Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Premier League Match 4 - Southampton 3 Norwich 0

Well that's Buggered the Game Plan Hasn't it you Twat!

Everyone has a mate who supports Man United or Man City or Arsenal but not everyone has a mate who supports Norwich City. I forget this from time to time but he will be dressed in yellow and green at St Mary's today and I hope he has a really shit time. We had a really shit time of our own a couple of days ago in Denmark so today is a must win for lots of reasons. The first requirement of winning is to play some decent fucking football with the ball on the ground so the first couple of minutes will tell us much about how things are going to go.

Norwich have started okay this season, registering a decent away win, albeit at Sunderland who were a complete shambles. Delia Smith is still there and I assume she is still all over the cooking sherry. Please stay off the pitch at half-time Delia as we all want to listen to the irritating bald bloke.

News is breaking as the game approaches that Victor Wanyama is mentally and physically unable to play. As anyone with a couple of brain cells knows, this means that he is sulking and it possibly means that he is refusing to play unless we sell him to Spurs. How we are supposed to sell him to Spurs without them making any sort of bid., let alone agreeing a price is anyone's guess. Spurs don't actually make bids you see, they just leak it through the media that they might possibly maybe like to if the wind is blowing in the right direction and the planets are aligned and Daniel Levy's wallet happens to be open. The sad thing is that in the eyes of a majority of Saints fans,   Refusing to play basically, is a big bollocks dropping exercise and Victor will have gone from hero to zero in one fell swoop. With him obviously kicking off behind the scenes, you do wonder how much of a negative effect it had on the rest of the squad and how much it contributed to the Thursday night's shambles.

Sadio Mane has obviously put Manchester United’s alleged ‘Pedro-signed-for-Chelsea-so-we’ll-look-like-we-planned-it’ interest to the back of his mind as he is starting today along with Cédric and Dusan Tadic. As the players line up to start it looks like JWP is playing deeper than Steven Davis and will anchor the midfield along with Romeu

Away we go and the ball is worked back to Yoshida from the kick off and boom….(sigh!) up to Pellè but Bassong is all voer the back of him so we win a free kick straight away so that hoof is forgiven.  It’s just to the left of centre and JWP strikes it really well and we all get excited until Ruddy flies across to his right to tip it wide. Bastard.  Tadic put the corner over and it falls to Romeu steaming in and he takes out two Norwich players in the act of smashing it miles over the bar.

The good news is that we settle down and play some decent football.  Cedric, JWP and Mané combining well down the right before Mané’s cross is behind Pellè and he gets wildly optimistic in trying an overhead kick from 25 yards out which skews comfortably wide.

Norwich’s first attack brings a decent chance as howson latches onto a poor Fonte clearance, slings it over and finds Hoolahan at the back post.  He cushion volleys it across and Jerome thankfully, is Jerome and seems to get the timing all wrong from his header which kind of scuffs off his ear and wide.

Norwich right back Steven Whittaker then took centre stage for 5 minutes.  Firstly he stopped Targett taking a quick throw in by wrapping his arms around him and picked up a booking.  We create another chance for ourselves with a  quick free kick on the right and Mané hoists a cross over which Pellè expertly flicked on to Tadic who took aim but drilled a left footed shot past Ruddy and a couple of feet past the far post.  A few minutes later and JWP scooped a ball over the top for Tadic to run onto but he couldn’t run onto it because Whittaker decided it was a good idea to grab hold of him and drag him over.  We could have done without Dusan jumping up and down and waving imaginary cards but the red card was out and we have an hour to play against 10 men.

We eventually create a chance from the free kick as Tadic twists two defenders inside out before putting Mané away and his low cross is missed by everyone and falls to Cédric whose shot is headed over the bar.  Norwich have sacrificed Hoolahan to bring on Wisdom and he’s shite so they’ve effectively decided to play with 9.

Just as the clock reach 45 and we thought it was going to have to wait until the second half, Norwich tried to work the ball out from left back rather than smashing it away and JWP eased Howson off the ball and sent Mané away.  Mané slipped a ball into Graziano who lashed it first time past Ruddy and in at the near post.  Thank fuck for that, 1-0.  We have an opportunity to make it 2-0 before half time but Mané’s cross is just a bit too far ahead of Graziano and we get a big beautiful Italian air shot with a ‘Mamma Mia’ thrown in with big hand gestures afterwards.  Half time and relief.

As the second half was about to start, J-Rod was sttod on the line waiting to come on.  A quick scan round tell you that Steven Davis is the man replaced and it looks like we’re going to try and stretch Norwich right out.  Straight away we have a chance but it’s down to a shite kick from Ruddy which goes straight to Mané.  He has Brady on toast before shooting but Ruddy redeems himself with a decent block and he’s at it again when after a rare Norwich attack, Stekelenburg bowls it out to JWP who finds Pellè and his first time pass it smashed at goal by J-Rod only for Ruddy to be up to it again.  Graziano is having a great game hits a first time shot from a short Mané pass which flicks the side netting as it missiles just past the post.

Game over was next as a deliberate build up ended with Mané and Cédric swapping passes before a low Mané cross picked out Tadic at the back post and he sidefooted past Ruddy and into the top corner to make it 2-0.  Great goal.  Game completely over next and what a goal.  A nice build u out of defence before a superb crossfield ball from Romeu to Cédric.  Mané then takes the piss out of defender before feeding Cédric again and the only thing that stopped this being a goal of the season contender was that Graziano’s thumping header was well saved by Ruddy but he was still on the ground as Tadic knocked it into an empty net from a yard whilst three Norwich defenders totally failed to help the keeper out.  Brady was even appealing for offside from his position on the goal line.  Dick.

J-Rod is on a mission to score and has a shoot on sight policy.  He tries a couple of keepy-uppies froma  Cédric cross and volleys one just wide of the near post.  Next up he tries a curler from the opposite sode of the penalty area which flies a yard over the bar.  He’s nearly back.

Subs at the end as Ronald gives Juanmi 10 minutes to show he’s not ready yet and Norwich bring on Gary Hooper for Jerome, somehow making their attack worse.  He has a chance for a consolation as Yoshida messes up giving Johnson a shooting chance, Stekelenburg saves it well down low and the rebound falls to Hooper who should take it on left footed but he obviously hasn’t got one so he smashed it well wide with his right foot.  The end – Get in!!!

Wasn't it great to see us play some good football today after the shambles of last Thursday? Wasn't it nice to see the ball passed about on the floor? It was quite an unbelievable contrast to our last game. It's ironic that on a day when Big Vic confirms that he is just the latest in the long line of fucking dickhead players that we have had over the last few years (yes that's you I'm talking about Lallana and Lovren) that Romeu was absolutely brilliant in midfield to prove there would be life after the latest twat after all. The added bonus was that he didn't get booked either. The headline makers will be Mane Tadic and Pelle and they were all excellent but Romeu stole the show for me. It was also nice to see JWP having another decent match. I get the feeling with him that just one of these free kicks flying in is going to give him the confidence to kick on and become a more effective player. If he does this, he will be the latest to prove the majority of fans wrong who seem to have decided that he's shit. It's another clean sheet for the defence and though that side of things definitely became easier after the red card, it was good to see Cedric both defending competently and attacking well. Most of the attacking threat from Norwich came down our left-hand side and Matt Targett stood up really well defensively.

It was a very good day for Ronald Koeman today. Played 4, won 1 drawn 2, lost 1 really doesn't look too bad and we have more points than fucking Spurs.

Ronald confirmed afterwards that Victor Wanyama had indeed asked to leave but reiterated that he wouldn't be sold. My immediate stance would be to tell Vic to go and fuck himself and rot in the under 21s. I wouldn't put it quite like that if I was talking to him though. If Spurs are that desperate to do a deal before the end of the transfer window however, then say that they can have him for £30 million or else they can go and fuck themselves and their fucking Sky Spurs Sources.

I thought Norwich were pretty desperate to be honest. You are never going to score enough goals to stay in the Premier League if you play with one striker and that one striker is Cameron Jerome. How bad must Ricky van Wolfswinkel be if he's behind Jerome and Gary Hooper in the pecking order? They will say that the sending off changed the game but trust me Norwich, you were going to get beaten anyway today.  I was impressed by how Alex Neil spoke after the game and basically admitted that they weren’t very good and that they were poor before the sending off and didn’t deserve anything from the game.

We now have an international break which is well timed because it gives us chance to get some players back fit, notably Ryan Bertrand and Jordy Clasie. We have another few days of transfer window to endure which will hopefully only see incoming players, unless Spurs actually feel like putting their money where their mouth is. The main plus point of today's win is that as a fan it gives you a good feeling as you wait for the next game unlike the completely shit feeling we all had after Thursday's debacle in Denmark.  We also have the transfer deadline to get through but more on that next time I guess.

England have two matches in the break, away to San Marino and home to Switzerland so we can expect Rooney to break the England goalscoring record and us have to put up with a media wankathon for a few days. Once that is done and dusted, we cannot look forward to the away game at West Brom and playing against Sir Rickie once more and it's a game we can certainly win. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Europa League Playoff Round 2nd Leg - Midtjylland 1 Southampton 0 (Agg 2-1)

"You See That Big Italian Bloke 70 Yards Away"

Victor Wanyama is ill. 

The Mighty Kenyan who can run through brick walls and survives on a diet of iron filings and rubble and opposition midfielders is ill – with a stomach bug.  It’s a conspiracy of course and he’s in hospital having a medical for Tottenham.  It’s the last few days of the transfer window and Daniel Levy thinks he’d better get going in the transfer market so all his favourite media outlets have been informed and Saido Berahino, Big Vic and some Korean bloke call Son are seeing their names in the papers and having their heads turned, whilst their respective clubs all say ‘not for sale’.   Spurs really are a scumbag of a club.

Anyway, we are in Denmark and Victor is not, so we will talk about Midtjylland and the 2nd leg of the Playoff Round for the Europa League.  I’m of the opinion that it will be a disaster and monumental waste if we fail to progress to the group stages so let’s make sure that we get through.  Ronald is speaking confidently in that we know how the opposition are going to play and we know that we have to score.  I’m of the opinion that we will be fine if we remain patient and I don’t just mean not panicking if it’s 0-0 at half time – I want us to be patient in the build-up and not just look to launch it to Graziano (and probably J-Rod).

Ronald has decieded to stick with the 3-5-2 formation from the Watford game which for those with short memories was a game we didn’t score in.  That formation depends on the full backs providing the width in attack and I’m a bit worried to se Martina and Targett on the wings as Martina is more of  a defender and I’m not sure Targett has the pace to play wing back.  I know we have a lack of options on the left but surely Cédric should be in on the right.  I’m also slightly alarmed to see both Davis and JWP in midfield with Romeo as that’s a pace free zone and pretty much a creativity free zone.  Mané is on the bench so he can write a transfer request and I’m bemused that Tadic is not playing given the aforementioned lack oof creativity and the need for a goal.  Ah well…. Nervous.  Midtjylland have made the one change with the ridiculously named Bak-Bach coming in at right back.  Ready to start and it’s pissing down.

We win a corner from our first long ball forward. JWP is corner is missed by everyone and José dives into it and heads goalwards only for it to be headed off the line. Midtjylland’s first spoling tactic becomes clear from the corner and it’s for the guy at the near post to dive on the ground though in fairness he did get a clip in the face from a flailing J-Rod arm.  It really wasn’t enough to poleaxe him though.

Pellè comes deep and picks up a ball on the right and floats a lovely cross into J-Rod on in the inside left channel. He should smash it left footed on the volley but instead cushions it back behind Davis and it drops to JWP whose shot hits a defender and ricochets away. On 20 minutes, Caulker slings in a ball from the right wing which again is chested down by Pellè to Davis who finds space and hammers in a shot that the parries away.

The game settles into a pattern of long ball rubbish from us and feigning injury from them.  Another corner, another  near post swandive and J-Rod gets a little bit over zealous in trying to pull the wanker to his feet and gets booked so the perfect outcome for the cheats.  They get a free kick, delay the game and the opposition have a player booked.  Well played ref.

J-Rod is getting frustrated after the booking and goes hunting the ball in the left back position.  He wins it and shields it and gets shoved over and usually that’s a free kick.  He’s straight back up and should just knock it out of play but he tries to play a ball to Targett and loses it.  Royer feeds a ball into Rasmussen who nips in front of Fonte and finds himself with a free shot across Stekelenburg which he puts into the far corner to put Midtjylland 1-0 up on the night.  Fucking hell.  It doesn’t in fact make a lot of difference in that we still need a one goal or we’re going out.  It’s bollocks from both Jay and José though and you have to question the positioning of Maya and Matt Targett as well.  Shit goal all round.

Martina, who has spent the game so far going backwards, actually gets a cross in which is cleared and eventually it’s work back to him and he crosses again to J-Rod who flicks a decent header down towards the bottom corner but the keeper saves it comfortably enough.

Hoof, nothing, hoof, nothing, hoof, free kick against Graziano for nothing, hoof, straight to Sparv who heads it away.  Half time and fucking hell this is bad.  Carry on like this and we’re going out.

We come out after half time and almost straight away we’re bombing it forward again.  1-0 defeat coming up then.  They look more likely to score than we do as they’re decent on set plays.  A free kick comes on from the right and Rasmussen, who is always the main target for their free kicks, finds himself free and heads wide.

We are not going to score with these 11 in this formation if we play all fucking night and Tadic is the first to be charged with bailing us out of the shit we’re in. Caulker is the man coming off which immediately strikes me as wrong as we’re losing his threat from corners and he’s played better than Yoshida.  Tadic takes his place on the left of a lopsided looking formation with J-Rod kind of on the right and Tadic gets involved straight away, dancing past a couple of players before hitting a right footed effort a yard wide.  I assume the change is to get some quality in the crosses coming in from the wings.  We still have Martina impersonating a full back on the other side though, mainly getting the ball with space in front of him and turning and going backwards.  But he’s a Curacao international… they must be shit.

J-Rod is at least trying to get something going and he picks up the ball and drives at the defence until he’s cynically taken out by Sparv which earns him a deserved booking.  The free kick is in prime position for a right footed player so I’m hopeful that this is the day that JWP actually scores.  This time it’s heading over the wall and a Midtjylland arm comes up in the wall and deflects the ball.  It’s a penalty all day long but the ref gives a corner.  What the fuck?  Does he think a player’s grown two feet and headed it over.  We have a little complaint but nothing much when we really should have kicked off to try and get a future decision and then we make a complete fuck of the corner, fail to get it into the box, J-Rod loses it, they break and Targett has to take one for the team and scythes down the breaking forward. Luckily, Martina had got behind him to prevent the red card.  Christ we’re shit.

Long is on for J-Rod and Midtjylland produce the best bit of football of the match as Royer plays a nice 1-2 in the box and then sidefoots a decent chance over the bar.  We have produced nothing as inventive as that in the preceding shambles.

The hilariously bad Martina, when under no pressure, then tried to control a high ball in his own penalty area and succeeded in just shinning it back to Stekelenburg.  The crowd and Rasmussen appealed for a back pass but luckily the referee had been watching Martina for the whole game so he knew that there was no way that he meant it.  The final throw is to put Juanmi on.  He’s our 6th choice forward at the moment and at 5 foot 6, it would take a miracle for him to get on the end of anything bombed forward.  He does fuck all and 90 minutes are up, hoof, hoof, shit, 94, out.  The Danes celebrate like they’ve won the World Cup and fair enough.  Good luck to them.  They had a plan and we were too limited to combat it.  Utter shit.

As a fan, I think of myself as being realistic.  I remember the shocking times and I accept that we have it good now.  I also like to think I call it as I see it and this is how I saw the 90 minutes put in front of me last night.  As an experiment, I ‘spoke’ the next part into my phone straight after the game…

Message starts

That was an absolutely disgusting performance from first to last. We didn't create a single fucking thing from about the 10th minute to the 94th minute.  Just banging the ball long from the centre backs to the strikers and most of the time we weren’t even getting as far as the half way line and delivering from any sort of angle, just hopeful lowest common denominator, League 1 football which was absolutely shit.  Just a waft in the general direction of Graziano and hope for the best.  I know it was a plan to be more direct but when do the management of the players on the pitch realise that it’s not working?

So many of the players were absolutely shit. I'll go through the whole team. Stekelenburg didn't have a chance with a goal and did nothing wrong. Martina was a fucking joke. We needed a goal and all this twat did was turn and go backwards the whole fucking game when he was a wingback who was supposed to get fucking crosses in. Did he take anyone on all game?  He had a centre back playing behind him and he showed no adventure whatsoever.  Useless. I remember saying when he signed that this guy had better be significantly better than Jason McCarthy or Jack Stephens or any of our other kids who can play at right back… and guess what, he fucking isn't. Targett tried his best on the left but he's a boy in a man's world at the moment and looks out of his depth. The booking he got was one he took for the team after some absolutely shit play from us from our own corner which we didn't even get in the fucking box.  He was actually one of our better players tonight.  Yoshida and Caulker were both launching the ball in the vague direction of Pelle and Rodriguez from about 70 fucking yards away and that tactic obviously wasn't working but still they persisted with it. Jose Fonte has been pretty crap this season and today was no exception as he looked indecisive throughout. Davis and JWP are basically the same player, neat and tidy on the ball but neither can defend for shit and neither are going to score and are unlikely to create a goal. Davis is a slightly better defender and JWP has his free kicks which never go in and corners but they should never both be playing as they are too similar. Most of the time we were smashing the ball over their heads anyway so they didn't get much chance to do anything aside from try and get near Pellè for a knock down. Speaking of Pellè, I thought he did okay considering the absolute dog shit service he was given. Rodriguez fucked up on the goal which ultimately didn’t matter but otherwise he was living off of scraps.

Ronald Koeman has had an absolute shocker for about the fourth game in a row. The formation in itself wasn't the problem but the personnel was. Why the fuck wasn't Cedric playing when he can at least get a cross in? Why the fuck didn't he come on as a sub. Why was Sadio on the bench if not to be used in the last 10 minutes? Why send Juanmi on when a) the bloke has not shown anything yet in his admittedly limited chances and b) it was supply we needed. Another striker really is not going to do anything without a decent ball into the box. All you can say about Juanmi at the moment is that he’s not Mayuka.  Also, why take Caulker off when we need a goal? He gets his head on virtually every corner we get and might at least score a goal. Yoshida is never going to score so why take Caulker off?  Yoshida was terrible at the back as well – how many times are you going to get free kicks given against you for jumping with your hands on the opponents head before you realise that the referee has got your number and he’s going too give it every time? Tadic made a difference when he came on but assuming he is not injured, he really should have played from the start instead of one of JWP and Davis.

It was fucking dog shit. I just feel sorry for the fans who invested a lot of money to get out there and support the team in the pissing rain. To reward them, we put in a performance like that. Utter, utter shit. To go out like that against a team as limited as Midtjylland are is nothing short of a disgrace when you've worked all 38 games of last season to achieve the chance of qualifying for the group stages of the Europa league and maybe achieving something quite decent.  If we’d got to the group and got knocked out after winning a couple of games then I could have dealt with that and said it was a decent European campaign.  As it is it was barely worth it.

All is not lost in that Cedric, Bertrand, Clasie, Big Vic , Tadic, Mané and a new centre back will all make this team unrecognisable from the absolute shit house team that disgraced the Southampton badge on their shirts tonight.  Ronald’s comments were worrying too.  Sorry Ron – we weren’t the better side and even if we were, that’s not saying much as we were playing against a team from Denmark who would struggle in the Championship.  We didn’t do enough to win over the two games as our attacking play was so brainless and limited.  You could argue that Midtjylland scored with virtually their only chances over the two games but once they’d scored at St Mary’s, they didn’t need to attack.  Fair play to them and I hope they do well in the group stages.  Hopefully they can beat Spurs or Liverpool. You can also say that we didn’t get the best of the refereeing.  It was clearly a tactic on every corner we had for a Midtjylland defender at the near post to hit the deck and stay there.  Even if he doesn’t get given a free kick (like with Caulker’s header at St.Mary’s) the game is going to be stopped for the trainer to come on because the ref is never going to be sure that he’s taken a dive.  That’s what the extra refs behind the goal was supposed to eliminate I guess but they never influenced the game and they seem to have disappeared. The handball of JWP’s free kick was a poor mistake from the ref but that’s not the reason we’re out – it’s because we couldn’t score from open play in two games and we were generally terrible.

Message ends.

If I hear one more twat talk about concentrating on the league, I swear I will rip their fucking head off. This was a golden chance, as I said, to do something decent and we fucked it right up. The league is next though and we have newly promoted Norwich City as our next appointment on Sunday... at least we won't have too many Sunday games now. The pressure to win that one against Norwich will be quite intense.  This is the first real blip of Koeman’s time in charge of Saints and he needs to turn it around.  Pretty obvious statement, that.

The bigger picture is that you cannot keep selling class players and replacing them and expect the replacements to all measure up straight away.  The players who have been brought in to hopefully be first team regulars are Cédric (not quite up to speed yet), Clasie (injured) and the centre back we haven’t signed yet.  Add that to Ryan Bertrand, Sadio and Big Vic not being there and last night is what you get.  It was the style of football that as most concerning though as it was dreadful.   Personally, I don’t think the bigger picture looks too bad with injured players to come back and whatever is incoming in the rest of the transfer window but please don’t pretend that what we all witnessed last night was anything other than complete shite.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Premier League Match 3 - Watford 0 Southampton 0

The Public React to Another 'Sky Sources' Saints Transfer Exclusive

We’re at the time of the season when the end of the transfer window can’t come soon enough.  It’s an exciting time because your team may well bring in a player or two in the last week like we did last year with Sadio Mané and that greasy haired git who moved to that underachieving shambles in North London.   For Saints though it’s a time for mainly switching on any newsfeed you like and seeing 95% of the stories relating to one of your players being linked to a Champions League Clickbait Club or an Underachieving North London Clickbait Club.

Firstly we had the very amusing transfer of Pedro from Barcelona to Chelsea.  He was supposed to join Manchester United of course and it was a done deal and all that stuff until he signed for Chelsea.  I was laughing along with Jose Mourinho and the next day, the fact (not the word ‘fact’) that United had lost out had been relegated behind a rumour from 'Sky Sources' that United wanted Sadio Mané.  They’ve made a bid, they haven’t made a bid, the player’s unsettled, Saints have rejected the bid that may or may not have been made.  Big fucking yawn.  The facts are that Pedro has moved to Chelsea and it’s very funny and that’s it.  Also funny is that 'Sky Sources' can be both ever present and non-existent at the same time.

After a day of that we got the ‘Victor Wanyama has indicated he wants to leave’.  Oh bloody hell…. So you have to read one or two and there are no quotes so you relax again but it’s irritating that the storm has kicked off again and it’s in your brain.  This time of course it’s Spurs again – greasy haired git says last week that it was easier to be a centre half at Saints with Wanyama in the team plus Pochettino is there plus there’s Spurs fixation with all things red and white.  In amongst all this you have the Saints manager saying ‘no one is leaving’ so that’s that and there’s no need to change the sheets on your bed.  With two years left on his contract I guess those bastards from North London will have to wait until the summer until they can watch him join a big club.

Having said all that, I’m sure Celtic fans are feeling the same as us over the rumours of Virgil van Dijk and his seemingly inevitable move to England but for now, he’s not at Saints or anywhere else so we have to try and get over the last two dodgy results with the existing squad and today, Ronald changes things and we’ve gone with a 3-5-2 formation.  Cédric is in at right wing back with Caulker, José and Maya in defence and Targett on the left.  The very solid looking Big Vic and Romeu in midfield with Steve Davis, Mané and Pellè completing a line-up that looks solid as you like if a little light on creativity.

I’ve almost not acknowledged Watford’s presence this season as they have spent the last few season dealing exclusively in the loan market and every transfer window seems to being in 20 new loan players (usually from the same club) and three new managers.  The Manager today is Quique Flores and their notable players are ex-Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes, captain Troy Deeney who’s been with them a while and scored loads of goals in the Championship and Etienne Capoue who was one of the players that Spurs thought would replace Gareth Bale.  Needless to say… he didn’t.

Away we go and boooooom from Maya towards Pellè.  If the first few minutes are anything to go by, we’re in for a boring afternoon as we are rigidly sticking to a solid 7 players in front of Stekelenburg and hoping that Mané and Davis will create something for Pellè who immediately look like he’s going to be trying to control throat balls all game.  Playing with three centre backs does give the wide centre backs a bit of license to get forward and Caulker thinks he’s Beckenbauer for a moment and bursts into the Watford penalty are to collect a pass from Davis but it ultimately comes to nothing.  Watford don’t look very good to be honest and their first effort is from Nyom on the right wing but his diagonal drive is closer to the left corner flag than the goal.

Ikechi Anya, the Scottish international with the very un-Scottish sounding name then puts a cross in the same area as Nyom’s shot.  Maybe it’s something they work on in training – if so, Flores will be delighted.  A ball is played over the top to Mané and Nyom tries to block him and fails but Gomes came flying out and collects the ball but he clatters Sadio as well.  A few minutes later and he makes a meal of a challenge from Bahrami and stays down again, gets up and falls over again and he’s done for the day to be replaced by Long.

Shane’s first involvement is to fasten onto a good ball from Graziano down the wing and cut in.  He does superbly to work a shooting chance on his left foot and then does a Shane Long and scuffs the shot straight to Gomes.  After waiting ages for a decent effort on goal, bus theory takes over and we get two.  Football breaks out and ends with Long picking up the ball on the right wing and getting in a good cross which Graziano lunges to meet and flicks his header wide.  Next we have a corner and Davis delivery is met by Caulker who heads it straight at Gomes.  I am really encouraged by the amount of times Caulker gets his head on corners and it’s a matter of time before he scores in a game.  He’s had one in a pre-season friendly, the disallowed goal against Midtjylland, a couple of other efforts against the same opposition and it’ll come as long as we keep aiming at him.

It’s brown trousers time after that though as Fonte tries to head out a punt forward and succeeds only in knocking it down for a Watford player who feeds Anya.  He plays a dangerous ball in front the right but mercifully it’s in front of everyone and Nghalo isn’t really very close to getting a touch.

Watford make a sub at half time with Diamanti, who was an Italian international about 3 years ago, coming on but it Saints who start the second half the better and a lovely move through the middle and down the right eventually sees Davis thread a straight ball through to Pellè to the right of centre and the beautiful Italian lashed a first time shot which Gomes tipped over the bar.  For the corner, Long rose well and flicked a header just over the bar off his quiff.

Fifteen minutes of tedium followed before, on 65 minutes we have a major let off as Jurado wins a corner as he tries to turn Targett three ways at once but the full back sticks to his job.  The corner was swung in and flicked on to the back post where Capoue had a free header from three yards but luckily he lacks the basic technique to head a ball and he shut his eyes and the ball bounced off his shoulder and went over the bar.  Words cannot do justice to just how shite it was.

JWP is on for Steve Davis and following good play from Targett, Cedric and Romeu, Big Vic is teed up for a shot which he hits quite well but Gomes gets down well too save.  We have once more half chance as Graziano chests down a ball on the edge of the box and Cédric comes steaming in and goes for a goal of the season contender which flies narrowly over the bar on the volley.  J-Rod is on for Graziano for the last 10 minutes but to no avail and a game which had largely started badly and then tailed off was over.

Neither team deserved to win and both probably deserved to lose.  The only thing that makes me smile is that the Premier League “Brand” takes a bit of a hammering every time there’s a completely dull game like this one.  It’s hard enough to watch your own team play in a match like this but for anyone neutral, this would have been appalling.  Still – who cares about neutrals sitting there in their half and half scarves.

We always moan about our team being last on Match of the Day but today was so lacking on the entertainment front that it could have been left off Match of the Day 2 altogether and put on a special Match of the Day Zero program at 4am.  It would satisfy the BBC’s contractual obligation to show every game and no one would actually have to watch it.  It’s a solid point and the positive is that we neither let in a goal nor looked like letting one in.  This is Watford however who have just come up so maybe we should be setting out to be a bit more adventurous and win this one.  Mind you, last year against the promoted sides, we lost at Burnley, lost at Leicester and scraped a last minute winner against a shocking QPR side.  Ronald was keen to stress afterwards that we’d been letting in too many goals recently and the need for better defensive organization was paramount. Overall I agree with him and another defeat here would have been tough for everyone.

The trouble today was that once Mané had gone off, the little creativity that we had in the side went off with him.  I would have thought that Tadic would have been the better sub to bring on and that point and maybe because Romeu and Big Vic are a great pair defensively so maybe Tadic could have started ahead of Steve Davis.  Having called for his inclusion, I will say that Tadic seems a bit out of favour at the moment after his abysmal showing against Everton.  With Shane Long coming on as an early sub and being a bit of a liability again, we resorted to hoofing the ball up towards Pellè a bit too often so it was a frustrating afternoon for the Italian.  Elsewhere, José Fonte put in his best performance of the season and other positives included Oriol Romeu, despite maintaining his 100% record of picking up a booking in every match he plays.  Also, if he wants away then Big Vic certainly didn’t show it as he certainly put a shift in.

So – on to Denmark and the return leg against Midtjylland, which I have finally learned how to spell.  It’s a game which could be absolutely anything from a comfortable win to penalties to a frustrating borefest as the Danes waste time from the first minute.  I will be putting money on us winning though and kick starting the league season in the process which we have a great chance to do next Sunday against Norwich at St.Mary’s.  If we do that then the world will seem a better place.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Europa League Playoff Round 1st Leg - Southampton 1 Midtjylland 1

Caulker scores, Disallowed for Dive on the left of Shot

The first thing you notice as you approach St.Mary’s is that it seems to have turned into a kind of Cockney East End market with various ‘geezers’ standing there with arms outstretched, covered in half and half scarves. ‘Get yer souvenir scarves… Europa League, Saints versus Maj, Matj, Mayet…. Madg, Madjy…. Europa League!’.  No thanks mate.

Europe is a funny thing and you often head or European rules being bestowed on Britain and us not liking it, especially Mr Farage.  They’ve bestowed a new law on us and it’s that you can’t take a drink into a stadium in a bottle.  You have to tip it into a plastic pint glass outside the ground and then carry it in, spilling most of it down your leg as you try and put your ticket into the reader and push through the turnstiles.  It is a completely ridiculous rule which achieves nothing of any purpose aside from pissing people off outside the ground and the stewards get flak. The 70-ish year old woman behind me gave it “I’ve never heard such a load of bollocks in my life” as the steward explained it.  I dunno if this rule has been publicised by the club but I’d suggest that the message has not got through.

So – Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round and a win puts us in the Group stages which however you look at it, will be quite exciting if we make it and we sure should.  Midtjylland are the Champions of Denmark who have dropped into this competition after being knocked out of the Champions League by the Champions of Cyprus.
In their ranks, Midtjylland have Tim Sparv who came up thorough the youth ranks at St Mary’s before becoming disillusioned with Whisky George Burley and his preference of Jamieson’s over Jim Beam and his preference for signing has-beens rather than playing youngsters.  I saw Sparv play a couple of times for the Reserves / Youth teams of the day and he was decent and a big unit and it was a bit of a mystery why he never got a chance.

So here we are for another European game and all is in place, including a random kid behind me who thinks the back of my chair is where he puts his feet.  He’s kicking my chair and I think it’s the drum pattern to ‘We Will Rock You’ and it’s very annoying.  Bring bak the Chuckle Brothers from the Kingsland Stand – all is forgiven.  We have on the face of it, what looks like a more balanced team – Long and Tadic have been left out from Saturday and in come J-Rod and Romeu.  JWP is in for Steve Davis and Caulker for Cédric, meaning that Yoshida has moved to right back.  We have Cédric and Martina on the bench which is a bit odd.  I can understand Cédric not being picked as the opposition are big and physical but why is Martina not picked instead?

A reasonable start ensues but we’ve set up in a 4-4-2 with JWP out on the left and Sadio on the right.  We create the first good chance of the game as Big Vic plays a good ball over the top of the left back for J-Rod who takes it down well and is away and heading towards goal.  When a left footed shot is needed, he tries to bend it intot he far corner with the outside of his right boot and gets it horribly wrong and it just about goes for a goal kick.  J-Rod puts that behind him and slides in a nice reverse ball to Mané whose shot is scuffed slightly and the keeper falls on it.

The French referee is looking pretty good and he actually gives us a free kick for Graziano being shoved in mid air which just never ever happens.  JWP attempts to make the most of this rare occurrence and chips in a decent ball which Caulker meets with plenty of power but no direction.

It’s a bit of a throwback to thebad old days of Wimbledon, Sheffield United and Tranmere when Midjtylland attack as it’s a case of playing for throw ins in the final third.  Once they have a thro in, the right back trots over to take them from both sides.  He has a stupid bun on his head but he can throw it a long way and from one of these, Caulker gets it half away, Sviatchenko heads it back in and Stekelenburg takes off to his left to keep it out.

In the main it’s very disjointed as we seem to struggle withhow we’re set up.  JWP in particular is looking like a fish up a tree but Romeu is coming into the game more and he lets fly from 25 yards with a rising drive which just clears the bar.  Matt Targett produces a run and cross from the left which Big Vic meets and does what Big Vic does – goal kick.

Ronald decides to switch to our more usual 4-3-3 with J-Rod left, Sadio right and JWP in the centre of midfield and we immediately look better.  A short corner routine worked by JWP and Mané ends up with Romeu trying a curler from the edge of the box which looked good as it left his boot but curled straight to the keeper.

Right on half time, Midtjylland build up on our right and a couple of passes and their winger in acres in the penalty area.  His cross is headed out front a central by Fonte straight to Sparv on the edge of the box.  Time stands still as he takes aim and you just know where it’s going.  Bang, bottom corner, 1-0, shit!  Sparv pulls a non-celebration which is a bit odd but it doesn’t make the goal any easier to take.  It’s another goal to put down to poor defending with it being so easy for the winger to find space in the box and José’s header going to exactly where they teach you not to head it on Day 1 at Centre Back school. 

Half time and shit.  Not the confidence booster that we need after the Everton fiasco at the weekend.  We do come out in the second half and make a decent fist of getting back into the game, putting the Danish team under pressure.  Pellè shoots on the turn which is deflected for a corner and JWP’s delivery is good and it is nodded into the net by Caulker and everyone celebrates and the referee has disallowed it for reasons unknown.  Having viewed the replays, there’s definitely no foul by Caulker so I can only assume that he’s given it for the defender who’s hit the deck near Fonte.  Either way, it’s so unclear to be fucking annoying.

We didn’t have to wait too long for our next chance as Pellè superbly chested down a Yoshida long ball, JWP took it on and was tripped by a trailing leg.  Penalty.  I was expecting JWP to take it by J-Rod has the ball and is about to take it when we notice that the prick of a goalkeeper is not in the goal but to the side of it having a drink.  Everyone else is ready but this prick is deliberately not getting in the goal.  It should be a yellow card or better still, the ref should just blow his whistle and let Jay take it but eventually the keeper deigns to get in goal and Jay sends him the wrong way.  Have that you twat. 1-1.

The rest of the second half is a mixture of chances for Saints and Midtjylland players feigning injury so the trainer can come on and waste time and they can get the ball back or give it back to us with a big boot to Stekelenburg.  They’re really taking the piss.  We nearly score on 65 as Targett is brought down by Sisto and JWP arrows over another superb free kick and Caulker is up again, flicking in a header but the keeper reacts well to turn it over.  Targett nearly scores himself as JWP’s shot deflects to him and he takes it on first time but his left footed shot flashes across the goal and couple of feet wide.

I’m all for sportsmanship and all that but I was spewing when the right back with the bun on his head went down after a nothing challenge and because play went on, the twat got back up and was on his feet and playing when Midtjylland put the ball out of play.  The twat then collapsed to the floor again and the trainer came on and eventually of course we had the give them the ball back.  Fuck off!  The bloke was on his feet and fine when they put the ball out. 

J-Rod is looking very dangerous and looking the most likely to score but his number’s up and he’s off for Shane Long.  We win a free kick about 25 yards out just to the right of centre and up steps JWP.  Until he actually sticks one of these in the net for us I’m not going to get too excited about the prospect of a JWP free kick ending up in the net and this one starts off too wide and comes back in just enough to flick the side netting.  It caused some srangled celebrations from the Northam End but it was never going in.  He’s played well today and his set piece deliveries have been good but he’s also off to be replaced by Juanmi

On 88 minutes, the referee eventually decides that it’s time to book a Midtjylland player for timewasting and Bun Head sees yellow for taking a week over a throw in.  Too little too late ref.  To say I’m irritated is an understatement and that’s only increased when Long cluelessly loses the ball and then pulls the shirt of the defender who’s taken it off him.  I know he’s good as a sub sometimes but today he’s been a fucking liability.

There are 6 minutes extra to be added, most of which was for waiting for the trainer to come on to treat a non-existent injury.  There is a bit of urgency but not enough which means we’re going to have to face exactly the same tactics in Denmark next week.  The one chance we do create is a deep cross from Targett which Maya meets well and heads against the post.  Graziano returns the rebound and Juanmi tries a ridiculous backheel which only succeeded in taking the ball away from Long who could have just brought it down and then missed, probably.

We had more farce as the Midtjylland physio and doctor who were obviously well trained in the art of timewasting, came on without permission when another player had yet another fake injury and the get ordered to keep walking and off the other side of the pitch by the referee who finally was getting wise to it.  About an hour too late mate.  Final whistle – balls!

Not a great result on the face of it. We now have to go to Denmark and 0-0 is not an option for us but it will be for Midtjylland so you can be sure that that is what they will be aiming for.  You can tell that’s on Ronald’s mind as well as he used his post match interview to mention the referee doing nothing about the timewasting that went on.  The good news is that in all truth, they’re not very good so we should be able to win over there and get the result we need.

Timewasting is a nightmare and the biggest nightmare is that it needn’t be.  It’s becoming more and more of an issue as it used to be a problem for the lsat five minutes whereas now some teams start early int he first half. Why do referees all wait until he last 5 minutes before someone gets booked for it?  Tell the captains before the game that anyone timewasting will be booked and then follow through on it and book someone even if it’s after 10 minutes.  Usually it’s the goalkeepers who march goal kicks over to the other side of the penalty area but today it was every throw in, free kick and players just generally collapsing and getting the trainer on before springing back to their feet.  It’s not just the lost time, it’s also the disruption to the flow of the game.  

I found this an annoying game and not because we didn’t win... well maybe a bit because we didn’t win.  The starting formation was baffling with JWP on the left wing and Maya at right back.  Also, Sadio is not really a right winger.  It got corrected at the end of the first half and we looked better until they went and scored.  I thought our substitutions were baffling as well – it’s like they are pre-determined.  J-Rod and JWP can’t last 90 minutes so take them off regardless and with that, we took off the two players who looked most likely to get or create a goal for us.  J-Rod was getting stronger as the game went on and looking very dangerous, buoyed no doubt by having scored his first goal since the injury and JWP was brilliant on the set pieces and was showing up well in open play a well.  It didn’t help that the subs who came on did nothing with Shane Long in particular, being a liability just giving the ball away and fouling people with stupid shirt pulls after he’d lost it. 

The positives were the full backs who were both decent with Matt Targett in particular coming back strongly from the Everton game.  If you leave aside the argument of whether he should have been selected or not then Maya was decent and got forward well in the second half, culminating in him hitting the post in the last minute.  In midfield, Big Vic and Romeu showed glimpses of a good partnership which will of course only get stronger as they bed in.  I was particularly impressed with JWP today once he moved off of the left wing.  The set pieces were superb today and in my opinion, he should be ahead of Steve Davis to play in that advanced central midfield role.  J-Rod took a while to grow into the game but was much improved in the second half but that’s how it’s going to be with him for a while as he gets used to playing again.

Roll on next Thursday and the return game which will decide whether our foray into European football was decent or a bit of a damp squib.  Whilst it certainly won’t be the most embarrassing thing ever to get knocked out, it will certainly not be something that was in the script when we qualified.  Keep the faith.