Sir Les Does It Again
At the end of the training camp in France, we had a friendly against St Etienne, a team that people of a certain age (like me) contains images of European Cup Winners with Michel Platini before he turned into a corrupt lump of lard. What a brilliant footballer he was. Anyway, it was interesting in that Mauricio went with a 4-2-3-1 but Charlie Austin was in the 10 position with Manolo Gabbiadini up front. Most would have had it the other way round but I’m up for it if it gets our two biggest goal threats on the pitch. It was 0-0 at half time and then the missing ingredient came to the floor and it was Stuart Taylor going in goal. Once that happened we were deadly with Matt Targett putting over a great cross for Gabbi to expertly flick home with his head. Another Targett cross was put away by JWP, making his first appearance since coming back from England U21 duty and the same player slung over a corner for Maya Yoshida to head home for a thoroughly decent 3-0 result.
Back home and word came out that there would be meetings and The Shithouse was hopefully going to be re-integrated into the squad. Don’t hold your breath as this is a Weapons Grade Shithouse (WGS) we are talking about here and so it proved with more reports that the re-integration wasn’t happening just yet and both sides were described as ‘entrenched’. Not good but not surprising. I’ve had enough of referring to the Shithouse by name as he doesn’t deserve it so from here on it, WGS it is. I know that stood for ‘Wee Gordon Strachan’ and we loved him but that was years ago.
This (the tantrum) is of course what Liverpool want as they steadfastly sit there and do nothing and the media keep it ticking along. Have you noticed that you never get an ex-Liverpool media pundit saying ‘Don’t sign him – he’s a shithouse’. Funny that. It’s almost as if they’re working for Liverpool. With Coutinho linked the Braca and now Mané with Milan, the hypocrisy is quite staggering. New levels of straw clutching and patheticness were reached when Alfie Jones came on as a sub against St Etienne wearing 17, which of course was WGS squad number last season. It’s a sign!!!
All this WGS stuff is exhausting and distracting. I’ve almost forgotten about us bringing players in which we need to do. We must be planning for WGS exit and Kevin Wimmer from Spurs has risen to the surface again, as has another Dutchman, Wesley Hoedt from Lazio. Reassuringly, both are the physical type of centre back we need if WGS leaves.
Augsburg at home and I made the trip as a consolation prize for missing the first two home games and within 10 minutes I wished I hadn’t bothered as it was fucking dreadful. Augsburg treated it like a proper game and played with the intensity that you should play with if you’re just about to start your season. We on the other hand, played it like a training game and looked like we couldn’t be arsed. To be fair, Pellegrino was obviously playing fringe players tonight and we’d see the first team on Sunday against Sevilla. Of the starting team tonight, I can see only Forster, Romeu, Yoshida and maybe JWP and Redmond starting against Swansea. You would have thought though, that the others would have been keen to put in a performance to tell the new manager to pick them but not a bit of it. Pied and Target at full backs were dreadful, especially defensively and their crosses at the other end of the pitch failed to pick out anyone. Yoshida and Bednarek were awful with Maya not concentrating in the slightest and Bednarek looking like a park player who was thrown in to a game that he clearly wasn’t good enough for. I’m not writing him off but there’s no way he’ll be near the first team any time soon. In midfield we were wide open. Hojbjerg did the odd good thing but both he and Romeu were guilty of giving the ball away too cheaply. Up front Redmond looked sharp enough and Shane Long started well but tailed off hugely. And then there was Charlie Austin, lurching about like someone who had necked about ten pints, coming out of a kebab shop at 2am. Of the substitutes, Sofiane Boufal looked lively and Stephens looked better than Yoshida but overall it was piss poor and the manager acknowledged that at the end.
Augsburg were decent though, not shy of a tackle and they looked ready for their season. The first goal was a hell of a shot, moving about 4 times in the air. It’ll look bad on Fraser but honestly, I was right behind it and he had no chance. The second goal was hilariously bad. It started off with Pied giving the ball away under no pressure and ended with a corner. Over it came and Austin totally failed to jump with his man and a free header for 2-0. To be fair to Charlie, he had a full pint in one hand and a kebab and a lit cigarette in the other and he didn’t spill a drop or get ash on his kebab or anything. The third goal was a free kick slung in from the right and Stephens and Bednarek were nowhere as a free header was nodded into the net. Under 12s defending right there – no defensive leader and no one taking responsibility. No 4 highlighted our lack of midfield as the lad just walked forward to the edge of the box with no challenge and buried it.
We are in desperate need of a proper central defender – still. Regardless of the WGS situation we need one anyway. I saw three centre backs tonight who need a dominant partner who will struggle on their own. It reminds me of how much we got away it last season. Also, the formation that Mauricio seems to favour with three attacking midfielders and a striker really demands that we have two proper defensive midfielders and we currently have just the one. I do wonder where JWP, Hojbjerg, Clasie and Davis fit in.
Meanwhile back in WGS land – I am relieved to tell you that Phil Thompson is still alive –and in a shock twist, he’s got the same opinion as all the other thirteen ex-Liverpool pundits. Michael Owen has also shocked no one by having the same tedious boring opinion as everyone else. Out of all these ex-Liverpool pundits – not one has questioned the fact that WGS is obviously a bit of a dodgy character. Not one. In addition, his international manager Dick Advocaat has said that his actions are perfectly acceptable and understandable and hopes he moves to Liverpool. If that’s not bringing the game into disrepute I don’t know what is. Think about it – an international manager encouraging players to go on strike.
Saturday and the Sevilla friendly and Saints made an effort to make us forget that Augsburg happened, making a big show of presenting the new manager and coaching staff to the crowd like it was his first game. It of course helped that it wasn’t pissing down and a lot more people turned up to watch. Still staggered with how inept the fringe players were on Wednesday, I wasn’t expecting much but we looked decent on the whole. Having the proper full backs made a huge difference and Jack Stephens had a superb game bringing the ball out of defence and generally looking like a quality footballer. Maya on the other hand was sloppy as you like and he’s going to find himself on the bench pretty quickly as soon as we buy another centre back… not before though because after picking up a knock he was replaced by Bednarek who once again, showed that he’s not ready. Out of position and not winning headers which should be meat and drink to a big centre back. Put it this way – I think Florin Gardos would be better than him.
So – we have a bit of a weakness at centre back and we have another in defensive midfield where Davis is Davis – tidy on the ball and with great energy but lacking when not on the ball. He has a habit of leaving the player he’s supposed to be marking and against good sides, that’s going to bite us. He also of course gets bossed out of games against physical midfielders. Though he has his limitations, I think possibly Clasie would be a better bet to play next to Romeu and I was a bit disappointed he wasn’t given the 2nd half to stake a claim. Romeu was back to something approaching his best after being dodgy in midweek. He got a couple of challenges in that would have got him booked in the league. He would have pulled out of a couple of tackles in a proper game but today I think he just thought ‘fuck it’ and enjoyed steaming in to people.
On the wings, Tadic was preferred to Boufal and overall he did very little to justify that aside from being involved in the 2nd goal and Redmond hardly seemed to get involved at all. Gabbiadini was superb though and it was great to see him finish off the 2nd goal. His movement and willingness to run into spaces and keep defenders on their toes makes our attacking play and he seemed to link well with JWP who in the first half in particular was pushed right forward into the No 10 role. There’s still not really enough goal threat from Tadic, Redmond and JWP but we looked decent.
The game was won with a Stephens shanked volley following a Gabbi flick on from a JWP corner and a lovely move on the break where Tadic and Davis combined well to set to Gabbi to finish well under the keeper. It was the kind of opportunity that Shane Long would have controlled to the keeper or smashed it at the moon. Jake Flannigan got a few minutes at right back and looked better than Jeremy Pied and I think it was telling that Austin was left on the bench with his 8 cans of lager and kebab.
The post-Sevilla optimism bubble was burst with what was the next logical step at Shithouse Central as WGS officially handed in a transfer request, therefore effectively handing Sainst between £6 million and £7 million quid. I’d like to place on record my thanks to WGS and his agent for this generous gesture. There was a statement of course, which seeked to shift the blame and point the Shithouse finger at the club. It was a pure work of comedy and therefore I feel it’s best to highlight the best bit which was his disappointment at discussions with Saints ending up in the media. Yep, he had a go at Saints almost from a moral standpoint about lleaking stuff to the media. He wants to join Liverpool ladies and gentleman. Anyway, I covered his statement here….
Anyway, nothing’s really changed, the transfer request hasn’t been accepted and no one including his precious Liverpool have made a bid.
Les Reed’s status as a legend got cemented a bit more with WGS handing in a transfer request and then it got even better for our Director of Football when he got upgraded to God of Football with the signing of Mario Lemina from Juventus. He played as a sub in the Champions League final a few months ago, same as Toby Alderweireld did for Atletico Madrid before he signed for us. That loan deal went sour of course but this is a proper transfer and addresses the defensive midfield issue identified earlier. I’m only going on reports and You Tube videos but a midfield of Romeu and Lemina sounds pretty tasty. It challenges players like Steven Davis, JWP and Pierre Hojbjerg to up their game and makes both the starting XI and the squad stronger.
So here we are and here we go. WGS has a virus and Coutinho has just handed in a transfer request at Liverpool. Oh the irony as social media becomes fun again. A new season, the same old depressing stuff about the state of the game but the Saints are Coming. 7th this season please lads.
Saints new signing playing against Coutinho's New Team mates