The Long, Long Season Review
This is usually the time to look forward to a new season rather than back, and the forthcoming one will be a year without stripes: I get the impression that our marketing people would prefer things that way; we only wore stripes at St. Mary’s, Norwich and Portsmouth so it was our ‘third’ away kit. It looks like being a season without Højbjerg as well, with Ralph adopting a no-nonsense approach to the situation that belies his Klopp-lite TV image. P-EH says he wants to be involved in the Champions League, something he’ll struggle to do if he wants Premier League wages as well. A drop down to lowly 12th placed Everton has been touted… well he can always have a stroll across Stanley Park to see some Champions League action at Anfield. Perhaps take Schneiderlin with him, and they can discuss further the wisdom of quitting St. Mary’s? Whether 2020/21 starts with paying customers seems unlikely to me, suggesting another unbalanced season. I’d rather they didn’t start at all under those circumstances, and I was also of the view that the PL should not have recommenced in June. However, it would have meant a refund of TV money that would have hit the unglamorous clubs most, and that means us, doesn’t it? Indeed whether we can call upon any of Gao Jisheng’s money at all in the present political climate is unclear, so we might be glad of a Højbjerg windfall to strengthen the team elsewhere, and if any money can be recovered from the Lemina adventure, so much the better.
All clubs (except Liverpool, as they had things sewn up anyway) will have to divide 2019/20 into pre- and post- lockdown, and we’re actually one of the big winners after the split, at least in terms of points gained. As it happens, all we needed to do to stay up was avoid defeat at Watford and Bournemouth; all the other games could have been safely lost – the Crystal Palace approach, maybe? For Southampton, though, we have pre- and post- 0-9 to consider as well. The main sufferers after that fateful night were Yoshida and Gunn, while the manager seems to have learned a lesson not to make so many changes to formation and personnel. He’ll have been particularly pleased with the return game with Leicester, one of nine wins on the road in the League campaign; how he can turn round correspondingly poor home form will show the mark of genius (or not). That night of the nine goals wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the new technology of VAR enabling Mike Dean’s ego to have an impact even though he was miles away in Stockley Park. In my view VAR was always going to happen, and when it gets bad publicity when it gets it wrong, it’s as if on-field referees were always right in the past. Even the one area where VAR can make objective decisions, offside, is under attack, but critics have yet to say how they would identify where a grey area of reasonable doubt should be drawn – maybe it depends how ‘big’ the benefitting club is? Right now, watching Championship games on TV without VAR feels odd, and there is a sense that defenders take more risks with their penalty box challenges in the EFL.
Finally (what do you mean “about time too”?) we have to conclude with the Man of the Match stats. These are the results:
Danny Ings (8)
James Ward-Prowse (6)
Jack Stephens (5)
Alex McCarthy (4)
Oriol Romeu (3)
Maya Yoshida, Sofiane Boufal, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Jan Bednarek, Stuart Armstrong (2 each)
Jannik Vestergaard, Kevin Danso, Cédric Soares, Ryan Bertrand, Nathan Redmond, Michael Obafemi, Kyle Walker-Peters, Che Adams (1 each)
Good luck to those of them who’ll be taking part again next season (or is it this season already?).