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20 Mar 2018 12:07:12
As we have a boring two week break with no football, I thought I'd take the opportunity to quickly review my predictions for the end of season positions. I can't find my old article of a couple of weeks back on the site so can't remember all I said but I think my predictions have altered a little.

Swansea I expect to finish highest of the current bottom nine teams with around 41 points. BHA still have a tough run in but they've accrued more points at this stage than I expected so I see them being safe now, finishing on about 38 points. I predict Newcastle and Palace will finish with the same or thereabouts points total.

At the bottom, I don't expect WBA to move and Stoke have Arsenal, Spurs, Burnley and Liverpool still to play along with West Ham, Palace and Swansea so I can't see them picking up more than 5 points from their run in, leaving them on 32 points and in the relegation zone.

The real scrap is over that final relegation spot and it will be us duking it out with West Ham and Huddersfield for the right to play Premier League Football next season.

As expected, Huddersfield have really started to struggle lately, even more than I expected. They're left with only 7 games, including the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal. They also face Newcastle, Brighton, Watford and Everton. Three weeks ago, I could see them winning one of those games or nicking two or three draws, but now. I think they'll really struggle to finish on anything higher than 34 points.

West Ham have 8 games left and face Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, Man City and Leicester in their run in. If points from those games seems unlikely, West Ham will be focused on getting as much as they can from their game with us, Stoke and Everton. I can see West Ham performing well enough in one of those three games to get a win provided the natives in East London don't continue to stage protests and undermine their own side's chances of getting wins. Anyone playing West Ham at the London stadium will know the importance of scoring first and turning the home fans against their team. West Ham are in the stronger points position than us, but their form is the most unpredictable. They really could finish anywhere between 30 and 36 points. Anything less than 34 is asking for real trouble.

We too have the luxury of 8 league games left, but due to our progression in the FA Cup, two of those will be midweek fixtures and there is of course the Semi-Final against Chelsea, in what will be a rather heavy-going conclusion to the season. MH will have to be careful to get the balance right in training between improving fitness and stamina of players, whilst not over-working them and leaving them fatigued. We still lack a goal scoring striker at the moment, so the imminent return of Charlie Austin could be the difference. We have Arsenal, Chelsea and City to play, mixed in with West Ham, Swansea, Bournemouth, Everton and Leicester. Our midweek catch-up games will be the Leicester and Swansea games, making what already looked like tricky fixtures that little bit harder unless we're playing with confidence and momentum from performances in the matches around them. Like West Ham, we remain somewhat of an unknown quantity, with a new manager. As a rival to escape that final relegation spot, the West Ham game couldn't be more important in determining where we'll be playing our football next season. A win will place us above West Ham (and possibly Huddersfield too) and the pressure will then be on them for at least a week (or in Huddersfield's case, I would expect them to be in trouble for the rest of the season) . Anything less than a win and West Ham and Huddersfield stay above us for the time being and the pressure is on us to get the points required to go above one of them. With those fixtures, we'll be relying on Huddersfield and West Ham to continue to wobble whilst finding something like 6 or 7 points from our final 7 games. This unpredictability means we could also finish with a points haul of anything between 30 and 36 points. Our goal difference gives us the edge over our rivals if we can match their points tally. I still think we'll need as little as 34 points to stay up, but at this stage, its hard to tell whether that target will be reached with comfort or hover tantalisingly out of reach.

figodasilva

1.) 20 Mar 2018 13:23:21
Perfectly put as ever Figo! The only other thing in our favour is the bounce we get which Huddersfield won’t have and which the hammers had and don’t have now.
That puts us psychologically at an advantage.
Also those two teams are not going to change formation now. We have had to which should work for us particularly with Chaz coming back.


2.) 20 Mar 2018 18:14:42
I was thinking about what Mark H might say to the players before the West Ham United game . and in all honesty I think he will simply say 'GO WIN IT' .
he will totally instill the WE MUST WIN THIS GAME mentality . and I think the players will respond accordingly.

I also think there isn't a better time to play Chelsea in the PL and cup . and likewise Arsenal . both teams very hit n'miss . and if the passion showed by the whole team against Wigan is repeated . I am positive we could get something out of both these games.

COYR.


3.) 20 Mar 2018 20:25:46
Figo, as always a great post, I remember your article well and actually I was thinking of some kind of follow up.

I agree with most except 2 of your points.

Huddersfield - if my memory serves me correctly they had a good February, collecting 6 points from 3 games. They have since lost to palace, whilst this put us in the bottom 3 it also dragged them back in it. Not great form but they have a points to game ratio to suggest they ‘may’ have enough.

34 points - I believe to get safe, it will be more like 36, I think we will achieve this under MH.

From there I / we will be happy and probably wondering what the future holds. I don’t think it is right to have dogs at the new owners though, they have not been here long. But assuming it is right about LR being the ‘brains’ behind the whole club playing that stupid formation at every level, I worry he may dictate to the permanent manager.


4.) 20 Mar 2018 21:54:15
Digs*.


5.) 21 Mar 2018 06:26:29
We have some tough games ahead as do the other relegation scrapers around us but we’re in a position where Hughes has already changed and brought something to the table as in our formation and belief
Potentially we could beat Chelsea twice in a week which would be pretty amazing
I honestly think we’re in the best hands now to get out of this with the following results

West Ham win
Swansea draw
Arsenal draw
Chelsea win
Chelsea win
Bournemouth win
Leicester loss
Everton win
City loss
And then my alarm clocks just goes off and I’ve woken up from my dream
😂
Plus we’ve also lifted the FA cup and Mourinho admits on live television we were the better team without any excuses.


6.) 21 Mar 2018 12:28:54
Whilst we all feel a little more positive with the change of manager, we’ve yet to really see whether MH will provide a bounce or not. The players did play well second half v Wigan but as I say, we need to see them carry the second 45 minutes into the next match v West Ham and then on for the remainder of the season. Playing the odd good game/ half is nothing more than we were achieving under Pellegrino.

I’d worry if MH simply tells this team to ‘go and win’ the West Ham game. This remains a young, inexperienced side at its heart – McCarthy, Hoedt, Stephens, Lemina, Hojberg, Boufal, Sims, Carrillo all lack experience for various reasons and MH has highlighted that in his view, the players could do with more individual instruction and preparation than they were previously receiving. First and foremost, MH needs to ensure each player is well prepared tactically, understands their individual role and is capable of executing it on match day under pressure. These players do all need motivating but if they’re simply told to go and win a huge stakes game without the foundation of confidence and momentum, they may simply crumble under the pressure. It’s clear the team is fragile so I think the message needs to be ‘you CAN win this game’ and MH must convince them. If this squad can find self-belief, trust their team mates and trust the tactics, it will free them up to express themselves. That’s the key to winning.

On the Huddersfield point Gregg, they’ve lost two and drawn one of their last three games but its not the results but the manner that is of note. This month, they’ve failed to score in their three games and against Palace at home, they were totally dominated by a fellow struggler. Palace are better with Zaha back but Huddersfield’s strength has been their defence this season. They’re not going to score a lot of goals so if their defence starts to wobble, they could be in big trouble. Right now, I can’t see them getting too many more points. They may surprise me, yet again, with a big result against Newcastle, Brighton or Everton. I think their best chance of a win is against Watford but even that’s not easy. If teams have sussed them out or their performance levels drop now, they could have it tough.

My 34 points guesstimate is based on Huddersfield only picking up a couple of draws in their remaining fixtures a I suspect they may take that last relegation spot if that happens. Maybe its just wishful thinking as 33/ 34 points gives Saints a more makeable target.

I think, moving forward, the club needs invest in a better coaching team across all levels. They need to hire not only better coaches, but more of them if they want to ensure that the teams remain attractive to young players, they develop to their full potential and that they are able to integrate seamlessly into the first team as intended. As for senior players, the head coach needs to have a true understanding of each player and their best position, decide the formation that best suits and then recruit a few players to ensure there aren’t any square pegs in round holes. In today’s game, young players are coached to perform specific roles by the top sides. Central midfield is not really a defined position anymore. Instead, you’re an anchor man, defensive or deep-lying playmaker, a box to box midfielder, advanced playmaker, roaming playmaker and on and on. Left and right backs can be attacking, defensive, wing-backs or full backs. Now more than ever, its crucial for the club to ensure that each season it knows the best formation for the players and any players brought in fit naturally into that system. That’s the art of team building. Not just buying the best young players, but the best players that fit into your system. If not, that new signing will not be able to play to their potential.


7.) 21 Mar 2018 19:16:52
So the two big games for me where I think we can get maximum points is against West Ham and Swansea, simply because I think we have the better squad than both teams. Swansea has come under great form, but the change of management should favour us. The worrying thing for me is that we've got Arsenal and Chelsea back-to-back. However, both teams are underperforming and again, we'll see what effect Mark Hudges has.

These next two weeks are crucial and I would say that the break has come at a perfect time, because of our form only a few players have been called up to their national squads, which should give Hughes some time to know what he's working with and prepare for the West Ham game. Facing Man City on the last day is a massive burden for us, they will have probably won the title by then and if they're still in the Champions League, they should be focussed on that. However, if they're breaking records I expect it to be a bad game.


8.) 22 Mar 2018 14:06:04
Agree on last game. Let’s hope it’s not a thumping 8/ 9 -0 and screw our GD!


 

 

14 Feb 2018 20:29:19
{Ed's Note - figodasilva has posted a new article entitled, Finishing positions for the bottom half of the Premier League

figodasilva

1.) 19 Feb 2018 11:10:56
Nice article Figo! I've posted my predictions for Saints remaining fixtures below.
Burnley Away - Draw
Stoke Home - Draw
Newcastle Away - Loss
West Ham Away - Loss
Arsenal Away - Loss
Chelsea Home - Loss
Leicester Away - Loss
Bournemouth Home - Win
Everton Away - Win
Man City Home - Draw

Very pessimistic view here and I would like us to get results against other struggling teams, I just don't think it'll happen. Maybe we can go to Burnley and host Stoke and win both of these games. That'll put us in a better position to stay up. But with only 5 wins from 27 games, we don't seem to have a winning mentality about us and based on everything that has happened so far I can't see us turning around and going on a 5 game winning streak.


2.) 19 Feb 2018 17:05:16
I wouldn’t go to the bookies with them predictions 😂.


3.) 19 Feb 2018 19:43:51
You'd get some amazing odds.


4.) 20 Feb 2018 11:28:44
I might have to stick a couple of quid down on that then haha. What results would you say would be different, obviously looking back at what I've said 5 losses on the bounce is probably unlikely.


5.) 20 Feb 2018 12:21:35
My predictions would be
Burnley away - Draw
Stoke home - win
Newcastle away - draw
West Ham away - draw
Arsenal away - loss
Chelsea home - loss
Leicester away - loss
Bournemouth home - win
Everton away - loss
Man City home - loss
That will put us on 35 points, just hope I’m wrong and we get some more wins. Our season is going to be decided in the next 4 games.


6.) 20 Feb 2018 18:26:33
I think you're right that the next 4 games are going to be very decisive on the points front. We must also remain as tight as we can against Arsenal and Chelsea, frustrate and perhaps nick a point off one of them. If we are to lose several, it will be important to keep goal difference under control. There's every chance that one or more places could be decided by good in the end. Everton remain pretty pants with few goal scoring chances created. I'd like to think we have a chance up there of at least a point.

That's your predicitons for our run in but looking at the other teams, how many points do you think they'll pick up? If you work through say the bottom 6 teams and have a guess at their season end points total, it may be 35 points could keep us safe. I know it sounds like a low total but it could.


7.) 20 Feb 2018 20:32:59
I'm never right and my predictions are always awful so I reckon

Burnley - win
Stoke -draw
Newcastle -loss
West ham -loss
Arsenal - loss
Chelsea- loss
Leicester - loss
Bournemouth - win
Everton - loss
City - draw

34 points and hoping 3 teams do worse.

So if you are a betting man go opposite everything I've put and you might stand a chance! 😬.


8.) 21 Feb 2018 02:26:11
I believe we can win most of the remaining games. Here is my prediction:


Burnley - draw/ win
Stoke - win
Newcastle - win
West ham - win
Arsenal - draw
Chelsea- loss
Leicester - draw
Bournemouth - draw
Everton - loss
City - loss.

{Ed0333's Note - You’ll against Newcastle and Evertonians lose against Arsenal. The rest I agree with.


9.) 10 Mar 2018 22:17:40
Saint jay is 3 from 3.maybe we should of put a couple of quid on it.


 

 

11 Feb 2018 22:30:39
{Ed's Note - figodasilva has posted a new article entitled, Southampton v Liverpool 11 Feb 2018 Review

figodasilva

 

 

27 Jan 2018 12:50:53
Just read an article where Quincy Promes' official Instagram account responded to a report from Russian media that he was not interested in joining Saints as we're 'one of the worst teams in the Premier League'. Quincy's one word reply was 'false'. Unclear whether he means its false about not wanting to join or that the reason given is false, but interesting to see he responded. Looks like there's still hope though.

figodasilva

1.) 29 Jan 2018 02:51:35
I’d like to be more positive but I think we have made our one signing this window.


2.) 31 Jan 2018 03:27:26
Less than 24 hours to go.


3.) 31 Jan 2018 11:15:58
I think we just have to be patient. Yes less than 24 hours but you never know. Just keep faith. Come on saints! We will sign someone before the window closes.


4.) 31 Jan 2018 16:34:13
Hmmm!


 

 

04 Jan 2018 15:16:18
I've taken a few days to digest the Palace result, the contents of Ralph K's Echo interview and the posts coming in on here before posting anything further myself as, to be perfectly honest, the Palace result was a sickener.

It was Ralph's view pre-Palace that MP's job is perfectly safe and the board have effectively written off the first half of the season because of the negative effect of the VVD transfer saga. He accepts they took a gamble on keeping him and whilst he doesn't admit it explicitly, his comments on the poor effect on the rest of the team, together with the agreement to sell VVD now, suggest the gamble failed. It was concerning that he spent the rest of the time saying it paid off financially for the club, when surely that decision can only be realistically made at the end of this season when the team's league status is finalised.

However, his answers are pretty consistent on MP. He's had to carry the can for the VVD turmoil and the board are pleased with how he has done this together with his coaching of the team. They have obviously seen something we haven't as the team is not improving on the field, but again, he puts this down to turmoil which should subside now VVD is gone.

It's difficult to believe that the team will suddenly find its feet, given the low levels of confidence and belief in the players at the moment. But one or two quality signings could make a real difference to performances and results to follow. The proud part of me wants to bemoan our links to Walcott because it feels uninspiring/ underwhelming. That said, if I'm objective I must accept we are a team currently in 17th place in need of players with league experience who can assist us with goals and pace and he ticks those boxes. He would give us another dimension so why not?

Whilst I don't wholly accept Ralph's view that VVD caused all of our first half issues, we must all agree that there was a dark cloud over the squad whilst he was here. We don't know who forced him back into the side - maybe it was the board rather than MP as they were desperate to try to make their gamble look worthwhile and that explains why they're grateful to him for sucking it up and following orders? Maybe not.

The one conclusion I can draw is that MP seems like he will be here for the season at least. The board aren't interested at the moment in replacing him and will give him time post-VVD to make his mark. The problem is, post-January, if MP were to leave, a new manager would have to make do with the squad left for him, rather than have a window to bring in any fresh faces so in my view, MP is likely to stay. So the board are rolling the dice once more. Let's all hope their luck's in on this one.

figodasilva

1.) 04 Jan 2018 16:36:27
Good post but unfortunately don’t agree that MP will be here till the end of the season unless we go on some unlikely run of results. They are already seeing the gates tumbling, just because the attendance says what it says it doesn’t mean the people are actually there. It is the same at Arsenal where there can be swathes of seats empty but because they are sold season tickets they count for the attendance. If we stick with the current manager and get relegated how many season ticket holders will actually renew next season, I reckon if they’re lucky about half of them. It is all so unnecessary and could be sorted if the board weren’t so pig headed.


2.) 04 Jan 2018 17:08:53
I agree with saint chris, it seems quite obvious to me the saints team are not playing for, or supporting their manager. Those who watched the CP game must agree that as soon as saints scored they took there foot of the pedal, it was like the team had all realised they had cocked up and they shouldn't have scored, because saints stopped playing and allowed CP back into the game, the whole game disintergrated into a farce saints were giving the ball away continually. I don't know if you saw this but about 5 mins before half time saints somehow managed to get onto the ball and bertram was running up the wing no defewnders in front of him when he suddenly stopped turned around and passed the ball back to stephans the crowd started shouting and giving him a hard time when he smiled and pointed to his watch or wrist indicating he was playing for time I mean wtf is that all about it was not as though there was about a couple of seconds to go or there was no one to pass the ball forward to, I mean playing for time you got to be kidding me

disilussioned.


3.) 04 Jan 2018 19:30:15
Like you Figo, I haved not posted for a while. I have watched, I have listened, I have inwardly digested what is going on.
The VVD situation being the reason for the current situation?
this is a copy of my Facebook posting today .

The signs of a good manager include, changing formations to win a game, changing formations when losing, changing game play at any time through the game FOR THE BENEFIT of the team, holding onto a winning position, adjust the team/ formation to counteract any changes the opposition may make, making the right substitutions, making substitutions at the right time, motivating your team . score out of 8 . a big fat ZERO!

They can dress this any way they like, they can blame anything . but as Roy H has proved with Crystal Palace and Big Sam at Everton, a good manager is absolutely crucial to not only how to play in the PL but survival too.

We are in absolute free fall, we are destined to be relegated if nothing changes. Do I now believe MP can change things round, absolutely NOT.

look at the Palace game, we were comfortable, moving the ball around, we scored. What did Roy do? change the formation, the players, the game plan . and aided by playing for a draw!

Will signings change anything .

i am firmly of the belief that we have fallen behind in the average quality of our players. While Lemina, Hoedt and gabbs have been good signings - to that I can now add Hojbjerg, he has been awesome! and playing like a captain, running the show.

MP relies almost exclusively on Tadic and Redmond being the providers to the attack, they are quite simply not good enough. I believe the quality of defenders in the PL has moved forward and are now too agile, quick and intelligent for these two.

I would like to add, JWP has definitely upped his game!

in summary, we have to change managers before its too late . it nearly is sadly.


4.) 04 Jan 2018 20:52:47
Really good post south_hants_rich. Some fans may perceive it to be pessimistic in approach but I think its realism. I, like many others on this site are hugely passionate about Southampton FC and having been a fan since 1979 and seen some wonderful highs and not so wonderful lows, this period of time is a deep low. We are rudderless.
I also believe the discourse from the chairman has changed too, regarding expectations of the club, including us being a small club, competition in the league increasing (and us seemingly unable to adapt to this change of perspective), and the VVD saga being a contribution to this low. I think it's an absolute farse to suggest this and not just own up and admit the appointment was a poor judgement on their behalf.
I believe, if we do appoint new players, we will not improve results, not because I'm a pessmistic, (in fact I'm an optimist (albeit a realistic optimist) but purely because we have a very poor manager who is extremely inflexible in his approach, and I don't see an improvement week in week out.
Our style of play has gone backwards and that's difficult to accept when a 'we march on' mantra is being advocated by the club. The current situation stinks of the 2004/ 2005 season and we know what happened in May of that season.


5.) 04 Jan 2018 22:37:54
Quoted. By pellegrino

For me he (Ralph) is great because we used to talk about preparation, motivation, about the challenge we have got in leadership with a group of men in every organisation in our life we all need the same – belief, values. We talk about the team.
For me it’s great. Even Les Reed has been working as a manager. They have been involved in professional teams and they know this world and what we have to do to try to be stronger and this for me is magnificent.
The Saints boss was quick to praise Krueger and revealed that he sat down with the first-team squad to eat during the day, along with vice-chairman Les Reed and head of recruitment Ross Wilson.

I like the bit where they say les Reed a manager
This reminds me of a certain Rupert trying to run the boardroom and the team which as we know didn't work
Step up sir Clive and history has completely repeats itself
Just seems a bit of a mess really god knows what the players think.


 

 

 

figodasilva's banter posts with other poster's replies to figodasilva's banter posts

 

Southampton v Chelsea 14 April 2018 Preview

13 Apr 2018 11:45:18
{Ed's Note - figodasilva has posted a new article entitled, Southampton v Chelsea 14 April 2018 Preview

figodasilva

 

 

12 Apr 2018 13:58:51
As a final kick in the crotch, Arsenal have successfully overturned Elneny's red card. From the replays I saw, he pushed Cedric by putting both hands on the side of his head/ face. Play had stopped, the situation calmed, Cedric was just standing by the ball protecting it from Elneny interfering.

I stand by what I said about the Stephen's red card even more firmly now than I did on Sunday. This is all a bloody farce. You either punish every unnecessary act or act of excessive force, or you raise the bar. How is Stephen's worse than Elneny's? Get an appeal in sharpish.

figodasilva

1.) 12 Apr 2018 17:50:13
I thought the same, in fact I thought JW was the worst of the three of them, only his couldn’t be considered violent conduct.

I cannot figure out why, but I somehow still believe we will do it and Chelsea could be there for the taking if we tighten up at the back whilst having a real go. It would help if they were still in the CL as there is not much to play for in the league. I am sure we are targeting the games against Swansea, Bournemouth etc but they could be tougher in some respects. Think we need to go with Austin and Long, they seem to have more fire in their belly for this when compared to Carrillo and Gabbi.


2.) 12 Apr 2018 21:02:18
I'm not sure the team now have luxury of targeting specific games as you're right to say none of them are particularly easy. Every game must be played like a cup final as the old cliché goes. Chelsea are in a bad place but still have the individuals to make the difference. I expect a similar set up to the Chelsea game, although maybe one or two personnel changes Austin needs to start as he can score from any situation. If Long's tail is up maybe play him as one of the players playing off Austin instead of Tadic or JWP.


3.) 13 Apr 2018 11:09:53
yep definitely not tadic. he's not good enough.


4.) 14 Apr 2018 13:06:17
Tadic is so not good that he scores a goal against chelsea.


 

 

09 Apr 2018 20:50:00
Did Stephens deserve to be sent off yesterday? Well, in my view no, and that's not because I'm a Saints fan. As black and white as many people seem to think the laws of the game are on this type of incident, it quite simply isn't that clear cut. The laws of the game are open to interpretation and referees duly have a degree of discretion on how to sanction certain actions during a match, but whilst some refs take time to think, speak to assistants and review their options, others seem to act more swiftly and with little consideration beyond a black and white view of what is and what is not acceptable.

The Stephens sending off was arguably harsh and could well have been avoided had the referee taken control of the situation sooner. He may have been playing advantage but if he was paying attention, he would've seen that Wilshere (who played like a drunkard when he came on and grew increasingly frustrated with himself) had given the ball away for the umpteenth time and had lost his cool as he charged after Jack Stephens who intercepted his through ball. He may also have seen the vigorous tugging of Stephens' shirt, not for a second but for several paces and that deliberately impeding Stephens was Wilshere's only intention. No effort to win the ball, he was just tugging on Stephens like a petulant child, determined to stop the man who had the audacity to intercept his poorly played through ball. The ref may then have finally seen that after Stephens had played the ball away, Wilshere still had hold of his shirt and as Stephens tried to push him off and run freely, Wilshere planted his feet and made one final tug at Stephens' shirt, so forcefully that it ripped and spun Stephens around. Then Stephens turns to see Wilshere jogging away and giving him some verbal abuse, so Stephens pushes him. Stephens is then pushed in the back by Kolasinac and Wilshere gets up and knees him, albeit with little force.

When this sort of thing happens, the people we call pundits are quick to say 'you can't raise your hands' which in and of itself is nonsense as otherwise, footballers would all run around like Michael Flatley; very funny but not required by the laws of the game. In fact, FIFA's laws of the game are quite broad as they list offences that can be penalised by red or yellow cards, but do not define them. So 'violent conduct' for example is listed as that and that alone, presumably then allowing each national FA to develop their own interpretation of that law. If we look at the FA's definition of violent conduct it states:

'Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball, or against a team-mate, team official, match official, spectator or any other person, regardless of whether contact is made.

In addition, a player who, when not challenging for the ball, deliberately strikes an opponent or any other person on the head or face with the hand or arm, is guilty of violent conduct unless the force used was negligible. '
Source - www. thefa. com/ football-rules-governance/ lawsandrules/ laws/ football-11-11/ law-12---fouls-and-misconduct

Note that it doesn't say a player must be sent off if he raises his hands. Can you imagine the game with underarm throw-ins? Keepers leaping like salmon to head balls away from the top corner. Anyway, back to the point. Even the FA definition is open to interpretation, and therefore discretion on the part of the referee. Whenever Dermot Gallagher pops up on Sky Sports news, he discusses how he can understand why the referee made a certain call, so that too implies that refs use their discretion. What is unclear is how each referee comes to his own decision on how to deal with this. Surely there must be some difference between a punch or elbow thrown intentionally and a shove, shouldn't there?

Looking again at Stephens' actions, there are some mitigating factors that the ref could have considered. Stephens was provoked not only by the deliberate foul but also the lack of referee intervention and the verbal abuse he received when all he was trying to do was play football. A simple shirt pull often leads to a player putting their arms out and asking for the ref to do something but here Stephens tries to play on and no doubt assumes, when the ball is gone, Wilshere will let go. But he doesn't, he deliberately holds on and then adds insult to injury by yanking the player back as hard as he does. Did the referee ask himself why this was different if he hadn't seen the build up and if he had seen it, did he consider this when determining whether the reaction was excessive.

Stephens reacts angrily by pushing. He doesn't 'strike' Wilshere on the head or face. I doubt anyone would label it 'brutal' so perhaps it could be 'excessive force'. I'm not sure what is considered reasonable force to be used when not challenging for the ball, but its fair to say pushing someone over forcefully may be excessive. But are Wilshere's actions not excessive by the same assessment? Wilshere is not trying to win the ball, and his actions go beyond a bit of shirt pulling. He is reacting angrily to giving the ball away and then to Stephens holding him off. So is, after the ball has long gone, dragging a player back by the shirt so hard that the player not only stops but spins round, and could arguably have been hauled to the ground, with his shirt torn excessive force? Or is that just a part of the game? It's a physical sport after all. Why was a push deemed worse than a pull?

It is right that referees do allow a certain low level of irritation and reaction to things in a game as this is high stakes competitive sport, but if a player crosses the line and risks injuring another player than he must be punished. Fine. That's perfectly sensible, but was either player really at risk of injuring the other on Sunday? Were the players about to start fighting? No. It all cooled down pretty quickly as after the push, despite Wilshere getting up and giving Stephens an earful, they did the usual squaring up but no punches were thrown and the other players and referee broke things up. It was handbags.

The push shouldn't be condoned but nor should harrying and deliberately fouling a player, beyond the usual boundaries of cynical, just because you're cross with yourself. We have seen referees deal with these sorts of situations with far more common sense. Give them a talking to, acknowledge the importance of the game, the stage of the game and what is at stake, the provocation and, as grappling and pushing has ensued, card them both and give them a clear warning. Don't send one off and leave the instigator to play on with only a yellow. That only risks causing more retribution or ill feeling in a game that before then had been placid.

Whilst I disagree with the sending off, I don't see Saints appealing. MH accepted Stephens was wrong to react as he did, but nobody will sanction Wilshere for his reaction which was the catalyst.

figodasilva

1.) 10 Apr 2018 05:32:36
Whiltshire is a wind up merchant and there were niggles
Being gifted around as soon as he come on
Will be a blow for the team but we have to just settle for ithe decision and keep going
Can’t understand why he never got a red either wired decision.


2.) 10 Apr 2018 14:52:30
I don't think we can have too many complaints about the red. You're right about the rules, but Stephens knows how the rules are interpreted and that these days, for better or for worse, that kind of thing is going to get you sent off. I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.

I do agree though, why on earth was wilshere not sent off for that. Yellow card for the initial cynical shirt tug, and then ripping the shirt off him at the end was at least a yellow in itself as well. I thought the ref had a really poor game all things considered; lots of smaller decisions going the wrong way (for and against us) . Although I suppose there's a case to be made that he handled the situation at the end by the book, I don't think it's too much to ask that the best referees in the nation apply a bit of common sense to these situations. What Wilshere did was unbelievably cynical, aggressive and the sort of thing we need out of our game. What Stephens did was nothing more than a little hotheaded.


 

 

01 Apr 2018 12:18:49
I've now seen extended highlights of the game. I use the term highlights loosely as it only refers to the passage of play by one of the teams on the pitch yesterday.

I'm not sure whether the players expected to have time to build their game against a fragile side, but as I said in my match preview yesterday, if they were not expecting a fast start from West Ham, then they were inexplicably complacent. MH spoke of us looking for a fast start but the players provided anything but. West Ham unsurprisingly looked to fly out of the traps, pressing in packs and harrying our players, giving them no time to think. They attacked in numbers from the off and were given plenty of warning before West Ham scored their first goal.

Its always annoying to concede a goal from a mistake from our own set play at the other end of the pitch. Its not the first time its happened to us this season and its not the first time Lemina has been culpable. When he initially held off two pressing players and stabbed the ball hopefully forward as he lost his balance, I assumed that West Ham had cleverly kept a striker up the pitch who was marking our last man and preventing Lemina passing it backwards. However, as West Ham break, you can see Bertrand is on the half way line behind Lemina and there's no West Ham player nearby. Why didn't he just stab it back? That's the sort of decision making you expect to see from a child, not a midfielder of his experience. It was needless. At least against Newcastle, he slipped and lost the ball so couldn't recover. Here, he did the hard part in controlling the ball and using his strength to hold off a couple of players. Play it simple, keep the ball.

That mistake was compounded by Hoedt deciding to follow the ball, already covered by Bertrand, and mark empty space in the potential danger area. That's fine if there's an attacker running towards that space, or you aren't aware of the movement around you, but as we were caught on the break, the Saints defence had the advantage of seeing the play ahead of them as they ran into the box. Hoedt had run past the goal scorer, Joao Mario, who had checked his run at the edge of the area. Stephens also came flying into the box behind Hoedt and also failed to acknowledge that Joao Mario was unmarked in acres on the edge of the box. To emphasise the space he had, Joao Mario even had enough time to mis-control the ball twice before unleashing his shot. That said, what a strike it was.

The second goal was also from a mistake forced by West Ham pressing, this time much higher up the pitch. Hoedt's pass to PEH was forceful but with space and time tight, it perhaps needed to be. However, with PEH already being closed, he probably would have preferred to see Hoedt hit it long and safe. Another questionable choice. With the pass arrowed to him, PEH knew the press was coming and opened his body to let the ball deflect past the on-rushing defender but he didn't allow for the second closing player who collected the ball and passed it forwards. From there, the cross and finish were very good.

Considering the weakened defensive line-up West Ham had to field, it was a brave tactic to press high as against a better side, they could have left their weak point exposed. As it was, the call by David Moyes proved spot on as Saints were caught cold and could barely string two passes together whilst West Ham saw the pressure sweep them into an early 2-0 lead. It was 3-0 by half time and the game was over before Saints had even turned up.

The Saints' performance was a repeat of the Wigan game. Insipid nervy first half where we could easily have been 3-0 by half time but there, we were lucky to find Wigan's strike-force unusually blunt. A better second half followed but it was always the case that against a better side, it may already be too late and so it proved against West Ham. Some posters have said West Ham are a terrible side, but I don't think that's true. They are erratic and can be impressive one week, pathetic the next, much like us. However, they have the better attacking players and when they are all on song, as they were yesterday even without Lanzini, they are a force to be reckoned with. In their current form, our starting line-up cannot match them.

So back to the drawing board for MH. He states he now understands the problem this team faces and I hope he finds a solution asap. It would help not to play Lemina and Hojberg as a midfield two as neither seems defensively minded enough to anchor the team. I find a 4-4-2 formation a little too inflexible in this day and age. It would be nicer to see a more flexible, fluid formation if the players can manage it. Of course for that to succeed, they need to be able to pass the ball to each other. There also needs to be direction and attacking intent in the passing; there is little CA, MG, NR, SB, GC can do if they do not receive the ball with the time and space the West Ham attackers enjoyed yesterday.

Arsenal and Chelsea (twice) next. Its going to be a difficult month.

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West Ham v Southampton preview

31 Mar 2018 14:15:55
{Ed's Note - figodasilva has posted a new article entitled, West Ham v Southampton preview

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21 Mar 2018 12:28:54
Whilst we all feel a little more positive with the change of manager, we’ve yet to really see whether MH will provide a bounce or not. The players did play well second half v Wigan but as I say, we need to see them carry the second 45 minutes into the next match v West Ham and then on for the remainder of the season. Playing the odd good game/ half is nothing more than we were achieving under Pellegrino.

I’d worry if MH simply tells this team to ‘go and win’ the West Ham game. This remains a young, inexperienced side at its heart – McCarthy, Hoedt, Stephens, Lemina, Hojberg, Boufal, Sims, Carrillo all lack experience for various reasons and MH has highlighted that in his view, the players could do with more individual instruction and preparation than they were previously receiving. First and foremost, MH needs to ensure each player is well prepared tactically, understands their individual role and is capable of executing it on match day under pressure. These players do all need motivating but if they’re simply told to go and win a huge stakes game without the foundation of confidence and momentum, they may simply crumble under the pressure. It’s clear the team is fragile so I think the message needs to be ‘you CAN win this game’ and MH must convince them. If this squad can find self-belief, trust their team mates and trust the tactics, it will free them up to express themselves. That’s the key to winning.

On the Huddersfield point Gregg, they’ve lost two and drawn one of their last three games but its not the results but the manner that is of note. This month, they’ve failed to score in their three games and against Palace at home, they were totally dominated by a fellow struggler. Palace are better with Zaha back but Huddersfield’s strength has been their defence this season. They’re not going to score a lot of goals so if their defence starts to wobble, they could be in big trouble. Right now, I can’t see them getting too many more points. They may surprise me, yet again, with a big result against Newcastle, Brighton or Everton. I think their best chance of a win is against Watford but even that’s not easy. If teams have sussed them out or their performance levels drop now, they could have it tough.

My 34 points guesstimate is based on Huddersfield only picking up a couple of draws in their remaining fixtures a I suspect they may take that last relegation spot if that happens. Maybe its just wishful thinking as 33/ 34 points gives Saints a more makeable target.

I think, moving forward, the club needs invest in a better coaching team across all levels. They need to hire not only better coaches, but more of them if they want to ensure that the teams remain attractive to young players, they develop to their full potential and that they are able to integrate seamlessly into the first team as intended. As for senior players, the head coach needs to have a true understanding of each player and their best position, decide the formation that best suits and then recruit a few players to ensure there aren’t any square pegs in round holes. In today’s game, young players are coached to perform specific roles by the top sides. Central midfield is not really a defined position anymore. Instead, you’re an anchor man, defensive or deep-lying playmaker, a box to box midfielder, advanced playmaker, roaming playmaker and on and on. Left and right backs can be attacking, defensive, wing-backs or full backs. Now more than ever, its crucial for the club to ensure that each season it knows the best formation for the players and any players brought in fit naturally into that system. That’s the art of team building. Not just buying the best young players, but the best players that fit into your system. If not, that new signing will not be able to play to their potential.

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20 Feb 2018 18:26:33
I think you're right that the next 4 games are going to be very decisive on the points front. We must also remain as tight as we can against Arsenal and Chelsea, frustrate and perhaps nick a point off one of them. If we are to lose several, it will be important to keep goal difference under control. There's every chance that one or more places could be decided by good in the end. Everton remain pretty pants with few goal scoring chances created. I'd like to think we have a chance up there of at least a point.

That's your predicitons for our run in but looking at the other teams, how many points do you think they'll pick up? If you work through say the bottom 6 teams and have a guess at their season end points total, it may be 35 points could keep us safe. I know it sounds like a low total but it could.

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16 Feb 2018 10:12:46
Thanks for bringing us back to topic Gregg. I've started a new thread above for those who want to talk about the run in and how they see us fairing compared to other teams.

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15 Feb 2018 15:41:19
Sometimes, this site is like banging your head against a brick wall with rusty nails sticking out of it. Please can someone look at the article in the spirit in which it is intended and post something other than that you think MP is rubbish and is going to relegate us no matter what happens to us or other teams over the next 11 games. That is exactly the type of focus I am trying to steer people away from. Its pointless. It really is. You may as well just copy and paste each post to save time otherwise.

Gregg, I do get that. The second half performance against Liverpool was poor but if you look at the story of the game as a whole, we did play with fight and spirit in the first half but conceded two goals, not because the team played badly but due to individual errors. The team understandably came out and was anxious not to concede any more rather than believing they should carry on taking the game to Liverpool. No one wants to lose 4 or 5 nil. It would arguably do more harm to confidence if the team gave everything going forward, failed to score and got hammered.

Chris, I do entirely understand where you are coming from as you have made clear from your posts throughout the season. I get it. You don’t rate MP and think the team is better than their league placing. But that is entirely beside the point and so frankly, I do not care. I am not seeking to encourage anymore boring posts about how dreadful MP is, how much of a conman Les Reed is or any such benign nonsense. Agree with them or not, we have no control over those things so posting about them endlessly achieves little.

Instead, if people read the article and look at our run in as being 11 games and not just the next game, then they may form an opinion on how many points might see us safe, they may look at the games we have and think x amount of points from this run and y from that run could see us to safety. Then, rather than feeling such despair after every game that doesn’t go our way, posters may still carry some hope forward to the next match. And imagine the elation some may feel if the team exceeds their guestimate points total.

We cold post our projections and see whose come closest and discuss things in this forum in the context of the games we have ahead, rather than reading the same old posts after every game.

If you feel the exercise is a waste of time, fine. No-one is being forced to do it. But for me, and I hope for many other posters, the exercise may help, even as just a bit of fun and a new focus to people’s posts. None of us are happy to be in this position but I see no reason why we cannot look at the positive performances this season and see them as an example of what the team is capable of against the teams around us. Most of our games in the run in are against teams we could get points from if we play to our best and with a string of good performances, confidence could return. For everyone.

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15 Feb 2018 10:54:18
Of course its all guess work. As I say, many things can effect results over the course of 11 games. If I could accurately predict the outcome of football matches, then I would be a very rich man.

The point of the exercise is for people to have a look at the respective run-ins for the teams in the bottom half and consider their own views on the end of season placings. Its very easy when you support a football team to view everything within the bubble of what is happening to that team. Looking at the run-ins for the other teams and considering where they may or may not pick up points can help put things into context and give a broader picture.

For example, because you’re unhappy about the Liverpool result and performance, you consider that Saints are in an uncontrollable nosedive, but just one game before, we beat West Brom and most posts on here were very positive. Also, we continue to collect points against the teams around us, albeit at a slower rate than any of us would like and have proved on our day we can pick up results. We just need to put a consistent run together and we have a good chance to that when the Prem restarts.

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25 Apr 2018 14:17:28
I certainly take your point on the poor scoring return from our strikers reducing the number of assists, but I do not recall any games where JWP has caused havoc in the opposition box with his passing, leaving us tearing our hair out because he is doing all he can and its our strikers who are missing golden chacnes. If you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold whipping balls in from deep positions and turning the opposition back four, JWP doesn’t do this. David Beckham as an old style right midfielder too would make space for himself to cross and create chances regularly and was therefore seen as an attacking threat. JWP doesn’t do this. So even his lack of pace, mobility isn’t really an excuse for failing to deliver crosses, or even through balls when in a more central position.

I also agree that when he goes off, especially when we’re chasing a game as we have been of late, we miss him when we are awarded set pieces in attacking positions as no-one in our team can deliver a killer ball like he can. But that doesn’t answer what contribution he would have made prior to and after that set piece. Perhaps the only reason we are attacking more fluently and winning free kicks and corners is a result of him being off and a better attacker being on. I think its fair to say, certainly in my experience anyway, that I only miss him when we waste an attacking set play due to poor delivery. Otherwise, I’m not sure I can tell in most games whether he is actually on or off the field.

Also, to be clear, this isn’t intended as JWP bashing. I would love to see him step up and start making an impact but I feel he no longer has such a strong argument of lack of experience or youth on his side. He needs to develop stronger attacking or defensive attributes if he is to justify his place in the starting 11 of any Premier League side. He’s another player who may benefit from a spell in the Championship if we are to drop down. If he can hone his game there, it could be the making of him.

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24 Apr 2018 17:01:52
This is the on-going JWP debate and honestly, it makes me wish that you were allowed to make rolling substitutions like in hockey when the men’s team used to bring on their penalty corner specialist, just for that set piece and when it was done, send him back to the bench.

JWP is an excellent technician from set pieces but we may have only a handful from attacking positions in any one game and despite his excellent delivery, the number of goals scored from set pieces remains relatively low. He has scored 3 goals and has 3 assists to his name this season from 28 appearances. Any method of seeking to score is valid and if we have an expert on the pitch to make it more likely, it’s a sensible way to go, but given these stats, that player must contribute something else.

In patches during the season, JWP has seemed to offer more with increased work rate being the most notable factor. But otherwise, he seems to offer very little. Defensively, he makes less than one tackle per game, and is dribbled past almost once per game. Offensively, he has scored 3 goals from 28 appearances, has 3 assists, averages 1 shot per game, roughly 1 key pass a game and almost no dribbles. In respect of his passing, he averages one cross a game, less than one long ball and he attempts on average 27 passes per game with an accuracy of 79%.

In summary, he offers little defensively other than an obstacle and going forwards, he rarely shoots, rarely scores, he doesn’t run at players in a direct way, he doesn’t have pace, he doesn’t try to beat people on the outside, he doesn’t cross. So the stats back up the view held by most that JWP tends to sit in an advanced position and play neat little passes to people nearby, but taking no responsibility himself to create or score.

Does he want to be the heartbeat of the team? Most teams that have a player that keeps things ticking over will place that player in a deeper role. Think of players like Kante, Matic, Fernandinho, or Dembele to a degree. They average between 65 and 87 passes per game with an accuracy of around 90%. Its perhaps unfair to compare JWP to players from the biggest teams but it’s a marked difference. The player in our team who performs that kind of role is Romeu and his stats are more comparable with 57 passes pg and 83% accuracy. I’m not sure JWP has the defensive skill set.

I’m not sure even JWP knows his best position and those coaching him at the moment seem to be doing little to allocate him a role and help him develop the required skillset to impact a game. He’s still only 23 so time is just about on his side, but he remains in my view and old fashioned centre midfielder and the modern style of play has left him behind.

As for Boufal, he was clearly a bit miffed with MP2 given his goal celebration against West Brom, but if he wants to play, he needs to be more consistent. He's contributed so little in the time he has been afforded. I suspect he'll be going to a new club if we stay up. Maybe he'll find his feet in the Championship otherwise.

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22 Apr 2018 21:57:55
I’m not sure anything quite so drastic as getting rid of the whole squad is required. If we stay up, some of the team are getting too old to contribute effectively, some are not quite up to scratch and its evident strengthening will be required and a new head coach with commitment to a long-term project, more and better coaches for the first and youth teams. If we do end up being relegated, those older players, or those not quite Premier league quality will likely be up to scratch in the Championship.

I’m not sure today’s match was tough to prep for or commit to. Most people starting were the regulars bar Austin and Lemina which led to a change in formation. I think its fair to say that the 3-5-2 didn’t work. As expected, with two forwards staying central, the wingbacks struggled to get forward as they couldn’t benefit from the neat interchanges on either flank with Tadic and JWP that have been so effective in recent weeks. The midfield three were all defensively minded with PEH and Romeu doing as they have in recent weeks but with Lemina doing the same. No-one took the initiative to drive forward and link midfield and forwards so the forwards were isolated and we ended up playing hopeless long balls or sideways and backwards. It reminded me of the good old days under MP2.

The second half was much better once MH changed our formation back to what has been the norm of late. Tadic and Redmond provided the support required to the Austin as the lone forward to give us some real attacking impetus and suddenly Bertrand and Cedric were released. We were very unlucky not to score in this period as we had our best spell. If only Wesley Hoedt had defended rather than bending over and spreading his arms like he was impersonating an Ostrich with its head in the sand.

I think MH needs to take several notes from this match moving forward. Firstly, we need to keep the 3-4-2-1 formation. Secondly, Austin is much more of a goal threat than Shane Long and if we are to score consistently in our run in as we need to, Austin needs to play as the lone striker. He did admirably up top for the last 30 minutes of the game and played the full 90 today so he has it in him. Redmond is definitely an option with Tadic behind the striker. Provides more going forwards than JWP with pace, technical ability and he can drift out wide and put crosses in from the goaline. Lemina is not a reliable option in midfield going into these key games. He played much, much better in the second half when we going forwards but the first half was littered with the usual slips, slow thinking and backward passing, even when he had time to turn and move forwards. If we are doing well going forwards, I’m sure he will be an able deputy for one of our midfielders if required but let's keep him on the bench at the start.

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20 Apr 2018 11:48:13
Saintjay, I appreciate that you’re annoyed by the result last night but you seem to have forgotten the games played after we lost to West Ham. We’ve played a 4-3-3 most of the season and it hampered our attacking play as our fullbacks didn’t have the confidence to get forward and we ended up playing in front of the opposition with little penetration. The only time we got behind the opposition defence was when we played with Redmond as a winger on his natural right side, but we don’t have a natural left winger so the side is unbalanced.

MH has come in with so few games to go, he doesn’t have the time to make big sweeping changes. He’s tweaking. He has tried 4-4-2 but that weakened us defensively (as it did under MP2). Against Chelsea (and most of the Arsenal game) we played the 3-4-2-1 formation and it served us well. The benefit to this system is that with the ball, it gives Bertrand and Cedric the confidence to bomb forward and give us width, leading to 3 of the 4 goals we have scored in the last two games. Cedric and Bertrand achieved 2 and 1 assist respectively. Without the ball, Bertrand and Cedric can tuck in to make a back 5, Tadic and JWP drop beside PEH and Romeu to make a midfield 4 leaving Long up top to hassle any deep player with the ball or chase clearances. If there is a quick counter against us, we should still have enough players available to defend in a 4-4-2. It wasn’t the formation that let us down against Chelsea, but the players failing to cope with a motivated Giroud and MH failing to acknowledge this and correct it quickly enough.

We’ve struggled to score all season but we have scored 4 in the last 2 games. Defensively, we have struggled all season and whilst we have conceded 3 a game since MH took over, we have played Arsenal and Chelsea who have the technical ability to finish consistently ruthlessly when teams lower down the league do not. We will not concede 3 goals every game, as proved last night.

I think its also worth highlighting again the effect of the team’s mentality. We’ve seen all season how some games they seem fired up and ready, whereas for others, they seem timid and panicky. Irrespective of the formation and MH’s instructions, I think there were signs of that again last night. Don’t forget that Leicester hammered us at home, we were playing away, we’re under much greater pressure now then we were then and Leicester are still a team that has the capability of being clinical with Jamie Vardy being in good goal scoring form. So for the team not to implode as it has before, for us to get our first clean sheet under MH, for us to pick up a very valuable point in a tough away game should all be seen as positives. The team faced a stern test last night and they came through it with something to hold on to.

I do not question the team’s formation, but I think you’re right to question the personnel. Shane Long’s work rate up top is not matched by any other forward in our squad. However, as was evidenced again last night, his finishing is sub-standard. The best chance of the game fell to him and he should have scored but he’s not a natural finisher. Austin is a natural finisher but doesn’t work as hard so its difficult to play him as a lone striker. Ideally we could have Long and Austin playing together but as we’ve seen a 4-4-2 doesn’t work and a 3-4-1-2 would also leave us exposed defensively. Maybe Long could take one of the positions behind Austin, though that would require defensive discipline on his part when we don’t have the ball and no silly freekicks.

JWP is playing the same starting position as Kevin De Bruyne but he’s nowhere near as effective and aside from set plays, struggles to affect the game from such an advanced role.

Our midfield two are primarily there to provide a screen for the back three when the wing backs push up. With so many teams playing 3 midfielders, our two can easily find themselves outnumbered if one of the wingbacks or attacking midfielders doesn’t read the play and drop to help defensively. I disagree that PEH and Romeu aren’t good enough with the ball to pass the ball out from there. Both have demonstrated the ability to find a teammate in short interchanges or from distance if they are given space. PEH’s enthusiasm and workrate are high and help to lift the team. We have no-one else in the squad who is a reliable defensive midfielder with better passing abilities. Lemina sadly has struggled since Christmas and I think that’s a mental issue and the need for time to adapt to the league as much as anything else.

There’s the rub. You can certainly look at our team and say that players aren’t as effective in their roles as we would like, but the problem is, when you look at our squad and the list of any possible replacements, the list is often very short and the players not starting are undeniably less effective in terms of their overall performance for the team than the alternative. As I said before, if you play Austin up top, his defensive work will be less than Long’s. You drop Long in to one of the attacking midfield roles then you lose the craft of Tadic (when he plays well) or the set piece ability of JWP. You also ask Long to play in midfield when we don’t have the ball which is not a natural position for him so will be quite a gamble. If you bring Sims on, where would you play him in this formation to get the best of him? The same with Gabbi or Carrillo. Lemina is unreliable at the moment, Davis is just back after a couple of injuries, is McQueen a better option than Bertrand? Offensively perhaps, but defensively? Pied for Cedric anyone?

With so few games remaining, MH can’t continue to experiment too drastically with the team and expect the players to win games, as that is the position we are in now. The team looks more effective in attack with the current formation and for long spells, we have looked comfortable defensively. Its now on MH and the players to learn from their defensive errors whilst not retreating and reducing our potency in attack. A first clean sheet against a thorny Leicester side will give the players confidence they are moving in the right direction.

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18 Apr 2018 14:59:12
I understand why a lot of pressure is being piled on this Leicester result, but I’m not sure its win or bust. The caveat to this optimism is that I still don’t think we’ll need 40 points to stay up, but after Huddersfield’s win last weekend, the points target needed for safety has no doubt shifted upwards. 37 points?

Perhaps its because I’m preparing myself for another difficult result on Thursday. We have trouble in defence against ruthless attackers and Leicester have one in Jamie Vardy with an able deputy in Rihad Mahrez. At Stoke, MH failed to plug their leaky defence and so its quite possible that we will continue to concede, though I hope things will improve at least a little in that department.

But now we’re scoring again, there is still a glimmer of hope. After Leicester, we face Bournemouth, Everton and Swansea. None can claim to have the ruthless goalscorers of the top 6 elite and so there is a chance we can win by outscoring these opponents. Its more likely that we hang on to a two goal lead against one of those sides than it is against Chelsea or Arsenal.

Leicester are higher than our next three opponents in the league table for good reason. But they haven’t won for three games now and there is an argument that they have little to play for. After thumping us 1-4 they could be complacent. Under Puel last season, we plateaued at the end of the season and so perhaps Leicester will too. It would be wonderful to go there and get something from the game and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a draw now to give us some momentum, no matter how slight. That point could be the catalyst to winning the next few games. The players must continue to fight and play with urgency. If we do, survival remains possible no matter Thursday’s result.

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