on all the big boys.

A quiet week at Saints was punctuated with the news that Sir Rickie Lambert has retired at the age of 35.  Personally I was not surprised given all was quiet since he got released by Cardiff at the end of last season.

In my Saints supporting lifetime I’ve had a few favourite players who you would put in the ‘legend’ category, I started in 75/76 and the first favourite was Mick Channon, then Keegan, then le Tissier and after him came Rickie Lambert.  The post has been vacant for the past 3 years since the big man left.  A season with Liverpool, one with West Brom and one with Cardiff and he’s done, retired from football at the age of 35. 

When he left to join Liverpool I wrote this…

It still stands up pretty well aside from the line about ‘Brendan Rodgers knows what he’s buying’.  I was giving Rodgers some credit there but in fact, as it turned out, Rodgers used Rickie as a loss leader so he could sign Lallana and Lovren.  Yep, Brendan is a wanker and I recoil every time he gets linked with the Saints job.

I totally understand Rickie going to Liverpool and I’m sure he’s glad that he did but in football term, he would have been better off staying with us.  In a hypothetical world, If he’d stayed, we wouldn’t have had to flog Graziano Pellé to death and make him play every game in his first season and Rickie would have got more of a look in than he did at Liverpool. 

Rickie did an interview when he retired, putting us firmly at the top of his list of clubs but the most interesting bit was him talking about the mental effect of not being a regular starter any more when he joined Liverpool.  He thinks now that he was wrong to accept that.  That’s a shame but maybe it will act as a warning to others – probably not the generation of players who are making theor way in the game now.  I also think that the fact that (by his admission) he didn’t look after himself in the early part of his career has contributed to him being the kind of player who always struggled for fitness if not playing regularly.  It was never really a problem when he was with us. 

Not only did he score the goals that won us the JPT, got us promoted out of League 1, got us promoted out of the Championship and then established us in the Premier League – he also defined the way we played by being the target man and the focal point of our attack and the main man that the others play off of.  Pellé replaced him well for two years but look at how directionless we are now in attack.  How we could do with signing a 27 year old Rickie Lambert now.  Good luck with your retirement big man and hope to see you at St Mary’s soon in some capacity.

So, an international break with Saints players disappearing off all round the world and the hope that they would come back unharmed.  As is always the case, some fared better than others in terms of results as they bid to propel their countries to the World Cup Finals next year.  England, with Ryan Bertrand playing and Fraser Forster on the bench, predictably qualified with very boring wins of Slovenia and Lithuania.  It was the usual easy qualification due to our half decent individual players but we’ve done the same as always and qualified due with no prospect of anything except more disappointment in the summer.  We have the usual ticks in the usual boxes -   No coherent style of play, no bedded in system, big club reserve players who are crap etc etc.  On top of that we can add ‘manager with charisma and inspirational qualities of a lettuce’.  For every Harry Kane we have a Jordan Henderson and for every Marcus Rashford we have an Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

Spot the Difference

For other countries it was more interesting for the Saints players.  After missing a few sitters and chances to end his run of 30 odd club and country games without a goal, Shane Long missed the game with Wales with a knock.  Regardless, Ireland beat the arrogant fuckers 1-0 so one year after giving it the big one about England going out of Euro 2016, the same Welsh players are out of the World Cup, knocked out by Dusan Tadic and Serbia and Shane Long and Ireland.  Don’t let the door hit your arse.  So, Shane and Ireland have a two legged playoff to negotiate and good luck to them.  The Dutch, with Virgil van Dijk in the team and Wesley Hoedt on the bench won two matches but still went out as Sweden made the playoffs.  Virgil played both games which I guess is good for his match fitness so it should benefit us, if he can be arsed.  Cedric will be making the trip after helping Portugal beat Switzerland and enough time has passed now to wish José Fonte well on what will surely be his international swansong.  Manolo Gabbiadini will be in the playoffs with Italy which was guaranteed even before the latest games.  Mario Lemina and Gabon had an outside chance of qualifying but he’ll be watching the finals on TV as they came up short.

So, Newcastle are in town today, having been promoted last year.  This has been as close to a banker fixture for us as any over recent season as The Magpies never seem to give a fuck when they come down here and we beat them easily.  Let’s hope for some of that today but with the experienced Rafa Benitez in charge, I doubt that’ll happen.  They’ve had a decent start considering that Mike Ashley decided not to invest in the team this summer so they pretty much have their Championship side.  They will see staying up as success but I think they will be comfortable this season, around the 12th place mark.

The assumption I had was that whilst all this international stuff was going on, Mauricio Pellegrino and the coaching staff would have been working out a way for us to score some fucking goals and be more progressive.  A change in formation to three at the back was widely touted as local journos who I respect and it does seem kind of obvious.  By Sunday at about 3pm we had the answers and as had been hinted when substitutions were made when we were chasing games before, Steven Davis was left out with Gabbiadini and Long in the starting line up.  Redmond and Tadic both kept their places despite Boufal being the man in our last outing at Stoke and all the internationals were safely back. Maya Yoshida was skipper and Wesley Hoedt who wants to be here, was again left out for a player who clearly doesn’t.

I have a new ritual every time I go to St.Mary’s now in that I find my seat, pick up the plastic clapper thing and launch it about 5 rows down into some empty seats.  I’m old school and I don’t want that shit.  The pre-match this season is not too bad with upbeat loud tunes and a mercifully shortened version of the fucking ‘My Way’ monstrosity.  The Saints are Coming… what a fucking song that is by the way.

Away we go and Gabbi and Shane are right up top and it looks like we’re 4-4-2.  Virgil pings a 70 yarder over the full back to Tadic which brings applause and then Tadic turns down the right footed cross, swaps it onto his left, then turn out and passes back to Cedric who turns and passes it back to Virgil.  For fuck sake.  What are we fucking scared of – at risk of going full Mike Bassett – get it in the fucking box.

Things liven up a bit as Tadic turns Shelvey who really can’t be arsed to go with him but he curls his shot over.  Tadic is wasteful again when Redmond does well ont eh left and stands up a great cross and Tadic has peeled away to the back stick like Sir Rickie used to do and there the comparison ends as he tries to lob a header over Elliot and instead puts it over in shit fashion.  Shit decision to try and lob a header and shit execution.  We did however, have three men in the box.

Newcastle are working hard without showing anything really up front but what do you fucking know.  An attack down the right is stopped by Virgil and then he sloppily waves a foot at it and presents it back to Newcastle.  Over it comes and Atsu’s shot is blocked by Yoshida but Haden returns it straight away and Fraser is lumbering off in the wrong direction as the ball speeds past his foot.  Fucking hell.

Saints respond quite well with Romeu chipping into the box and Gabbi swinging at it only for Lejeune to block for a corner.  Over it comes and Elliott decides to come flying out, gets nowhere near it and the ball flies off Virgil’s head and wide.  Some nice one touch passing around the area carves out an opportunity for Long but… you know the rest.

That’s more or less it for the first half.  We’ve looked pretty at times but created nothing of note and Elliott hasn’t had to make a save.  Lemina has been immense but Tadic and Redmond have been fitful at best and Long and Gabbi haven’t had a sniff.  At the back, Virgil has been part casual and part sloppy and Maya has not won a single challenge against Joselu.

At the start of the second half we are shite again as Perez walks past Virgil who isn’t arsed, crosses, it deflects up off of Joselu and onto the bar.  It’s eventually corssed back in and Fraser appear to have all his bearings wrong and flaps it for a corner.  We get away with that one and from Newcastle’s next attack we break up play and Redmond gets it out on the left.  A diagonal ball and Gabbiadini picks it up on the right hand side of the Newcastle penalty are and Manquillo allows him to turn out, make his way across the top of the penalty area and squirm a shot intot he near bottom corner.  Great finish but shite defending for 1-1.

The relief is palpable around the stadium.  Newcastle kick off and we tear into them again – Redmond wins the ball and passes to Shane who falls over it.  Off go Newcastle down our left, a ball infield and Virgil is out of position and Romeu has not tracked Perez who picks it up and from a narrow angle, blasts it at the near post.  Fraser parries it back into play and Perez smashes it past him at the near post.  60 seconds and we’re 2-1 down. Fuck off.  Still, a good team goal from us with Shane, Berty, Virgil, Oriol and Fraser all at fault in some capacity.  It’s nice to share these things around.

Newcastle right back Yedlin who earlier got booked for arguing about a decision, the launches at Redmond, catches him high and the ball is nowhere.  It’s as clear a yellow card as you’ll ever see and players have got a straight red for less this season.  Kevin Friend however, completely bottles it and does fuck all. Memories of that game at home to Liverpool a few years ago when there should have been two Saints penalties and a Liverpool red card within the first minute but he bottled it.  Wanker.

Boufal is on for Redmond on the hour mark as we set out on once again, trying to get back into the game and whilst most are expecting Austin for Long, on comes Steve Davis for Romeu who has not had his best of games by his usually high standards.

On 75 a Newcastle attack is broken up and we break forward with Long, exchanging passes with Boufal and reaching the box where in a position of no danger whatsoever, Lejeune takes him out.  I’m at the other end of the pitch and I can see that Shane had played for it but the ref buys it and we have a penalty.  The usual horrified glances around and the expectation of Tadic taking it but Manolo has the ball and having missed his last one, he laces this one left footed, three quarters of the way up and into the inside netting by the post.  Sir Rickie would have been proud.

Having given us the penalty, Kevin Friend goes back to having a nightmare as first Hayden pulls a shit tackle on Lemina – again it’s borderline red but he only gets a yellow and two minutes later, he trashes through Virgil and nothing happens.   Austin is on for Long but in truth, our efforts to win it don’t get off the ground.  Suddenly it’s all Newcastle with Davis and a knackered Lemina struggling to cover the ground in midfield.  It’s all Newcastle for the last 5 and it looks like we’ve lost as Lejeune meets a corner with a good header but Davo is there to hack it off the line.  Virgil seems to get a bit of adrenalin and professionalism about himself for the last few minutes as he’s everywhere – headers, blocks and clearances.  Full time and two points dropped or one gained?  You decide.

For me, it’s a bit of a lucky point really. You can shit on all you like about possession based statistics but when it comes down to what actually matters, shots on goal, we had two and scored twice whilst Newcastle managed to hit the bar and have one cleared off the line as well as the two goals that they did get. The penalty decision is very interesting. First of all, there’s contact so the referee kind of has to give it. Lejeune has jumped in like a twat with Long going absolutely nowhere and he’s given Long the opportunity to go over which he of course has taken. Long has actually almost toed the ball out of play before the tackle arrives so he's undoubtedly bought it and the strikers union will say well played. It is interesting though that no Newcastle players complain to the referee when the penalty was given and that is almost unheard of at Premier League level.

Once Gabbiadini dispatched the penalty, having taken Romeu off and replacing him with Davis, we were horribly open in midfield and that's what bought Newcastle on to us in the last 10 minutes. Fair play to Steven Davis for getting back and clearing that header off the line.

Lemina tired in the last 10 minutes but up to that point, for the fourth game running, he was absolutely fucking awesome.  He is a one man midfield machine getting up and down the pitch, driving the team forward, winning tackles and showing a real desire and will to win. He reminds me of a young Roy Keane without the psychopathic tendencies. We have done well to get hold of such an unbelievable player but the trouble is, as you all know, he stands out a fucking mile so we are going to have problems keeping hold of him past the end of the season. Sorry to put a massive downer on things.

Who knew that with Gabbiadini in the side, it would make it more likely that we score a goal? He is absolutely a class act and he is the only striker we have with any class whatsoever. Shane Long put in a great shift for the team but it's the same old problem now standing at 21 games without a goal. In the same way but I don't believe we can have Steve Davis offering zero goal threat from attacking midfield position. I don't believe we can have a non-scoring striker. I'm not Charlie Austin's biggest fan but he'd be more of a threat with another striker in close proximity.

We basically played with two up front today but I can't see this being an experiment that Pellegrino repeats too often. In his post match interview, you could tell that he was absolutely mortified that we didn't have control of the midfield, that we didn't control possession in the middle third of the pitch. 65% is apparently not enough for him.  It’s enough possession to win any game if you have shots on target to reflect that dominance.  In Pellegrino’s favour though, he did play two strikers today and the substitutions all made us more attacking.

The players are guilty of risk-aversion.  Maybe they’re under instruction but for the first half in particular, our first thought was always to go backwards, never more accurately illustrated than in the first minute when Virgil playing a 70 yarder across to Tadic on the right wing near the corner flag. Bearing in mind that we had two strikers today you would've thought he would've crossed it but no, he turned out and passed to Cedric who was 30 yards behind him who then turned and passed all the way back to Virgil who was stood exactly where he was when he played the 70 yard ball in the first place. Un-fucking-believable. There was another incident in the first half where we won a throw-in halfway inside the Newcastle half on the left. Bertrand went to take it and he had Redmond and Gabbiadini showing for him up the pitch but instead he turned around and throw it back to Virgil and we ended up passing it back to Forster in goal who lumped it up the middle of the pitch.

We only trying to do something progressive when we are behind and we almost have nothing to lose. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the wingers on the wrong side thing does my fucking head in.  It's a defensive move to in theory make the midfield more compact but the detrimental effect it has on our attacking is huge. You are much more likely to score if you attack at pace and there are only six or seven defenders back it only takes a wasted half a second for the winger check back onto his good foot before they cross it, for the opposition to have 10 players in the box. It's fucking crap and it's not rocket science.  Tadic is actually quite good when he plays on the left but in the main, he is a frustrating bag of shit when he plays on the right. The odd one or two bits of decent supply in amongst a mess of attack killing fucking around.  Redmond is slightly different in that he tries to inject pace into the game but it's never by going outside down the line.  On occasions he gets his head up and plays a decent ball like he did for Gabbiadini’s first goal but more often than not he just runs head long into traffic and loses the ball.  For the second time in a row, Boufal came on and made a huge difference. I really cannot see why he is not starting games now. He commits defenders and he also works hard and tracks back. Sure, he is going to lose the ball occasionally but so do the two wingers who are currently playing.

Behind the wingers, the fullbacks were both poor today with Bertrand being the less poor of the two. Maybe it was an international week hangover from the pair of them. Cedric is another example of the risk averse nature of Pellegrino's Saints.  He had chances to take on the full back on numerous occasions and on each occasion he just turned out and kept possession again.

We have to talk about Virgil I guess.  He played at approximately 50%. He is good enough at 50% to look half decent and spraying Hollywood balls out of the wings is a good way to look decent with minimal effort. The damage is done though. A ball was pumped into our penalty area from a freekick and about six players went up for it including Virgil and I swear that he ducked underneath it and just let it go. Now, he may have decided not to head it or he might not have but the problem is, I'm questioning it. To me, too often it looked like he didn't give a fuck. He lost runners at vital times and didn't cover himself in glory on either goal that we conceded or in the incident where Joselu hit the bar.  He did well in the last few minutes to be fair, getting himself in the position to make important blocks.  The Virgil-Maya centre back pairing makes no sense to me.  If as a manager you want to pick on attitude then it’s Hoedt and Yoshida.  If you want to pick on ability then it’s Hoedt and Virgil.  Hoedt is the only left footed one so there’s a balance argument as well.

I really hope that we get Virgil out of the door in January (not to Liverpool, obviously) and use the money to get in another centre back and also strengthen further forward. There are rumours (probably poor rumours) that Barcelona are interested in him and in one of the funniest things that I've read for ages, Liverpool pundits are saying this is just to piss them off because they didn't let Coutinho leave. As if Barcelona conduct their business with Liverpool in mind.

Also not covering himself in glory today was Fraser Forster.  He’s been better of late and I think that a lot of the criticism he gets is ridiculous but what the fuck was that today?  So laboured and clumsy on his feet for the first goal and rule one in the goalkeeper book is not to parry it back into dangerous areas so I’ve no idea what the hell was going on for the 2nd goal.

There were some positives today. Two upfront was a statement of intent, as were the substitutions made during the game. Boufal for Redmond was obvious though I have to say I was a bit mystified by Davis coming on for Romeu especially bearing in mind that we were in effect one midfielder light already.  It’s an attacking move though so maybe Pellegrino is getting the message.

As said earlier, the profile of the players that we have in our squad seem to be screaming at the manager to play three at the back so maybe after a full week with all the players being around, we will see this against West Brom next Saturday in the second of our four game season shaping spell of fixtures.  I wouldn’t bank on it though.  I would expect the same formation but if that’s the case then maybe Boufal on the left, and JWP on the right would offer more.  One thing is for sure and that is that Gabbiadini has to play and hopefully the manager finds a way to get two strikers on the pitch again.  More questions than answers, again.

As we leave the ground, I pick up my coat which is under my seat and I realise that the two five year olds who have been allowed by their Dad to piss everyone off in a 10 seat radius have won.  Not only do I feel that I have tinnitus from their high pitched yelping but my coat couldn’t hold any more soft drink if it tried. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Premier League Match 7 - Stoke 2 Southampton 1

Feel the Fume !!!

Stoke at the Britannia in one of the most unappetising games of the season but one that’s always a good yardstick as to whether your team fancies it.  Mark Hughes has come under a bit of pressure for an indifferent start and they have a few injury problems so we should be looking to capitalise and really go for the three points.  Hopefully we can take the form of the second half against Man United into this game from the start.

The build up has been quite understated for this game and you-know-who has been the centre of most of it.  Judging by Mauricio’s press conference, it appears that Virgil will make his first start of the season which I assume will mean a change in formation to three at the back.  The boss had also said that he liked that formation at previous clubs.  Ok, bring it on.  So, I was quite looking forward to this until I heard Virgil interviewed upon the launch of FIFA 18 and he got asked who would go furthest in the Champions League out of the British Clubs – “Liverpool”.  This is despite them being shit and City and United being on fire.  Then he was asked who his most difficult opponent was – “Daniel Sturridge”.  Ok, now I know you’re taking the piss.  He absolutely had Sturridge in his pocket when we played them last year so that’s complete shite.  If you’re going to carry on sucking Liverpool’s dick Virgil, then get a fucking room.

So, I was expecting something a bit different with the formation and the team but the only change was Virgil coming in for Wesley Hoedt.  Hang on a minute – what the fuck has Hoedt done to deserve getting dropped for someone who hasn’t played for 9 months?  There were rumours that Hoedt was carrying a bit of a knock coming into the united game so maybe that’s the issue.  In some ways I hope it is.  The Hoedt decision is not all that’s slightly annoying – the same personnel in the same formation in the front positions.  Davis, Redmond, Tadic, Long…. Nothing different going on there.  Maybe Redmond and Tadic are going to play on the opposite sides to usual or else it’s the same shit different day.  Completely underwhelming.  The bench includes our two players who know where the goal is as well as the X-Factor of Boufal and the best set piece taker in JWP.  I guess the logic is that we dug out a 1-0 win against Palace in our last away game so this will do.  Stoke are better than Palace though so we’ll see.

Away we go and it’s pedestrian, like we’re not really up for it.  Stoke’s Cameroonian striker, the entertainingly names Maxim Choupo-Moting picks up the ball and ambles forward, being allowed to shoot but it’s blocked by Virgil for a corner.  We appear to wake up a bit and Lemina is at the heart of it, driving forward and due to a lack of options and movement from others, decides to have an optimistic shot and curls it wide from 25 yards.

More chances are exchanged and we allow Shaqiri the freedom of the penalty area to test out Fraser and the big man is up to it.  After that, we break well up the right through Cedric and Tadic who slides a good ball in to Redmond and for a second it looks like he’s through but he doesn’t turn on the burners and when Diouf gets over to him, Redmond shows no strength at all and gets easily seen off.

With Stoke, you know you’re never too far from a shocking tackle and in it comes from Joe Allen.  There’s a loose ball bobbling about and then Lemina nearly has a couple of loose balls as Allen wellies him in the nuts.  How the fuck is that not a booking?  From the free kick, Stoke half clear it and Romeu stabs a ball through and Long is in the clear as one defender hasn’t pushed out.  He turns and in typical Long fashion, smashes it straight at Butland who to be fair, has got off his line quickly.  It’s the sort of chance that ‘has’ to hit the net.

Tadic then clips Diouf as he goes to tackle him and the ref doesn’t give a foul and Allen responds by cynically taking out Tadic as he breaks which he gets booked for – that should be his second yellow.  Stoke win a corner as Fletcher’s shot is blocked by Bertrand and over it comes from our left and Diouf simply heads it into the net from dead central from about 8 yards.  It’s pathetic defending by Lemina who has just let him go.  For fucks sake.  1-0 down to this shit.

Fromt heir next attack we attempt to make it even worse as Bertrand loses the ball and Berahino gets inside the box and tries to work his way into the middle.  He feels Virgil tugging on his arm and throws himself forwards to ensure it gets given and it does.  It stinks all round – Berahino has managed to be pulled back, yet dive forwards and Virgil looked like he just couldn’t be arsed to tackle him so he pulled him back.  Absolute shite.

There’s a chance because Berahino is taking it and he hasn’t scored since he accidentally took a load of drugs allegedly.  Up he steps and Fraser guesses correctly and keeps it out comfortably.  Well played big man but half time and 1-0 down.

We look lively initially after the break with Cedric digging out a superb cross but Shane can only head over and then he heads wide after Tadic turned a defender inside out.  Stoke are settling for 1-0 and on 60 minutes we need a bit more from somewhere and Boufal is on for Davis with the captains armband passing to Maya Yoshida and not to you know who.  Gabbiadini is soon on for the disappointing Redmond and Boufal is looking lively.

Then, praise the fucking lord, we get a corner.  Boufal’s kick ends up back with him and he takes on Diouf and beats him on the outside before crossing.  Long waves a foot at it and deflects it across the box and Yoshida takes off to execute a scissor kick volley thing perfectly and crash it into the top of the net.  Fucking hell, we did a goal.

In to the last ten and there’s only one team that looks like winning it (if you forget for a second how hard we find it to actually score).  Cedric swings over a free kick after Tadic has been fouled by Pieters and Yoshida is there again but can only divert into the side netting.  Stoke have taken off Berahino and thrown on the giraffe.  There’s a deep sense of impending doom about this and within five minutes this has proved to be prophetic.

In the under 14s side that I coach, I’ve forever telling the full backs that if they have a situation when they are facing their own goal line and they have a player up their arse – then whacking it out for a throw in or even a corner is the way to go.  I do that because it’s fucking obvious as trying to set up an attack from that position is not really playing the percentages in that scenario.  So, if Pellegrino wants me to have a word with Cedric then I’m happy to.  Cedric has this scenario and in addition, it’s pissing with rain and the pitch is wet.  He tries to dummy the striker who is behind him and slips on his arse, allowing Choupo-Moting a free run on goal.  Shoots, saved, pinball, carnage, penalty appeals as Oriol piles in and eventually the ball, via a lucky mis-hit finds its way to Crouch who is three yards out in amongs the strewn bodies of defenders. 2-1 – fuck off.

There are 5 minutes plus stoppages to go but you know we’re fucked.  Austin is on for Lemina and Virgil is thrown up front as well.  We have a go to be fair - Boufal to Bertrand, a cross and it’s just too far in front of Gabbi.  Then a Virgil flick on from a punt forward and Butland punches it into Gabbi but instead of bouncing in or to a Saints player like the scramble in our penalty area fell for Crouch, the ball hits Gabbi and bounces off for a goal kick.  Austin knocks one down to Long but a predictable shit first touch means the chance is gone.  Corners and whipped in with poor delivery and comfortably cleared and yawn.  The End.  This is a ridiculous defeat again, culled from an episode of Groundhog Day that we seem to be reliving over and over again.  Good in the main at the back and in midfield but completely blunt in the final third. 

We’ll start with the return of Virgil - I have to say that as we neared the end of the transfer window, as was as long as it wasn't to Liverpool, I wanted van Dijk gone. So, I didn't really know how I was going to react to him being back in the first team. On the one hand, I know that he's a world-class player when 100 percent fit and focused but on the other hand, if the two incumbent centre backs are playing really really well, then I would've been quite happy for Virgil to get splinters on his arse from being sat on the bench for the whole season if necessary. This is why I have a problem with him playing and Wesley being dropped.  He'd had a great game against Palace and apart from being fouled for United winner he had not put a foot wrong. That game was against a United side who have routinely been scoring four against absolutely everyone. I guess that we can expect Yoshida to be dropped next week as it was probably decided in advance that the two Dutchman would be the first choice centre back pairing.  It would be harsh to drop Maya as he’s done nothing wrong but neither has Wesley Hoedt.

The penalty incident was very interesting because it looked to me like Virgil just couldn't be fucking bothered to defend the run properly so he just held him back.  In that instant it made me wonder whether he was rusty or whether he actually gives a fuck.  Does he care as much as Yoshida or any of the others?  That’s the problem now – does he really care?  By all accounts he had a pretty decent game aside from that incident.  I guess that the bottom line is that I as a fan have not forgotten or forgiven all the shit that went down over the past six months.  If I was the manager, at the moment I wouldn’t trust him to put in that last ditch tackle when it was needed.

Now we get to Senor Pellegrino and the rest of his selections.  There is that oft quoted definition of madness - trying the same things and expecting a different result. If you pick as your four most advanced players, players who score approximately one goal every 10 or 15 games then what makes you think that they're going to score with any regularity. We need to rely on our very strong central midfield players and play a more attacking player in front of them and not Steven Davis who, great footballer that he is, hardly has a goal or an assist in him.   On the wings, Nathan Redmond has been crap this season. The odd flash of ability and the odd shot after a direct run is not enough for seven games of effort.  He’s actually been a good source of attacks for the opposition as he has a tendency to cough up possession by falling over when back in the defensive third.

Tadic played pretty well today but he is in the team to score goals and provide assists and so far he's not achieved much of this seven matches.  You could argue that with his assist today, Boufal has contributed more in half an hour.  Boufal should be starting, probably in place of Redmond but Tadic has to do so much more to justify his continued selection.  Hoedt got dropped despite doing nothing wrong yet our forward players get picked despite not providing what they’re in the team to provide.

Now we come to Shane Long.  For all his effort and commitment and being horrible to play against, he has not scored now for 20 matches and this is not the first time he's had a 20 match streak without a goal.  A good striker gets twitchy after going about 3 games without a goal.  Twenty games…. That’s half a season.  That tells you all you need to know. He's not a goal scorer and whilst he is the one striker in our team, we are never going to score enough goals.  I would be quite happy for him to play wide right but with our present goalscoring crisis, he can’t be the main starting striker.

I'm not Charlie Austin's biggest fan but at least he knows where to goal is. Also, Gabbiadini got dropped because he kept on making runs and the midfield players behind him couldn't pick him out and didn't give him the ball so consequently he looks completely ineffective. This was solved by dropping him and putting a striker with much less ability in his place instead of sorting out the actual root of the problem which was the supply.

This right footed player on the left and left footed player on the right thing that we do does not work for us.  It just means that every attack is slowed down to the point where the opposition can get loads of players behind the ball. Also today, with Stoke playing a very deep defence and not leaving Shane with any space to run into, why did we not try something different? We only try something different when we get to the last 20-25 minutes and we’re behind.  This was a piss poor Stoke side we were playing against and we left it til 60 minutes to try something different.  Pellegrino was supposed to be tactically flexible and whilst I don’t agree with totally changing everything (like Puel tried to do with the diamond), we clearly can’t go on like this.  I almost lost interest in this game as soon as I saw our line up.  Same again and guess what … we did the same again.

We lost in the end because the normally reliable Cedric fucked up big style.  What the fuck was he doing? – just fucking clear it.  You are not going to set up an attack when you’re facing your own goal line with a player up your arse so just clear it.  Man of the match today was the big man Fraser Forster who was superb – saving a penalty, catching everything in shite conditions for a keeper and basically being ‘The Wall’.  Unfortunately, for the goals there was a dereliction of duty from the players in front of him.  To be fair this doesn’t happen often but it happened today and we ended up losing to a very limited Stoke side.  I don’t think Mark Hughes could actually believe that they’d managed to get away with that one.

Someone's Rebuilt The Wall 

So, we have a couple of weeks to stew on this before Newcastle at home and following that there are three more winnable games against West Brom, Brighton and Burnley.  These four games are going to shape our season.  Comfortable mid-table to looking over our shoulders?

As the players arrived in their camps for international week, there was the usual interviews done.  For the foreign players, it’s good because they tend to be a bit less guarded in what they say.  Virgil – bearing in mind he had not uttered one word about Saints since the summer – used his interview to talk about hopefully being able to go in January, having no regrets about the way he acted and wanting to take a step up.  Now I’m sure a little has been added or lost in translation but his answer clearly wasn’t “I’m a Southampton player and that’s all I have to say for now”.  Words fucking fail me, aside from ‘drop him now and sell him in January to anyone except Liverpool’.

Ryan Bertrand, a player who according to common knowledge, also wanted to leave Saints in the summer, spoke of helping the Grenfell Tower victims and has also recently spoken of how Saints gave him a platform to prove himself and how grateful he was.  The difference couldn’t be more stark.  I know with Ryan Bertrand that if he makes a mistake then it will be genuine.  I remain to be convinced by Virgil van Dijk.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Premier League Match 6 - Southampton 0 Manchester United 1

Get Off the Pitch You Dickhead

Here comes the first difficult game. Well, they are all difficult but compare to what we had already, this is a whole new level.  Having had a few issues with drawing a load of games that they should of won last year, Manchester United had a rather spectacularly successful transfer window with Nemanja Matic sorting out the defensive midfield area which allows the creative players to go and create. Sure, they lost Zlatan to injury but have replaced him with Romelu Lukaku who so far, is absolutely ripping it up.   Just don’t sing songs about what he’s packing in his shorts though.  He doesn't quite have the presence of Zlatan but he has more pace which makes them an altogether scarier proposition.   Having spent £130 million on those two, they also paid £30 million for a centre back, Lindelof but he has not gotten the team as yet but Phil Jones has been fit so he has not been needed.  In my opinion, Jones has always been a better centre back than Smalling.  Even before you think about wages, these transfer fees show you the completely different level they are operating on compared to us.  

They still have Luke Shaw who appears to still be beating his thick-as-mince head against the wall in thinking that he can carve himself out and Manchester United career.  The manager thinks you’re shite mate – give it up.  Shaw just about beats Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the ‘Players who left Saints too early’ stakes. He simply wasn't ready either mentally, or as a player.  The manager who Shaw will never impress is of course, Jose Mourinho who apparently has a record of always winning the title in his second season. Well he's certainly made a good start this time around with 4 wins and a draw from 5 games.

I had the bizarre experience of having to write a semi serious piece for a Manchester United website and you can read it here. Unfortunately, The style of the piece meant that I couldn't get into talking about how United are self-entitled wankers and that it's only the travelling away fans who are in any way decent. To be honest, I'd rather beat Liverpool more than United but a win against United is never a bad thing and especially at St Mary's, it doesn't happen that often. In fact, it's only happened once. The Dell days and 3-1 and 6-3 and Matt Le Tissier chipping Schmeichel and Ostenstad’s hat-trick and grey shirts is a long long time ago.

Not so long ago, a week ago in fact, came more proof of the fucking ridiculous politically correct times that we living with the Lukaku song being deemed offensive and this generated a ridiculous amount of inches, that's column inches, as in newspaper column.  The world is gone fucking soft. Away from men's football, the FA have again proved themselves not fit for purpose following the sacking of the England women's manager, Mark Sampson. Having already  investigated and cleared the bloke twice of racism and bullying accusations, rightly or wrongly, they found something that he'd done about five years ago that they were fully aware of and decided to fire him for that.   The FA’s defence was that they were not fully aware of it because no one had read the report which they had, properly until last week.  Pathetic.  Whatever the rights and wrong is of how he's behaved, that is absolute bullshit. It's ironic that the woman who is accused him of racism and bullying is a lawyer. I wonder if she's an employment lawyer.  You really couldn't make it up but the FA clearly do at every turn.

Also, back in media fantasyland, there are still outlets that are trying to push Van Dijk to Liverpool. It's quite staggering really. They are talking about January when he absolutely will not go anywhere and they are also talking about the end of the season when he absolutely will not go to Liverpool. What's changed in the relationship between Saints and Liverpool? The only thing that might change by the end of the season is Jurgen Klopp’s position. We are beginning to get the first people noticing that he hasn't remotely improve the defence in two years in charge. Very amusing and watch this space. In some ways I hope these Liverpool stories keep coming up because Liverpool are playing well but none of the stories would be happening.

Moving onto today and the question is would Mauricio change the team from last week and introduce Virgil or would it be same again. I have a feeling, as I said on the United website link above, that Pellegrino is building us playing three at the back so I would not be at all surprised if Virgil is playing instead of Tadic or Redmond.  As it turns out it’s exactly the same team as we put out against Palace with the only changes coming on the bench.  It’s remarkable that we have a bench with so much ability on it… Virgil, Gabbi, JWP, Hojbjerg, Austin, Pied and McCarthy.  United meanwhile have not picked that horrible little shitbag Herrera and have nstead gone with the pair of elbows with a wig on top that is Fellaini.  A front four of Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Mata and Lukaku is not bad though is it?

Chairman Gao is introduced to the fans before the game –  careful Jinsheng, you’ll get a reputation for only turning up for the big games.  Away we go and it annoys me that we’re not smashing into them at every opportunity.  We seem content to just hold them at arms length and defend in numbers.  Fellaini is even looking like a decent player as they just knock it about.  We have intent when we get the ball though and Tadic finds himself running at the defence and getting towards the penalty area but he’s blocked off robustly and you are never getting that decision against United.

We’re holding our own but not really forcing things and on 20 minutes United take the lead when they build down the left and the totally right footed Young picks up the ball.  He faces up Tadic and it’s as obvious as you like that he’s going to cross it right footed.  Tadic does the same with his left foot from the right side in every game but he doesn’t close down the right footed cross and over it comes, Lukaku shoves Hoedt and meets it, great block by Fraser but it falls to Lukaku to simply knock it in the net.  Fuck.  To be honest, if he’d beaten Stephens like that I’d have been saying that he was bullied and Hoedt really should have been stronger but that really looks like a foul.

We need to recover and with our lack of goal threat, it’s already obvious that if we let in another then we are fucked, so Maya trashing through the back of Mata on the edge of the box is not what anyone wanted.  Up steps Rashford and it whistles about a foot wide of the near post and Fraser wasn’t getting it.

The United fans have spent about 10 minutes droning their version of ‘Feeling Good’ which is tedious in the extreme and then decide to sing about big cocks for a bit.  It suits them better I think.  There’s not a lot going on for the rest of the half aside from Shane Long catching Fellaini late and getting a yellow card.  Valencia is trying his best to get Craig Pawson to send him of but luckily it’s yellow.  Fellaini deserved it anyway.

The second half is a different kettle of fish altogether.  Romeu and Lemina have truly come to the party and we are suddenly dominating the game – higher up the pitch and looking more of a threat.  We win an early corner which Tadic puts over and it drops on the six yard line and it looks like Romeu must score but somehow he hooks it wide, understandable given that about four United players threw themselves at the ball.  Eric Bailly clearly hasn’t played against anyone quite like Shane Long before as he thinks he’d got time to saunter over to a loose ball.  No mate you haven’t.

Having been invisible in the first half, Nathan Redmond has woken up, drilling a hot at the near post which de Gea saves comfortably.  United as an attacking force are really not doing much and for the first time in months, there is actually a bit of excitement and expectation when we go forward.  Redmond again is on the run and swerves past both Matic and Valencia and whips over a first time left footed cross which is just a little bit too high for Long and he heads over.  We of course have a few dodgy moments when United break and Lukaku gets free on the right and drills in a shot which Fraser blocks well.

Lemina is running the show.  If we were winning you would say that he was show boating but there’s a real purpose in what he’d doing.  Winning the ball back and then pulling out all the tricks to make space for himself and set up another attack, making Matic and Fellaini look very average.  Mourinho is worried and on comes that little shit Herrera and Chris Smalling in place of Mata and Mkhitaryan to bolster the United rear guard effort.  Their fans are not singing about big cocks any more and are very quiet.  Daley Blind on for Rashford and a 6-2-1-1 formation.

Another corner, a Romeu header and the elbows with a wig heads it away from in front of the goal.  Mauricio rolls the dice and Steve Davis is off and Gabbiadini comes on.  Striker for midfielder – tick.  We had our first genuine ‘GOAAAAAAfuckittt’ moment for a while as Romeu ran at the Untied defence, playing passes with Gabbiadini and Tadic before screwing his effort across the goal and just in front of Long.

As the clock ticks down, two more subs with Cedric and the knackered Long replaced with Austin and JWP who goes to right back.  Running out of time here and Another Lemina run and we win another corner.  93 minutes are up but we have to delay because Mourinho is being a twat so the ref has to send him to the stand.  That diffuses the head of steam nicely doesn’t it for fucks sake.  United survive the corner despite Fraser being right up there in the mixer and another goalless home defeat is chalked up.

And bollocks. We played well though and have not got what we deserved. The fact that Mourinho was throwing on defenders and defensive midfielders in place and attacking players as the second-half wore on, tells you all you need to know about who was on top and looking the better side. Our fans appreciated it too and even though we scored zero goals at home yet again there is an appreciative ovation for the players at the end of the game. That's really cool actually because it shows that the home fans, or the majority of them anyway know something about football, appreciate the efforts and can see further than the fact that we lost.  As for the fucking 83 minute brigade… The majority of you are a fucking embarrassment.

Another game against United comes and goes where we got less than we deserved. I swear it's fucking psychological. For the first 30-40 minutes we gave them too mush respect and allowed players as limited as Fellaini to dictate the game. When we got into it and realise that they actually aren't that great, we looked decent but by then unfortunately the damage was done with the goal. The cross should never ever have been allowed to come over from Young as he is completely right footed playing on the left and he’s never put over a left footed cross in his left.  He even dummied crossing it with his right foot before he eventually did.  Tadic really should've blocked that but once it came over, that's where luck plays a major part. Lukaku clearly barged Hoedt over but the referee didn't see it and Fraser makes a great save from the initial header but Lukaku suddenly sees the ball presented to him right in front of an empty net.  Lemina and Romeu completely dominated the midfield from that point and all United had in the second half was all the cunty tricks in the book to waste time with Fellani being shown up to be as limited a footballer that he is.

Our two midfield boys were magnificent but there's only so much that they can do. The sad truth is that despite Shane Long having a really really good game, he didn't threaten the goal once. The three players that we have the furthest forward are not the same standard as the rest of the team. It's like having a knife where the handle is absolutely magnificent but the blade is fucking useless. It looks absolutely great until it comes to practical use. Don't get me wrong, I love Steve Davis as a footballer but I thought the first substitution today was quite telling when he was removed to bring on Gabbiadini. We have needed Davis to knit everything together but maybe now, with Lemina and Romeu in midfield, I wonder if we need a Davis style player at number 10.  We could go with someone who is more of a goal threat. It's not about individual players but about what makes the best team.

I thought that Pellegrino did all that he could today and his substitutions were spot-on. We had JWP on for the last 10 minutes playing at right back but on the pitch to deliver the set pieces and we chucked on the extra striker with Austin coming out. I would however have argued that it would've been better to throw Virgil on and stick him up front.

We are not far away. It is just a matter of time before it clicks into place.

Unlike last home game against Watford, there are a number of players that we can talk about as having had really good games. The most eye-catching display was from Mario Lemina again and he truly bossed the game in the second half. Whilst less eye-catching, Oriol Romeu was fantastic.. The two of them were really trying to find a forward pass through the defence to one of the wingers of the fullbacks and were playing higher up the pitch which is what we hoped would happen when the back four got sorted. Talking of which, Wesley Hoedt is looking like a brilliant signing and one thing that really encourage me is that the one weakness that he was supposed to have, a lack of pace, didn't seem to be a problem when he was in a foot race with the allegedly quick Lukaku. Maya Yoshida also did a good job and was much more safety first than usual which is no bad thing. He knows that his place is under threat from van Dijk on the bench and he stepped up to the mark today. It would be incredibly harsh on him to be left out and that those of the decisions that the manager gets paid to make.

Shane Long put in a real shift today and the only time he annoyed me was when that big high ball went over the United defence and he was looking for the slightest contact before crumbling to the ground, rather than going after the fucking ball and trying to stick it in the net.  The ref knew it and was never going to give a penalty.  I was up that end of the ground and didn’t even get excited about it.

Post match I saw a tweet by Luke Shaw congratulating the proper players at his club on their win. See You Next Tuesday in the Under 23's you fat twat.

So – we’ve proved that we can get up for it and play a high tempo against Manchester United.  Now we have to do it at the National City of Inbreeding – Stoke.

 See You Later You Wiggy Twat

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Premier League Match 5 - Crystal Palace 0 Southampton 1

Mauricio Helps an Old Man to His Seat

After the dismally shit performance against Watford, we travel to Selhurst Park to play a Crystal Palace side who have made it being dismally shit the norm over the past year or so. Fat Sam masterminded their survival last year and then fucked off in the summer for slightly strange reasons to be replaced by Frank de Boer who was given the task to change the way that Palace play which is basically always been long ball and chucking in loads of crosses from the wings.  De Boer introduced a more possession based game which lasted for four games and four defeats and no goals and he was then sacked.  Rumour has it that he told various players and the chairman that they basically weren't fucking good enough to play in a team that wanted to keep possession of the football and the writing was on the wall from that moment on. So, chairman Steve Parish who had appointed de Boer and given him his instructions, decided to appoint Croydon boy and pensioner Roy Hodgson - last seen masterminding a truly pathetic 2-1 defeat for England against Iceland in Euro 2016.

For all the talk of Hodgson having a decent managerial record, let’s not get away from the fact that he was fucking useless as an England manager taking four years to not build a discernible pattern of play, getting knocked out of the 2014 World Cup after two matches and being equally fucking abysmal at Euro 2016. To cap it all, he was fired and then sat in the in the press conference after the tournament saying I don't know why I'm here. He looked and sounded like a resident in a rest home who was sitting in a puddle of his own piss.  There were 7 million reasons (per year) why the hell did he should've been there to explain himself. Anyway, off he went into the sunset and I assumed that no football club would ever be stupid enough to give him another job. Granted his record and club football is not too bad with medium-size clubs but at 70 years old, has he really still got it?  If you could ask that question of Roy Hodgson, you could also ask it of John Motson who has mercifully decided to retire from commentating on football matches. This is at least 10 years too late but at least he has taken the decision and fair play to him.

I've always thought that Palace had a slightly strange squad in that they appear to have players who commanded either a huge transfer fee or would be on huge wages like Benteke and Cabaye and they offset those with players who quite frankly, would not get in any other Premier League team like Jeffrey Schlupp, Jason Puncheon and ex-Skate Joel Ward.

As for us, this week saw the return of the Virgil van Dijk to Saints colours as he played for the under 23’s is against Aston Villa, where he was crap, partially at fault for at least three of the goals that went past Alex McCarthy in our 4-0 defeat. Still, he played 90 minutes and all the indications are that he would be involved in some way at Palace this weekend.

We of course had massive issues with the front half of our team last week against Watford so it would be interesting to see what Pellegrino did this week.  In my opinion, even if not in anyone else's, there was a huge question mark over Jack Stephens as well. In the event, the back end of the team looked very strong with Yoshida preferred to Stephens and Lemina coming back into the midfield. The front for saw Davis preferred to JWP and Tadic instead of Boufal.  I have been calling for the inclusion of Shane Long but assumed it would be in one of the wide positions but he took Gabbiadini’s place upfront.

One of the rules I hate most in football is the one that allows you to loan players to/from clubs in the same division.  With the money available to clubs these days there is absolutely no reason why this should be allowed but it is and Palace have two – Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea and Fosu-Mensah from Manchester United.

There’s the reassuring presence of Roy Hodgson on the touchline as the game starts.  Reassuring for us that is.  Palace have the first attack with the Chelsea player chucking in a cross that Townsend can’t control.  Palace haven’t scored all season and we only have one from open play so no one’s expecting a goal fest so what happens on 6 minutes is a major surprise.  Davis drives forward from midfield and slides in Tadic on the right, he takes on Schlupp on the outside and fires it across first time with his right foot, Hennessey pushes it out and there’s Davo to pass it into the corner of the net, past the ex-Skate who is on the line but going to wrong way.  Get in.

Hang on – we look superb in midfield and in defence.  Lemina is playing like a machine and the back four are well drilled.  Yoshida is competing well with Benteke and Hoedt is spraying the ball about.  This looks great.  It gives us the platform to build and following another Davo break, Tadic picks out Long with a superb cross and he tries to lob a header over Hennessey but gets it wrong and hits the crowd via the corner of his head.

This is Saints though and we can fuck up any situation and after Hoedt wins a challenge in defence, Redmond falls on his arse and Townsend plays in Chelsea and his cross is met by Benteke five yards out but he’s scooped it a bit and Fraser is there to block.  Good save big orange man.

As the half goes on, Lemina is the king in midfield, winning the ball back and driving forward.  The usually decent Cabaye and McArthur are nowhere for Palace.  Their only threat is Made in Chelsea and he combines with Benteke and drills a good low shot just wide from the edge of the box and then produces another decent driving run which ends with a shot which is well blocked by Bertrand.  For all our domination in midfield we are not creating much with a Redmond scuffer which goes wide being as close as we get.  The half ends with Townsend latching on to a Benteke flick and lashing it wide of the near post with his favoured left foot.  He’s crap really isn’t he?

With Saints having emphatically won the midfield battle in the first half, England’s finest changes the Palace shape and decides that it may be better if there’s a player somewhere near Benteke and pushes the Chelsea player forward.  To be fair it works and Saints looks a bit panicky.  Romeu gives the ball away on the edge of our box and Chelsea runs at the left side of our defence and his low cross evades everyone.  Palace recycle it and Schlupp bends in a great cross from the left and Punch meets it about 5 yards out but Fraser has made himself into a huge orange starfish and blocks superbly.  If de Gea or Courtois makes that save then Sky are creaming off about it for years.

Palace’s frustration is beginning to boil over and they start kicking anything that moves.  Saints break up the right and Punch decides to just charge into Tadic with an NFL style block.  He then moans about the yellow card he gets.  Ward is up next with a bit of control that he obviously learned in Portsmouth and he rugby tackles Redmond.  McArthur takes time out from being schooled by Lemina and dives is to two ridiculous challenges in quick succession, seeing yellow for the second when they were both worthy.

It’s about 75 minutes before we make our first sub with Redmond being replaced by JWP.  It’s not been a great day for Nathan so it’s a solid looking substitution.  Roy then makes the managerial decision that has the most benefit to Saints that he could by removing the Chelsea player who has been their best player by a mile.  To be fair, he has been suffering with ‘qwamp’.  I feel that this game is comfortable for us now and then Yoshida smacks a clearance into Lemina which luckily bounces straight to Fraser.  Mario can even snuff our danger when the ball is smashed at him from 5 yards when his back is turned.

With 6 minutes left of the 90 came the moment that the media will be talking about over and above everything when Virgil made the appearance in a Saints shirt that he was never going to make.  On he comes for Tadic and takes his place in between Yoshida and Hoedt which is a sign of things to come for me.  It looks a tactically sound move as Palace are launching everything up to Benteke now.  I’m happy with this because Benteke clearly doesn’t give a shit.  Seriously, I’d take him off and try and play some football.

There are no more alarms as we get to 90.  Whilst the clock is ticking down and you have a 1-0 lead, it’s always nice to be camped up the other end of the pitch and we eventually work it across to Cedric who cuts in from the right and hits a shot at Hennessey which is well blocked.  With just seconds remaining on the clock, Palace attempt to break and the game ends in the same style as it’s had for the past 90 minutes with Lemina hunting down the ball and taking it off a Palace player like he was taking back his own personal property.  That’s my ball, this is my field, these are my rules, now fuck off.  Game over and Roy looks like he needs a blanket and warm milk back in the rest home.

In the end it was a win that showed exactly what we are about. We are resilient defensively and with the two beasts in midfield we should be able to dominate quite a few games. We still haven't got it going quite upfront because if we did have, this game would've been dead and buried at half time whilst we were dominating it. In the end it took two really good saves from Fraser to ensure that we won it. If Palace had got anything out of the game it would've been a fucking travesty but it’s an odd game in that if you just watch the highlights and incidents near the goal, it looks like we’ve survived a battering. Having sacked a manager who actually dared to play some football, they've gone back to a manager who instantly just reverted to smashing it long to Benteke who didn't have any players around him whatsoever, especially in the first half. In the second half, Made in Chelsea got close to him and causes a few problems but then he came off and Roy brought on a defensive midfielder. This pushed Cabaye further forward but to no effect.

Saints dealt with the one Palace tactic, the long ball up to Benteke, by Yoshida getting as close as he could to Benteke and not letting him bring the ball down and when he flicked it on either the full backs or the seriously impressive Wesley Hoedt tidied everything up. The area we completely dominated was in midfield where Lemina was absolutely immense. Romeu did his usual thing and that enabled Steve Davis to roam around, read the game and get the team moving. One thing I will say is that Palace were dirty bastards and fully deserved the five bookings that they got. Some really cynical horrible play combined with moaning about it to the referee afterwards. I know Jason Punch was the captain but he acted like a whiny little bitch right the way through the game.

Shane Long did what Shane Long does and hassled and harried and was a complete pain in the arse for the defenders and you have to say that team selection totally worked. Dusan Tadic had a decent first half before fading horribly on the second but Redmond was poor. He did have a couple of half breaks and efforts on goal but more often than not he was falling on his arse and just giving the ball away. Maybe bring Gabbiadini in to play on the left and make him and Shane Long interchangeable?

We have to talk about Virgil I guess. He came on for the last 10 minutes for the inevitable aerial bombardment and whilst I have no doubt his presence did help matters, his timing was way out getting our jumped for virtually every ball. It'll come I guess.  Even though he didn’t win much, his presence enabled us to have more players to sweep up the flick ons and he did look interested.

So, a great result for Pellegrino in terms of the fact that he obviously thought about what went wrong the previous week and changed it and today was much better. Mind you, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to put Mario Lemina in the team. He was absolutely fucking outstanding today and it was the easiest decision for the man of the match that there can ever have been. The useless wanker that is Philip Neville was saying on Match of the Day that some of the big clubs will already be looking at Lemina. It's so predictable that it's fucking hilarious. You have to laugh or else you get angry about it.  To give today a bit of context, which Phil Neville is obviously totally incapable of doing, it is the first game that Mario has played 90 minutes for us and we are playing against a team who are bottom of the league having lost all five games. Hey, I think Mario was absolutely brilliant today but it is only one game. Let's see how he gets on against a good side, like the Manchester United side that we play next week.

It was a good day for Mauricio - the charge upfront with Shane work very well as did the central defensive partnership. We just have to work out how to play home games now. It was great for Steven Davis to actually get a shot on target but the best bit of today for me was the two saves by Fraser. The Twitter army who have been slagging him off for quite a long time at every opportunity, were conspicuously absent straight after the game.  They’d still prefer us to pick McCarthy, who let in 4 for the under 23s in midweek and is never fit for longer than 10 minutes.  They also wanted to pick Mouez Hassen last year who no one had ever seen play.

Straight after the game, due to it being an early kick-off, we had shot right at the table to fifth-place which is rather cool. I was looking around at Ronald Koeman and Everton but they were fucking nowhere. I looked for Juergen Klopp and Liverpool and they were below us as well. It looked different at 5pm and we had dropped to 9th but for now, happy days.

Next up, as mentioned, it's Manchester United at home and the moaning fuck that is Jose Mourinho. Bring it on. Someone's got to hand them their first defeat of the season so why not us.  I see us playing 3-5-2 with Virgil coming into the side in place of either Redmond or Tadic.

You Want This Ball?  Come and Take It.