Tag Archives: Oriol Romeu

Monotony & Apathy

‘Live together in perfect harmony’

Well, after another long term hiatus I’m back again. It’s been a while. The whole WordPress backend has changed, I’ve turned 40, and I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the two, or one of those things in particular, but I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Do not fear though dear reader, I’ve never let such a trivial matter as incompetence stop me before and I’m not about to start now!

I return to you rejuvenated. For I do not mind admitting that the last two and half years supporting Saints had become a struggle, and Saturday afternoons had become more about a pint and a chinwag with the Dubai Saints, and less about the ‘football’. Those of you that follow our Facebook Page or Twitter will know that we have a tradition of a group photo and the hashtag #win when we win (not rocket surgery), and when I first moved here drunkenly posing for these celebratory shots was the norm, but until recently they had become as rare as a Dejan Lovren winner’s medal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a ‘woe is me, we don’t win every week’ post. I started going to the Dell in 1992, I can handle watching a pile of crap week in week out. The issue was not about how good the players were, or even whether we won, lost or drew, though of course winning is always the preferred option. Somewhere along the way, we lost our identity. It became boring, and my feeling towards Saints became apathetic. So what changed?

As is usual, when the fortunes of a football club change, it is likely a combination of factors rather than any one particular person or event. Let’s start with the coaches. When Ronald Koeman left us for Everton he was the fourth manager in a row that had been a successful appointment for Saints. He was also the fourth to have a presence, a personality and an aura around them that inspired a confidence in the fans, and logically the players too.

Claude Puel was none of those things. Not a bad bloke, just an incredibly dull one, and he coupled a lack of charisma off the pitch with monotonous, uninspiring football on it. Baffling team selections (Inter Milan Away anyone?) and zero risk taking that might turn a draw into a win condemned him to being the most successful disliked manager in Southampton history. Saints fans were largely mocked by the nations media and ex pros for wanting the Frenchman sacked, despite finishing 8th place in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup Final, and now Leicester fans find themselves in the same position, with the same complaints and the same mockery from the same sources. Coincidence?

https://twitter.com/FcPuel/status/1085224470900555777

The end of the Puel season meant a fresh start. Surely, the appointment of such a man far removed from the recent ideals of the club was a blip. Nope. We literally went and got the Argentine equivalent. That might be a little harsh, Mauricio Pelligrino at least talked a good game when he arrived, but it’s staggering to think the same nation that produced Maradona, Messi, Bielsa and a whole host of other footballing characters also brought us ‘Senor Frijol’. The football wasn’t a lot better, the results were even worse, and relegation beckoned to the soundtrack of scoffing and hand wringing from the ‘Ridiculous to sack Puel, what do Southampton expect’ brigade.

Saints were sleepwalking to the Championship under Pellegrino, of that I have no doubt. A lack of goals, a weak backbone and an uncanny knack of throwing away a lead meant he had to go. At the time, I called for Saints to be pragmatic for once and agreed with them that Leslie Mark Hughes was the only viable option. This was based on nothing more than the requirement for top flight experience when you are staring into the abyss that is the football league. And I was right. Sort of.

Let us not change history. The fact of the matter is that ‘Sparkey’ did what looked impossible and kept us up. Whether or not you believe that is down to his management/coaching ability or that there were simply three teams even worse than us is for you to decide. I am happy to admit that I believed he had earnt his chance for the job full time. More fool me. My apathy perhaps even reached peak under the reign of the miserable Welsh custodian of proper hand shake etiquette.

Under the tutelage of these three charisma vacuums, the club I loved was transformed from the industry leading, innovative, academy pushing, supremely likeable, entertaining, big boy toppling, exciting unit that were a joy to watch, no matter the result into a turgid collection of hapless misfits that were a chore to endure. I, like many Saints fans found myself watching the games only out of some ridiculous sense of unenforced duty.

But were the managers the only problem?

Les Reed. Let this be the official stance of georgeweahscousin.com. I was never one to turn on Reed, and I am grateful to the man for the role he played in the best era of supporting Saints in my life. But, as the old saying goes, ‘Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest’. With two and a half poor managerial appointments in a row, it can only be fair to say, the magic had perhaps dried up. It certainly felt like things had gone stale behind the scenes, and the decision to remove Reed from his role when it came to it, was a long time coming. Not only did the coaching choices go downhill, but so did the recruitment of players. The time of unearthing gems like Mane, Van Dijk etc was gone, and what followed was a string of expensive failures. Sofiane Boufal, Wesley Hoedt and Garrido Carrillo all cost big money and are all now out on loan, likely on wages that make them difficult to move them on permanently. Jannik Vestegaard and Elyounoussi are the latest to struggle to make an impact on the first team.

Which brings me to the playing squad itself. Throughout this tough period, there was often the suggestion that the squad itself, simply wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, that it lacked the quality to succeed as it once had done. For me this was never the case, and while recruitment wasn’t necessarily improving the starting XI, we still had a top ten Premier League squad, they were just being poorly utilised and poorly motivated. Good players don’t become bad players overnight. But they can lose their way.

I don’t want to do an in depth analysis of every member of the squad, but by highlighting just a few I think I can make my point. The first is Oriol Romeu, in his first season with the club he was the impenetrable wall between midfield and defence, player of the season and hugely popular, his downward spiral coincides perfectly with that of the club, ending with him being a bit part player under Mark Hughes, who looked a shadow of his former self when used. Nathan Redmond has been the victim of some unsavoury over the top criticism, and somehow became the poster boy for our poor football at times. This blog was calling for Saints to sign Redmond long before they did, and never lost faith in his ability as a player, but it was often agonising to watch him take the blame from sections of the crowd for lacklustre team performances. Redmond is a dynamic attacking player, and it is almost criminal that three coaches almost managed to sap that out of him. Remember how upset we all got when Pep Guardiola weirdly berated him on the pitch for not using his attacking intent more effectively? Pep was right.

Ryan Bertrand is an odd one. Many people, myself included have bemoaned his perceived lack of interest and his unenthusiastic manner in games, but with retrospect was he just another victim of the monotonous chore being involved with Saints had become? He quickly took to his Instagram to comment on having a sense of direction under the new manager. Will we see the old Bertrand back soon?

When you look at the upturn in performances from Romeu & Redmond under the new manager, couple them with the resurgence of Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse. Danny Ings scoring goals. Two Goalkeepers making serious claims for the number 1 spot. Stuart Armstrong now showing us why we signed him, and PEH looking like the player that was so highly rated by Guardiola at Bayern; you realise that we shouldn’t be in a relegation battle. Our squad isn’t poor, it was simply in a self inflicted malaise. Neil Warnock said we had the best squad outside the top 8, and while he doesn’t always make sense (#ColinonBrexit), I agree we are there or thereabouts.

So what has Ralph Hasenhüttl done differently? Well, from a very basic point of view he has immediately got the fans onside. That sounds very simplistic, and obviously if performances and results improve then that comes naturally, but, he did it before a ball was kicked. His passionate and charismatic opening gambit as Saints boss brought a renewed hope to a beleaguered faithful and that small psychological tactic, whether it was intentional or not goes a long way. The man is a leader, and instantly we wanted to follow him. If we felt like that so quickly, it is not a huge leap of faith to suggest the players felt the same.

On the pitch, it feels very much like normal service has been resumed. His intensive high pressing dynamic system is entertaining and we look like we are enjoying our football again. There is a tactical shrewdness that saw us get fantastic away results at Chelsea and Leicester and #win photos are on the rapid increase. I could bore you with the statistical comparisons between him and previous managers, but I’m sure you are already aware of them. To summarise, he has improved us in every area already, considerably, and our pathway has been re-opened. If all this wasn’t enough, his passionate reaction to goals and victorious full time whistles endears him to us even further.

It’s early days, but the future looks bright again, and the manager hasn’t even brought any players of his own choosing yet. If our form continues, we can hopefully bring this season to a close without a nail biting finish and prepare for a much more entertaining and successful one. Soon we could be back to the Halcyon days when our only worries were when our top players would be poached or where the manager might jump ship to. Oh fuck.

Keep the faith.

Chris

Hello darkness, my old friend

Saints are 18th in the Premier League with fourteen games to go.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

We’ve been here before. We hoped we’d never be here again, but the ever growing competitive nature of the Premier League means that for a number of reasons 2017/18 is one that will not sit comfortably in the memory whatever the outcome, unlikely FA Cup win aside.

Before I proceed I want to make my position clear. Were I in an executive position on the board of Southampton Football club Mauricio Pellegrino would be out of a job by now, in fact he’d have gone immediately after the frankly embarrassing Leicester thumping at St. Mary’s. Having said that I am prepared to accept that while his tactical naivety is the overwhelming factor in our current decline, it isn’t the only variable that has seen us slip into a relegation battle like it’s the mid-90’s.

But let’s start with the manager. Like it or not, the manager’s one and only remit really is to get results and he isn’t doing that. Saints have a habit of starting games well, which suggests he isn’t so tactically unaware, the problem seems to come once we are in front. His immediate thought process seems to be to stop what was working and settle for what we have. Sitting back and inviting pressure has only gone one way so far, three points have rapidly evaporated.

Great goal Sofiane, but we did discuss holding out for a point. So…

My other concern on the manager is his response to changes by the opposition or lack thereof. The Watford game is a perfect example of this. Saints were two goals to the good and comfortable against a side themselves in disarray, but their introduction of Troy Deeney changed the dynamic and Saints were on the back foot. We didn’t react (one like for like sub in the 63rd minute) and although there was a huge element of fortune in the Hornet’s equaliser, it had been coming and their reading of the situation meant they gained a point, our misunderstanding of it meant we dropped two.

We have won just four league games all season, and barring an element of fortune against West Ham, a Forster masterclass at Selhurst Park and a moment of individual Boufal brilliance it could so easily be one. I know it’s not as simple as that, and we could analyse our draws and defeats and make a case for where we deserved more, but the fact of the matter is, our only truly convincing league win this season was a home thrashing of Everton, who themselves were in free-fall (something they have rectified with a new manager).

But. I think we have to accept that the manager isn’t going, if there was any chance he was under scrutiny by the board then surely they’d have made their move by now? So assuming it isn’t coming then we have to look at what else is going wrong.

I’ve seen many question the qualities of the squad, but to me this is poppycock and a compelling argument as to why the manager has failed. This is not a bottom three squad. No way. I will argue that with anyone. We have a better and more talented group of players than 5 or 6 clubs currently above us in the league. Is it as strong as it was in previous seasons, no I don’t think it is, but departures have weakened it, not destroyed it completely.

We do have an issue with a lack of depth. An injury to Charlie Austin (given his history, something that shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise) and our already lacking goals scored column becomes almost non-existent. A caveat to this though is that we do have a talented striker not getting game time? If we go down with Manolo Gabbiadini as unused sub we’ll be a laughing stock.

The same could be said for Mario Lemina. The lad looks like a real talent yet seems to be out of favour, if you add Sofiane Boufal to the mix that is three of our better players getting splinters.

The mis-use of Steven Davis is frustrating to see also. For me Davis is a consistently good performer in a Saints shirt, if he is played as part of the support three. He isn’t a defensive midfielder, and always plays poorly when asked to be one. The fact that he has been used there when Romeu, Lemina and Hojbjerg are available is baffling to say the least.

Decent. Team.

Football isn’t rocket science. Play your best players, and in the position they are most suited to play.

The biggest factor and the one that is effecting everybody is ‘the fear’.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains.’

There is a trepidation amongst the players, coaching staff and fans alike that is worrying to say the least, and the capitulations from winning positions reek of 2004/05 and the last time we dropped out of the top flight.

The atmosphere on and off the pitch is the same now as it was then. As most of you will know my physical presence at games is limited now due to my living abroad, but I did have the ‘pleasure’ of being at the Huddersfield game. Again Saints led and looked comfortable, but the Terriers equaliser was met with ‘the fear’, and we might consider ourselves lucky to have come away with a point. Immediately the players heads dropped and the attitude of the crowd changed, like the outcome was now a foregone conclusion.

Overcoming ‘the fear’ will be key to our survival this season, and that is where the crowd plays it’s part. We are Southampton, this isn’t our first relegation battle. We have to draw on that experience, and those of us who, like me, were there for the regular anxiety of the 90’s will tell you that one of the reasons we were very good at getting out of it was the backing of the crowd.

Nobody wanted to come to the Dell in that situation because the crowd backed it’s players and got on top of the opposition and we have to make sure St. Mary’s is the same. Especially when we entertain those around us. It’s all very well getting up for Spurs, but just like the players, we as fans have to take the same attitude into games against Brighton etc.

And please. Get off Nathan Redmond’s back. A promising player who was recognised by England looks a shell of his former self, and some of the abuse he has received while other under-performers seemingly get off scot-free is frankly disgusting.

I know it’s frustrating to watch at times, but to a point you are stuck with the manager and the players, so back them. Save your discontent for the end of the season come what may.

As fans our input is only vocal but it is important. Don’t let the players be faced with the sound of silence.

Keep the faith.

We know what you did this Summer….

As usual Saints have entered the close season in their usual, quiet understated fashion.

When I was a kid there used to be ‘i-spy’ books. There were numerous subjects, ‘At the Seaside’ for example. The end goal being that you could take the kids on trips to the beach and they could take in some free Summer education in the handy form of checking things off a list in a book and trying to complete it (or translated, piss off and find things and stop bothering you while you crack into Bravo Two Zero and a serious case of sunburn). For instance, if you see a rockpool, tick it off, a starfish tick it off? A nice idea.

I wonder if Saints fans of a similar age to me would be thinking it would be nice if they release a ‘Southampton FC Summer’ version of this book to give to their kids.

The main flaw being that they would have completed the f*%king thing now and it’s only June 10th.

Key players linked to other clubs – Tick it off.

Managerial upheaval – Tick it off.

Star Player having social media sulk – Tick it off.

Liverpool – Tick it off.

Takeover rumours – Tick it off.

Let’s face it, it isn’t going to last the Summer Holidays.

So what do Saints do next? That’s the million dollar question. In fact that’s the billion dollar question. A million dollars is pocket change in football today.

If the stories coming out about Van Dijk meeting Jurgen Klopp are true, then the player, his agent, Klopp and Liverpool FC have behaved abysmally. We might expect that from the latter three but it is a very disappointing chain of events from our captain. All this was taking place while he was in rehabilitation from his injury, and while he chose not to attend the end of season awards. I’ve heard of bored housewives flirting with other men, but bored centre halves with other clubs?

Take me with you Adam…

Perhaps the armband is a curse. Predecessors Lallana and Fonte tarnished their status in Saints folklore by the way they behaved in forcing exits from the club, and the club’s perhaps over easy stance on that is a contributory factor in Virgil thinking he can do the same. This might explain the ‘enough is enough’ comments and the Premier League complaint.

The whole situation stinks and nobody comes out of it smelling like roses. What the club does next is key in maintaining any respect. If they still end up selling to Liverpool (even at the rumoured £75 million asking price) it would look weak, but if they were the only bidder perhaps understandable. If someone else now bids that then I would suggest accepting it and moving on.

So who should be the new Captain? There are many worthy candidates. Steven Davis? Oriol Romeu? Would be no complaints from me if either of these men got it, but in the spirit of election season let me put forward another name…. Maya Yoshida.

Maya’s performances last season were fantastic in VVD’s absence. He appears to be one player who is perfectly content with his life at St. Mary’s and he probably isn’t going to be having his head turned by bigger clubs anytime soon.

And what for our old friend Claude Puel? I’m of the opinion that he already knows his time is up and is playing ball regarding staying quiet about it as part of his compensation package. I’m sure once a successor is finalised we will be able to say adieu to one of the unluckiest managers in Premier League history. Don’t get me wrong, although I defended Claude for a long time I do think it is right that he moves on, the run in to the season was a frustrating watch, the football was dire and my hunch is that many of the players had lost interest in playing for him.

Who will be the new man in the hottest seat in football? Who knows? I’m desperately trying to not get my hopes up that it could be Thomas Tuchel but PLEASE LET IT BE THOMAS TUCHEL. That would represent a massive coup for the club and if we can couple that with not selling half our team we might even come out of this Summer with relatively positive attitudes?

Are you our new dad?

As for the takeover of the club by Chinese company Lander’s Sports, your guess is as good as mine as to what is going on. Reports in China say it is completed, reports in the UK say it isn’t, but there is a time difference, so you know?

Let’s face it nobody knows anything about them, so inevitably the first year will be a time of uncertainty. The Liebherr administration has insisted that the day to day running of the club won’t change and that is a deal breaker, we’ve no reason not to trust them on that. Changes in ownership can see fantastic improvements in some cases (Chelsea, Saints, Man City etc.) but also often come with disastrous consequences (Hull, Leyton Orient, Pompey etc.) It’s a gamble and one we can do little about.

As always we have to take a breath at this time of year and remind ourselves that players, managers, directors and owners are and always have been temporary. We (the fans) are Southampton Football Club. We are permanent.

Keep the faith.

 

THE WINNERS OF THE 2016/17 ALI’S! THE RESULTS ARE IN!

Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!

This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-

ali_trophy

So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….

Player of the Year

This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:- Martin Caceres (<1%), Stuart Taylor (<1%), My Clitoris (<1%), The Penalty Spot (<1%), Jack Stephens (<1%), Manolo Gabbiadini (2%), Nathan Redmond (3%), Steven Davis (3%), Ryan Bertrand (4%),  James Ward-Prowse (5%), Maya Yoshida (10%)

3rd Place:- Cedric (11%)

2nd Place:- Virgil van Dijk (14%)

And the winner is……with a huge 48% of the points, after a stand out season in the middle of the park……

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Sam McQueen (2%), Oriol Romeu (3%), Cedric (12%)

3rd Place:- Jack Stephens (16%)

2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (28%)

And the winner is…… Jose who?

Young Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Thomas O’Connor (<1%), They’re all shit, I agree with Ronald (<1%), Nathan Redmond (4%), James Ward-Prowse (15%)

3rd Place:- Josh Sims (19%)

2nd Place:- Sam McQueen (20%)

And the winner is……

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Forbsey (1%), Claude Puel (1%), Eric Black (1%), Hugo Scheckter (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Stuart Taylor (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Jack Stephens (2%), Nathan Redmond (3%), Ryan Bertrand (4%), Cedric (15%)

3rd Place:-  James Ward-Prowse (17%)

2nd Place:- Steven Davis (21%)

And the winner is….

Signing of the Season

3rd Place:- That old keeper (<1%)

2nd Place:- Nathan Redmond (12%)

And the winner is…..

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Team v Sunderland (A) (<1%), Sims v Everton (H) (<1%), Forster v Liverpool (A) (<1%), Redmond v Watford (A) (<1%),  Tadic v Watford (A) (<1%), Team v Bournemouth (A) (<1%), van Dijk v Inter (H) (<1%), Team EFL Campaign (<1%), Team v Arsenal EFL (A) (<1%), Stephens v Liverpool (A) (<1%), Fans in Milan (2%), Team v Leicester (H) (2%), Gabbiadini initial impact (2%), Team v Liverpool EFL (H) (5%), Team v West Ham (H) (5%), Team v Inter (H) (5%)

3rd Place:- Team at Wembley (13%)

2nd Place:- Gabbiadini EFL Cup final (20%)

And the winner is…… Team v Liverpool EFL (A)

Goal of the Season

Received Votes:- Tadic v West Ham (<1%), Martina v Arsenal last season (<1%), Gabbiadini offside at Wembley (<1%), Bertrand v Bournemouth (<1%), Redmond v Watford (2%), Gabbiadini v Sunderland (2%), Boufal v Boro (2%), Gabbiadini v West Ham (3%), Clasie v WBA (5%), Rodriguez v Bournemouth (8%), Clasie v Arsenal (8%)

3rd Place:- Gabbiadini 2nd at Wembley (11%)

2nd Place:- Long v Liverpool (13%)

And the winner is…..

Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- Fonte’s countless interviews justifying his move (<1%), Bournemouth Fans (<1%), Cup Final Penalty Decision (<1%), Steven Davis being picked every week (<1%), Roger East reffing (<1%), John Stones defending (<1%), Puel celebration at Anfield (<1%), Pompey getting owned on Social Media (<1%), Les Reed went to Europe… (<1%), The League Campaign (<1%), Sims performance v Everton shoving it to Koeman (<1%), Shane Long (<1%), One Wayne Bridge Chant (<1%), Weak Long finishes (<1%), Cuco’s Moonwalk (<1%), Mike Dean (<1%), Puel Out Brigade (<1%), #cucobants (<1%), Forster’s save attempts (<1%), Palace Away (<1%), Liverpool not scoring in 4 games (<1%), Signing Caceres and not using him (<1%), Klopp believing Saints had an ‘agenda’ against them (<1%), Isgrove’s new contract (<1%), Long pen miss v Boro (<1%), Tadic pen v Hull (2%), Team’s finishing (2%), Hull at home (2%), The ‘song’ (2%), Fonte’s West Ham form (3%), Fonte getting his move to ‘United’ (3%), Harry Kane pen (3%), Not signing a centre half in January (4%),  Tadic & Austin penalty row (5%)

3rd Place:- Shane Long double substitution v Man City (11%)

2nd Place:- Fraser Forster’s clearance v Palace (13%)

And the winner is…. Ruining what have been the biggest moment in Bournemouth’s history….

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Arsenal (<1%), Hull City (<1%)

3rd Place:- Man City (14%)

2nd Place:- Spurs (19%)

And the winner is…..

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Sadio Mane (<1%), Officials (<1%), Stefano Okaka (<1%), Vincent Kompany (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Eldin Jakupovic (<1%), Andy Carroll (<1%), Harry Kane (<1%), David Silva (<1%), Hal Robson-Kanu (<1%), Alexis Sanchez (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (2%), Christian Eriksen (2%), Harry Maguire (2%), Leroy Sane (3%), Mousa Dembele (4%), N’Golo Kante (4%)

3rd Place:- Diego Costa (5%)

2nd Place:- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (24%)

And the winner is….

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Inter (1%), Watford (1%), Swansea (1%), Arsenal (1%), All shit like ours (1%), Everton (joke) (1%),  Middlesbrough (2%), WBA (2%), Leicester (2%), Man City (2%), West Ham (3%), Bournemouth (3%), Liverpool (3%), Spurs (3%), None (3%),  Burnley (4%), Chelsea (6%), Hapoel Beer Sheva (7%), Hull (8%)

3rd Place:- Sunderland (9%)

2nd Place:- Man Utd (11%)

And the winners are…..

Best Saints Related Tweeter

Received Votes:- benstanners (<1%), Me (<1%), Nathan Redmond (<1%), TalkSaints (<1%), saintandy7 (<1%), jamiedriver98 (<1%), Healey17 (<1%), Puel_Out (<1%), chrs00 (<1%),  Max Sopel (<1%),  Lucy Highnett (<1%), Deppo (<1%), alexgbourne (<1%), Alex Crook (<1%), Saints News & Views (<1%), Whoever did the Long Titanic video (<1%), Always SFC, (<1%), saintsmike (<1%), Billy Fingers (<1%), Brian Smithson (<1%), Not you (<1%),  Consortium 11 (<1%), Archers Road (<1%), Oriol’s Northam Army (<1%), Soton PL_panel (<1%), TheFalseLibero(<1%), St. Mary’s Musings (<1%), Anyone but MLG (<1%), Simon Peach (<1%), Don’t use twitter (<1%), Fresh Saints (2%), Matt Le Tissier (2%), Cedric (2%), Maya Yoshida (2%), Official Account (2%), Dubai Saints (2%), L1MINUS10 (3%), Hugo Scheckter (4%), Luke Osman (7%), Adam Blackmore (7%)

3rd Place:- @crstig (9%)

2nd Place:- @SamDobson1 (10%)

And the winner is…… @SAINTSINFRANCE!

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry! Keep the faith!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

World Cup of Foreign Imports: Quarter Finals

The nineties fights back!

After some suggestion that more recent players were dominating because of the twitter demographic, the quarter finals proved that there is life in the old dogs yet!

Inevitably some big names fell, but it was all about the centre halves as three made it to the final four.

Here are the results of the quarter finals:-

QF1:-

QF2:-

QF3:-

QF4:-

All pretty conclusive with the exception of Killer vs the saviour of Liverpool’s season!

Here is the draw for the semi-finals:-

That concludes the semi final draw! Tune in tomorrow!

Chris

World Cup of Foreign Imports: Round of 16

After some controversial results in the group stages, the interest in the ‘World Cup of Foreign Imports’ hotted up!

The draw for the Round of 16 did not disappoint providing us with certainly the tie of the competition so far with two potential winners Morgan Schneiderlin and Marian Pahars going head to head.

The general consensus is that using the medium of twitter means a much younger voting spectrum and thus the results favour the more recent players, but I remind people of two things, firstly anyone can vote (<1% of the followers of the club official account are voting.) and secondly it is just for fun!

Here are the results of the Round of 16:-

G1:-

G2:-

G3:-

G4:-

G5:-

G6:-

G7:-

G8:-

Some close affairs and some one sided encounters but we most importantly we are down to our last 8!

Here is the draw for the Quarter Finals:-

8. Oriol Romeu will play 1. Virgil van Dijk

6. Marian Pahars will play 2. Antti Niemi

7. Dusan Tadic will play 3. Claus Lundekvam

4. Michael Svensson will play 5. Sadio Mane

That concludes the Quarter Final draw. Tune in tomorrow!

Chris

The Comprehensive Saints Summer Update: Part 1

It’s July. It’s unlikely that anyone has had as turbulent a Summer as Saints so far (Quelle surprise!), so I thought I would give my thoughts on some of the (it’s) happenings at St. Mary’s.

Outgoings

As common an occurrence at the South Coast’s premier club as a bottled North London title challenge, we are used to seeing our top assets walk out at the first sign of fluttered eye lashes from one of the Premier League’s oh so powerful ‘MASSIVE’ clubs. I have to admit though, the loss of Wanyama and Mane in quick succession was a tough one to take. I’ve made no bones that they were two of my ‘favourite’ players from recent squads, and both will be difficult to replace.

In Victor’s case, it was no real shock, I think he got the same treatment as Schneiderlin had previously and was told he could go in the Summer if he knuckled down and got on with it, which he did. Spurs are in the Champion’s League, and Wanyama is a much better player than a lot of Saints fans give him credit for. On the bright-side though Oriol Romeu’s performances were a massive credit to him when he played last season, and most would argue that he is a more than capable replacement. I personally think he is not ‘Victor level’ just yet, but the signs are positive and he is becoming a popular figure with the crowd.

Mane’s move to Liverpool struck me as a purely financial decision by the club. £34 million plus add-ons is a lot of money for a player who can blow hot and cold. Having said that, he is unplayable on his day and the club did the right thing holding out for a ‘silly’ offer before conceding. I can understand a player’s motivation for wanting to play for Liverpool, but it irks slightly that Mane has moved to a club who finished below us last season, and without European football, albeit on no doubt a much higher salary.

Nathan Redmond has already joined so technically Mane’s position is covered. I’m a big fan of Redmond, and believe he has huge potential, but like Romeu I think the issue could be that he isn’t at the same level as Mane yet.

Oh, and Juanmi left. *Shrugs*.

See you in Europe Sadio. No?
See you in Europe Sadio. No?

The New Boss

Claude Puel. What do I know about him? Very little in truth, but unlike some, who immediately wrote him off as ‘underwhelming’ or an ‘unambitious’ appointment, I did the due diligence and read all I could.

It’s fair to say his reputation in France is good. He has a good record with every club he’s been at, won the league with Monaco, got Lyon to the Champion’s League semi finals and Nice into the top four twice, but more importantly, he has a reputation for playing ‘the best’ football in the French league and promoting youth. A move back to the Southampton ideals a certain Dutchman was happy to ignore?

Since he joined I’ve been impressed with his cool persona. He’s as French as they come, and the nonchalant expression as he was shown round the club’s facilities was official Saints YouTube channel gold. In my head he was simply thinking ‘Ok, stadium and changing rooms, great. Show me where I can get a double espresso.’

He will be assisted by the superbly named Pascal Plancque and Eric Black. I know nothing about Plancque, but Black is a well respected coach who happens to be fluent in French (a shrewd move).

I look forward to seeing what this new coaching setup gets out of our talented squad.

Eric. Which one is Mane? Errr Boss...
Eric. Which one is Mane? Errr Boss…

The Kit

Announced yesterday after a series of teaser trailers, the new strip would appear to have been worth the wait.

In my opinion (abusive replies can be made in the comments section below) it is the smartest home kit we’ve had since the sash and the away strip is decent too.

As a long term admirer of Under Armour equipment (I used to use their cooling t-shirts literally under armour in my highly decorated military adventures in the Middle East) I was excited to see what they come up with and I think they have hit the nail on the head.

Some people are worried about sizing with the emphasis these days on designing for the elite athletes rather than the beer bellies in the crowd (seems misguided), but I ordered yesterday on the basis that I wear large UA coolswitch t-shirts for running and they fit me well. We’ll see.

The main complaints I saw from the terminally diagnosed naysayers were firstly ‘It looks like a bra at the top’, which was most brilliantly shot down by one of our female fans who questioned why a lot of our male fanbase seemed confused about the position of breasts in relation to the chest.

https://twitter.com/ChloeLN96/status/750324313715343360

Secondly, it seemed a lot of people wanted a Yellow away strip. Now this is going to be controversial (comments section) but I for one didn’t want a yellow kit. I get the tradition and the history, but yellow kits are consistently garish. Besides, last season was the 40th anniversary of the cup win, so that was the time to have yellow. The black shirt is smart.

Each of the new kits hanging in the St Mary's Satadium chaging room (L-R: GK Home, Away, Home, Away, GK Away) Southampton FC and global performance and innovation brand Under Armour have today revealed the first home and away match kits of their new seven-year partnership. Arriving today on England’s south coast, Saints super-fan Ed Powell oversaw delivery of the first kits to St Mary’s Stadium after winning a competition to learn more about the innovation behind each Under Armour-designed strip.

Incomings

Right now our squad is not as strong as it was last season, in fact I would say it is considerably weaker. But I think we can expect a few through the door once Claude has made his assessments of the current squad.

In my opinion we need another defensive midfielder, another striker/winger and perhaps another goalkeeper.

We’ve already been associated with pretty much anyone who has ever kicked a ball, so I am not going to comment on particular names, most of which are being also linked to much bigger parties anyway so seem unrealistic.

All I ask though, is that you try not to have a tantrum when other clubs sign somebody. We only need to worry about our own club, and in the last 5 years, with regards to incoming transfers they’ve (almost) always got it right.

Keep the faith.

The winners of the 2015/16 Ali’s! The results are in!

Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!

This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-

ali_trophy

So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….

Player of the Year

This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:-  Lee Todd (<1%), Steven Caulker (<1%), Some Scummer (<1%), Cuco Martina (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jordy Clasie (<1%), Cedric (<1%), Graziano Pelle (<1%), Jose Fonte (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Fraser Forster(2%), Steven Davis (6%).

3rd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (8%)

2nd Place:- Shane Long (32%)

And the winner is……with a huge 44% of the points, after a stand out season at centre half……

VIRGIL

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Steven Davis (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Alfie Jones (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Ryan Bertrand (2%).

3rd Place:- Matt Targett (11%)

2nd Place:- Cuco Martina (17%)

And the winner is…..in any other season he would have been ‘player of the year’…..

LONG

Young Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Lloyd Isgrove (1%), Josh Simms (1%), Jake Hesketh (1%), Jason McCarthy (1%), Jake Vokins (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Kelvin Davis (2%), Sadio Mane (2%), Olufela Olomola (2%), No One (3%).

3rd Place:- Alfie Jones (5%)

2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (15%)

And the winner is…..

TARGETT

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Maya Yoshida (1%), Jordy Clasie (1%), Graziano Pelle (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Dr. Barry Gale (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Shane Long (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Sammy Lee (2%), Jose Fonte (5%), Cuco Martina (5%).

3rd Place:- Oriol Romeu (10%)

2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (16%)

And the winner is….

DAVIS

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Juanmi (1%), Steven Caulker (1%), Cuco Martina (1%), Kenzie Benali (1%), Some Scummer (1%).

Joint 2nd:- Oriol Romeu & Charlie Austin (2%)

And the winner is….

VIRGIL

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Virgil van Dijk (1%), Shane Long (1%), Mane v Chelsea A (1%), Pelle v Chelsea A (1%), Susan Tadic? (1%), Team v Man Utd A (1%), Wanyama v Arsenal H (1%), Wanyama v Liverpool H (2%), Team v Spurs A (2%), Mane v Liverpool H (3%), Long v Arsenal H (3%), Davis v Spurs A (3%), Tadic v Man City H (4%), Team v Man City H (5%), Team v Chelsea A (6%).

3rd Place:- Forster v Arsenal A (10%)

2nd Place:- Team v Arsenal H (27%)

And the winner is……Team Performance/Comeback v Liverpool H.

Goal of the Season

Joint 2nd:- Ward-Prowse v WBA (1%), Mane v Liverpool (1%), Long v Newcastle (1%), Pelle v Liverpool (1%).

And the winner is….Martina v Arsenal!

MARTINA

Cuco Martina goal v Arsenal

Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- In the Box Jay Rod & k Davis (<1%), Yoshida’s Backpass (<1%), Pochettino chants at WHL (<1%), Spurs Title Bid (<1%), Koeman Out campaign (<1%),  Lovren bottlejob/subbed at HT (<1%), Wanker Spurs fan in blue at WHL (<1%), Austin sinking United (<1%), Davis 5mph goals at WHL (<1%), Liverpool fans after comeback (<1%), Antonio’s goal (<1%), K Davis flicking the security man’s balls (<1%), Lovren’s twitter sulk (<1%), Ronald’s injury (<1%), Long getting away with a foul in build up to goal v Arsenal (<1%), Any video with Maya (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Cuco clearance v Man City (<1%), Camera shots of Angry Juanmi (<1%), Lallana Pen miss (<1%),  Kid in crowd caught doing the v’s (<1%), Wanyama dummying three players by falling over (<1%), Cedric always bleeding (<1%), Brendan Rodgers fired (<1%), Juanmi (<1%), Wanyama’s red card (<1%), Adam Blackmore commentary on JWP goal (<1%), Sunderland playing it into the corners (<1%), Ex Saints celebrating at Liverpool game (<1%), Pompey’s play-offs (<1%), Mourinho Meltdown (<1%), When my mate shit himself on the way to West Ham away (<1%), Man City fan who let a flair off 5 minutes into the game and got himself and his son arrested on his son’s 13th birthday (<1%),  Drawing with Villa (<1%), Bertrand’s acceptance speech (<1%), Pelle doing the Haka (<1%), JWP panicing when clean through against Man City (<1%), Forster refusing to wave (<1%), Europa campaign (<1%), General officiating (<1%), Jon Moss (<1%), Dutch fans fighting each other (<1%), Spurs finishing 3rd in a two horse race (<1%), OctaFX goal hitting a steward (<1%),  Forster v Spurs (<1%), Stekelenburg (<1%),  Koeman linked to Everton (<1%),  Ronald v 4th Official in Arnhem (<1%), Pelle airshot (<1%), December (<1%), Joleon Lescott’s defending (3%), Wenger after the 4-0 blaming all the goals on the ref (4%), Cuco after his goal against Arsenal (6%), The comeback against Liverpool (7%).

3rd Place:- Ref taking the ball off Sadio Mane after his hat trick (8%)

2nd Place:- Various actions relating to Steven Caulker (9%)

And the winner is…..Ronald’s touchline run v Liverpool!

RON

http://georgeweahscousin.com/the-gwc-com-in-depth-and-analytical-end-of-season-review/

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Bournemouth (1%), Meh (1%), Midgetland (1%), Chelsea (1%), Villa (1%), West Ham (1%), Liverpool (4%), Man City (7%).

3rd Place:- Spurs (17%)

2nd Place:- Everton (20%)

And the winner is…..Just when they thought their season couldn’t get any better! Leicester City!

download

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Anthony Martial (<1%), Divok Origi (<1%), Ref at Leicester (<1%), Pione Sisto (<1%), Eden Hazard (<1%), Christian Eriksen (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (<1%), Joe Hart (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Martin Stekelenburg (<1%), John Stones (<1%), Andros Townsend (<1%), Hugo Lloris (<1%), Mezut Ozil (<1%), Sergio Aguero (2%), Willian (2%), Harry Kane (2%), Coutinho (2%), Ross Berkley (2%), Delle Ali (2%), Andy Carroll (2%), N’Golo Kante (3%), Dimitri Payet (3%), David de Gea (3%), Kelechi Iheanacho (6%), Daniel Sturridge (6%).

3rd Place:- Romelu Lukaku (10%)

2nd Place:- Riyad Mharez (12%)

And the winner is……

VARDY

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Man City (<1%), Coventry? (<1%), Couldn’t give a crap (<1%), Not the Scummers (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Liverpool (<1%), Spurs (<1%), All shit (<1%), Everton  (<1%), Norwich (1%), Sunderland (1%), West Ham (2%), Bournemouth (2%), Sunderland (4%), Villa (6%), Newcastle (8%).

Joint 3rd:- Crystal Palace & Vitesse Arnhem (10%).

2nd Place:- Leicester City (24%)

And the winner is…..Manchester United!

Survey-reveals-manchester-United-and-Chelsea-have-ugliest-fans

Best Saints Related Tweeter

Received Votes:- ImagesofRonald (<1%), TheBarhoe (<1%), KristianSFCOake (<1%), Always_SFC (<1%), Toothy (<1%), KitmanForbsey (<1%), theuglyinside (<1%), MushBible (<1%), Wanyama (<1%), Vasco (<1%), sean_stroud (<1%), stevegrant (<1%), ryangregory (<1%), JGBLucas (<1%), Rubbish Award (<1%), DutchTom (<1%), Dunno (<1%), Hugo Scheckter (<1%), Twitter is for Mugs (<1%), Pellz19 (<1%), asiansaint (<1%), alexgbourne (<1%), ChrisIngram96 (<1%), danbsfc (<1%), benstanners (<1%), Alex Crook (<1%), chrs00 (2%), Oriol Romeu (2%), TractorSaint (2%), Florin Gardos (2%), SamDobson (2%), LeagueOneMinus10 (2%), What’s twitter? (2%), Ronald Koeman (3%), Simon Peach (3%), SaintsinFrance (3%), StMarysMusings (5%), Me (6%), OfficialSaints (6%).

3rd Place:- @crstig (12%)

2nd Place:- @ConnorArmstrong (13%)

And the winner is…….@bigadamsport!

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry, check his work out at http://www.carlasam.com! Another great season! Keep the faith!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

Kangaroo Court: Wanyama’s Saints future!

There has been much talk this season about Victor Wanyama’s impact or lack thereof.

The Kenyan has become one of a long line of ‘marmite’ characters in a Saints shirt, often finding himself the scapegoat for poor team performances, and no matter how well he plays, has always struggled to win some fans round.

Having had to adapt to life post-Morgan Schneiderlin there is no doubt Victor hasn’t had quite the same level of performance we have come to expect, but are people being overly harsh?

Having been sent off three times this season, it is clear that a lot of the St. Mary’s faithful have lost patience with him, but there are still those who think he has a future at the club, and whats more, is still a ‘key’ player.

Everyone knows my opinion of Wanyama, so I put it to twitter to ask where does his future lie? Should Saints cash in as they now have other (possibly better) options? Or is he still an important part of our team?

It is predictably tight.

The case for the Prosecution:-

@ShaneyyG4 ‘While I think Vic has turned a corner in terms of commitment to the cause (arguably the upturn in form and the potential for another crack at European football on the cards will have helped this) I think we should sell him while his stock is high.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s had loads of good performances in a Saints shirt, but it’s becoming all too common for him to get sent off.  If this was one of our Young academy prospects coming through I’d completely understand and put it down to a learning process, but Vic is an experienced player who has played in the Champions league with Celtic and spent most of his Saints career next to arguably one of our best ever midfield destroyers in Schneiderlin.

What Vic really lacks is the Intelligence to know when he does have to commit a red/yellow card offence for the benefit of the team and when he has to keep his temper in check and play it clever.

Personally I think we have more tactically astute replacements in Romeu and Clasie, and Reed can push both of these all the way for a starting berth too.

Do we need Vic?’

The case for the Defence:

@geddesduncan At face value, our strength in depth can be used as a convincing argument to sell Victor Wanyama and take some money. Who needs him when we’ve got Romeu?

Koeman gives us the answer in his team selection. Wanyama comes first for holding onto the ball at all costs, putting himself in the way of opposition passes and outmuscling almost everyone he comes up against.

Most of his work is done when the ball is elsewhere, closing space before opposing players can reach it.

His ‘attitude problems’ felt real at one stage, but most backlash from supporters smacked of second hand anger at truly disrespectful twerps like Saido Berahino or Dani Osvaldo.

Transfer speculation may or may not be behind Wanyama’s dips in form or recent acquaintance with red cards.

But fans would do well to remember that Romeu has consistently worse discipline and isn’t accused of losing focus.

Meanwhile, Wanyama gets on with his job.

So long as the staff are confident they can keep him performing, as they are right now, he is worth more than the money we could recoup from letting him off his contract.’

Verdict:-

It is testament to Saints up-turn in form and their strength in midfield that this is an incredibly close call, but the vote is swayed slightly towards keeping Wanyama at the club. Will he commit to a new contract though?

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 11.48.51
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Seven things we re-learned from Saints resurgence!

Just a month ago, I found myself (over) analysing a run of terrible form here. Since that victory at Watford, Saints have made it to an unbeaten run of five games, dropping just two points at Arsenal and haven’t conceded a single goal.

So what have we re-learned during Koeman’s resurgence?

  1. The Transfer Policy is ok

During that run of five unbeaten games Summer signings Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu have both been standout players. Consider their impact alongside that of Virgil van Dijk and to a lesser extent Cedric, and Saints look to have a decent squad, better than the poor run they had been on suggested. Add to that the instant impact of Charlie Austin and Saints fans have good reason to be looking up again rather than down.

Football - Southampton v Everton - Barclays Premier League - St Mary's Stadium - 15/8/15 Southampton's Oriol Romeu in action Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details. - RTX1OCZB
Romeu – An assured replacement for Wanyama.

2. Ronald knows Tactics

Many people winced when they saw the return of three at the back, especially with Ryan Bertrand taking a place in the centre, but Ronald has got his tactics spot on recently. With the exception of the West Ham game, he has recreated the dominant home performances we had gotten used to, and defensively the team have been superb on the road.

What poor form?
What poor form?

3. Player Power won’t always beat us

Despite his sending off against West Ham, Victor Wanyama has seemingly (if temporarily) shaken off his desire to head to North London and been a key player during this run. Wanyama is one of Saints’ best players on his day, only a fool argues that point, but his position is more difficult with the emergence of Clasie and Romeu. Arguably, Saints could afford to lose him, but chose not to. A nice change.

It was refreshing to see that no key players left the bus on deadline day, and whether or not you believe the likes of Wanyama and Mane are biding their time, perhaps Saints have decided they won’t be held to ransom anymore.

4. Goalscoring

Many of us felt vindicated when Charlie Austin came off the bench at Old Trafford to put away his first chance in a Saints shirt. It’s what we had been saying for some time. We miss too many good chances.

A three pronged competition for places of Austin, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long is a pretty ideal situation for a manager as they all differ in style, and all must take their opportunities to stay in the team.

The natural, the unorthodox and the hassler? Have Saints ever been so striker rich?

Charlie 'You don't have to ask me twice' Austin.
Charlie ‘You don’t have to ask me twice’ Austin.

5. We still have decent Academy products

During this run, amongst many of the pleasing aspects, it has been great to see the performances of James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett.

JWP finally got the free kick monkey off his back and has looked more tenacious than ever in midfield and Targett was in scintillating form in a more advanced role.

It was especially pleasing to see Matt Targett show that he isn’t the write off some people had decided he was, and who knew he had that cross on him? A justified player of the month and bright future ahead!

The kids are alright.
The kids are alright.

6. We missed ‘The Wall’

There is very little more to be said about Fraser Forster’s miraculous return to the team. Literally no sign of rustiness, despite being out for nine months, his return has coincided with this run of form.

For many of the games he has little to do, but I wonder just how much more confident his presence makes the back four (or three/five). His display against Arsenal was pure heroics and with due respect to our other keepers would we have conceded no goals in the last five games had any of them been playing. I seriously doubt it. The confidence of Jose Fonte in a behind the scenes video after the West Ham game tells a story of faith. No one is scoring past us mate.

NONE SHALL PASS.
NONE SHALL PASS.

7. Mark Clattenburg still hates us

Yes I am bitter, but allowing the West Ham players to talk him into changing his yellow card to red for Wanyama and then allowing Sam Byram to get away with a clear red card tackle means his record of terrible decisions against us continues. He’s either a cheat or incompetent. You decide.

In Conclusion…

Someone once said that football was a ‘funny old game’ and it most certainly is. A month ago we were talking about a possible relegation battle, today a win against Swansea would see us reach 40 points with 12 games to go and people are talking about Europe again.

Clubs that were perceived to be having amazing seasons while we struggled (Stoke and Palace in particular) are now below us in the table, and even the Klopp revolution finds itself behind. No need to even mention Chelsea.

Keep the faith.

Chris