Saturday, June 24, 2017

You are My Bitch now Jose

So, another quiet pre-season for Saints then.  My last blog was up to the point where Liverpool apologised for being scummy twats….

The latest update to the Virgil van Dijk situation came on Friday 11th June when Yahoo sports published more details of the alleged tapping up. I use the word alleged in the context of it definitely fucking happened.

It was all what we knew already, the text messages, the meetings but in addition apparently Virgil was sent a load of videos with details of exactly where he'd fit in to Liverpool's current team. As if that wasn't fucking obvious anyway as he be fitting it in between Milner at left back and Matip at centre back, in the space currently occupied by the man currently looking for a new gardener, Dejan Lovren. I can imagine Klopp's voice overdubbed on a video of Liverpool fucking up at the back. "Virgil Ja! you play in the position that useless cunt Lovren is supposed to be in".

The role of the Wasserman Group, the agents for Virgil, was painted in a really unfavourable light as well as they apparently want him to move to Liverpool because it gets them the biggest fee for their services. Yeah, they've done a really great job for their client and his football career haven't they? There are much better clubs than Liverpool that he could play for.  In fact, if I was in any position of power at one of the proper big clubs, I’d be questioning whether I’d deal with the Wasserman Group.

The other snippet that that was revealed was that Virgil thought that he could kick off and Saints would cave in and sell him for £50 million. The Yahoo article categorically stated that this was never going to happen.  Every player has a price but don’t take the piss.

The information is attributed to a source close to Southampton. As the whole of the football media seems to be Liverpool biased or ex-Liverpool players and it's lovely when the boot is on the other foot. I can only laugh at the thought of Liverpool is owners and that wanker Klopp, squirming as more of this comes out.  They probably really don’t need to be being linked to Dusan Tadic as well.  This in my opinion is because the media are too stupid to realise that there is unlikely to be any business between Saints and Liverpool. The main crux of the stories seems to be the belief that Dusan has a £13 million release clause.  This story came up in January when he was linked with Arsenal and again a few months back when he was linked to West Ham.  West Ham I could see but there’s no way he’s moving to a top 6 club.  Agent talk.  If the FA could just get on with issuing Liverpool with the transfer ban that they clearly deserve and should get, then we could all sit back and laugh.

Meanwhile, Virgil has taken being badly advised to a whole new level by tweeting a picture of himself looking out of the window in a moody and fed up manner, whilst lying back on a private jet. I thought footballers were supposed to be more savvy about social media these days. I'm sure he would've gone on a course or something at some point where they would've said something along the lines of posting a sulking tweet whilst sat on a private jet is not going to make anyone feel sorry for you, in fact it's just gonna make you look like a right cunt. “Woe is me, I only earn more in a week than most people earn in a year and I only have a small private jet. I want mooooooore…. I wanna big private jet. How can a man live with just a small private jet for fuck's sake?”

How to Make Yourself Look a Complete Cock on Social media

Still, it’s the working mans game and all that.

Talk about hero to zero. He's obviously spent the whole of his time injured plotting to get away from the club that was nursing him back to full health. What a complete wanker.  Just another wanker.  Another Lallana, another Lovren.  If you’re a Saints fan and you don’t agree with this yet then it’s only because he’s still our player.  If he played for any other club and was behaving like this – you would not be so forgiving.  Remember kids, the name on the badge is more important than the name on the back. 

Finally, after what seems like and unnecessary three week wait, Claude was fired and the wait for a new manager officially began.  I covered the reasons I thought he should be fired here:

It was an open secret that he was going and one can only assume that a new manager has been identified and there are just the formalities to sort out.  As I said in a previous blog, I was of the opinion that Claude had to go but he leaves with no damage to his CV and good luck to him.  A decent guy but not right for Saints or English football in general.  I’m a bit surprised that we’ve actually sacked him as opposed to him being mutually consented citing family reasons etc.  There’s a rumour that I’m about to start, that Claude has been tapped up by Liverpool to be Klopp’s number 2 to try and improve Liverpool’s attacking play against deep defences cos Klopp clearly has no idea.

Claude’s exit was in keeping with his year in charge in that it was understated and somewhat shambolic.  He showed his class in a statement thanking everyone which he didn’t need to do.  It showed if proof were needed that he was a decent guy but it just wasn’t right.  I’m guessing the review was to see if there was common ground between what Claude thought of the season and what Les Reed thought of it and I’m guessing that there was no way forward.  In my opinion and looking back, his days were numbered from the moment the final whistle went against Hapoel Be’er Sheva at home.  That certainly seemed to be the turning point with the Board and some of the fans and players.

So – who are we getting?  The name on seemingly everyone’s wish list was Thomas Tuchel who has just left Dortmund.  I just wondered if post-Dortmund, he was going to able to handle the white-hot atmosphere of the Kingsland/Chapel corner.  I couldn’t see Tuchel being the man for a couple of reasons – one is that he’s a spiky character who would clash with Les Reed and the other is he’ll be waiting for a bigger job.  Personally, I want a manager who gives the board and players a hard time so I’d have been happy if it was him but Tuchel ruled himself out. 

Les has to get this appointment right so another underwhelming one won’t go down well – but whilst Roy Hodgson is still out there…. The short list now contains Mauricio Pellegrino and Frank de Boer.  If Pellegino is a cross between Mauricio Pochettino and Manuel Pellegrini then he’ll do.

Hodgson: Get to Fuck

The fixtures came out and boy, do we have to get some points on the board early.  Our first 12 games are all winnable with only Man United at home against the clubs that finished above us last year.

With Swansea at home up first, we then got another home game straight after, as our first away game has now been switched. It was supposed to be at West Ham and their virtually free ground but the World Athletics Championships is on there. It finishes a full week before the scheduled game but that's not long enough to convert the ground for football.  It seems that the retractable seats are in fact just a big pile of scaffolding and Karen Brady and the Dildo Brothers are searching the yellow pages for a better deal so it takes 11 days to convert the ground. Wankers. They should get fined for not having a ground.

I'm pissed off because we've agreed to switch home and away games with them so now we start with two home games and we have something like five aways out of 6 in March. I can't go to the switched game as I'll still be on holiday. I won't get my money back on the ticket exchange because August games don't sell out. There will be many more who can't go to the new home date than those who couldn't go to the original March home date.  We’re just fans though so oh well.

Aside from that, why have Saints agreed to it? We're always dodgy at the start of the season due to having a new manager and the March away run is now a nightmare, coming in top of the December nightmare when we have all of big guns in the most congested period, as usual.  Fume.

We've got a new kit, same as every year but this year the Home shirt is an 80s throwback to the thick white band of the Air Florida / Rank Xerox kit. Keegan, Channon, Moran, Armstrong, Williams etc. The animated video to accompany the launch was amusing, culminating in animated Maya Yoshida kicking an animated Evil Genius in the face. The fact that the Evil Genius looked like Ronald Koeman is purely coincidental I'm sure. There were sly digs at Pompey and Liverpool in there as well and Animated Fraser saved everything. Virgil hardly featured... I wonder why, seeing how he's captain and all that.

Any likeness to any person living or dead is purely coincidental

A couple of days of rumours and general ridicule of Ryan Giggs’ right to even be mentioned in the context of getting a Premier League managers job.  Ryan says Southampton would be a great job for him to start his managerial career at.  Fuck Off round your brothers house you twat.   Talking of twats, the Liverpool media Cuntshow kicked into gear again.  Firstly there were articles about them asking Saints if we’d softened our stance on Virgil.  No reply from Saints.  The John Aldridge, has-been Scouse Gobshite clearly suggested that Virgil should go on strike to force a move to Anfield.  This is exactly what he advocated when Sterling wanted to move to Man City, Suarez wanted to move to Barcelona and Torres wanted to go to Chelsea.  Only it wasn’t of course.  Interestingly he still works for Liverpool which you would hope the Premier League will notice.  As far as we know, the tapping up investigation is still going on and to paraphrase Kevin Keegan, I would love it if they got a transfer ban, love it…. the cunts.  Isn’t it funny that Lallana and Lovren and now Virgil van Dijk all have ‘strike action’ strongly rumoured with their transfers from Saints… what’s the common factor with all these players and their transfers… it’s Red and it’s Scouse and it stinks of Fucking Bins.


Back in the real world it became a straight choice between Mauricio Pellegrino and Frank de Boer.  On Thursday 22nd de Boer was announced as imminently arriving at Crystal Palace and on Friday, the seemingly inevitable happened and Pellegrino was revealed as the new Saints manager.  On the face of it I’m pleased with this and some very respected people have made encouraging proclamations of his ability, flexibility and style of football he likes to play.  His opening statement of wanting the fans to feel engaged with the team every week was decent as that has definitely been lost this season just gone.  Bring it on.  Let’s hope he hits the ground running.

So – never a dull moment in a standard summer for Southampton FC.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Striking a blow for the Little Guy

What are these "Rules" You Speak Of

This was written on the evening of Thursday 7th June 2017 – it all may have changed by the time you read it.

So, I thought that I’d have a bit of a break from writing about Saints.  As I write Claude is still a dead man walking and the transfer window isn’t open.

Do you want the long version or the short version?

Okay, short version. Liverpool tapped up Virgil, Saints got the arse and reported them to the Premier League and then Liverpool knew that they were guilty as hell and apologised and pulled out of the chase in the hope that the Premier League didn't impose sanctions.  

The even shorter version is that Liverpool are cunts.

The full version is that news broke on Monday from several Liverpool media outlets that Virgil van Dijk had indicated that he wanted to join Liverpool as opposed to joining Chelsea or Manchester City or heaven forbid, staying at Southampton. In the normal scheme of things, no one as good as he is would choose to join Liverpool ahead of Chelsea or Manchester City.  The media world was in a frenzy with the BBC writing a piece to declare that Virgil would be signing for Liverpool as he indicated that as its preference.  It was written in the usual style of ‘Big club gets what they wants, small club doesn’t matter – just accept it and be grateful’.

Woah boy - Hang on just a goddam minute, he's got five years left of his contract to run and Saints categorically said they do not need to sell and that we don’t want to sell. Then more details began to emerge and they were that Virgil was swayed by Jurgen Klopp’s personal involvement in trying to sign him. Wow, hang on a fucking minute. So, if this is to believed, the manager of Liverpool has got personally involved in trying to sign a player that he had no permission to speak to and so M’lud, one must logically conclude that this is a clear case of tapping up and that my friends, is against the rules. 

My head was already racing with all this going round and I actually had a short Twitter exchange with Phil McNulty, who is the head of sport at the BBC and writer of the BBC article.  I have an issue with the BBC reporting gossip, what with it being funded by licence fees and all that but all he was interested in was the Liverpool side of the story regarding them being the club the Virgil wanted to join. I said to him that surely the tapping up angle was the story here as Liverpool have already picked up a ban from signing use players for using underhand inducements to a 12-year-old. In other walks of life but that’s called grooming. McNulty wasn’t interested in the slightest in that angle and just arrogantly signed off with a condescending, we'll see and I'm convinced that I'm right attitude.

In the meantime we had to tolerate a ridiculous amount of arsehole Liverpool fanbase gloating and the Liverpool media waving their collective dicks around.  “Oh my God, a player has decided to join us ahead of Manchester City and Chelsea, it's the Klopp effect… We are on our way back… We’re the biggest and best club in the land… You’ll Never Walk Alone…. Fuck off!!!

From a Saints fan angle, of course we were all thinking that the board had caved in yet again and despite saying they didn't need to sell, they were going to sell to the first bidder who came along, directly contradicting what Ralph Krueger had said in an interview about a week ago.

On Tuesday, the Saints board had obviously met and the local Daily Echo journalists then ran a story saying that Saints had got the right arse over the reports and had asked the Premier League to investigate if Liverpool had it done anything wrong.  Talk about negotiating from a position of strength as they obviously had.

In the meantime, John Cross of The Daily Mirror, never the most reliable of publications, had printed details of Liverpool flying Virgil to Blackpool of all places to meet Juergen Klopp and then receiving several text messages afterwards regarding the potential move. I don't know whether all of this was true but if it was, the personal involvement of Klopp was going to be like a noose around Liverpool’s neck. Phil McNulty the BBC didn't get back to me after that despite my repeated goading on Twitter. ‘Hi Phil, remember me from yesterday…”

Wednesday went by and then at about 5 o'clock came the glorious moment...
"Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs.

“We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk"

“We respect Southampton's position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”

Apparently it was a misunderstanding – misunderstanding my big fat hairy arse. What a shower of cunts. With a grovelling apology, came the news that the Premier League would be dropping the investigation. This is of course the only reason that Liverpool apologised in the first place because they fucking knew they were guilty but good old John Cross from the Mirror, who is my new journalistic hero, went to print again to say that Southampton still wanted the Premier League to investigate and the most interesting part of that was that apparently, other clubs were lining up behind Saints to give Liverpool a kicking.

Then of course, all the dodgy deeds of the past came falling out of the woodwork to remind everyone what a scummy operation Liverpool is.  The near identical tactics to try and sign Clint Dempsey from Fulham a few years ago – tap up, get reported, apologise.   They are like the football equivalent of Katie Hopkins who has a modus operandii of ‘Tweet a load of shit, delete it once everyone’s read it and then apologise’.  Liverpool only apologise when they get caught.  So, get your popcorn and watch this space.

The investigation into Liverpool transfer dealings should absolutely still take place.  No way should this be brushed under the carpet.  The player has been unsettled and that is specifically what the rules are supposed to prevent. Saints now have to deal with, unhappy player who has responded in textbook fashion by changing his Twitter bio in removing a picture of him in a Saints shirt and replacing it with one in a Holland shirt and changing the sentence ‘professional player with Southampton FC’ to ‘professional player’. We also have to deal with the fact that our captain, whilst he has been injured and getting fit again, has being fucking off to meet Juergen Klopp to try and try and arrange a transfer for himself. So, in short, he's acting like a right wanker and so there are bridges to be built there.

Where it leaves us with Virgil is anyone's guess – he could still leave for elsewhere but we have to applaud the board for standing firm and striking a blow for the little guy.   Another sale to Liverpool would have been too much and I think that they knew that.  Virgil changing agent in the middle of last season to the Wasserman Group (I think they’re called) was always going to make things more difficult for Saints and their role in all this is an interesting angle as well.  Maybe he’ll throw them under a bus and that could be a way to repair any damage done.

I really hope that the Premier League throw the book at Liverpool and they get something like being banned from making any transfers for the next three transfer windows. It would serve the bastards right. The arrogance of Liverpool and in particular, Juergen Klopp staggering. He is an over-hyped bang average manager who in four attempts against us last year, in a year when we really weren’t very good, couldn't even get his team to score one fucking goal.  The irony is that we are probably getting rid of our manager because we weren’t very good at scoring goals.  It's unbelievable that Klopp had these meetings and messages with Virgil in the first place. He knows the rules but the arrogant fucker obviously didn't think they applied to him. Yes they fucking do, dickhead.  Hopefully the ‘Klopp effect’ will mean that they can’t sign anyone for a while. 

The LFC Media is interesting to read.  The ‘proper’ papers like the Liverpool Echo are up in arms at their incompetence and really fearful of the consequences and incredulous at what Liverpool had done which is bad enough to trigger the complaint and subsequent embarrassing grovelling apology.  Of course, the media that poses as pseudo-official is still talking in delusional tones about how they could still sign him.  Are they for real?  The tone of the Liverpool fans on Twitter has somewhat changed – some directing anger at their owners, some at Saints obviously because we should just roll over and let him join a bigger club but strangely, none directed at their manager.  Having to issue an apology (apparently Saints insisted on it being public) is crushingly embarrassing but on it’s own it’s not enough.  They’ve done that before.  Katie Hopkins is still using the same tactics.

Let us not kid ourselves that tapping up doesn't go on, of course it does but Liverpool have obviously crossed the line here in their absolute desperation to get back to where they used to be. Saints will have known that Liverpool were talking to him – anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.  Whatever happens now, the constant procession of transfers from Southampton to Liverpool is over for a long time and they are going to have to be squeaky clean with every transfer deal they do from now on because if any selling club suspects anything, they are going to be straight in touch with the Premier League.  Ironically, there will probably be a massive rush for Liverpool to get other deals over the line before they get a transfer ban.  Make it happen Premier League.

Summer as a Saints fan – never a dull moment – and the transfer window isn’t even open yet.
In case you were wondering, Phil McNulty, Senior BBC Sports Writer, is still not returning my calls.

If Liverpool Was a Person

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Claude Puel - Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Ralph Demonstrates How He Will Make It Look Like an Accident.

Koeman leaves for the Everton millions.  OK – who are we getting…?
Frank de Boer – promising – great player – high profile… Nope.
Manuel Pellegrini – class and charisma – high profile…. Nope.
Claude Puel – who?  Oh, ok then... In Les we trust etc

Claude came in after the successful Ronald Koeman left for Everton and immediately changed the whole ethos of the playing side of the club suddenly we went from every team playing a 4-2-3-1 formation with a pressing game to playing the diamond midfield where we sat back and built up slow.  One reason that you don't change the ethos is because you need a different type of player to play any new system and we didn't have the players to play the diamond midfield.  Another reason is if the previous system had proved successful.  This change was on top of there being a European Championships so there was even less time for the new manager to get his ideas across in the summer.

So, we started sluggishly and had two very boring home draws against Watford and against Sunderland. In the Sunderland game in particular we were very lucky to get a point with the goalkeeper falling over a J-Rod shot with five minutes to go. He persisted with this formation at the start of the season and we had Charlie Austin trying to cover up and down the left wing which isn’t his game at all and Nathan Redmond totally failing to be the new Thierry Henry at the point of the diamond.  This was the first time I had the nagging feeling that things we’re going to be a bit bumpy.

We had couple of wins at home against poor sides like Middlesbrough and Swansea which made things look ok but on the flip side of that, we would throw away games at Hull and Burnley with our lack of ambition once behind.  Half an hour to score and we don't even manage a shot on target nor ever give the impression that we were actually going for it.  In the odd game we looked good like West Ham away when we won 3-0 playing some really good slick football with good running off the ball.

Then the European games started and Claude went into rotation mode and with it, any pattern and understandings between players went out the window.  Rotation mode made it seem like he planned the whole thing out on the spreadsheet in advance and it wasn't so much mix and match but it was an A Team and a B team. At the weekends we played the first team (Cedric, Jose, Bertrand with Virgil) and in Europe we more or less played the B team (Cuco, Maya, McQueen with Virgil), with only really Virgil and Oriol Romeu being fixtures in both line-ups. Claude’s CV boasted a lot of European experience which was the main justification from Les Reed for taking on someone who was new to English football and a virtual unknown on these shores. This European expertise brought us to a good position in the group after four games and a famous win against and admittedly declining Inter Milan. We had got a hard earned 0-0 against Hapoel Be’er Sheva and suffered a very unlucky 1-0 defeat in Milan when the Italians scored with their only shot on target after we had missed literally shit loads. The home form in Europe was good having dispatched a piss poor Sparta Prague side three nil and as mentioned, beating Milan. Seven points from four games and we only needed one win from the final two games to get through.

It was in the away match at Sparta Prague where Claude’s truly negative mindset first came to the fore. As per the spreadsheet he picked what was basically a reserve side and we lost in one of the worst performances I have ever seen. As the season went on, I used the phrase ‘one of the worst performances I've ever seen’ quite often.  We could have gone for it in that game, got qualified and rested everyone in the last game… but no.  Be’er Sheva at home and a 0-0 draw would've got us through.  The fact that we could have got through with a 0-0 was a dangerous thing and we played for it, committing no bodies forward and sure as shit, Hapoel predictably scored with their first shot on target meaning that we had 10 minutes to score 2 goals. It was only then that Virgil took it upon itself to go and play as a striker and he scored to make it 1-1 but too little too late. The great European master tactician had totally fucked it up. I can't imagine that his next meeting with Les Reed was a particularly pleasant one.

Undeterred, Claude got us through to a Wembley final, masterminding a quarter final win at The Emirates when we played more first teamers than Arsenal and did the business 2-0.  Then a two legged semi against a Mané-less Liverpool and we defended deep and well and nicked both legs 1-0.  Tactical masterclass, executed to perfection.  Jurgen Klopp and the ex-Saints at Anfield put back in their boxes.  Brilliant.

In between the semi-finals, Virgil had got injured and José Fonte had followed the money so we were forced to play your Yoshida and Stephens as the central defenders and after shocking home game against West Ham we did actually change to the formation we've been using for the last three years with two holding midfielders. We had a bit of success with that including a very good performance at Wembley when we should have won but ultimately, defensive frailties cost us.  The feel-good factor was there though – the fans had a fantastic day and the team and Claude did us proud.  The trouble was just beginning though.

As soon as Claude felt that the central defenders were more solid, he ditched the 4-2-3-1 and we went back to the 4-3-3, the one-striker-in-the box-if-we're-lucky formation. We didn't have much to play for post Wembley so it was down to the manager to get the most out of the players he had and Claude spectacularly failed, judging by the number of completely half-assed boring performances we put in.  We didn’t ever look like getting sucked into a relegation battle but there were very few points between 8th and 16th and we could have finished anywhere in that range.  We mulled along, getting the odd win against crap sides like Sunderland and Watford but then it tailed off again. 

Despite all this, I was still in favour of Claude staying because of the stability of having a manager for the second season would bring but then we played Hull City at home.  Hull were a team who hardly had a point away from home all season. They set up for a draw, they didn't attack at all and we did absolutely fuck all. We still only played with the one upfront so on 60 minutes Claude took Gabbiadini off and put Shane Long on, a like for like change that would achieve absolutely nothing. If ever there was a game to put two strikers on then that was it. The fact that we missed a penalty in the last minute meant that his lack of bravery and was not hidden and the cracks were not papered over. It's worth pointing out that that penalty was not won by flooding the opposition box and putting them under ridiculous pressure, it was won by one of the Hull players having a complete meltdown and throwing someone over for no reason at all.

Two wins in the last eight games against the beach bound West Brom team and an already relegated diabolical bag of shite from Middlesbrough does not make things any better and nor does the fact that we finished eighth, top of the absolutely shite division within the Premier League. We played a lot of good sides at the end but in Koeman’s last season we picked up points against all of the big clubs.  This this season, we didn't even have a go. We turned up with no plan whatsoever in any of the matches and when you tot it up over the season, we came out of 12 games against the top six with a very poor three points, from two 0-0’s against Liverpool and a 0-0 against United. 

And so we arrived at the last game of the season against Stoke when there was nothing riding on the game whatsoever and there was no reason to not go for it but what do we do, same as usual, same selection, same tactics and we got the same result. No goals. The final tactical substitution of the season, 1-0 down, 10 to go, was to take off our best to set piece taker and replace him with a full-back in midfield. I fucking give up - The season had ended with 5 home games in which we failed to score in.

It is often said that a team will mimic the personality of its manager and that's been the case with us this season. We are an overly cautious, boring team with no inspiration whatsoever and we are scared. How is the team going to function well if it scared of expressing itself? There was barely a plan A in most of the games aside from play deep, pass it around sideways and backwards work it out to the wings and then cross it. The trouble was that there was only ever one player in the box with three cautious midfielders not getting in to help.   

I'm convinced that the whole season was run off a spreadsheet and there was absolutely no dynamism in any decisions that were made depending on the state of the game or what was required at that time. If something wasn't working then we just carried on and exactly the same fashion in the hope that it would change and of course, it hardly ever did.  For example, we have done virtually the whole season without having two strikers playing as strikers. Even in the early-season diamond formation that was supposed to have two strikers upfront, they usually played wide, so at times it looked like we had no strikers at all and six midfielders.

There are a few things that have happened this season that have not been Claude’s fault and could be used as mitigating circumstances. Whoever decided that Long, Austin and J-Rod were going to score as many goals as Pellé and Mané managed last season wants shooting. J-Rod and Austin always have injury problems and Long had just had the season of his life which was totally out of character so it was unlikely to happen again.  We also had Jose Fonte behaving like a dickhead and we had the unfortunate injury to Virgil which the board failed to address in the January transfer window. They eventually addressed both the striker and defender issues with the signings of Gabbiadini in the window and Caceres just afterwards at not inconsiderable expense but Claude chose to use the 68 cap Uruguay international once, presumably because he wasn’t on the ‘End of January’ spreadsheet.  This was ok though because the defence was in top form.  That’s a lie.

There have been too many stories about the players clashing with the manager for none of it to be true. There have been visible shows of dissent in matches from Shane Long, Pierre Højbjerg, James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Ryan Bertrand. What's gone on on the training ground is anyone's guess. Then we had the bizarre episode of Ralph Krueger addressing players before the Everton away game which turned out to be Jose Fonte's last game. We had the Tadic issue - he was repeatedly being subbed and rightly so, he moaned int he media and from then on he was hardly ever subbed even though his form got worse - weak management there.  Some players have undoubtably improved under the manager like Romeu and Yoshida and it's been good to see players like McQueen, Sims and Stephens given the chance.

However, regardless of where we finish in the league and the positives and mitigating factors, I have grown increasingly tired of a piss boring style of football, players being picked time and time again when they are not performing, players getting dropped having played well and the complete lack of dynamism in the decision-making. I also do not think that Claude has it within himself to change and feel that even he if he had the best squad of players in the world, the football would still be incredibly boring.  I find it amazing that he had a reputation for attacking football in France. All I can do is judge him on what I’ve seen this season.

Then there’s the interviews.  Jesus H. Christ.  Now, Claude’s English is better than my French but I think that I’d manage to be more interesting and engaging than Claude was.  ‘Oportuniteeee’ and ‘Qualiteeee’ 25 times.  Get a translator and then at least everyone would have some idea what was going through your head.  It was Jan Poortvliet all over again with his ‘we know how to make a goal’ after yet another 0 in the goals-for column.  Even Jan didn’t manage 5 home games without scoring and he had David McGoaldrought up front.

I think he deserves to go and I think he will.  In these days of football clubs being big business, I wonder what the season-ticket take up is for next season. You will of course have your fans who will buy regardless of how the team plays but like them or not, there are a load of fans who just want to be entertained and will not be renewing based on what they’ve seen this year.  The run to the Cup Final was fantastic and a great day was had by all.  When the dust settles on this, Claude’s record will say 8th in the League and the EFL Cup Final.  It’s not like he’s failed and he’ll get a good job next (St.Etienne has been rumoured already) and his season in English football will look ok on his CV.  The question that the board have to answer is whether they think he’ll improve next season or will it fall away further?  There is a very small margin between us finishing 8th and having a relegation battle.  I feel that next year with Claude in charge, we’d struggle near the bottom, even though the league outside the top 7 is very poor.

The bottom line is (and this is the way you should judge any manager) – did he get the best out of the resources at his disposal?  I’m afraid there’s only one answer to that one for me and it's no.  

Au Revoir Claude.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Southampton FC Player Reviews 2016/17

How Many Marks For Isgrove?


What on earth has Fraser been up to this season?  In his first season he was relatively happy coming off his line and then came the injury.  On his return during the second season he was less mobile and seemingly more reluctant to get off his line but he was still being generally huge and difficult to beat.  He still made saves and every so often had a game which made him look like one of the best.  This season he has been absolutely rooted to the goal line which invites pressure as the defenders have to defend deeper.  At least there’s no confusion as to whether he’s coming for a cross or not as unless the cross is actually going to drop into the net – he’s not coming.  Surely to Christ the goalkeeping coach has identified this as a massive problem.  Assuming he has then nothing has changed in the slightest.  If anything it’s got worse.  Also a massive problem this season is that he’s turned into a cross between Stekelenburg and Claudio Bravo.  If it’s on target and not straight at him – it’s a goal.  It’s a surprise if he takes off and actually saves a routine one.  He just doesn’t seem switched on to me – two close range headers I remember from Ibrahimovic at Wembley and Kompany at St.Mary’s – there are pictures which show the ball being headed and in both pictures – Fraser’s hands are down.  Bearing in mind how close range these headers were, he should surely be making himself huge, throwing himself at the striker, star-shaped – not waiting for the header and then reacting after it’s past him.  He is a good goalkeeper and he has it within him but something has been very very wrong this season.  I think he’ll still be with us next season as I can’t see Claude or whoever being given the go ahead to sign a new number 1 but Everton and a certain ex-manager will be sniffing around.  High – Milner penalty save, Low – Palace away spot-the-ball airshot.

A proper back up keeper for Fraser who could, on a good day, provide worthwhile competition.  A calf injury obtained when taking a goal kick has kept him out for 5 months and counting – what on earth has gone on there?  Played a few games for Palace last season and then lost his place so he’s hardly played for two years so it’ll be a back-up role for him at best next season.

Played a couple of games in the FA Cup and was OK in the away game at Norwich but then gave away a dumb penalty by chasing Cameron Jerome around the penalty area.  Was OK in the replay but we could have put a pensioner in a wheelchair in goal for that and still kept a clean sheet.  Against Arsenal he looked like what he is – a boy who will be in the Under 23s next season.

Came on loan because Claude obviously didn’t fancy the back up options to Fraser and he knew Mouez from his time at Nice.  Played a few games for the Under 23s and looked decent enough but I can’t see us signing him next year.  Put it this way – if Claude’s not here then there’s no way he will be. Good on social media though and clearly has a good attitude.

A Goalkeeper and Stuart Taylor

Quite possibly the strangest, most pointless waste of money ever.  Just why did we need a 35 year old 4th choice goalkeeper?  You can tell he’s shite just from watching the warm ups.  His basic function seems to be clapping the other keepers and waving the ball goodbye as it whistles past him as he stands there.  He occasionally drops to one knee as it goes by.  He only saves shots when Shane Long is warming up and not lashing it over the bar.  Has made a very nice living being a professional 3rd choice keeper but not at my club thanks.  Season highlight aside from clapping was to tell Fraser which way to go for Milner’s penalty.

To be honest I’ve not been keeping tabs on him in his year at Rayo Vallecano other than one horrendous clanger than went viral when he basically did what Fraser did at Palace and took a big swipe at fresh air.  He has been first choice though and got a full season of games behind him.  They obviously like him and I can see him moving there for a nominal fee.  Never quite destined to make the grade here.


Obviously a very talented player but struggled at times in his first season.  This time around he’s not looked the defensive liability he was at time in season 1 and has become a very consistent performer.  Because he’s getting better and now used to the Premier League and because he won the Euro’s with Portugal, he will doubtless be linked away.  There have been rumours that Barcelona are interested.  If that’s true then he’s gone but it would be a shame to lose him to another club this summer as he’s going to be even better next season.  To think that Ronald Koeman sometimes preferred to leave Cedric on the bench in favour of….

Thank Christ that’s over.  He’s crap and would have been on his way at the start of the season if Jeremy Pied hadn’t got injured.  As it was he stayed and played a lot of Europa League games which contributed to us not getting out of the group.  There was one game (Sparta away) when I wanted him to be substituted even though we’d already used all our subs, the logic being that the extra 30 seconds we’d have got would have been more useful than having him on the pitch.  Had a couple of decent performances in his first season but no – just no.  Will make a great replacement for Seamus Coleman at Everton.  Out of contract, free transfer, nice lad and all that but goodbye.  Highlight – his contract being up. Low – every time he stepped on the pitch.

Every new manager we have has to bring in a new reserve right back.  Maybe it’s in the contract.  Claude’s choice was Jeremy Pied and to be fair, he didn’t look too bad in his one appearance before he knackered himself and was out for about 6 months.  With just the one year left on his contract, I assume he’ll be here next year but he’s a Claude Puel pick so any potential new manager might not fancy him. Highlight – Getting fit again.  Low – Being very short.

A superb player for us over the last 3 years but we could well be writing the obituaries on his Saints career soon.  Obviously doesn’t get on with the manager and in the last few games has looked like he just wants out.  Right on cue the rumours in the papers started and it’s no wonder as he’s currently England’s first choice left back.  Chelsea (who are his club) need competition in that area and he just may feel that it’s time to give a big club another crack.  I could live with it if it’s Chelsea – not fucking Liverpool though.  Highlight – Bournemouth away goal & winding up Redmond.

Through injury, has been usurped by Sam McQueen as left back backup this season.  If by chance Bertrand is not here next season, most people would have McQueen as first choice between the pair.  Again, a very long term injury had put paid to the season for a player who was developing nicely the season before.  Back to square one again next season.

A revelation and justifying Claude’s reputation for developing young players.  At the start of the season he was a winger who wasn’t going anywhere in particular but conversion to left back has been the making of him.  Struggles defensively a bit when the ball is banged forward and he has to compete physically but has all the attributes of a modern full back in charging forward and getting the ball over.  Seems to have a great attitude and in some games has been our best player when other more experienced players looked like they really couldn’t be bothered.  The debut in the San Siro will love long in the memory and it’ll be interesting to see him develop next season.  He was however, subject of the ‘Most Ridiculous Link to Liverpool’ award after something like three games.  Highlight – San Siro debut, Norwich at home in FA Cup – only player who gave a shit.  Low – being linked to Liverpool.

The Man.... and The Old Man

The man is a colossus and a fantastic player.  Our best defender by a mile and until Gabbiadini arrived I’d have said that he was our best striker as well.  Captain, Leader, legend material but…. That rat faced prick Jamie Vardy ended his season with a shit rake of the achilles and that was that.  So, we were deprived of our best player for half a season and for every mention of him picking up his rehab, there are 100 about the desperate bastard clubs who want to sign him.  I can live with Chelsea, City or a club abroad but not Fucking Liverpool.  Figures of £50 million are being quoted which to me, is not enough especially if these clubs are genuinely interested.  Shall we start the bidding at £80 million and see who’s serious?  I’m serious when I say that I would want to add a £10 million Fucking Liverpool premium as I’m seriously fed up with strengthening their team.  It occurs to me that if he goes then we’ll have only had about 15 active months of him as a Saints player and even if his value multiplies by 5 or 6 in that time, it will be very hard to take if he goes.  As a player he’s the main piece of the defence, the first knock defender who wins everything in the air and is quick, making any partner he has look good.  Any of Yoshida, Stephens, Fonte, Gardos or Caceres would be putting in good performances alongside Virgil.  Take Virgil out though and it’s a different story with any other combination.  I’m hoping for a miracle and he’s ours next season but I can’t believe he will be.  Highlight – every time he played.  Low – Jamie Vardy Rat Faced Prick.

Obviously had his head turned by winning Euro ’16, thought he was up for a move to United and he eventually got it – West Ham United…. Not what he envisaged.  He was average on the pitch for us this season and like others, obviously had an issue with the manager.  Bombed out in January and we did well to get £8m for a player who isn’t going to get any better and he’s been pretty dodgy for a struggling West Ham side and their unforgiving fan base are voting him one of their worst signings ever.  All the interviews he gave after leaving where he basically was trying damage limitation, just made him look like an arse who was trying to justify himself and had something to hide.  So – when he said he was a total professional – he probably wasn’t.  Players generally put their own personal agendas over the club’s need but we really needed Jose this season and he really couldn’t wait to get away.  He didn’t go ‘Full Lallana’ but not far off.  Highlight – Not joining Everton.  Low point – All appearances for West Ham.

You gotta love Maya.  He’s had more opportunity this season than ever before and he’s taken it and proved to be a very good defender.  Obviously hugely popular with the rest of the squad, he deserves all the plaudits that come his way.  His concentration has improved this year as well and the only weakness remains is against physical opponents when he occasionally just gets battered.  I would have never have said this before but I would be happy if we had a Virgil-Maya combination at centre back next season.  A partnership with Maya and any of the other centre halves just doesn’t work for me so if Virgil goes, we need to sign a physically imposing centre back to compliment Maya or one of the other centre backs. Highlight – proving his worth.  Low – physical centre forwards.

Thrown in because we literally had no choice, he has in the main taken his chance pretty well.  Very good on the ground to the degree that I wonder if his best position might be in the centre of midfield.  Same as Maya in that the obvious flaw is a lack of physicality and no matter what anyone says, I will never me convinced that those two in partnership are a long term solution unless Jack beefs up and develops a nasty streak.  Hopefully now he’s been given a taste, he’ll kick on rather than just meandering through which is what he appeared to be doing in four years of age group games and failed season long loans.  In our desperation to find some positives at the end of the season, his performances have undoubtedly been over hyped.  In the main he’s done pretty well but there is always a lack of concentration in there somewhere in virtually every game which he needs to sort out.  Highlight – breakthrough season.  Low – Shiteing his pants when faced with Andy Carroll.

Time to go.  I like the guy and think that there’s a player in there but the best part of 2 years out injured have done for him as a Premier League player.  The fact that we got Caceres in who had not played for a year when Gardos had got fit again says it all.  However, you do wonder how he would have done if given the opportunity that Stephens had.

I have no fucking idea what is going on here.  Admittedly he wasn’t match fit having not played for a year when we signed him but you don’t sign a Uruguayan international defender with 68 caps and 5 Serie A winners medals, pay him a fortune, get him fit and then let him watch the defence playing shit week after week.  I say you don’t do that but guess what – we have.   Maybe the season wouldn’t have gone to shit if he’d been in the side for the last 10 games.  Just a thought.  I wonder what a partnership of Virgil and Caceres would be like.  Height, pace, a bit of nasty, ability on the ball.  To me it sounds really good.  Claude risked him in one game – Middlesbrough away – coincidentally about as far away from St.Mary’s as you can get.  He played really well too – what a massive surprise.  In a squad of quiet players, obviously a bit of a character as well. Highlight – Debut.  Low point – sitting on his arse for so long.

A season in League 2 – Player of the season.  A season in league 1 – Player of the season.  Bearing in mind that jack Stephens couldn’t get a game when out on loan and McCarthy is two years younger, logic says he should be in and around the first team squad next season.  Definitely has a presence about him and a personality and we need some of that around the squad.  No one knows this lads potential at the moment and he really could be one of those who really kicks on if given a chance.


He’s been a tank.  As the only player we have who can tackle, he has to do a lot of it and he’s done it very well. An underrated player with the ball at his feet as well.  I think he’s left footed but he’s happy on either.  Deservedly scooped all the Player of the Year awards for doing the work of two men in midfield.  I think we’d have got even more out of him if we’d had a physically strong player alongside him as well as it would have given him a bit more licence to get forward and play.  He will get linked with moves away but having slipped from view when at Chelsea and at Barcelona, he’ll be reluctant for now to move back to a big club so he should be here next season and it’s vital that he is.  Highlight – Player of the Year and binning Ander Herrera.

Oriol Sorts Out Little Shit Problem

Infuriatingly inconsistent but this has been his best season in a Saints shirt.  You’re now surprised when he gets left out and he has managed to kick on a bit.  There have been a few more goals and a few more chances created.  The set piece delivery is excellent whenever he’s trying to whip a ball into an area for others to attack but the shooting from free kicks on the edge of the box has been abysmal.  If he aims at the left post then it starts in line and curls wide, if he aims for the right post then he starts it too wide and it’s coming in and everyone goes ‘ooooooh’ but there’s no point as it never comes in enough.  Should be our main penalty taker but seems to get shouted down by others who then miss.  Overall though, a good improvement on previous years and of course, he won his first England cap.  High – England debut.  Low – every shot from a free kick.

Has the ability and showed it at times in the first half of the season.  Fell foul of Claude’s reluctance to change a losing team in the second half of the season and spent the majority of it sat on the bench.  Looks like the kind of player that needs a run of games and he should really have got that once we were safe from the minimal threat of relegation.  I like the fact that he has a big of swagger about him when playing well and a bit of physical presence which we badly need.  If it was down to me, I’d have had him playing next to Romeu as a defensive midfielder.  More to come next season.  Needs to develop into a Morgan Schneiderlin type of player and has the potential to do so – remember that it took a while for Morgan to get up to speed and Pierre is still very young.

Just when I had completely given up on him doing anything in English football, he gets given a couple of games at the end of the season and plays well in both, scores, assists and plays well.  In return for being decent in the only two games we won at the end of the season, he got dropped again.  Badly treated by the manager and he deserved more games.  If I was him I’d be looking to get away and I’m sure that he will be looking to do that if Claude is the manager next season.  A likeable and popular player by the look of it but if he is around next year, he absolutely has to perform.  Higlight – Goals at Arsenal and West Brom.  Low – Playing well and getting dropped.

He’s good at what he does and has had a solid season but I do wonder if we’re limiting ourselves by having him playing at times.  He needs the right balance of players around him to be truly effective or else he becomes a jack of all trades, master of none type of midfielder.  Not really a defensive midfielder as he’s not fond of a tackle, tends to let runners go and doesn’t have much physical presence and not really an attacking midfielder as his shooting is woeful.  He keeps things moving but that has suffered this season with our chronically bad off the ball running which has often left him in possession and being forced to turn back and pass backwards.  At 32/33 he might fancy a move back to Scotland but I expect he’ll be here next season though if he stays, I would expect him to play a bit less.  Highlight – Consistency, Low – Every single shot.

I think he’s 23 and is no closer to being a regular than he was when he was 18.  It’s not going to happen and he needs to move.  In a couple of games this season he looked ok and I thought he could do at least as good a job as Clasie but in other games he was absolutely dreadful.  Needs a move to a Championship club on loan for a season to see if there’s anything there.


Has had a massive opportunity this season to come off the wing and play as a Number 10 and in the main, has blown it.  Two goals and a few assists is not enough for a player who has loads of ability and that includes and ability to disappear and an ability to slow down any attack.  At times he’s brilliant and other times the most utterly frustrating player we have, mainly because he’s capable of so much more.  Has hugely missed the presence of Graziano Pellé up front who always seemed to be on the same wavelength.  He’s a clever bloke as he worked out that the manager was piss-weak so if he moaned to the press about being substituted, even though it was usually deserved, he wouldn’t get subbed any more.  Job done.  Highlight – contribution to JWP goal at home to Palace.  Low – Losing wrestling match with Austin.

He’s not the new Thierry Henry but he is decent and he’s only going to get better.  Once the ridiculous experiment of playing him as a striker was abandoned and he was put in the position for which we’d presumably scouted him for, he was generally decent and scored more goals in the season than he’d ever done before.  Got mucked about by the manager at the end of the season when having won an England cap and playing with confidence, it really would have been better to leave him in the team.  Can be absolutely devastating when up against retreating defenders but can also be a right moaning fucker.  The first rule in learning from mistakes is to admit you’ve made them and not look for the nearest person to blame.  Works really well with Ryan Bertrand on the left even though the two of them are always moaning at eachother.  I get the feeling that Ryan is winding him up.  Highlight – Watford away, England call-up.  Low – moaning bastard.

Amazing ability and we’ll see more of it next year after a pre-season etc.  If he doesn’t do it next year though we’ll be into another Gaston Ramirez situation where we’ll be saying he’s got ability but it’s never really going to happen.  Needs a manager who is going to let him play his natural game near the opposition goal and Claude is not that manager.  Sofiane is a fucking nightmare if he’s back near the half way line in terms of giving the ball away and trying his tricks in the wrong area of the field.  Mind you, Sadio Mané was the same in that regard.  There will hopefully be a lot of fun to be had watching him next season.  There were many examples of him making defenders look ridiculous but there was also the goal of the season against Sunderland in the EFL Cup.  The talent is there.  Highlight – goal of the season.  Low – niggling injuries x 10.

Famously started against Everton and immediately made Koeman regret his comment that none of our young players were good enough – well he would have regretted it if he wasn’y such an arrogant twat.  Also had another great moment setting up Shane Long for the winner in the cup semi final at Anfield.  Can expect a few more opportunities next season and it’ll be interesting to watch his progression.  He’s another one that Portsmouth released so it’d be good to see him do well.  Highlight – Anfield run in the semi final to set up winner.

For Fucks sake.  League 1 at best.  Highlight – None, Low – Potentially signing for Pompey.


When Shane Gets It Right

The season before the one just finished was the best of Shane Long’s career.  This season has either been piss poor by comparison or it’s just been a return to normal service.  A bit of both I think.  There is no doubt though that whilst the effort has been there, the composure and confidence has not been.  At all.  Not even close.  Actually, he’s been shite.  Proper shite.  It’s a Catch 22 – he’s not going to get his confidence back playing 15 minutes as a sub each week but then why would anyone pick him to start when he’s absolutely awful.  He almost looks like he’s trying too hard this season and as a result, gets into a downward spiral as the misses get worse, the control of the ball gets worse, the timing of the runs – fuck me – the fastest player on the pitch has been caught offside again.  Has it in him to be a great asset but this season has been a disaster… aside from semi final night at Anfield.  There you have it, in a shocking personal season, he’s been responsible for what was probably the highlight. His season was summed up in his last appearance at Middlesbrough – run at pace, wins penalty, takes penalty, smashes it over.  Highlight – Anfield, Low – Any time composure is needed and the double substitution.

Rusty Rodriguez has had a bang average campaign.  Finally back from his injury, bulked up and slower and less effective.  There comes a point when the “he’s a bit rusty” excuses don’t carry any weight any more.  There has been the odd spark like at Bournemouth and Middlesbrough but has in the main looked completely lacklustre and I think most fans have given up on the notion that he could be back to how he was in his golden season under Pochettino.  A very likeable player who at his best would fit right in.  Sadly though, those days appear to be gone and he probably needs to move somewhere else to give him a chance to get it back.  Needs a run of games but of course, there has to be a return in there.  Highlight – Bournemouth goal away.  Low – Performances when he’s looked like he’s got a hangover.

If it hadn’t been for his run of goals at the start of the season then we would have been fighting a relegation battle.  I always felt that Claude never really wanted to play him but given the dearth of other options, he had no choice and Charlie did what he does and kept sticking the ball in the net.  He also did what he does and got injured and disappeared for 5 months.  The early season diamond formation didn’t get the best out of him and the sight of Charlie tracking back on the left wing whilst Nathan Redmond struggled down the middle was one of the first things that made me wonder if Claude was up to it.  He’s not really a sole striker so it would be interesting to see him partnered with Gabbiadini up front.  One thing is certain, you won’t see that with Claude in charge.  Every team needs a goalscorer and he’ll be here next season.

Moment of the Season

It looked liked we’d signed Maradona when he first started with 6 goals in 4 games and the way he played generally.  The movement and finishing were first class and he gave us genuine hope that we could win the EFL Cup final.  His little burst of goals in February, like Austin’s at the start of the season were ultimately what kept us away from a relegation battle.  His purple patch coincided with us changing formation to 4-2-3-1 and getting players around him.  When he came back from a little injury, we had reverted to 4-3-3 and he had no support and struggled, not scoring for the last 6 or 7 games.  Like Boufal, has huge amounts of ability and potential and we need a manager to get the most out of him.  Highlight – Wembley 2nd goal.  Low – Wembley disallowed goal.


On loan in the Championship at Blackburn who have got relegated but he contributed 12 goals which is not a bad return.  There are lots of press stories about him moving to other Championship clubs next season but in my opinion, we should have him back in the squad next season.  We have desperately missed having a target man striker this season and whilst there is more to his game than that, he’s the closest we have.