Thursday, May 25, 2017

Southampton FC Player Reviews 2016/17


How Many Marks For Isgrove?

GOALKEEPERS

FRASER FORSTER 6/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE – MIGHT MOVE ON)
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.

ALEX MCCARTHY 5/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

HARRY LEWIS 5/10 (KEEP – U23)
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.

MOUEZ HASSEN (UNKNOWN)
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

STUART TAYLOR (OUT OF CONTRACT – BYE)
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.

PAOLO GAZZANIGA (SELL)
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.

DEFENDERS

CEDRIC SOARES 8/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE - MIGHT MOVE ON)
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….

CUCO MARTINA 2/10 (OUT OF CONTRACT – BYE) – UPDATE: GONE!!
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.

JEREMY PIED 5/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

RYAN BERTRAND 8/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE - WILL PROBABLY MOVE ON)
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.

MATT TARGETT 5/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

SAM MCQUEEN 7/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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

VIRGIL VAN DIJK 8/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE – CAPTAIN, LEADER, LEGEND - WILL PROABLY MOVE ON)
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.

JOSE FONTE 4/10 (GONE ALREADY)
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.

MAYA YOSHIDA 7/10 (KEEP - SQUAD)
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.

JACK STEPHENS 7/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

FLORIN GARDOS 3/10 (SELL)
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.

MARTIN CACERES (UNKNOWN – PEDIGREE SAYS KEEP) – Update – GONE!!
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.

JASON MCCARTHY (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

MIDFIELDERS

ORIOL ROMEU 9/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE)
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

JAMES WARD-PROWSE 7/10  (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE)
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.

PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG 6/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE)
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.

JORDY CLASIE 5/10 (SELL)
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.

STEVEN DAVIS 7/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

HARRISON REED 5/10 (SELL)
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.

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS

DUSAN TADIC 5/10 (KEEP – MIGHT MOVE ON)
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 PellĂ© 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.

NATHAN REDMOND 7/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE)
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.

SOFIANE BOUFAL 6/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE)
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 ManĂ© 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.

JOSH SIMS 6/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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.

LLOYD ISGROVE 1/10 (OUT OF CONTRACT – BYE) – UPDATE: GONE!!
For Fucks sake.  League 1 at best.  Highlight – None, Low – Potentially signing for Pompey.

STRIKERS


When Shane Gets It Right

SHANE LONG 5/10 (KEEP – MIGHT MOVE ON)
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.

JAY RODRIGUEZ 5/10 (SELL)
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.

CHARLIE AUSTIN 7/10 (KEEP – SQUAD)
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

MANOLO GABBIADINI 7/10 (KEEP – 1ST CHOICE)
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.

SAM GALLAGHER (KEEP – SQUAD)

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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Premier League Match 38 - Southampton 0 Stoke 1


Pied on for JWP then Eric... Eric! ... Wake Up You Bastard!

Roll up, roll up.  Stoke at home.  That in itself is enough to send you running for the hills as Stoke are well known for coming for a 0-0 and that’s it.  It’s ok though because under Claude Puel, Saints are a wonderful free flowing attacking side with deadly strikers and midfielders raining shots on goal from midfield.  Back in the real world, this is going to be 0-0 and not much to be getting excited about.  Stoke are a side like ourselves in the mid-table ‘boring’ category.  No danger of getting relegated and no danger of doing anything interesting either.

There’s been no time since the United game for anything interesting to happen off the pitch and so there’s not much to discuss on our walk across the Itchen Bridge aside from score predictions (0-0 x3) and the starting line up.  Like the fool that I am, I’m convinced Claude is going to go with the most goal threat that he can but as we get to the other side I’m on my phone and seeing the same old shit aside from Charlie Austin who is back up front.  This is good news in itself but would be better if he had a strike partner.  As it is we have Dusan Tadic selected again and some players that may have made it interesting like Boufal, Gabbiadini and Caceres on the bench.  I need a beer.

The game starts with the ball being knocked back to Stephens and he takes too long to clear it and gets charged down.  Stoke pick it up on our right and cross it and Stephens again skims a header across our goal and Diouf smashes it goalwards forcing Fraser to make a decent save.  Our first attacks are by our usual method of working it down the left wing, hammering it across, everyone missing it and then hammering it across from the other side.  Stoke defend it comfortably.  Jack Stephens tries something different by Waltzing forward and playing a 1-2 but he gets the ball taken off him in the penalty area – good effort though.

I remember when Xherdan Shaqiri signed for Stoke – he had a big reputation and no one could quite believe that he’d gone there but like Bojan before him, he’s turned to shite under the management of Mark Hughes, resorting to throwing himself about.  We win a free kick on the left as Redmond is taken out by Diouf and JWP’s cross reaches Stephens at the back post and he attempts some sort of wild slash at the ball and clears it out to Bertrand who shoots wide.

Redmond is quite lively and he skips across the pitch well and finds Cedric on the right.  There is no runner in front of him so he turns back and hits the shitties of shitty passes across the defence with the outside of his right boot, straight to Peter the Giraffe.  It’s a good job that the giraffe is not the quickest and Maya Yoshida gets back well to hit him man and ball.

Charlie Austin is showing promising signs and after Tadic puts Bertrand away down the left, Austin flies in at the cross at the near post but can’t divert it on target.  Stoke have a chance from their traditional set piece method with Fraser staying at home and Diouf heading goalwards only for Cedric to head off the line.  Cedric is involved again when he goes over the top in the vague direction of Redmond and Butland tries to convince he’s a footballer and takes a shite touch and loses it.  Redmond has to dance round a defender before trying to chip the keeper and it’s up and over him and bounces on top of the bar.  Great effort to be fair but we arrive at half time to a round of applause despite not having had a shot on target.  Four and a half games without a goal at home.  Still, I’m sure Claude will sort it with his substitutions and tactical mastery.

We actually start the second half well and with urgency.  Bertrand flashes a ball across from the left and no one is in the box.  From the next move, JWP does the same from the right but there’s no one near enough in the box.  Austin was the only one remotely close on each occasion.  The opposite wide players hadn’t got in, nor had any midfielders, nor had Tadic at 10.

There was the traditional 10 minutes of nothing that everyone who bought a ticket should be refunded for and just as it gets to Claude’s phone alarm goes off to say that it’s 60 minutes gone, time to make two subs, a bomb forward by Butland is controlled by Giraffe on his chest with no challenge.  Away go Stoke and work it out to Cameron on their right.  He stands up a cross to the back post and Stephens has allowed the Giraffe to wander away to the back stick to compete with the 5 foot nothing Cedric for the cross.  Goal.  Pathetic defending, lack of communication, whatever.

Gabbiadini and Boufal are ready to come on to take the place of Austin and one other.  Mercifully it’s Tadic but Claude tinkers and doesn’t allow Boufal to play at 10 – he sticks him on the right wing and goes 4-3-3.  That isn’t going to work and enough people know it for Claude to get his first chorus of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’.

We have a little spurt with Romeu bundling down the left and crossing.  It’s cleared out to Davis whose shot is well blocked by Butland and then JWP tries and hits the keeper again.  The came the chance we’d been waiting for as a Cedric chip over finds Gabbiadini – the flag stays down and he advances on Butland who slips, gets up and Gabbi’s shot hits him on the foot.  Fuck, no!!!!  It’s a great save to be fair and then Butland proves that it is totally his day as a marvellous turn inside by Boufal works him space and he seems to send Butland the wrong way with his eyes and shoots.  Butland is diving completely the wrong way but it hits his trailing foot and spoons over the bar.  Unreal.

Claude’s final act of the season, 1-0 down at home in a nothing game, is to take of JWP, our best set piece taker and bring on Jeremy Pied, a right back.  He got another louder chorus of ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doing’ and deservedly so.  There’s still 5 to go but nothing happens and so it’s five games at home with no goals.  Pathetic.

A fitting end to the St Mary's season with another turgid boring performance with zero goals, that shite starting lineup picked by the manager, a shite style of football and some shite substitutions. In addistion today, we had a shite selection of players on the bench.  Once again I'm not saying it's Claude’s fault that Gabbiadini couldn't put the ball in the net when the Stoke keeper was on his arse or that the same stock keeper pulled off a couple of really good saves and a lucky one. All our chances were condensed into about a 10 minute period and for the other 80 we did absolutely fuck all.

Being a striker for us and missing a chance must be like being on a night out when you know there is one train that you can get home and missing that train will leave you completely and utterly fucked because there is another one coming along for about a month. Again we had the issue of just one player in the box when the cross comes over. Again we had the issue of none of the three central midfield players getting into the box. One of the midfield three has to be a goal threat and we just don't have that. JWP and Davis are both neat and tidy midfielders but they are too similar and Claude has completely failed to recognise that in the Premier League home games, you need more of a threat from midfield. It's not just the recent 455 minutes at St Mary's that we haven't scored in, it has been the issue the whole fucking season which has seen 17 goals in 19 home games and about 10 games where we haven't scored. Anyone who thinks that it's good enough it's having a laugh.

Stoke didn't attack much but Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida wre in the main ok despite a couple of dodgy moments and Oriol Romeu and the full backs did pretty well. Davo and JWP offered very very little and whilst it was good to see Austin back, all his good work was away from the goal. Redmond occasionally sparked and was unlucky with the chip but Tadic, bloody hell.  Gabbiadini made his runs and was a nuisance but when the big chance came he fluffed his lines. Boufal... He needs to be nearer the goal, not picking up the ball with his back to goal on the half way line.

We've finished 8th. What a completely flattering fucking joke that is. What we've done is actually finished top of Division Shit within the Premier League as highlighted by both West Brom and Bournemouth throwing away half time leads today which if maintained, would have dropped us to 10th. The standard of the bottom 13 teams in the Premier League is as bad as it has ever been.  That will be forgotten in a couple of years but not this summer and fans of other clubs will not see the goals scored column and just see 8th and a cup final.  I don't care, Claude has to go.

Negative to the last even in a meaningless game, even after 4 home games without a goal. His last substitution with 10 to go and 1-0 down is to bring in a full back in a like for like swap with our best set piece taker. It is precisely this that makes me think that he will never learn and never address the obvious tactical flaws. He can't bring a second striker on because he hasn't got one on the bench, despite Austin playing his first game in months and never going to play much more than an hour. On the bench he has Hojbjerg and Clasie, two midfielders who play the same position so both not needed and he has Pied who is a right back and Caceres who has 68 caps for Uruguay, mainly at right back so Pied was really not needed. Meanwhile, J-Rod was fit and not selected.  Gabbiadini and Boufal had already gone on for the knackered Austin and the shite Tadic who has been awful pretty much all season. Boufal could have been put right up front but no, shove him wide right for fucks sake.

I had no desire to see the lap of honour and I wasn't alone. Claude seems an alright bloke so I don't want to see him booed by morons but then Steve Wigley and Jan Poortvliet were probably nice guys too.  All Claude had to go today was pick an attacking team and have a go and at least the more fair minded would have appreciated that and gone home relatively happy and maybe with a feeling that he could learn from this season and be more attacking next year.  But no, stubborn and boring and passive until the very end.

Time for the summer. I have a feeling that Southampton FC will be in the news quite a lot.  A bizarre season ends.


                                                                                 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Premier League Match 37 - Southampton 0 Manchester United 0


Mourinho Illustrartes How Many Billions His Squad Cost

Jose Mourinho brings his Manchester United side to St.Mary’s for the penultimate game of the season and boy is he pissed off about it.  Every interview is full of moaning about fixture congestion which he says is a problem for the biggest club in England.  Having reached the final of the Europa League, he decided to put all his eggs regarding Champions League qualification in that basket, rather than in trying to finish in the top 4 so basically they’ve tanked their last couple of games, playing weakened sides.  What with shelling out £90 million for a player whilst having about £400m in leveraged debt and having such a nice bloke as a manager, it’s enough to make you feel sorry for them.  Wankers.

Some have tried to make out that this is some sort of revenge mission for the EFL Cup Final – it isn’t.  We just want to score a fucking goal at home.  The Middlesbrough win has lifted a bit of the cloud over Claude Puel but not all off it.  0-2, 0-0 and 0-3 have been our last three home results and in all three of those games we hardly had a shot or made the opponents work particularly hard to get a clean sheet. 

Virgil van Dijk and Claude’s future has been under the microscope this week as Motivational Hockey Guy Ralph Krueger gave a long overdue interview, the main points of which were that this summer we didn’t have to sell any players out of financial necessity and that the takeover happening or not makes no difference to future plans.   Whilst it’s nice to know that we don’t have to sell, that does not for one second mean that we won’t.  A hypothetical figure of £60 million was put on Virgil van Dijk and Ralph said that we could turn that down.  There’s a big difference between ‘could’ and ‘would’.  We ‘could’ turn down £100 million but it doesn’t mean we ‘would’.  The bottom line that if the player wants to go and enough money is offered then he will go.  Also, if we got offered an incredible deal, for example a cash plaus player deal then we’d sell for ‘football’ reasons. 

By £60 million being quoted in the interview, it kind of tells you that any article with ‘£50m’ in it was made up bollocks, as if you didn’t know that anyway.  What also caught my eye is that as with most players, Virgil uses Twitter.  The hard working and insightful have been looking down his list of ‘likes’ and making news out of it.  He like a few tweets regarding Chelsea winning the league and also one by Gini Wijnaldum (Liverpool and Holland) so the same robots writing for these clubs both carried stories saying that van Dijk had indicated via Twitter that he was joining them.  If that’s true then he’s also signing for Feyenoord because of Dirk Kuyt, Swansea (Leroy Fer) and Everton (Honest Ron Koeman), Juventus (Bonucci), Spurs (Wanyama) and Celtic (former club).  So, when it comes to Twitter, Virgil sprays it around.  If I was going out of the Twitter like profile, it would have to be Chelsea or Juventus as everything else is covered by the Dutch friend, former team mate / club angle.

Ralph was non-committal about Claude’s future – dropping the shoulder big time and giving a politicians answer saying he wasn’t involved in the football side.  Yes Ralph, I know Les Reed is the main man on the football but you’re the man he reports to.

To tonights game and I’ve got 0-0 in the family score prediction.  I went first and nabbed it and after I had, no one else bothered to predict a score.  So, my stance on Claude had softened a bit after Boro but then I saw tonight’s team.  FUCK OFF…. Having one our first game in five, the players that made the difference were on the bench again as Claude went back to the line up he’d obviously planned weeks ago.  Tadic and Davis were back having done absolutely nothing to deserve starting.  Likewise Clasie and J-Rod were binned.  Caceres and Pied were out but that was easier to understand after both playing their first games for months on Saturday.  In short – no one got rewarded for playing well on Saturday.  One other change was Matt Targett starting his first game in months in place of the presumably injured Ryan Bertrand.  To make matters worse with Claude’s selection, as we lined up for the kick off, it was obvious we were returning to the 4-3-3 formation where no one gets forward from midfield and the striker has half of the pitch to himself as the wingers don’t get close enough to him either.  The ‘desperately’ weakened United team had internationals from Argentina in goal, Ivory Coast, England x2 and Italy in defence, Belgium, Spain and one kid in midfield and France, Armenia and England’s record goalscorer up front.  Tough life – that side probably cost about five times what ours cost.

As the game is about to start I notice that there’s a couple of new people next to me (possibly United fans) and the 20 or so seats the other side of them to the aisle are all empty.  The game is about to start, the fucking My Way abomination has finished and there are empty seats all over the place.  Not good.

There is the unmistakable smell of ‘end of season’ about the game as Saints dominate the early exchanges with United not looking to get out of second gear.  Targett has a ball break to his right foot on the edge of the box and lashes it into Row Z.  The game is ‘OK’ without being anything special and then an aimless kind of ball is punted diagonally from our right to left by Cedric and no one is near it apart from Eric Bailly and for no reason whatsoever, he brings the ball down with his arm.  For the other end where I am it just looks bizarre and then the ref takes a second and points to the spot.  Bloody hell, what a gift, oh shit, who’s gonna take this?  I’m expecting JWP but it’s Gabbiadini who has the ball.  Hmmm, Italy are traditionally not very good at penalties and images are in my head of Graziano making a knob of himself at the Euro’s.  Up he steps, stutters, left foot to bottom left corner but Romero has read it and got down well to push it away.  For fuck sake.  It’s not a great penalty, similar to the Tadic miss against Hull.  Balls.  During the next break in play I get a text from a mate watching at home “Never a penalty – outside the box”.  Justice is done then… hurrah!

United are just sitting in a holding pattern but then Redmond takes a poor touch and loses the ball to Bailly.  He rumbles forward from right back and cuts in and manages to dummy both Yoshida and Stephens out of the way.  It looks for all the world like he’s going to walk it into the net but he shoots and Fraser stands tall and sticks out a big arm to save.  There’s another chance for United as a big boom out of defence is wonderfully brought down by Rooney as it drops out of the sky over his shoulder and he spins and plays Martial in but he shanks it wide in piss poor fashion.  It’s a reminder of how good Rooney used to be.

The last 20 of the first half is instantly forgettable, the closes to a goal not being very close at all as we get a free kick to the left of centre about 25 yards out and free kick expert – sorry, free kick taker JWP curls it over the wall and wide in shit fashion.  It started outside the line of the post and curled wider.  Never going in.  Rubbish.

Christ this is fucking boring again.  At half time there’s a video played on the big screen which has J-Rod and Steve Davis showing some kids how to take a penalty.  Irony overload as we’ve missed our last three.  There are some kids on the pitch raising money for the Scope Charity by scoring penalties and they all score.  Maybe that’s the secret – get the players practicing against a mascot dog.

There is a bit more life to the start of the second half, from us anyway with Cedric bursting onto a loose ball and getting cynically taken out by jones on the edge of the box.  JWP knocks the free kick to Tadic and he blasts it well but pretty much straight at Romero who fists it away.  A minute later a ball in from the left is met by a sidefoot from Romeu but again it’s straight at the keeper and comfortably pushed away but Romero has to earn his money staright after with JWP trying a curler from the edge of the box which is towards the top corner but the keeper sees it all the way, takes off and pushes it wide.

For once, Gabbiadini being removed doesn’t cause too much protest and J-Rod is on.  It’s a straight swap of course and Smalling charges up the right and crosses it.  There’s a complete shambles from Stephens as he stops the ball but keeps on running and Rooney picks it up, laboriously plays it to Mata to lashes well over.

Cedric has been kicked all over the place, finally gives up and it off to be replaced with Pied which limits the tactical master strokes that Claude will be able to pull with his last substitution as no doubt this replacement wasn’t on his fucking spreadsheet that he wrote a month ago.  Stephens is getting all Beckenbauer as he brings the ball out from the back and he finds Redmond on the left wh pisses past Bailly and JWP’s volley is blocked and loops up in the air for Romero to catch.

I’m beginning to think that we’re going to get done 1-0 here and it nearly comes true as Fellaini and Martial play 1-2’s through our midfield before Martial opens hi body up and curls round Fraser and it bounces off the far post.  The last throw from us is to being Boufal on for JWP and the crowd boos the decision by Claude.  I’ve seen it written that Boufal was booed – that’s utter shit.  It’s nice to see that the recent examples of us falling apart when this substitution was made, do not happen again and Boufal causes lots of problems but there’s no end product, there never seems to be any fucking end product with us in home games.  The one final chance is created by Romeu poking a ball through to J-Rod.  The world seems to stop waiting for an offside but he turns and shoots wide of the far post and the lino, who is clearly asleep, doesn’t give it.  I wish we’d had this guy at Wembley.

Full time and another pretty dull 0-0.  This time at least we had a go in the second half but once again we leave with zero goals at home.  In isolation, a 0-0 at home to United its not a bad result and we were the better side so Saints fans would normally be happy enough with that but a 4th home game in a row without scoring?

OK, it’s not Claude’s fault that no fucker can take a penalty and it’s not his fault that the United goalkeeper had a good game and it wasn’t his fault that he was stood too close when the ball slid off of Bailly’s head and hit him in the face.  It is his fault that we reverted to the tried and failed 4-3-3 formation where the striker is completely isolated and none of our midfielders get into the box.  It is his fault that he picked the same old tired underperforming team again after winning the game when it changed.  Tadic had a semi-decent second half but in the first he was dreadful and just slowed down every attack either by checking back or just giving the ball away.  Steve Davis – another who didn’t really deserve to be starting, kept giving the ball away and taking backwards as the default option.  Claude obviously picks his teams for the next three matches on paper and how people perform makes no difference.  Hypothetically, If J-Rod played game 1 and got a hat-trick, he’d be out for game 2 because it’s Shane Long’s turn to play.  A better, real world example is that of Jordy Clasie, who has been left out for 3 months apart from 2 games – the last 2 games that we won.  I’m not saying he was solely responsible but in the West Brom and Middlesbrough away games, he was really good, scoring in the Baggies game and setting up a goal in the Boro game and has been straight out of the side for the next game.  Clasie isn’t my favourite player but based on performances he deserved to start tonight.  If good performances are not rewarded then what’s the point?

I was wavering on the Claude question after the Boro game because of the position in the league we are likely to finish in.  However, I realised that 8th is achievable, solely because of the crap standard outside the top 7 this season.  Last year, Liverpool came 8th and got 60 points.  Look at the points compared to last season… last year we got 63, this year it’s 46-49, probably 47 after a 0-0 against Stoke.  Last year we were 3 points off a Champions League place, this year it’s 31.  Last year we were 26 points off relegation, this season it’s 18.  Another blank at home leaves me once again thinking that I couldn’t care less if he left.  Ok, we got a point against a top 6 side which is a bit of rarity this season but come on, United rested loads and there's no way that those playing were giving it 100%.

Today there were good performances from a few like Stephens, Romeu and JWP.  Stephens looked really composed again for 95% of the game and brought the ball out of defence well, a sure sign that his confidence is rising.  A small caveat though is the fact that he was playing against a bloke in a Wayne Rooney fat suit.  There was some good link up play from Rooney but it’s as if he can’t raise more than a jog.  There was an incident in the second half when the ball was loose around the penalty spot and Rooney turned with the speed of a 90 year old on a mobility scooter.  He used to be so dynamic and deadly but then you realise that that was 10 years ago.

Romeu was a tank in midfield again and JWP was having a pretty decent game until he got substituted to his visible annoyance.  Taking him off annoyed the crowd too.  Not only has removing him been bad for us in a couple of recent games (it wasn’t today oddly enough) but it’s baffling that it always seems to be the player doing the most who gets taken off.  Tadic had been diabolical in the first half and only average in the second whereas Redmond had had a great first half but was fading.  As it happens, Boufal was really good when he came on so that’s progress I guess.  Like the team selection at the start, it’s all done by numbers.

Gabbiadini up front had a shocker – missed the penalty after 5 minutes and then went downhill from there, though once again was suffering from a chronic lack of support and decent service.  Again, I thought that at half time Claude could have stuck either J-Rod or Austin on with him and done a Mike Bassett and gone 4-4-fucking-2.  No – that would be a bit too progressive.


So, one more home game to go on Sunday against Stoke.  0-0 anyone?  Ironically, that’ll probably mean we limp into an 8th place finish but regardless of where we finish, the season, especially at home, has been piss boring but then the summer starts and as a Saints fan, you know that the summer is never, ever boring.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Premier League Match 36 - Middlesbrough 1 Southampton 2


What a Surprise - The Boy Can Play

After the tedium of the past couple of games, there won’t have been many Saints fans looking forward to today’s trip to Middlesbrough which is a shithole at the best of times.  Boro prove that no matter how much your own team annoys you, you never have to look too far to not feel too sorry for yourselves.  The Smoggy’s themselves have not been having the best of times of it either, having had their relegation confirmed last week when they failed to win a 3 point banker away at Chelsea.  The football they’ve produced has been horrendous and they don’t score any goals.  The tedious brand of football that they employ was set in stone by Aitor Karanka who finally got sacked and Boro gave notice that they had given up on staying up by approaching Steve Agnew as manager for the rest of the season.  I don’t really know anything about him but one three minute interview is enough to know that they weren’t going anywhere other than the Championship.

The Boro squad looks ready for the Championship already.  Brad Guzan in goal after that season he had in goal for Villa last season where he let in about 100 goals with 98 of them going through his legs.  Patrick Bamford is up front and they paid £7 million for a striker who never scores.  He looked good in youth football when he was the biggest 14 year old you’ve ever seen. 

The defence features Calum Chambers – no doubt in his reflective moments he thinks about the decisions he’s made in his career and feel a bit sad but then his bank statement drops through the door and he feels ok about it all.  To recap, he was with Saints from 8 years old through to 20 when he made the first team, played about 20 games and then fucked off to Arsenal as soon as he could.  I’m sure he envisaged Champions League Football and England Caps and whilst he played very occasionally (as 4th choice right backs, 5th choice centre backs do) he mostly ended up playing in front of 3 men and a dog in age group games before this season being loan to Middlesbrough where he’s played about two-thirds of the games and been relegated.  Maybe if he’d stayed with shitty old Southampton he’d have been a Premier League regular and possibly been in the England squad.  Never mind though – just check the bank balance whilst you’re pondering next season’s loan move or better still, ask for a transfer and move to a club where you might actually play, rather than becoming the next Luke Shaw.  Would I take him back? Yes – potentially a very good player.

The press have latched onto the ‘Puel out’ bandwagon and have linked a few managers with us, the most prominent of which being Marco Silva who is about to get relegated with Hull.  Hmmm.  I’m not a huge fan of Claude right now but I think we can do better than that come the revolution though Silva’s record in Portuguese football before Hull was very good.  My main criticism of Claude is his predictability but he must have had several ‘fuck it’ pills before picking the side as he made 7 changes.  Amazingly, one of them was Martin Caceres coming in for his long overdue debut and almost as surprising was Jeremy Pied starting at right back.  I’m going to go with Cedric and Gabbiadini being rested but going to say that Stephens, Davis, Redmond, Tadic and JWP were all dropped to see if others could do better.  In addition to the two debuts, in came Hojbjerg, Clasie, Boufal, Long and Rodriguez.

It's predictably dull for the first fifteen or so.  Saints looks solid enough at the back with Caceres showing touches of class in amongst touches of rust which after 18 months out is not surprising.  Shane Long is playing down the right and wins our first corner.  No one seems to know who’s going to take it with none of JWP, Tadic or Davis on the pitch so it falls to Boufal and it’s a decent kick but an under pressure Caceres heads over.

Jeremy Pied is making up for lost time on the right and is finding loads of space to attack, feeding Long whose cross is missed by J-Rod and finds its way across to Ryan Bertrand’s right foot and he shanks it wide.  Caceres starts Middlesbrough’s first attack with a poor ball out of defence and J-Rod shows great work ethic to get back and foul de Roon and just to make sure, Romeu trashes Bamford as well which is pointless because he’s complete shit.  Negredo takes the free kick but can’t clear the wall.

I have been a pretty loud critic of Shane Long this season but he does bring something to the team that is needed in that he plays quickly – there’s no fucking about and not too much thought about going sideways or backwards.  J-Rod finds him out on the right and his first time cross is heading towards Hojbjerg for a tap in but Guzan gets a hand to it and the danger passes.

Gibson, the Middlesbrough centre back is highly rated but every time I’ve seen him on TV he’s been shite and there’s an “Under 11s football klaxon” going off as he lets a clearance bounce, Long challenges him and so Gibson just hauls him down and handballs it.  How this is not a yellow card I will never know and similarly to the corner earlier on, no one knows who’s on free kicks and so Hojbjerg has a smash from miles out but again it hits the wall, goes up in the air and Maya tries to score with a header from 20 yards which even Guzan saves.

A goal is not looking particularly likely but then what do you know?  Clasie picks it up and plays a superbly times ball into the right channel for Shane to run onto.  He crosses first time to where Chambers has lost J-Rod and with an almost casual swing of the right boot, Jay dispatches the ball past Guzan and into the net on the half volley.  Great technique and a really good goal.

Boooooo! go the Boro fans as the teams go in for half time.  Bizarrely they’re chanting the name of Aitor Karanka who is at least 90% responsible for the way they’ve played this season.

Boufal is gone at half time, replaced with Redmond and away we go.  Obviously fired up by the words of inspirational Agnew, Boro attack a bit at the start of the second half but this mainly involves lumping it forward which Caceres and Yoshida are dealing with quite comfortably.  They’re also sticking the boot in whenever possible with Clayton seemingly on a one man mission to kick as many players as possible.  There’s another Bamford classic as Chambers launches it in there, Negredo wins the header and it falls to Bamford who shuts his eyes and slices it over the bar.

Saints show them how to do it a few minutes later as Romeu and Hojbjerg combine to give the ball to J-Rod and he superbly picks out Redmond on the left wing in acres.  Fabio has come so far infield that when he tries to get to Redmond he just skips round him and bends a right footed shot into the far top corner.  Superb goal and 2-0.

Saints keep attacking as the boos ring round and Bertrand on the left slides a well weighted ball to meet the diagonal run of Long and he gets there before Guzan who brings him down as clear as you like.  Penalty.  Oh fuck off, Shane’s going to take it.  J-Rod, Bertrand, Caceres – actually any fucker rather than him.  Up he steps, leathers it, off the bar and over.  Bloody hell.

We have another great chance to put it ot bed as Redmond again finds himself in acres on the left with Fabio nowhere but this time he gets under it and puts it over.  Boro show signs of life with De Roon firing over and then they are very lucky to win a corner as Friend and Pied go up for a header and he ref adjudges that Friend’s header has flicked off the top of Pied’s head.  Looks like bollocks to me.  Anyhow, Fischer whips in the corner, a header and it’s in the back of the net.  No, not fucking Bamford.  Then I see the replay and it’s actually quite funny.  Bertrand is marking Bamford and is shoving him around a bit and I swear that Bamford is looking the wrong way and it just hits him on the back of the head and goes in.

There’s a little over 5 to go and we’re still a threat and Gibson shows how average he is by taking a shite touch, losing the ball to Shane and then unceremoniously carting him over.  It’s his first yellow card but it should be his second.  Shane isn’t getting up and on comes Charlie Austin for the last few minutes.  As the free kick comes in I’m expecting an Austin goal but J-Rod puts a header over the bar.

There is one scare as there always is as a bouncing ball falls to Chambers who leathers it but Fraser gets down well to save quite comfortably and the last chance of the game is ours as Redmond on the right plays in Davis (on for Hojbjerg) who gets to the ball through some dreadful half arsed defending and pulls it bacj to J-Rod on the edge of the box who fires just wide.  Should have scored really but never mind.  It’s the final whistle and we’ve got that winning feeling again.

Ultimately it was a win against a desperately bad Middlesbrough side who are relegated for a reason and they showed it today. It was good to see the fringe players show what they can do and hopefully, Claude can continue his upward trajectory and the ones that played well will be rewarded with a place for the Manchester United match. From what I saw today, Clasie should keep his place ahead of Steve Davis, Redmond ahead of Boufal and J-Rod ahead of Tadic... Oh yes, Martin Caceres. Who could have predicted that the 60-odd cap Uruguay International with five Scudetto's and a Spanish league title would be decent? Barcelona and Juventus on his list of former clubs... played with and against some of the best players in the world... Who could have predicted that possible? Two months too late. You know, maybe Claude wouldn't have any pressure on him if Caceres had played for the last two months and he has to stay in the team. I know that Bamford and Negredo aren't the toughest opponents to deal with but I'm sure he'd be OK to deal with better – after all, he’s done it before.

Having said all that about the changes in the team, the first half was incredibly stodgy and we only really played ok from J-Rod's goal to Shane's penalty miss.  Jesus... Who is the last Saints player you'd ever want to take a penalty?  Out of the 11 out there at the time, I'd have had Shane in a play off for last place with Fraser.  Anyone who has watched Shane over the last few years knows that the ball only goes in the right direction when it's instinctive and he has no time to think.  He never scores in the warm up shooting drill and there is no way that he practised penalties ever.  I reckon he knew that he was going to miss.  My mind goes back to when Austin started a fight with Tadic so he could take a penalty and the theory I have about J-Rod just being too nice and almost timid..  We really could have done with J-Rod doing an Austin today…”I’m the centre forward, give me the fucking ball, I’m taking it”.  Jay has been on the pitch for the last two penalties we’ve been awarded and watched Tadic and Long fuck them up.  Jay scored a great goal today and there were flashes of his best but he needs to be nastier all round.

Typically, after the farcical penalty, we let a goal in and Fraser had to pull off an admittedly routine save to stop us gifting them 2 points.  We are now 9th in the league and just one goal behind West Brom in 8th.  I reckon that one win out of our last two will be enough to get 8th place but it makes you think – Top 10 and a Cup Final – is that a bad season really?  If you forget the Cup Final and just think about the League – in the Premier League era (the last 25 years), only Koeman (twice – 6th and 7th), Pochettino (once – 8th), Alan Ball (once – 10th), Glenn Hoddle (once – 10th) and Gordon Strachan (once – 8th) managed to finish in the top 10.  None of those had Europa League Group games to deal with and only Strachan got us to a Cup Final.  On results alone it’s not so bad but the style of play at home and the lack of goals is appalling and that’s what we need to change in the last two games, starting with Manchester United on Wednesday.  So be brave Claude – go for it…

Forster / Cedric – Caceres – Yoshida – Bertrand / Romeu – Clasie / JWP – J-Rod – Redmond / Gabbiadini