Friday, 31 March 2017

Rival Lines: "We're weaker without Gabbiadiani," says George Weah's Cousin

Rival Lines
Match Preview: Southampton v AFCB
Blogger Interview: George Wear's Cousin
Twitter: @gwcdotcom

Playing Southampton is always a game that I find a bit odd. I like to think of it as a derby even if we haven't had many and winning at St Mary's for any team is a good result. But Chris at George Weah's Cousin might have a few things to say on why the Saints will be ready to dash AFCB's hopes come Saturday afternoon. Let's see what he thinks.

CC: What do you make of Southampton's season overall when considering the European games, League Cup final appearance and the current position in the Premier League?

GWC: It's certainly been a 'different' season. League form has been inconsistent, yet monumental trips to the San Siro and Wembley have made it memorable.

I think Claude Puel made some mistakes with the amount of rotation he did when we had a plethora of fixtures early on, and perhaps his original formation was flawed. Of late the rotation has been a lot less and he has reverted to 4-2-3-1 which has allowed players to come out of their shell. He is learning the Premier League, I think people forget that and some criticism of him has been unfair. He seems to be  rectifying some early mistakes.

CC: Claude Puel was within an inch of probably getting legendary status like Lawrie McMenemy had he beaten Man Utd at Wembley in March, but do you see much progression in the way the team is playing than how it was under Ronald Koeman?

GWC: Wembley was as fantastic as it was frustrating. We should have won that game, and Puel and the team came away from it with so much credit. I think he is a more hands on manager than Koeman, especially when it comes to training etc. He is much more prepared to use the club's youth players too when he needs them. Where Koeman opted to loan in the distinctly average Elia and Djuricic from abroad, Puel was happy to use Sims/Hesketh/McQueen and I can tell you now the latter options were much more impressive.

Don't get me wrong, we lost a very good manager in Koeman, but personally I think Puel is a good replacement. I get the feeling he has more long term interests.


CC: Southampton have only let in 36 goals this season, which is commendable but has this meant less attacking football with only 33 goals scored in the Premier League?

GWC: We've not quite managed to get the balance right. We either seem to be great at defending or attacking but never both. This has got elements of bad luck to it though. Charlie Austin was providing the goals and then got injured, while defensively were fine until van Dijk was assaulted by Jamie Vardy [Ed- a bit strong 'assaulted' - well Vardy certainly stood on his ankle, not sure of any intent]. We've not played with a full strength team yet!

CC: Manolo Gabbiadini has been in my mind the bargain of the season, but are Southampton much weaker without him?

GWC: In a word yes. The impetus completely changed when he arrived. He is a 'proper' striker. The runs he makes have caused havoc in defences and the likes of Tadic and Redmond have been able to pick him out. He is always looking to score, and that greediness is something our other forwards seem to lack.

CC: Were you disappointed with the way the José Fonte departure came about?

GWC: Yes I was. There are plenty of rumours about what was going on behind the scenes and I certainly feel he has tainted his legacy as a Saint. He was a fantastic servant though and it is difficult to wish any ill towards him. He won the Euros and it changed him. I'm not sure the 'United' he ended up at was the planned destination though.

CC: Do you think Nathan Redman now needs to find consistency to become not only a Southampton but England regular?

GWC:  I do. I was very keen for us to sign him as I had seen his potential at Norwich and Birmingham but it's fair to say he had a slow start. With the formation change of late though he has flourished. I think Puel saw him as a striker but has realised he is a winger/attacking midfielder. He's got the talent and the attitude to go far.

CC: What would you say has been Southampton's best result of the season?

GWC: Beating Liverpool 1-0 home and away in the EFL cup semi finals. We were much better than them and I don't think you'd find a scouser who would argue that. We beat them tactically, technically and comprehensively.

CC: It could be a bit of a southern Premier League next year, if Palace and Bournemouth avoid relegation and Brighton and Reading are promoted. Do you see the lack of derby games for Southampton as a help, or a hinderance when there are so many Premier League clubs with big rivalries?

GWC:  I see it as a help. Derby games are great, but unpredictable so they present an opportunity to lose points against the grain. In League One and the Championship the rivalry with Brighton was a lot fiercer than it ever has been with you, so it will be interesting to see if that is revisited. I don't count Reading.

CC: Were you worried at all at the end of January when Swansea City beat the Saints that you could be dragged into the relegation battle?

GWC:  Arrogantly, no. We've been inconsistent but we are a top 10 squad. There are some really poor sides in the bottom half (I'm not sure there has ever been worse).

CC: Jay Rodriguez destroyed the Cherries last time the teams met in December, so would you expect him to get the vote to start over Shane Long or Charlie Austin if Gabbiadini remains injured?

GWC:  I think Long will start, mainly because he has more football of late. It's a big blow to us if Gabbiadini hasn't recovered [Ed- Puel confirmed yesterday that Gabbiadni was out for this game] but other players need to take their chance when they get the opportunity. Rodriguez was great in Bournemouth, but it's not a regular occurrence these days. It's a huge shame because he was fantastic before his big injury.

CC: What do you make of AFC Bournemouth's second season in the Premier League and have you been impressed by any of the Bournemouth players?

GWC:  I thought you'd go down this season, but you look comfortable again. On paper your squad looks poor but it's perhaps credit to Eddie Howe that you continue to surpass expectations (mine at least). I'm a big fan of Wilson and King.

CC: I'd better ask you for a score prediction? 

GWC: 2-1 if Gabbiadini plays. 1-1 if he doesn't. [Ed- Well, he doesn't]

CC: Thanks to Chris at George Weah's Cousin. I like the way Chris may have changed his opinion about AFCB in that the Cherries now look more like on of the comfortable teams that are likely to stay up. I still want to see a few more points though before I can say that with confidence. The inconsistent form of the Saints gives me sum hope that the Cherries might get something on Saturday but having had the international break form is virtually thrown out of the window. Southampton have found another manager that can get results though and get to a cup final. I still hope for the day when AFCB might grace Wembley in this century. Such memories of Wembley for Southampton fans will stay with them and it's good to see a good few Southern teams doing well this season.

Don't forget to check out the Rivals at George Weah's Cousin 

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