Ryan, Like a Lion, In Bayern: Bertrand Signs for Saints!

While Liverpool are busy signing Johnstone Paint Trophy winners, Saints sprung the surprise of the summer with one the papers didn’t get hold of, bringing Champion’s League winner Ryan Bertrand to the club from Chelsea on a season long loan with the option of a permanent move. Interestingly the Merseyside club had been trying to secure a deal for the defender but couldn’t agree a fee.

With Luke Shaw gone to Man United, left back was clearly somewhere the club lacked depth and Bertrand who started for the Blues in their triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012 looks a solid signing.

As always, through the heady mixture of ignorance and laziness I have got two experts to give us the lowdown on the new man.

I caught up with Chelsea fan David Dickson and given that Bertand has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career on loan, Aston Villa fan, freelance football writer and Club Metro colleague Andrew Raeburn.

Bertrand started in Chelsea’s Champion’s League final win, but has never made it as a regular at Stamford Bridge. What did you make of him?

DD ‘Firstly, Bertrand will always, always receive a hero’s welcome back at Stamford Bridge, especially now he hasn’t been shipped off to Liverpool and had to perform the ‘biggest club in the world’ PR initiative in his first interview. I remember the slightly baffled/borderline stunned reaction to hearing his name in the starting line-up that night in Munich from all involved, and his outstanding performance against Bayern in his first ever European appearance for anybody is testament to the balls the guy has. He always struck me as a try-hard; far from a player likely to dislodge Ashley Cole from his throne but enough about him to carry on regardless, taking his opportunities when they arose.’

Bertrand spent some time at Villa last season. What did you make of him?

AR ‘Left-back had been a massive problem for us in the first half of the season, so when Bertrand came in we were all chuffed, considering his background and pedigree (starting in the CL final, etc). He was excellent on his debut in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, and had several other good games early in his loan spell. But after having to sit out our 1-0 win over his parent club in March (when Joe Bennett came in and was excellent at left-back), Bertrand really struggled. Partly this was down to our own defensive naivety, which appeared to infect him too at times and partly it was down to being shunted between left-back, left midfield and left wing-back. But there were occasions when he was our weakest link. I’d say overall he was solid without ever being spectacular, but disappointed because he was never as good as his Chelsea background suggested he should be.’

What would you say are his significant strengths and weaknesses?

DD ‘As stated previously, Ryan seems to enjoy a complete lack of fear on the big occasion. Following Munich, he was thrown into some of the bigger games towards the end of the (sigh) Rafa Benitez era and performed with similar aplomb. He is quick, with the ability to go forward at pace, whilst also reading the game relatively well, but his defensive ability seems to suffer as a result. He never seemed particularly strong and, as a result, his ability to simply make a tackle never really stood out. He would, on occasion, be caught out of position too, but when pushing up in a good, attacking side, this may be expected and can be forgiven.’

AR ‘One of the real plusses of his loan spell was how well he got forward and linked up with Fabian Delph on the left hand side of Villa’s central three in midfield. His crossing can be hit and miss but he knows which passes to pick out. Defensively, he struggled when isolated one-on-one. Whereas on his debut at Liverpool he was excellent against Raheem Sterling, who runs straight at people, he was given a real examination a couple of weeks later by Everton’s Aiden McGeady, had problems with Ashley Young and got into all sorts of bother against Stewart Downing. Unlike Sterling, all three of those dared to cut inside and go outside to try and beat him. It may be he just needs more support defensively.’

Bertrand the winner.

Bertrand the winner.

Do you see him as a player that has yet to reach his full potential, having been backup at Chelsea for some time?

DD ‘Sad as it is to say, but I feel his potential may not extend beyond his exploits for Chelsea. He still has a decent ten years left in him, obviously, but Ryan seems to be caught between not being technically good enough for a top side, but not able to defend well enough for a less-than-top side. He was exceptionally popular at Norwich, Reading and Forest by the sounds of things, and has long outgrown being a Championship player, but it is hard to see him doing anything but bouncing between mid-table clubs unless someone devotes the time to getting the best out of him. In a Chelsea side with Ashley Cole and the resources to bring in more experienced and better overseas players after Cole’s departure, that role was never going to be taken up by Mourinho, Benitez, Di Matteo…etc. (I’m sure this article has a word limit, so I won’t list them all).’

AR ‘Very much so. Until his loan spell at Villa, he had never really been given a proper run of starts at Premier League level, which is what you need to develop. Obviously he’s had his path blocked by one of the best left-backs England has ever seen, so he’s been unlucky in that regard. Until Cesar Azpilicueta became Ashley Cole’s main backup, Bertrand could never be sent on loan so he had to bide his time. He started 14 PL games in 2012-13 but all in blocks of three or four, never enough to make a mark or develop your game. I actually saw his only Chelsea start last season as well, by sheer coincidence. I was covering the Chelsea-Cardiff game for West London Sport and in the player ratings described Bertrand’s display as: “Always keen, got up and down and provided solid support for Eden Hazard but lacks the self-assurance and attacking penetration of Ashley Cole.” Trouble is, after a half-season of regular games at Villa, I’ve seen no improvement on that. However, I do think he just needs to settle down somewhere, as a trusted, starting left-back and get a full season of regular games under his belt. The only time he’s done that was for Reading in the Championship five years ago.’

Bertrand the Saint.

Bertrand the Saint.

What do you make of the goings on at Saints this summer?

DD ‘I find it all relatively extraordinary. Yes, players from unexpectedly successful sides are regularly burgled (arf) by sides with larger budgets the following season, but the sheer extent to which Liverpool (and seemingly, Spurs) have pilfered every player with ability you have is far beyond anything I’ve seen since the great Leeds exodus of the early 2000s. Ronald Koeman has moved in, and shortly after someone has nicked his fridge, shed, boiler and roof. I am sure there are financial nuances (zzz) to this masterplan, but it is hard to see how any replacements could fill the gaps that have been left and this season could be a real struggle for you chaps, unfortunately. You’re quite nice when you’re not moaning about little smoke bombs…’

AR ‘It’s inevitable really, once the bigger clubs started circling. We got the same treatment after coming 6th three years in a row under Martin O’Neill (you were trifling with the likes of Exeter and Stockport at the time, how things change!). We couldn’t keep Gareth Barry (£12m) and James Milner (£26m) away from Man City, nor Ashley Young (£17m) from Man Utd, nor Stewart Downing (£20m) from Liverpool. The only difference was it didn’t happen all in the same summer. Sometimes that can be worse, as it appears to the fans the club won’t ever keep hold of their best players. But that’s the way football is these days – even Everton, who contend for the Champions League spots, wouldn’t be able to prevent their top talent leaving if the title challengers came knocking. The important thing is reinvesting the money you earn, otherwise you end up like us. I can see why some Saints fans may be angry – it seems, from the outside, that the club isn’t doing much to stop the top players moving on. But when players sense the grass is greener (or their agent convinces them it might be) then you can’t stop them. Speaking of which…’

 
Can we have some other Chelsea players? Please.

DD ‘Rickie Lambert’s gone. You need to replace him with another reliable goal-machine. We have this lad, Fernando… And I’ll bloody drive Ramires to you.’

Can we have Ron Vlaar? Please.

AR ‘No. Leave Concrete Ron alone, please. He’s got a phobia of the sea, anyway. Hopefully.’

So there we have it. Thanks to David and Andrew for their contributions. Let’s hope I need some more contributors soon!
Chris

Domino two is down! Graziano Pellè: The Lowdown

Someone said that once Tadic was signed it would be like dominoes in terms of incoming transfers. Well the first has fallen as Feyenoord forward Graziano Pellè has completed his move to the club.

It has hardly been a secret the Italian was on the verge of rejoining the coach who has overseen the two most successful seasons of his career in Holland, but what exactly is it that the club is investing in?

I caught up with what I think we can now consider ‘georgeweahcousin.com‘s Dutch correspondent’  Will Burns from totaldutchfootball.com and Feyenoord fan  Jacco van Keulen from wijzijnfeijenoord.nl (answers to follow) to see what they think Pellè can bring to St. Mary’s.

It’s taken a bit of time, but finally Pellè is a Saint. Is this the man to replace the talisman of the last five years (Rickie Lambert)?

WB ‘Pellè is a player I have admired for the past two seasons and I feel he is a perfect fit for the Premier League. At 6ft 4 inches, even though he is tall and physically strong, he is a delight to watch on the ball.’

There has been some talk of his hot temper. Given our experiences with Osvaldo, can this be tamed?

WB ‘I am unsure of Osvaldo as he is a player I have not followed but Pelle can be a hot head indeed. He has a great winning mentality and he can be explosive when things to do not go his way and has been known to sulk if his side are losing an important games.’

Welcome Graziano!

Welcome Graziano!

What are Pellè’s main strengths and weaknesses?

WB ‘He has a lot of strengths – excellent finishing, fantastic in the air, immense strength holding the ball up, great awareness. For weaknesses, the sulking and his temperament can be his only real downfalls.’

Forwards like Suarez and Bony have moved to the PL from Holland and been fantastic, van Wolfswinkel and Altidore not so much. Can Pellè make the transition?

WB ‘In my opinion, yes. A lot of strikers struggle with the pace and power of the Premier League – well the pace is faster in the Eredivisie and this guy is a massive 6ft 4 and immensely strong. Can he handle it, yes, if someone can get the ball crossed to him, he is beating that defender and the ball is ending up in the back of the net.’

Finally, both Tadic and Pellè have spoken of the ambition at Saints much like Koeman has. Are these players to take us up another level?

WB ‘Unsure about another level, as this is only two players in an eleven man team, and two players in a 20 man squad but they can certainly help out. If Southampton keep the ball on the ground, play football and do not resort to the long ball which many teams do here in England, Tadic will be a success. After watching Rickie Lambert, I know Pelle is a much classier striker and could surpass any successes the Scouser had for Southampton. The thought of Tadic and Pelle linking up is an exciting prospect, especially under Ronald Koeman. I will certainly focus on watching Southampton next year… when I find the time to watch the Premier League that is.’

So there we have it! Thanks to Jacco and Will for helping with this, make sure you check out wijzijnfeijenoord.nl and totaldutchfootball.com! Can’t wait for the next domino to fall…

Chris

What if? (Part One)

23rd April 2011. St. George’s day.

Southampton travelled to the Withdean Stadium to face League One’s already crowned champions Brighton & Hove Albion.

A win would put them in second place and put the pressure on Huddersfield Town who weren’t playing. A tall order for Nigel Adkins side who were under intense pressure themselves to gain promotion.

Adkins’ entered the Withdean to a chorus of abuse after comments he made about Brighton having to ‘keep up’ with Southampton. This was the biggest game of the season.

Ashley Barnes put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time. Saints created a flurry of chances in the final 10 minutes but to no avail. They’d lost 1-0. A Jose Fonte header at the death ruled out for a foul in the box the closest they came to snatching a point.

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

Despite overcoming Hartlepool United at home in the next game, Saints were drained of confidence and went down at Brentford. Main rivals for automatic promotion Huddersfield Town kept on winning, they even succeed where Saints failed, beating Brighton 2-3 at the Withdean to leapfrog us into second place. Saints win their game in hand at Plymouth but go into the final day needing to beat Walsall and hope that the Terriers lose at home to Brentford. Saints see off their Midlands rivals, but Huddersfield secure a thrilling 4-4 draw sealing automatic promotion. Saints face the lottery of the playoffs.

Saints face local ‘rivals’ Bournemouth in their semi-final and overcome them after extra time in the second leg at St. Mary’s to setup a final with Peterborough United at Old Trafford. Saints fail their final test and lose the playoff final on penalties. Jonathan Forte missing the decisive spot kick.

Nigel Adkins applauds the Saints fans for the last time at Old Trafford.

Nigel Adkins applauds the Saints fans for the last time at Old Trafford.

10th June 2011. Nigel Adkins and his backroom staff are relieved of their duties with immediate effect.

16th June 2011. The club release a statement from Katherina Liebherr announcing that as of today the club is for sale.

1st July 2011. Southampton Football Club is bought by a consortium of local businessmen. They talk of consolidation and rebuilding. Nicola Cortese is relieved of his duties as chairman.

4th July 2011. Rickie Lambert is sold to Brighton & Hove Albion for £1.2 million.

6th July 2011. Jose Fonte is sold to Crystal Palace for £850k.

9th July 2011. Adam Lallana and Lee Barnard are sold to Leicester City for a combined £2.8 million.

11th July 2011. Jason Dodd is appointed first team manager.

2011/12 League One.

As the new owners look to settle the club and clear what they call a ‘difficult financial situation’ they ensure fans that they have every confidence in the current squad and will be hoping for another promotion push.

Saints open the season at home to Bury and lineup like so:- Davis, Richardson, Seaborne, Martin, Dickson, Guly, Hammond (c), Schneiderlin, Chaplow, Connolly, Forte.

They secure a 1-1 draw and start the campaign with three consecutive ties. Dodd’s side look like the summer upheaval hasn’t effected them too much and they go on an unbeaten run in the league that lasts 19 games and takes them to the end of November. Although they are yet to be beaten they still trail Charlton Athletic by five points having drawn a lot of those games.

Guly's home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers is the highlight leading up to Christmas.

Guly’s home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers would be the Brazilian’s last contribution.

Saints suffer their first defeats of the season away at leaders Charlton and then at home to Bournemouth before getting back on track going into the January transfer window.

11th January 2012. Top scorer Guly do Prado is sold against his wishes to Birmingham City for £700k.

18th January 2012. Morgan Schneiderlin is sold to Reading for £1.5 million.

20th January 2012. Southampton announce the double signing of Matt Ritchie from Swindon Town and Tyrone Barnett from Crawley Town for undisclosed fees.

Saints find their form again despite supporter unrest given the transfer dealings of the club in January. The club’s owners move to reassure the fans that no business was done without the best interest of the club at heart.

With eight games to go, Saints are still within three points of automatic promotion, sadly those eight games would see them have their worst run of the season, losing four and eventually finishing 4th, twelve points adrift of 2nd placed Sheffield Wednesday.

Saints overcome Milton Keynes Dons in the playoff semi finals before facing Sheffield United in the final at Wembley. The game ends 0-0 after extra time and goes to penalties. With the scores at 7-7, the captain Dean Hammond steps up knowing if he scores Saints are back in the Championship.

Goal.

dean hammond oct

To be continued…

Chris

5 Year Plan. Done.

I’m not sure I ever expected it to go this quick, but we really have reached the end of the ‘Five Year Plan’. It hardly seems fathomable that the club that lined up on the 8th August 2009 to play out a 1-1 draw with  Millwall in League One, would mark the end of the ‘plan’ with a 1-1 draw with Champions of England Manchester United in the same stadium.

What a five years it’s been. Considering the original plan was to get Southampton into the Premier League, the fact that that has clearly been achieved (a year early), a trophy has been won along the way and the final season saw us break into the top eight, I would say we can consider it a complete success.

Three managers, Two promotions, One trophy and Seventy Seven Players! Can the next five years really live up to it?

5 Year Plan Players

Chris

The Winners of the 2013/14 Ali’s! The Results are in!

So that is the end of another fantastic season following Saints! No season would be officially over though without a spate of reviews and awards.

This site is no different and yet again the response to this years Ali awards has been fantastic, and this is what is up for grabs:-

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:- Rickie Lambert (< 1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jose Fonte (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Nathaniel Clyne (<1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (2%), Jack Cork (5%), Steven Davis (6%), Luke Shaw (7%).

3rd Place:- Dejan Lovren (13%)

2nd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (18%)

And the winner, making it a clean sweep in all Player of the Season awards, and about to find out for certain that he is off to Brazil! With a whopping 46% of the points……Adam Lallana!

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

Most Improved Player

The beauty of this award is that everyone interprets it differently. Some went for an overall improvement on last season, while others voted for those who improved over the course of the campaign.

Received Votes:- Whole Squad, Victor Wanyama. Sam Gallagher, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jack Cork, Dejan Lovren, Steven Davis, Luke Shaw.

3rd Place:- Calum Chambers (11%)

2nd Place:- Jose Fonte (31%)

And the winner, retaining the same award that he one last season, after a fantastic season in which he finished top scorer. With 37% of the votes…..Jay Rodriguez!

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Young Player of the Year

A new award this season, though why, considering how good this club’s youth system is, I haven’t done it before is beyond me!

Received Votes:- Harrison Reed

3rd Place:- James Ward-Prowse & Sam Gallagher (2% each)

2nd Place:- Calum Chambers (15%)

And the winner, having broken into the England squad in time for the World Cup and turning the heads of the big clubs, it could only be. With 80% of the votes….Luke Shaw!

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Mauricio Pochettino, Guly, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Morhan Schniederlin, Victor Wanyama.

3rd Place:- Jose Fonte (7%)

2nd Place:- Jack Cork (17%)

And the winner is, after a season in which he has proved crucial to the way Saints play. With 60% of the votes…..Steven Davis!

sdavis

Signing of the Season

2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (8%)

And the winner with a ridiculous 92% of the votes is the ever dependable centre half and absolute bargain ant £8.5 million….Dejan Lovren!

dlovren

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Team v Everton (h), Team v Man City (h), Team v Arsenal (h), Team v Fulham (a), Team v Hull (h), Pochettino’s season, Wanyama v WBA (a), Lovren v Liverpool (a), Back Four all season, Clyne v Everton (h), Schneiderlin v Arsenal (h), Team v Man Utd (a), Lallana v Newcastle (h), Team v Palace (a), Team v Fulham (h), Guly v Yeovil, The Groundsmen, Chambers v Man City (h).

3rd Place:- Lallana v Hull (h) (9%)

2nd Place:- Team v Newcastle (h) (22%)

And the winner is, a memorable day early in the season in which a team that hammered plenty this season were made to look very ordinary. With 29% of the votes……Team v Liverpool at Anfield!

Anfield celebrations

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves….

Received Votes:- #Scarfgate, Boruc’s headstand against Arsenal, Linesman missing David Silva offside at Man City, Jason Puncheon’s poo break (last season but still funny to someone), Pochettino’s interview after Man City, #lovrenlive tweets, Hooiveld & Fox v Spurs, Boat capsizing in the Thames at HT v Fulham, Pochettino’s interview after Everton game, Newcastle fans video after St. Mary’s mauling, Jack Wilshire bouncing off Wanyama, MELTDOWN, Asimir Begovic Goal at Stoke, Dani Osvaldo, Dani Osvaldo on the touchline at Newcastle, Training nutmeg videos, Ref getting slapped in the face at Newcastle, Lovren’s injured testicles, Rodriguez scoring on his arse at Palace, Boruc and the waterbottle (again last season), Lambert’s goal v Swansea, Paul Lambert claiming Villa deserved their victory at St. Mary’s, Fulham, Mark Clattenburg (take your pick), Lovren’s tweet about Peter Crouch, Americans watching Saints because of Jozy Altidore, Villa fans ‘We pay your benefits’, Toni Jiminez kicking off, Lambert’s miss at Sunderland, Team selection for FA Cup at Sunderland, Masks at Swansea, Schneiderlin dumping Yaya Toure on his arse, Lovren getting spanked.

2nd Place:- Wanyama’s disallowed goal celebration against Swansea & Everton’s double O.G. at St. Mary’s (Both 12%).

And the winner, with 24% of the votes, not so funny at the time but hard not see the amusing die now…..Artur Boruc’s ‘Cruyff turns’ at Arsenal!

dia-awards-Boruc

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton, Sunderland.

3rd Place:- Arsenal (5%)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (31%)

And the winner is, the only team that outplayed Saints twice this season. With 57% of the votes……Chelsea!

willian

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), Oscar (Chelsea), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Willian (Chelsea), David Elliott (Newcastle United), Officials, Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs), David Silva (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jussi Jaskeleinan (West Ham United), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Nathan Dyer (Swansea City), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Fabio Borini (Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham), Yaya Toure (Manchester City).

3rd Place:- Fernando Torres (Chelsea) (6%)

2nd Place:- Eden Hazard (Chelsea) (20%)

And the winner is, the man everybody loves to hate but is simply an unbelievable footballer. With 22% of the votes…Luis Suarez!

He missed out on the title, but this is some consolation!

He missed out on the title, but this is some consolation!

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Newcastle United, Swansea City, Hull City, Manchester City, Portsmouth (?), Fulham, Arsenal, Sunderland, None stood out, Everton, Yeovil Town, Manchester United, Don’t Care, Spurs, Norwich City, Burnley, West Ham.

3rd Place:- Cardiff City & Chelsea (6% each)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (16%)

And the runaway winners and certainly my choice after their constant and varied noise at St. Mary’s. With 42% of the votes…Crystal Palace!

palacefans

Best Saints related Tweeter

As always this award is just a bit of fun and plenty of people vote for themselves!

Received votes:- crstig, James Price, Sridout92, Jim Lucas, mgnsnddn_, Dejan Lovren, dictateplay, danbsfc, Luke Shaw, Artur Boruc, Max_Sopel, Radhi Jaidi, TalkSaints,Matthew Le Tissier, TractorSaint, jamie_benjamin1, Saints Media Team, BigAdamSport, TacoAli, Kelly Mauger, Saints News&Views, L1minus10, uglyinside, gulydopradonaat, Mike1617, SamDobson1, saintsfc, Not going to blow smoke up your arse, Sirvoodoo, SaintsArg, Me, SaintsRelated, MatthewLeGod, Most are mongs, You’re all miserable, Glasgow_Saints, Victor Wanyama, Rich Robertson, markreeves999, Anyone but Chris Rann.

3rd Place:- Club’s Official Account (7%)

2nd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)

And the winner is with 9% of the votes the Peter Crouch of the Saints micro-blogging fraternity….@ConnorArmstrong!

S0 that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Dan Tiller for the Photoshop wizardry! It’s been a great season! Here’s to a great summer watching more Saints boys than ever competing at a major tournament and then it will be time to look forward to another campaign following the South Coast’s top club!

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

Chris

England’s Saints? Who will go to Brazil?

If anyone was still doubting the credentials of the potential England World Cup players at Saints, surely they were put to bed in Saturday’s emphatic victory over Newcastle United?

Saints put in an immaculate attacking performance, mainly due to the superb play of the attacking three, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez.

Adam Lallana is a shoe-in for the squad, I’m sure of that, and people are just starting to believe that not only should he be guaranteed his place on the proverbial plane, but that Roy Hodgson should be finding a place for him in the starting eleven. If there is an English player around at the moment playing as well as Lallana in the support role, ripping defences to shreds with intricate skill and footballing brain, then I haven’t seen them.

Lallana celebrates with scorer Sturridge after his assist.

Lallana celebrates with scorer Sturridge after his assist.

I’m fed up of bigging up Luke Shaw. He is the best left back in the Premier League right now, coupling immaculate defensive performances with attacking runs that scare defences to death. He is consistently superb and England have already seen a 45 minute glimpse of how good he is. I have a feeling he will make the final squad, and it will be a surprise to everybody but Saints fans.

Attacking intent. Shaw is the future.

Attacking intent. Shaw is the future.

In terms of the two Saints forwards I’m not quite so confident that they will make the cut, though it will be criminal if they don’t.

Despite his excellent all round play, ability on the ball, superb passing, team focus and a Premier League assist record this season that is only bettered by Luis Suarez, Rickie Lambert still can’t shake the constant comparison with Andy Carroll, and some, particularly the English press believe it is a 50/50 shout between the two. What planet are these people on? If all those qualities I’ve listed aren’t enough, you can throw in the added bonus of goals. Lambert is twice the footballer Carroll is, and if the West Ham forward is preferred it will say everything about the progression, or lack thereof in English football.

Jay Rodriguez, has had a superb season, infinitely better than Danny Welbeck’s, sadly though I think he will always find himself behind the Man Utd forward in the pecking order. Rodriguez can do all the things that Welbeck can do, with the added bonus of goals. Surely the England manager will go with form?

Get ready for the World Cup with JD Sports:- http://www.jdsports.co.uk/

Forming a great understanding, but can it benefit England?

Forming a great understanding, but can it benefit England?

If Roy Hodgson doesn’t see the individual qualities of the Saints players perhaps their team dynamic might attract him. I’ve long been an advocate of using successful club partnerships to the advantage of the national team. An England team with John Terry and Gary Cahill at centre half with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park and Lallana, Rodriguez and Lambert playing a support three to Daniel Sturridge in his rightful position up top doesn’t sound bad does it? We could do a lot worse, and so often do.

Hopefully the England manager will see sense and utilise players from clubs like Liverpool and Southampton as much as he can. These are the clubs playing football in the way we should be aiming to as a national team, so it makes sense to bring them in. Surely we won’t go to Brazil, the home of ‘sexy football’ and lump it up to Andy Carroll?

Keep the Faith.

World at their feet: Saints in Brazil?

Seeing as though it was Southampton Football Club that effectively introduced the beautiful game to Brazil (Ref: Charles William Miller) it would be fitting that at this summer’s World Cup in the country, if the Saints were well represented.

Speculation is already rife as to who will and won’t make it to the finals, and here at georgeweahscousin.com we are no different!

So which of the Saints talented squad will be on the proverbial plane?

England

It seems fitting to start with our own nation, burdened with the usual over expectant feeling of entitlement, England could well be the squad with the most Saints in it.

Adam Lallana

Let’s put it this way, if Lallana isn’t in the twenty three man squad then he will either be injured or the victim of the most ridiculous tragedy in English footballing history up there with Matthew Le Tissier’s lack of caps and not building a team around Paul Scholes (confounded by playing him on the left wing).

Lallana is skilful, technically gifted and creative. He shouldn’t be English really, as he has defied the poor coaching standards here and become a talent worthy of Spain or Brazil.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

Lallana, a shoe in for the squad for anyone with the right number of chromosomes...

Lallana, a shoe in for the squad for anyone with the right number of chromosomes…

Rickie Lambert

England at the World Cup will need different options if they are to succeed, and in Lambert they could well have that. Good with the ball at his feet and an ability to hold the ball up, Lambert has proven his critics wrong time and time again, scoring and creating goals at every level he’s played at.

The worry is that Roy Hodgson may revert to type and turn to Andy Carroll.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 3.5

The moment Rickie showed the rest of the country what the Saints fans already knew...

The moment Rickie showed the rest of the country what the Saints fans already knew…

Jay Rodriguez

Didn’t enjoy the best of debuts, but Rodriguez grows with confidence game by game and has emerged as Saints top scorer this season. ‘JRod’ is another one who has the technical ability to try something different. It feels like this might not be his year England wise though with the media turning on him after the game against Chile.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2

Just how many Saints will lineup for England this summer?

Just how many Saints will lineup for England this summer?

Luke Shaw

Uncapped so far, but with his stock rising and his mature performances both defensively and going forward for Saints, coupled with the recent decline of Ashley Cole, Luke will surely get the chance to show what he can do in the friendlies prior to the tournament.

With rumours that Man City want to make him the most expensive full back in the world, it is only a matter of time before his country calls. Undoubtedly the natural and long term successor to Cole.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 3.5

Shaw thing to be first choice England left back in the future....

Shaw thing to be first choice England left back in the future….

Nathaniel Clyne

In what is distinctly England’s weakest area it is surprising to me that Clyne hasn’t already been given a chance by Roy Hodgson. While the distinctly mediocre Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker both look unimpressive in an England shirt, Clyne has gone about his business at Saints with great success, consistently performing to a high standard.

Deserves a chance.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2.5

While all the media talk was of getting Kosovan Januzaj to play for England, Englishman Clyne was giving him a lesson at Old Trafford...

While all the media talk was of getting Kosovan Januzaj to play for England, Englishman Clyne was giving him a lesson at Old Trafford…

James Ward-Prowse

Probably the longest shot, and almost certainly this World Cup has come too soon for the Saints midfielder. With his ability to deliver a ball now being likened to David Beckham though, England honours will surely follow at some point….

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1

JWP bends it like Beckham into the San Marion net for England U21's...

JWP bends it like Beckham into the San Marion net for England U21’s…

Italy

It seems right to follow the potential England players with their Group D opponents. England v Italy at the World Cup will always be a special occasion and it might just be laden with Saints players.

Dani Osvaldo

Argentinian born Osvaldo opted to play for Italy, and recently has been a regular for the Azzuri. Although he has taken his time to adapt to the Premier League the skill he has shown for Italy was replicated with his amazing strike against Manchester City.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4

Osvaldo celebrates his recent goal against Denmark...

Osvaldo celebrates his recent goal against Denmark…

Uruguay

Gaston Ramirez

Sporter of awful barnet’s, splitter of fan opinion and creator of occasional magic, Ramirez has been in and out of the Saints first team, but is a regular in the Uruguay squad.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

Opponents in the summer?

Opponents in the summer?

Croatia

Dejan Lovren

The Croatian has been an absolute steal for Saints and has made his way into many ‘top players in the Premier League this season’ lists. A regular for his country, he should be on his way to Brazil.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

World Class defender Lovren who will be in Brazil and some other fella who won't...

World Class defender Lovren who will be in Brazil and some other fella who won’t…

France

Morgan Schneiderlin

Perhaps the biggest crime in international football from a Saints perspective is the lack of recognition for Morgan Schneiderlin. Having had a brilliant first season and a half in the Premier League, Schneiderlin would walk into any other top flight side and most international teams. Come on Didier. You know it makes sense.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2

Could France's loss be England's gain?

Could France’s loss be England’s gain?

Japan

Maya Yoshida

Having fallen down the pecking order at Saints, Yoshida is having to take what he can, and it has led to talk of a move back to Japan. He will undoubtedly be in Brazil though, barring an injury as a stalwart of their defence.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.75

Maya will be on the plane.

Maya will be on the plane.

Tadanari Lee

Forward Lee is well and truly out of the picture as far as the Saints first team is concerned, and perhaps his move to England two years ago has killed any chance of a World Cup place. A loan move back to Japan might revive his hopes though.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1

Can Lee get out of the international wilderness in time?

Can Lee get out of the international wilderness in time?

Portugal

Jose Fonte

A long shot, but Jose Fonte has really come into his own for Saints this season and has been part of the formidable back five that was at the top of the European defensive charts. Sadly, when I met Joao Pinto (Now a high level official in the Portuguese FA) in the summer he had never heard of Jose.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1.5

Part of the furniture at St. Mary's, but deserving of international recognition?

Part of the furniture at St. Mary’s, but deserving of international recognition?

So there we have it. Do you agree with their chances? Is there anyone else in the Saints squad who might sneak in somewhere? As ever let us know!

Chris

 

 

 

10 games in…

Over the summer I was privileged enough to be invited to be a beta tester for a new football scouting website Inscouts.com. The idea is that users having watched any game across the European Leagues & Champion’s League can login and rate the players out of six (six the highest) provoking discussion and opinion on the performances of individuals.

As part of the testing, I have been rating players in every game I watch which of course includes all of Saints Premier League games so I thought I would use the average scores to see just how well I (and the other Inscouts beta users) have thought Saints players have been doing…

Artur Boruc:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.10

Nathaniel Clyne:- Games – 8 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4

Dejan Lovren:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4.58

Jose Fonte:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.8

Luke Shaw:- Games – 8 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4.4

Callum Chambers:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 4.3 Lowest Rating – 3.5 Rating – 3.8

Danny Fox:- Games – 2 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.35

Dejan Lovren - Standout defender.

Dejan Lovren – Standout defender.

Morgan Schneiderlin:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.1

Victor Wanyama:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.1

Steven Davis:- Games – 6 Highest Rating – 4.3 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.75

Adam Lallana:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 4 Average Rating – 4.52

James Ward-Prowse:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.5 Average Rating – 4.19

Jack Cork:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 3.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.46

Gaston Ramirez:- Games – 5 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.42

Captain leading by example this season.

Captain leading by example this season.

Rickie Lambert:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.9

Jay Rodriguez:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.8

Dani Osvaldo:- Games – 7 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.9

Guly do Prado:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 3.3 Average Rating – 3.7

The thing that immediately jumps out with these ratings is that not a single Saints player thus far, has been seen to be playing below average. As far as I am aware I am the only Saints fan to be beta testing the site, and one of very few English supporters, so it gives a good reflection on what fans from Germany, France, Italy etc. are making of us.

I will update this again after 20 games and see who has improved or dropped off.

Chris

Twenty Questions: Gordon Watson

It’s been a while….

So apologies to those of you who follow the site. Life and work got a little hectic for a while there, but hopefully the content will start to flow a little more now, along with a redesign of sorts.

A new feature I have long wanted to add is that of 20 quick-fire questions to anyone associated with Saints. This has more than a little nod of appreciation to the classic ‘Hayling Island Discs’ series that ran in the Red Stripe fanzine in the 90’s, so thanks to them!

So here goes, our first ever interviewee is former Saints striker Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson! I hope you enjoy it.

Gordon 'Flash' Watson.  68 Saints appearances. 14 Saints goals.

Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson. 68 Saints appearances. 14 Saints goals.

1. Best Saints memory? ‘Scoring on Home debut v Newcastle 3-1.’
2. Worst Saints memory? Leaving in January ’97.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘Alan Ball.’
4. Least favourite Manager? Mike Newell.’
5. Most talented team mate? ‘Matt Le Tissier /Chris Waddle/John Sheridan.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room? ‘No comment.’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s? ‘The Dell.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most? ‘Rickie Lambert.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Francis Benali.’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘None.’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Setting up goal and winning against Pompey at the Dell 96.’
12. Toughest opponent? ‘Sol Campbell.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Hillsbrough.’
14. Favourite Saints kit? ‘2003/4.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry? ‘No.’
16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘Team mates weren’t best friends then.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Gone to far.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Skill.’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘9th.’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Gas Mask.’
Thanks to Gordon for taking the time to answer these questions!
Chris

Will The Saints Go Marching On?

Everyone loves a stat don’t they? I know I do, and that is why I was chuffed when the guys from kickoff.co.uk offered to put together a season preview for me using their expertise. So dear reader, settle back and prepare to be dazzled by the numbers and enjoy!

Will the Saints go marching on?

‘Second season syndrome’ is a phrase regularly bandied around at Premier League level, with the perception being that promoted clubs are more vulnerable to relegation after their opponents have had a year to get used to facing them.

Southampton find themselves in that position ahead of the new campaign, so I thought I’d take a look back at their 2012/13 season and highlight both what they did well and any areas in which I feel they can improve.

POSITIVES

The Saints finished 14th in the final table, yet they were the tenth highest scorers in the division with 49 goals from their 38 matches. Rickie Lambert was responsible for 15 of these strikes, benefitting from being the focal point at the top of their attacking formation.

Both Mauricio Pochettino and Nigel Adkins before him encouraged a positive brand of football, with this being reflected by the fact that Southampton found the net in 29 (76%) of their top-flight fixtures. This achievement is furnished with additional kudos when you consider that this represented the best record outside of the top-seven.

Furthermore, the men from the South Coast scored in all eight of their meetings with the eventual Champions League qualifiers:

image007

As the chart above also shows, home wins were achieved against two of the top-three, whilst only late brilliance from Robin van Persie handed Manchester United victory at St. Mary’s.

This shows that Southampton can mix it with the big boys, on their own patch at least, but they also managed to remain unbeaten against teams finishing in their quarter of the final table:

image008

Although six of these games ended all-square, it is certainly worth noting that only Fulham picked up more points (13) from meetings between members of this quintet.

The Saints were similarly strong in matches in which they opened the scoring, winning eight, drawing six and losing four of these encounters. When you consider that half of these defeats came against the eventual champions, then that record starts to look even better.

NEGATIVES

Draws were undoubtedly a problem, with only Everton and Stoke managing more than the 14 picked up by Southampton. Although the team shone offensively, there was a lack of support for Lambert in the scoring stakes; no other player contributed in excess of six league goals.

Another major issue would have to be the defensive frailty displayed by the South Coast outfit. Just seven clean sheets were kept in 38 games, with four of these coming against the six sides that finished below them in the table.

Winning at the top clubs is never easy, but five draws and eight defeats from 13 trips to those that finished above them hints at fundamental flaws in the Saints’ approach to away matches. Could this be the result of some kind of mental block or is it the end product of an overly-positive tactical approach on the road?

Whatever the reason, it is hard to offer up anything other than complacency as an excuse for Southampton losing at home to three of the bottom-four last season:

image009

Alarm bells also start to ring when we take a look at results from games in which the men from Hampshire conceded first. Eleven of these 17 fixtures ended in defeat, with the 4-1 hammering of Aston Villa representing the only success achieved on the back of going 1-0 down.

Perhaps the most damning statistic of all, however, is just how easy opponents found it to convert their chances against the Saints:

image010

As you can see, nearly one in five of the shots that Southampton allowed resulted in a goal being scored against them. Only relegated Wigan fared worse in this category, and that by the narrowest of margins, whilst Newcastle were the nearest club in the other direction.

TRANSFERS

The incomings at St. Mary’s this summer should certainly provide the supporters with plenty of encouragement. Croatian international centre-back Dejan Lovren arrives from Lyon, whilst Victor Wanyama has won rave reviews for his performances at Celtic.

Although I have only seen Lovren in action once, in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last season, he comes highly-rated and has already won close to 20 caps for his country.

Young Wanyama has been far more on my radar, however, producing a string of top-class performances both domestically and on the Champions League stage from his natural position in the middle of the park.

These additions, along with the continued development of Luke Shaw, should help to address some of the aforementioned defensive issues, though the squad as a whole is an extremely young one:

image011

This perfectly feasible starting XI, for example, would boast an average age of just 24 years and nine months come the start of the season.

One more signing in a forward area could be made with a view to easing the burden on Rickie Lambert, but I don’t actually believe this to be necessary. Jay Rodriguez started to blossom when given a run in the team, albeit not in his preferred position, whilst Emmanuel Mayuka is a real talent. I would be interested to hear what Southampton supporters have made of the Zambian in his fleeting cameos, because he has impressed me greatly on the international stage.

FUTURE

If the previous campaign is anything to go by, then a difficult start awaits:

image012

If we exclude home games with the newly-promoted duo of Crystal Palace and Hull, then it becomes apparent that the Saints failed to win any of the equivalent 11 fixtures during 2012/13.

I must admit that I have my doubts about Pochettino and his high-pressing style, but I have a lot of faith in the group of players that has been assembled at St. Mary’s. This is a squad capable of pushing for a place in the top-ten, but whether or not they achieve that is open to debate.’

Thanks to Charles and Rob from kickoff.co.uk for compiling this!

Chris