Monday, October 19, 2020

Premier League Match 5 - Chelsea 3 Southampton 3

Who Knew He Could Stoop So Low?

It’s been a tough year for Chelsea. The transfer ban that they were under only allowed  the allowed them to sign one £40 million player because they had him on loan in the previous season and there were of course issues with Roman Abramovich not been able to get his money out of Russia or some such bollocks. Now though, without a flimsy transfer embargo in the way, Roman has suddenly found a few quid down the back of the sofa in on of the mansions in his London portfolio, to enable himself able to play FIFA Ultimate Team in real life.

At the top of the pitch, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were recruited for a combined cost of about £150 million and that was before they got to work on the defence which saw the arrival of Ben Chilwell for £50 million and Thiago Silva for about £50 million a week despite being a free transfer.   Also, they also decided that the £72 million that they spent on a goalkeeper two years ago wasn’t enough and they needed an upgrade so another one arrived called Edouard Mendy.  I don’t really know what he cost but I’m sure I added a few zeros to the overall spend.

Frank Lampard is in his second season now after his free-hit season last year, in which he did get the club into the Champions League so fair enough. If he is going to be judged the same way as previous Chelsea managers are judged then he is going to have to win something this season.  Anyone remember the manager who won the Champions League for Chelsea – no?  Roberto di Matteo – sacked about 3 months later.  I’m in a strange position of kind of wanting Frank to do well but not wanting Chelsea to do well and I know that this is not possible. Frank went up several notches in my estimation when he told Klopp to pipe down at Anfield last season.

Meanwhile, back in the more real world of football, Ralph spent the whole of the international break hoping that his players came back in one piece. It appears he has largely got his wish with Djenepo being injured before he went and Stuart Armstrong having a positive Covid test (hair unaffected) so he didn’t play for Scotland. It appears that he is not available to play today. Danny Ings and JWP were restricted to 90 and 20 minutes respectively in the one game out of England’s three that was a friendly, against an under strength Welsh side. Danny capped his performance with a wonderful overhead kick to score the third goal and JWP played well enough in his 20 minutes and was unlucky not to score with the last kick of the game. This was not enough for either of them to even get a minute in either of the Nations League games, in which Southgate decided to go stagnant and boring as it seems to be the way he wants to do it these days. England did manage a creditable win against Belgium but you sense that in a proper game, they would’ve been lost quite comfortably if Hazard and Mertens and the like had been playing. The Nations League games are better than the old friendlies but they do very much sit well beneath a championship qualifying game in terms of their intensity.

Back to today and Stamford Bridge, empty.  Chelsea’s team news breaks first and it cost about £400 million.  New players Chilwell, Havertz and Werner are all playing and Ziyech is on the bench – that’s £200 million straight away.  Even the relatively average players like Jorginho cost £50 million.  The defence is arse though – Zouma and Christensen are worse than what we’ve got and no one would pick £72 million Kepa in goal ahead of Alex McCarthy.  In fact, we’ve got 3 keepers on our bench who are better than Kepa in Fraser Forster, Kelvin Davis and Dave Watson.

With Armstrong having a dose of self-isolation with his hair, Theo Walcott gets a start with Nathan Redmond coming back in for Moussa Made of Glass Djenepo.  There is a first appearance on the bench for Ibrahima Diallo.

It all looks a bit scary from the off as Chelsea pile forward down our right with Theo not giving KWP much help with Chilwell.  Chelsea work it from their right to left and we don’t get across quickly enough and the left back forces a decent save out of McCarthy before the keeper saves again from Mount’s follow up despite Werner being stood right on front of him and offside.

Their movement up front is ridiculous and Bednarek and Vestergaard look like they’re playing in lead boots but we show some intent going forward with Walcott running direct from a central position and the ball breaks to Adams who needless to say, doesn’t score, mis-hitting it too close to Kepa.

We haven’t heeded the warning of the threat down our right and Chilwell is again in acres and given time to pick our Werner who heads home but the flag is up and no one complains too much.  Keep doing the same things though and eventually it will go wrong.  Chilwell feeds into Werner’s feet and he pulls the oldest trick in the book and steps over it and spins and Bednarek is half way down the Kings Road, looking for a hot dog van.  On goes Werner as we slowly recognize the danger but the German easily evades the panic from our defenders, cuts across onto his right foot and dispatches it into the net.  It’s one of football’s constants – struggling for your first goal – Welcome to Southampton.  1-0, bollocks.

We’re not really getting anywhere after the goal.  We are trying to dig in but we’re still 5 yards off all of the Chelsea players and seemingly accepting our fate.  Jorginho flips a first time ball over the top, Bednarek is wrong side of Werner and Werner lobs it over McCarthy and nods into the empty net.  Fucks sake.  On the replay it’s clearly hit Werner’s arm as he went past Bednarek so surely that’ll be disallowed…. Waiting, waiting…. Goal given – fuck off!!!

It’s now looking nasty and I’m having a sinking feeling that we’re going to get battered.  McCarthy has to pull off a smart save from a header from a corner but it looks like we might get to half time only two down.  Then Chelsea get a bit overconfident and try and play out of defence and Havertz takes a shit touch and gets bundled off the ball by a combination of Romeu and Adams.  Adams takes it forward and passes inbetween the centre backs to Ings and you know the rest, one touch around the keeper, goal, 2-1, get in!

Half time and I’m not too sure how but we’re right back in this.  They really can’t defend for shit, neither can we… but I trust Ralph to sort our issues out better than Frank is going to sort theirs out.

Sure enough, we are the better side at the start of the second half with us going all peak-Barcelona with some great play around the edge of the box before Adams tees up Ings who takes no backlift and sends a shot skidding just wide of the far post.

In a repeat of the Jorginho pass in the first half, Romeu flips a first time chip over the defence and this time it’s Zouma in the Bednarek role and he fucks it up as well, hitting a back pass at Kepa which is underhit enough for the keeper to shite his pants and totally bottle the 60-40 challenge he has with Adams and miss the ball altogether.  Che stumbles on , keeps it in, tries to pull it back to Ings but it hits a Chelsea defender, then Kepa comes flying in with his feet and misses everything again except the post and Che calmly makes an angle and smashes it high into the net.  Great finish, fucking hilarious, 2-2.  Kepa looks like he’s about to cry and he looks about 14.  I actually feel sorry for him for a moment.

Kepa Tackles Post.  Bad Move.

So having worked so hard to get back into it, we load the gun and shoot ourselves.  KWP goes backwards when he should've gone forwards to keep the pressure on and we go across the pitch.  Vestergaard has got over excited and bolted forward ahead of the ball and then we lose it.  Fair play to Chelsea – lethal.  Pass, pass, pass, Werner to Havertz, tap in, 3-2, fuck sake etc.

Ralph looks to the bench and it’s a surprise to see Redmond come off but he has been a lot less lively than Walcott has.  On comes Nathan Tella on the left.  By comparison, Chelsea take of Skate Bastard Mount and bring on Ziyech. 

Walcott has really come alive in the last 10 minutes or so and he’s running at the defence and they’re scattering and he tees up Adams who drags his shot wide.  Walcott again produces a great run down the right before pulling it back to Danny Ings who tees it up for himself before getting a good low shot away but fair play to Kepa who pulls off a decent save.

Diallo and Long on for Romeu and Adams with five to go.  90 minutes up, 4 to go and I still feel confident that we’ll get a decent chance.  Tella puts a lovely ball in behind the full back but it’s just too long for Ings and then a ball up to Bertrand sees him bumped to the floor by Ziyech.  Bertie’s free kick is headed away by Zouma, Theo drills it back in and it’s past Kepa and into the far corner – mental.  In my house there is beer and tea all over the place.  Actually, as you all know, it’s not Theo’s goal because Jannik Vestergaard has stuck his head on it and guided it into the corner.  A stooping header – when you’re that tall you spend your life stooping.  Well stooped you big beautiful Danish person you.

Fucking hell. 92nd minute equaliser away at Chelsea having been two goals down. Absolutely fucking beautiful.

You can pick holes in all of the three goals that we conceded and you can also question our play when we didn’t have the ball in the first half ball but when we were on it today, in the second half in particular, we were superb and totally deserving of the point we eventually got.

As he is fitting for a game that saw us playing at times very well and at times very badly, no one had a truly outstanding individual game for the whole 90 minutes for the pick of the bunch was probably Danny Ings, Che Adams, KWP and Theo Walcott.   JWP and Romeu were also huge in the second half, dominating against Jorginho and Kante. 

Walcott started like he didn’t really know what was expected of him in that right-sided number 10 position that Stuart Armstrong usually plays but as the game went on he really grew into it. I was impressed with a number of early crosses he put into the box and also the direct running when space opened up in front of him. It was truly a very good second debut and if that’s the position that he continues to play then he will learn the defensive side of things and the positional side of things when we haven’t got the ball and will only get better.

The central defenders had a bit of a torrid time today, especially in the first half, not helped much by the midfielders in front of them who were not getting close enough to stop by continual supply through to the Chelsea front players. Let’s not get this out of context, Chelsea have players worth about £200 million playing at the top end of the pitch but Jan Bednarek will know that should’ve done better on both of the first two goals. Chelsea’s quicker footed forward players also meant it was a torrid first half for Vestergaard but he stuck with it and got his reward in the 92nd minute.

It was another superbly taken goal by Danny Ings and it was brilliant to see Che Adams take advantage of one of the worst bits of goalkeeping and defending you could ever wish to see as Kepa went a fair way to proving that the £72 million spent on him was possibly one of the biggest wastes of money in football history.  He looked like a 14 year old who had been called up when 4 goalkeepers got injured in the warm up.

There was also an impressive 20 minutes for Nathan Tella who came on for the largely anonymous Redmond and made things better, playing one lovely ball inside the full back for Ings and generally looking like he has a chance of making it at this level.

Ralph was predictably delighted with the end result as he should be.  He can see that we are getting back to the levels that we had in the Project Restart games and though we didn’t put in a 90 minute performance today, you can’t be unhappy with a point here.  The interviewers were all more keen to talk to him about his former player Timo Werner than about any of our boys but of course, what do you expect?

Another big test next up with league leaders Everton at home.  The good news is that following the Merseyside Derby today, Richarlison will be banned and Pickford, despite ending Virgil van Dijk’s season, won’t be.

Oh yeah - Pay-per-view. Fuck that.




Friday, October 16, 2020

Judging a Transfer Window - Be Careful.

Transfer Windows Can Be Funny Things

It’s quite a dangerous thing to try and judge whether Southampton have had a successful transfer window, five minutes after the window has closed. You can never really judge the incoming players because it is something that is proved over time.  As Saints fans, we have fallen foul of this, many times before.  You can judge the outgoings based on whether they were important first-team players or not, and whether you got good money/out the door permanently or not.  How many times in the past have we thought that we’d done well, only to find soon after that what we’d done, was had a window that had a net result of making the squad worse.

Sometimes you have a deep sense of foreboding, like the times when there is nothing about the player that you purchased which suggests he is going to be any good – Guido Carrillo being the most glaring example of that.   Then there are times when the stats look good, the age of the player is in the right range and the pedigree suggests he is going to be a good player for you…… and then he turns out to be a complete arrogant bell end when things get a little difficult.  That’s you Wesley.

With regards to the incomings during this window, what you can say is that if Mohammed Salisu turns out to be the “Rolls-Royce” centre-back that we’ve been promised, if Ibrahima Diallo makes good on the early promise of his French career, if Theo Walcott stays fit and proves that he can still do the job at age 31 and if Kyle Walker-Peters continues in the form that he has shown already, we will have had a marvellous transfer window.  There’s a lot of “if’s” in there.

As far as outgoings are concerned, we have only really lost Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from the first-team squad. There were a lot of people saying that he wasn’t a good player and they weren’t bothered about him leaving but he is already proving for Tottenham how good he actually is.  What he does from here is largely irrelevant though, even if they go on and win something big.  We already had Oriol Romeu to step into that position in the team and so the impact was lessened and, with the arrival of Diallo, there is no reason to believe that we are actually weaker in this area as the window shuts.  

Sofiane Boufal has finally left and, although he was occasionally brilliant and was a great man to have as a substitute, he was never going to be a consistent Premier League performer. Although it appears that we aren’t getting a fee for him, the wages being off the books is undeniably a good thing. His place in the squad has gone to Theo Walcott who, fitness permitting, is going to offer a hell of a lot more.  More on Theo later.  

Others out of the door permanently are Harrison Reed, Guido Carrillo and Christoph Klarer. Out on loan go Mohamed Elyounoussi and the Bell End Brothers, Wesley Hoedt and Mario Lemina.  None of the players mentioned will be missed from a footballing point of view, but the wages saved will be welcomed with open arms.  

In my opinion, the way that teams should approach the transfer window in general is to look at their current starting 11 and decide where the weakest area is…and address it!  Sounds obvious, but it’s remarkable how many clubs fall into the trap of fan appeasement, with a fancy striker as opposed to signing the defender they really need, or buying whoever they could without any thought of how the new guy will fit in.  

This is where Saints have done well this time around.  Last year, Saints had Yan Valery or Cedric playing at right-back, which was clearly our weakest link, so we addressed it with Kyle Walker-Peters and we are stronger as a result. It isn’t rocket science.

The next area that needed addressing was centre-back. It wasn’t as crushingly urgent, because we have three decent enough options already, but the general feeling was that we needed an increase in quality and, in time, Mohammed Salisu will hopefully provide that and it’s hoped that he will in time be worth many millions more, which like it or not, is our model.

Diallo.  That is All.

It did take us a bit too long to address the central-midfield issue, because we basically knew Pierre was going to be leaving for about a year before he actually did. It also looks like Diallo was our first choice for this position, if the stories about Weston McKennie and Ibrahima Sangare are to be believed, but Diallo is here, is highly rated in France and the problem area has been addressed – without the new guy having to come in and having to perform straight away.

After the Diallo signing, I thought we next needed to look for a striker as opposed to a winger.  Needing a winger had been mentioned as Boufal was on his way out and then, what do you know?  On deadline day, in came Walcott – meaning we’d covered both bases.

So, we’ve signed a 47 cap England international, who is only 31 and, despite there being doubts over his fitness, has managed to play 77 games in the last three years at Everton, which is not bad.  In addition to that of course, there is a certain sentimentality and feel good factor about him joining, which the club is massively playing up.  Even to an old cynic like me, who was initially very sceptical, it makes me smile that we have brought him back.

Theo’s wages are being covered between Saints and Everton and, with the wages already saved by the deadwood going out the door, it all adds up and moves the deal into ‘no brainer’ territory.

People my age (51) and older, often bemoan the fact that we were there when Saints signed Kevin Keegan in the early 80s and that such a transfer was impossible these days. No, I’m not saying for a second that signing Walcott is in the same category but this is as close to a McMenemy-era signing as you are likely to get now, given the disparity in money on offer between the big clubs and clubs like ourselves.

I Think This Guy's Son Used to Play for Us

If the media is to be believed, Theo has given up potential bonuses to come and play for us which, along with his obvious enthusiasm for the move, is a glowing endorsement of his attitude towards playing for Saints. This is the sort of thing that really shouldn’t be sniffed at in this day and age in the Premier League.  It also suggests that, if he does as well as we all hope, Saints will be in a very good position to be able to afford him when he is a free-agent at the end of this season.  

Now that the window is closed, in my view, the next area to address is the competition at full- back. Whilst it would’ve been very hard to get in anyone who challenged either Bertrand or KWP for their place in the team, it has to be remembered that Bertrand is yet to sign a new contract.  Brandon Williams (Manchester United) was the name in the frame and it was pleasing to see that he wanted to personally join Saints, but unfortunate that it was blocked by the United manager, Ole Gunnar ‘Dead Man Walking’ Solskj√¶r – who is going to be lucky to still be in his job by the time the January window comes around.  If we do revisit Williams in January, you can bet your life he will no doubt have spent 3 months not playing! It’s a shame that deal didn’t happen, but you can’t have everything.

On paper, it does seem like a really good transfer window for Saints, with everything seemingly happening for a reason, and all of the acquisitions looking like they have a decent chance of making an impact.  This is all with a backdrop of having an owner who is not putting any money into the club, so the current Board have had to generate the spending money themselves, meaning getting certain players out the door before they could do any of the business that Ralph wanted them to do.  We have to be careful and never get complacent – or start believing our own hype – which we’ve definitely done before!!

It’s been hilarious watching the likes of Manchester United getting more and more desperate, signing players in positions that are not the areas of the team that they should be addressing.  Unlike them, we can’t afford to just chuck money around, especially in the current climate of ‘no fans being in the ground’.  We have been wasteful in the recent past and have been paying the price for that ever since.

It’s not perfect, it never is – despite the successes in this window, we still haven’t got Hoedt or Lemina completely out the door for good, and we still (as I write) have three ‘big money’ goalkeepers.

Overall, I feel quite confident that we are getting things right again and, hopefully, this transfer window will prove, down the line, to have been a major success.... and we haven;t just unveiled our next Guido, Mario or Wesley.

A Cautionary Tale

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Premier League Match 4 - Southampton 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

Oriol Celebrates With a Right Hook

West Brom at home in a game that we have to win if we want to have anything approaching a decent home record this year. So far of course, we have 100% record in the negative, having been thrashed by Tottenham. West Brom should provide a threat to that record being a newly promoted side who so far, only picked up one point.

Slaven Bilic is their manager now, trying to rebuild his reputation having most recently, managed at the shit show that is West Ham. Whenever I think of Bilic, I think of what a horrible bastard he was as a player, legendarily feigning injury to get Laurent Blanc sent off in the World Cup semi-final, which meant he missed the final in his own country. That sort of shit should never be forgotten. As a manager and as a pundit however, I’ve always quite liked the guy and he is certainly one who I hope does relatively well. I do think he is on a hiding to nothing this season though as the team at his disposal doesn’t appear to have any particularly strong areas of the pitch. He did make one good decision this summer and it’s one that we saw coming a mile off. As soon as West Brom got promoted then he obviously decided that the piss taker that is Charlie Austin, was not going to play a minute in the Premier League and so far the fat lard has been conspicuously absent from the match day 18. I fully expect him to be on his way to a desperate Championship club before that particular transfer window ends because there’s bound to be a club out there that doesn’t do its research and thinks that they are getting prime Charlie Austin from when he was at QPR.  He’s earned a lot of money off the back of that one season with both Saints and West Brom are falling for that one in the not too recent past. 

It’s been more upbeat around Saints since the win against Burnley. It looks like we have another midfielder coming in through the door in the form of Ibrahima Diallo, a 21-year-old Frenchman who plays for Brest (insert your own joke here).  I am waiting for the sweepstake to start on when someone will say “he was always our first choice”. Like Mohammed Salisu, this is another young player with not a huge amount of experience so we should not expect him to pull up trees straight away. For me, I can see him playing this season when either JWP or Romeu are unavailable for whatever reason and other than that, being restricted to substitute appearances, usually when we want to avoid Oriol launching someone and being sent off. 

Talking of JWP - along with Danny Ings he has retained his place in the England squad. Gareth Southgate has at least picked a left back this time but needless to say, it’s not Ryan Bertrand but Ben Chilwell who has proved his fitness playing about 12 minutes for Chelsea. I expect that even Ryan himself knows but that ship has sailed. 

There was a time of course in the not too distant past, when this game was looking like the one that might have fans back in the ground but that has all gone to shit because of the spike in Covid cases, mainly up north. There is a lot of talk a while ago about independence from Scotland. Can we just bring the Border down south and declare independence from the north. I wonder if they might open up Grounds in areas that are not in covid hotspots before they open up the rest. Maybe it would encourage all those fucking idiots in the street at 10 pm in Liverpool to actually follow some of the guidelines, no matter how stupid they appear to be.  It should be about getting as many businesses open as soon as possible and if it’s in the South then so be it.  Won’t happen though. 

Team news and as you were.  Vestergaard deservedly kept his place and Redmond was predictably on the bench with Djenepo given another chance on the left.  Fat shit Austin didn’t make the bench – he was sat at his hairdressers playing monopoly. 

Saints carve out a decent chance with their first real attack with the ball being worked to Bertrand and though he never really looked confident, he got the shot away but it was at a comfortable height for the keeper to parry.

After a decent bit of possession, Vestergaard pings a superb crossfield ball over to KWP who produces a first touch which takes him past the full back and he tries to find Ings with the pass but a defender gets a toe to it and it looks for all the world like an own goal but Johnstone pulls have a great save and the ball drops to Adams about 6 yards out.  He tries to get it past the goalkeeper but once more, the force field that goes up in front of goal whenever Adams has the ball is there again and we get a corner.

West Brom do manage to get in our half for the first time in so it allows us break it up and hit them on the break and Adams is absolutely cynically taken out by Livermore as cynically as you like.  The free kick is eventually delivered by JWP and Ings get up ahead of the defence and flicks it goalwards and Johnstone gets down to his right to pull off a really good save.  I do hope isn’t going to be one of those games with a bastard in goal saves everything. 

One of the features of the way Ralph wants the team to play is illustrated next as the ball is with the West Brom keeper and the Saints forwards have dropped off but as soon as he throws the ball into Sawyers in midfield then Ings, JWP and Adams are all over him.  The first two combine to nick the ball and it eventually breaks to Adams who gets to the edge of the box before hitting the force field again and dragging his shot wide of the left-hand post. 

A Saints attack breaks down with Romeu playing a poor pass and West Brom try to go forward which just gives us the opportunity to win the ball back which we duly do through Bednarek.  One pass from JWP breaks the midfield lines and Adams, Ings and Djenepo are 3v3 with Adams on the ball.  He tries to play a 1-2 with Ings but the ball back to him deflects off the defender and goes to Djenepo on the edge of the box.  The box of tricks produces a Cruyff turn totally sends Livermore out of the stadium before firing into the net past the keeper with his left foot.  Brilliant bit of skill by the man from Mali and we have the lead that we deserve. 

It’s disappointing to get to half-time only being 1-0 up but if we start the second half right then the second shouldn’t be too long in coming and then it should be plain sailing.  However, Bilic makes a sub at half time and West Brom are much more aggressive, rather than just sitting there waiting to get beat. We struggle for 10 minutes and West Brom have a shout for a penalty which probably would’ve been given last week but there are more common sense attached the rules now and Parreira’s freekick clearly hits Bertrand’s arm but as it was flicked on right in front of him, today this is just a corner which we survive. 

Djenepo appears to be limping so he comes off for Redmond which was probably in the plan anyway.  Saints are playing very patiently and keeping the ball very well having survived this initial 10 minutes of West Brom pressure and then it’s over. Virtually the whole team is involved in the build up with KWP featuring strongly before Bertrand and Redmond combine to find Armstrong who has made a run from right to left and his cross is met on the edge of the box by of all people, Oriel Romeu who crashes a hip high volley into the net, giving Johnstone no chance at all. What the fuck has happened here.  What a goal.  It is the kind of goal that would be drooled over for all eternity if a big club scored it.

A Fine Example of the Spanish Ninja Volley

To be honest, the referee could have blown the whistle at that point because there was no way that West Brom would get back into the game. It is not often that we are this comfortable. We content ourselves with playing ball around really nicely which brings a good chance to the superb KWP but he side foots it wide.  Shane Long comes on for Adams for the last 10 minutes and the only real chance it’s a JWP freekick from the left which Bednarek flicks goalwards and the ball hits Johnstone (who looked like he was just trying to protect his face) and flies narrowly over the bar narrowly over the bar.  It’s handy as a keeper if you can be lucky as well as good.  The End, job done, 3 points. 

In summary, that was a pretty perfect performance for this type of game against this type of opposition. A nice comfortable 2-0 win, scoring in the first half, putting it to bed in the second half and then having no alarms as the game is played out. There was a brief 10 minute spell after half time when West Brom was suddenly more aggressive and it took us a while to get to grips with that but once we did, it was as comfortable as any home winning the Premier League for us is ever going to be. 

It was a day that was full of positives than a clean sheet, goals from other sources other than Danny Ings and even the news that we have managed to sign another player with the Ibrahim Diallo deal confirmed by Ralph straight after the game. All in all, an excellent days work which Ralph was visibly delighted with. 

West Brom were more or less exactly as I expected them to be, not much potency up front, nothing but hard work in midfield and a dodgy defence and if it hadn’t been for Sam Johnstone in goal who pulled of several notable slaves, we could’ve been out of sight at half-time. The save he made from Ings header was right out of the top drawer. 

Though there will be tougher tests ahead, the Bednarek and Vestergaard central defensive partnership looked good once more and KWP again proved what an absolute snip he is looking like at £12 million quid. This is the same fee that we paid for Diallo so hopefully he will prove to be the same. 

As I said earlier, having different goalscorers was a great thing.  Djenepo took his goal superbly with a wonderful bit of skill which threw everybody, including the West Brom keeper. Romeu’s goal was unbelievable, purely because it was him.  Oriol usually reserves kicking things that hard to opposition players but fair play to the man.  It would’ve been a fantastic moment if the fans have been in the ground. 

Elsewhere, the forwards could both have scored but as said, Ings was denied by the keeper and Adams was denied by the invisible forcefield which seems to spring up in front of the goal every time he has a shot.  It’ll come.  Djenepo was lively though he did appear to limp off which is hopefully not a problem that’ll keep him out of the next game in a couple of weeks. 

International break now and we have 6 points from 4 games which is better than our usual starts.  When we come back though, hopefully with a clean bill of health, we have a difficult trip to Chelsea who have unsurprisingly, not been firing on all cylinders so far as they bed in their team of Galacticos.  Oh for a repeat of last year.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Premier League Match 3 - Burnley 0 Southampton 1


No Social Distancing After a Pass Like That

We have been given an 8 o’clock kick-off tonight for a game at Turf Moor against Burnley, which was surprising as when the TV companies were drawing up the fixture list for the season, it was rumoured that all Burnley games had to start after 9 pm watershed along with all the horror films and violence and swearing and sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll content which has to be aired after that time to prevent the youth of today getting corrupted by what they might see and hear.  However, with Ashley Barnes being injured, it was decided that the TV companies could be given special dispensation to put this game on an hour early.

Ashley Barnes isn’t the only player in the player who might not be available today as we hear that they have seven players missing, including our former players Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez.  They have just signed Dale Stephens though – remember him?   The injuries are a shame for Sean AllarDyche because they might not be able to play their normal flowing style and might have to resort to a more direct approach. There were a few rumours of discontent around Burnley at the time of Project Restart because they had a number of players who were coming to the end of contract and were unable to be picked. Dyche made his displeasure very clear to the board but he is still here this season amongst rumours of takeovers, similar to what we have ourselves.   Though I don’t like his style of play, Dyche gets enough of a tune out of Burnley every year to keep Burnley in the division fairly comfortably. Their problem is going to come when he leaves.

Burnley away is usually the most predictable of games where as far as playing football is concerned, we come down to their level get drawn into taking them on at their own game and get beat because they are very good at what they do.  On the opening day of last season up here, we held out until around until the hour mark and then let in a horrific goal and then caved in.  There were times in the tail end of last season when we were better against the more direct teams as we beat Watford and Bournemouth but results against the real experts, Burnley and West Ham, elude us for now.

Today, we must get it down and play and cannot be drawn into a game of who can kick it the highest because they will be better at it than we are. Having no fans in Turf Moor will won’t what make any difference at all. It will still be fucking cold and blowing a gale but we have to deal with that.  Simply, we have to take advantage of the fact that they have some of their big players missing and we need to be off of zero points by the end of the day.

The team news confirmed what I had predicted earlier on in the week in that Vestergaard came in for Stephens. To be honest, if you’re not going to use Vestergaard in this game then there is no point in having him really. Our bench therefore consisted of Jack Stephens, Shane Long, four kids and a goalkeeper, again illustrating the chronic lack of squad depth that we have right now.

5 minutes and we go on our first real attack and it sees us knocking the ball around nicely at the back before Romeu goes right to Bednarek and on to KWP at right back. He pushes forward and slides a great ball through to meet Adams’ run.  As Pope comes rushing out, Che pulls it back and there is Danny Ings to kind of bobble it into the net.  There’s a small deflection in there somewhere off of the desperate Burnley boot but who cares?  Not I and not Danny or Ralph and an early lead.

It’s a great start and this is exactly what I was talking about the start of the game - if we play football against this lot they won’t be able to live with us. Another move, this time it on the left as Djenepo is picked out with a diagonal ball from Bednarek. He feeds Bertrand in and the cross finds Che Adams in the middle of the penalty area but it’s a difficult height and he launches it over the bar.

Burnley begin to get a foothold in the game now and create the first real chance with some surprisingly good football as Vydra plays a decent one to with Wood before crossing to Brownhill. The ball drops and Bertrand manages to block the resulting shot.  From the next ball crossed in, Vydra attempts and overhead kick which makes no contact but he’s up quickly to smash it over the bar was under pressure from Vestergaard.

A ball into the channel and Wood goes running into the box but away from goal as Bednarek moves in to close him down. There is the slightest touch from Bednarek as Wood deliberately slows down and the 6 foot 3 Burnley man mountain folds in on himself like someone who has just forgotten how to walk. The net result of all this is that we get given a free kick for handball. No doubt Dyche will fine Wood two weeks wages for collapsing like a big soft twat or maybe he will be a massive hypocrite and piss and moan about it to the fourth official for the rest of the half – yep, the second option.  If that’s a penalty then we might as well give up and fucking go home and you can imagine what Dyche would’ve been like if that had been given against his side.

So far so good but the second-half starts with a minor scare as a cross comes in from a central area and Wood gets up near the back post to try and head it across goal but McCarthy is smartly off his line to catch.  It’s going to be all about concentration and hard work.

Another launch forward by Pope and the linesman for some reason sticks his flag up early, going against what has been happening recently and half the Saints team stop before Ryan Bertrand produces a shit back pass which enables Wood to walk around McCarthy and slot it into the net there is no way this goal is going to be been given because the whistle has already gone in response to the flag going up. It’s the correct decision as Wood is offside but it’s going to give Dyche something else to moan about afterwards.

McCarthy earns his money soon afterwards as there is a bit of pinball in the penalty area which we don’t deal with properly and Taylor steams onto the ball on the edge of the penalty area and drills it goalwards towards the near post and McCarthy pulls off a smart save.  It’s one he should make but important nonetheless.

With 10 to go it’s time to use the limited bench that we have and it’s two kids with Obafemi and Tella coming on for the tiring Adams and the underwhelming Djenepo.  It’s basically gives a more legs and we create a chance but Armstrong chooses the wrong option instead of sliding Tella through and then we have an almost identical situation where Armstrong picks the ball up but this time he finds Danny Ings in an offside position but the main man carries on anyway and pings it into the far corner of the net.

There is the traditional last minute heart attack as the ball pings around a penalty area and Romeu blocks a shot out for a corner. The corner comes in, complete with Nick Pope being in our penalty area, McCarthy punches clear but Burnley are still working the ball around the edge of a penalty area and we are flying in to try and stop the delivery into the box and Andre Marriner decides that he’s cold and bored and that he has had enough of this shit game and blows up and fuck me - we’ve actually done it, won at Turf Moor.

What an appallingly shit game that was but it doesn’t matter a shit because we won so the fact that it was appallingly shit is of complete insignificance. If I wasn’t a supporter of one of the teams playing then I would have turned off a long time ago and gone and done something more interesting like wash my hair or cut the grass with a pair of scissors. It was that bad.

We won in the end because we produced the one bit of quality in the whole game with the move that led to the only goal and then we defended properly.  Ings and Adams didn’t get much service but worked hard to stem the tide of missiles being launched into our half.  In the second-half we settled for a holding pattern of just defending the crosses that came into a box and competing for absolutely everything in midfield. Romeu and JWP were absolutely immense, meaning that Burnley were restricted even more to belting it long and trying to get down the wings to sling crosses into the mixer. The wingers also did their bit but the one disappointment of the game was the lack of quality on the ball from the flanks.  Both were trying hard but Armstrong still looks well short of match fitness and he had the touch of a man playing in wellies and Djenepo didn’t take on Bardsley once when there was opportunity to do so, especially after he’d got booked.

When the bombs did come into our box, Bednarek and Vestergaard were excellent and did what they had probably been practising all week.  Bringing in the Great Dane meant that Bednarek could play on the right where he looked more comfortable and the diagonal passing of these two was really good at times. McCarthy had a strange game, never looking particularly convincing but on the two occasions he was called upon, he made a good catch from Wood’s header and pulled off the smart save at the near post to deny Taylor. Both the fullbacks did the jobs well and Ryan Bertrand will no doubt say that he knew it was offside in the build up when he gave that shit back pass which allowed Wood to stick the ball in the net..

They tried to make a big deal of it on Sky afterwards and tried to goad Dyche about it but the fact remains that would was offside when Pope launch the ball forward. Sure, the linesman shouldn’t have stuck his flag up under the new protocols but no damage done and the right decision was reached. You have to have some sympathy for all the officials including the VAR official because it is hard to judge offsides when the ball forward has come from 60 yards away which it invariably always does for Burnley.

Dyche did have a little bit of a moan about the penalty that they didn’t get when Wood felt the slightest touch from Bednarek and collapsed on the ground.  Dyche admitted that it would’ve been soft but that surely means that Wood tried to buy the penalty. As Dyche is always shitting on about how his players do not dive then saying this makes him sound like a bit of a twat and this is a man who sounds like Zippy out of Rainbow (for those like me who are old enough to remember kids TV in the 1970s)

Dyche Shits on to the 4th Official

Ralph was clearly not impressed with Dyche and his moaning about the penalty and the two of them could be seen chuntering to each other at half time. You can tell at the end was Ralph was absolutely delighted to get over the line with this one and it continues the sequence carrying over from last year in that we beat Palace away, beat Spurs at home and lost Burnley away and this year all those results have been reversed.

Next up is West Brom at home who we didn’t play last year.  The biggest tragedy is that it looks like Charlie Austin has been found out and will soon be packed off to a mid-table Championship side on the strength of his record for a QPR back in the days when he could still run a bit.  This is where we have to start banishing the memory of last season’s home record.