Jack Stephens Shites His Pants?
This is going to be a bit of a strange one today against West Ham. We haven’t got any centre backs and West Ham will line up with one who played for us for 7 years. On such details scripts are written. West Ham have recovered from their early season problems and isn’t it remarkable that all the complaints about their free ground have gone a bit quiet once they won a couple of games. However, it was quite amusing to see them getting destroyed by Man City during the week with José having a nightmare on his debut, culminating in him hauling down Raheem Sterling for a penalty. City of course can destroy anyone but one thing was that apparent was the Hammers lack of pace at the back and the fact that they gave up way before the end.
So, West Ham are slow at the back and Claude decides to leave our two quickest players on the bench, Redmond and Long. I know Redmond was shite against Swansea but Shane Long is on the only player to have scored for Saints in the last 3 matches. Fuck off Claude. What the fuck has J-Rod done to deserve starting. This decision is offset by the fact that Manolo Gabbiadini and Sofiane Boufal are starting. We have the car crash of Yoshida and Stephens at centre back, offered up in ritual sacrifice to Andy Carroll. Claude says that we need to strangle the supply to Carroll which is quite difficult when you consider that it’s impossible to stop the opposition whacking it up in the air. I would say they chances of us keeping a clean sheet are zero which is the same as the odds of Carroll not scoring. The West Ham side looks strong on paper – Fonte and Reid at the back, Cresswell, Noble, Carroll and pace and power in Kouyate, Antonio and Obiang.
We all know where the problem is going to be and it almost happens with West Ham’s first proper attack as Fegouli swings over a cross and Carroll has virtually a free header which he puts over the bar with our central defenders absolutely nowhere. In an attacking sense, Saints have made their usual bright start with both Gabbiadini and Boufal looking busy. The third forward, J-Rod has looked a bit lost though he picks up the ball on the helf way line and chips it over the defence and Manolo is onto it. He goes straight for goal and just as Fonte gets back to put in a challenge he absolutely melts it over Randolph and into the near top corner off the bar. What a strike that is. 14 minutes and £14 million well spent.
If that was a shock, what happened next wasn’t. We hardly manage to get a foot on the ball and Obiang pucks it up in midfield and is allowed as much time as he likes to slide a straight ball though our defence. Carroll has totally and easily lost Stephens and Yoshida doesn’t react quickly enough to intercept and the big man takes a touch and calmly rolls it past Fraser and into the corner. 1-1 and we were ahead for a whole 3 minutes…fuck sake. Pathetic defending – Iexpected these two to have a tough time in the air but that was shocking and the most predictable goalscorer of the afternoon in all four divisions.
The rest of the half is West Ham possession and us chasing around without getting close enough to do anything. Cresswell has a decent shot from left back which is drilled straight at Fraser and it looks like we might actually get to half time and regroup but oh no – the fucking bombscare goes off again. Gabbiadini heads a corner away and it’s out to Obiang who is 35 yards out but no one presses him and he’s allowed to just walk forward five yards and drill it low, through a forest of legs and Fraser no doubt ses it late but he goes down like a falling tree and can only shovel it into the net. Fucking hell again.
We actually create a decent chance to go in level with JWP getting in a good low diagonal shot, a bit like Obiang’s but unlike our keeper, Randolph gets down to make a very good strong one handed save and keeps it out. Half time and bollocks.
My usual half time rant to whoever will listen in the family stand concerns making substitutions now and not later. The main target of my rant is J-Rod and the centre backs and I’d get Redmond and Gardos on now. I guess 1 out of 2 isn’t bad as J-Rod is off for Redmond as the teams come back out.
We win a free kick at the strat of the second half on the left ahnd edge of the penalty area and JWP hits a great effort to the near post and Randolph once again gets down brilliantly to save. Redmond is making a difference – though it would have been hard to do less than the man he replaced – and he plays in Bertrand on the left behind Koutaye. He could shoot but instead pulls it back and Gabbiadini’s effort is blocked. The ball breaks for the Hammers and away they go up our left with the attack ending with Sondgrarsewillingly hitting the deck under Romeu’s challenge. It’s from an identical position to JWP’s free kick earlier and Noble hits it – it flies past our clearly inadequate waste of fucking time two man wall and is heading straight at Fraser but Davo waves a leg at it and flicks it it. For fucks sake times a thousand.
Slaven Bilic is a nice man and clearly feels sorry for us and he takes Carroll off. If he could send the sub on with new pairs of shorts for Yoshida and Stephens to replace the brown ones they’ve had on then that would be really nice. It does appear to hand us the initiative a bit and a cross from Cedric is missed by Fonte and it bounces off of Kouyate and Manolo swings his left foot and shins a shot over the bar. That has to go in but actually I’m optimistic. Get one and we’ll get two – they are shite at the back.
The rest of the game is Saints creating half chances and West Ham being content to soak it up and trust us to hit everything straight at the keeper. José must have told them we’d be shite when he moved there. Cedric put sover a good cross and JWP gets a header on target but it’s tipped over, Davo drills one straight at him, Redmoond again shows that he’s scared shitless of heading the ball as another good Cedric cross passes in front of his face. There’s a chance when JWP and Yoshida decide not to communicate with eachother and instead of the former having a straight forward chance, we get a Japanese Ninja Scissor Karate kick thing which predictably is over the bar.
Loads of people have left but even as we get to 90 minutes, for some reason I still think we’ve got a chance and then we get a free kick to the right of centre about 25 yards out and everyone goes up to get a close view of JWP firing it over the bar in bollocks fashion. Maybe not then,
Another home defeat and another very predictable one. West Ham totally deserved their win for taking their chances and though they didn’t defend brilliantly, we didn’t create enough to get back into the game. It was odd in that for the last 30 minutes I thought that if we got one back then we’d get two but as usual, we just didn’t do enough. With the transfer window being such a problem for Saints, it’s interesting to look at how West Ham handled it. They replaced the injured Ogbonna with José Fonte, an experienced 33 year old defender and the other player they brought in was Snodgrarse who though he’s a bell end, is an established Premier League performer. I’m not saying that West Ham do everything right because of course they don’t and sometimes they are embarrassing with the way they carry on but in these two cases they’ve looked at short term gain rather than do what we do and buy potential. There has to be room for both and we’ve gone too far the other way. You can say we’ve bought an older player in Gabbiadini but he’s still only 25 and is firmly in the ‘potential’ bracket.
When you looked at the West Ham team today, they had leaders all over it – players like Noble, Reid, Carroll and Snodgrarse and Fonte. It was notable that they were almost refereeing the game, always in the referees ear. We don’t have that – we’re too nice. This harks back to the point I made last week about selling our ‘big’ players and replacing them with 21 year olds. Fonte did ok today in an understated kind of way. Good luck to him and those that booed him need to have a word with yourselves.
Many will just put this defeat on Claude’s shoulders and he has to take some of the blame. It has been a fucking strange season so far. As far as Claude is concerned I've lurched from thinking he was quite decent when he got his rotation right, thinking he was a complete arsehole when he failed to get us through the European group, thinking he knew what he was doing again when he started picking a consistent side and we got through to Wembley, thinking he'd lost the dressing room after the Everton away again and now this. Six league defeats out of seven would put absolutely any manager under pressure. I think he could be as little as three games from getting kicked out and one of them is the cup final.
We may not be in a relegation battle just yet but lose another couple of games and we will be right in the shit regardless of the result of the cup final. Right now it's hard to believe that the result of the cup final is even in doubt – I don’t feel that we have a prayer. We've gone in two weeks from having one of the best defence in the league to having one of the worst. You simply cannot have a centre back pairing when neither of them can head the ball clear when challenged and neither is a real leader. It just doesn't work, it never has and it never fucking will – it’s Calum Davenport and Andreas Jakobsson. The two of them today were absolutely petrified every time Andy Carroll was anywhere near them. They were so petrified that they weren't even heading the ball properly when he wasn't near them. Quite simply, if he continues to pick Yoshida and Stephens then we are going to struggle against any team with a centre forward of any stature. Until Virgil comes back we obviously have very little choice but we have to play Florin Gardos and tell him to absolutely attack anything that is up in the air.
In isolation today's game could probably be written off as one of those games where absolutely nothing goes right for us but we now have six defeats in seven and this is somewhat alarming. The defending on the first goal West Ham scored was absolutely fucking tragic both in terms of pressing the guy with the ball and marking the fucking huge centre forward in the middle of the penalty area. The other two West Ham goals owed a lot to good fortune and that happens sometimes though the lack of pressure on the ball for the second goal was pretty shite as well. We created quite a few chances in the second half so it wasn't our usual go behind and capitulate and not create anything performance, but we never really seem to have the conviction in the final third.
It's only been this season that Maya hasn't been a complete liability when he's played. He should really be our fourth or at best third choice centre back but now we have him as our first choice which tells you everything about why it is simply not going to work. With a dominant centre back pairing you can get away with just having one defensive midfielder but not with these two. It was really noticeable to me that every time West Ham are cleared it long, it was Romeu who was sitting deeper and going up for the header whereas the centre backs were nowhere near it. Virgil would've been attacking and heading every single one of the balls of that Romeu was having to try and get his head on. We were scared to death of Carroll and we were also scared to death of our own centre back pairing and that unbalanced the whole team and meant we were on the back foot from the start. Is it a coincidence that two goal today were down to not closing down when the midfield dropped deep to help out the calamity at centre back?
We were strange upfront today. Manolo Gabbiadini had an excellent debut and capped it of course with a really good goal. His hold up play was good and his enthusiasm and chasing down was excellent. After ripping Swansea to bits when he came on as a sub, Boufal was dreadful today, a couple of flashes of skill but that was it, usually running down a blind alley before going off injured again no doubt not to be seen for another four or five weeks. He was stuck out on the wing though, seemingly with no freedom to move inside. Even though Boufal was ineffective, he wasn't the worst. J-Rod was a complete and utter fucking waste of time from the first minute until he got substituted at half time. I know he set up the goal but having witnessed the rest of the half I’m prepared to believe that was an accident. There was absolutely nothing there and he looked like a Sunday morning footballer who had been out on the piss until 3am on Saturday night and picking him ahead of Shane Long, who whilst he hasn't been playing that well has at least scored three goals in the last four games, was retarded. That one’s on Claude.
Someone has to tell JWP that when the free kick is on the right hand side of the penalty area then don't fucking shoot. It never goes in and it's curling towards the goalkeeper and there is absolutely no margin for error. So, it invariably just goes over the bar or wide if it doesn't curl enough and is a complete fucking waste of time. From the left hand side, sure, have a shot because they actually look dangerous and are curling away from the keeper but from the right hand side, just cross the fucking ball or let a left footed player have a go. I thought Romeu did his best to try and shore up the horrific central defensive partnership and Davis kept on trying to drive the team forward throughout the game but as usual was let down by his absolutely chronic shooting and his tackling was piss weak today.
I don't usually listen to Claude's interviews on the radio as they are fucking painful and he always says exactly the same thing which is of course nothing. The interviewer was trying to ask him something different today about whether he should change the formation or change the way the Saints are playing and he gave it the usual blurb waffling bollocks which is possibly down to the language barrier but for what ever reason, it does absolutely nothing to convince anyone that he really even understood the question. He must be an absolute nightmare to interview as all you can do is ask the most basic questions to which of course you get the most basic answers. They really should get Eric Black out to translate for him as then we might actually hear some things that are encouraging and get to understand some of the reasoning for some of his decisions.
Next up is Sunderland away and the one after that is the League Cup Final. Sunderland away will be an incredibly difficult fixture because a) we are shit and b) they've just won 4-0 away from home and c) Sunderland know they’re in a relegation fight whereas we don’t appear to just yet. We need a win and we need a performance. We've fared incredibly badly against the sides fighting relegation this season and it stands to reason that if we keep losing to them then we are going to become one of them pretty soon.
Claude, I know you probably don't understand if it is being said in English but lose the next three games and I reckon that you are going to be under serious pressure.