Southampton v West Ham United

What better way to spend a wet and windy Friday night than in the company of Preview Percy? Well how long have you got? Here's his look at the trip to Southampton. Anything sensible in there is likely to have been supplied by

Next up it's Southampton away. Kick-off at the "Not the Dell" is 3pm on a Saturday. Huzzah. No engineering work out of Waterloo on the way down there but getting into London via Liverpool Street may (as usual) be a pain in the proverbial with buses replacing trains between Stratford and Shenfield.

Also, should one be driving, junctions 2-4a of the M3 have roadworks to convert the motorway to a "smart" motorway (as opposed to all those thick ones you drive on). As a regular user of that road it tends to move ok in the mornings but there is a 50mph speed limit over the stretch which you may wish to factor into your timetable if not sticking to 70mph on motorways forms part of your usual itinerary.The Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered's Happy bus doesn't go that fast anyway so apologies if you get stuck behind us.

So Southampton then. Curate's egg of a season so far. Form over the Christmas period was a bit iffy with defeats to Spurs and West Brom at home (1-4 and 1-2 respectively) and Burnley away (1-0) saw a few rumblings amongst the support aimed at manager Puel. However, In amongst all that there were three Cup victories all by 1-0. The third round replay (after a 2-2 draw)win over Norwich in the third round of THE Cup (to give it its proper name) was followed by two slightly more significant wins at home and away to the Scousers in the League Cup Semi-Final which saw them through to a Wembley Final at the end of the month against Moan Utd. They also took Leicester apart 3-0 at home. Incidentally, is anyone else getting ever so slightly fed up with football's punditry pool all scratching their heads asking "what's gone wrong with Leicester"? As if this season was something of a surprise rather than a return to the norm. They've been rumbled. It's not rocket science is it?!

Despite the Leicester win, the 2-1 defeat to Swansea the other night means that they have now lost six out of their last seven in the league, form which leaves them in 12th spot at the mo, a point and a place behind our good selves.

Where were we. Oh yes Southampton. Rumblings. Yeah Puel was getting some stick over their league form but the trip to Wembley might just have bought him some time, though sticking the kids out at the weekend for the visit of the Arsenal was hardly likely to improve the mood amongst that part of the crowd who aren't happy - the 5-0 defeat providing ample ammo for anyone who enjoys using the phrase "I told you so". The changes in that match were made in anticipation of that trip to Wales so that all worked out ok, didn't it.

Off the pitch they have become the latest club to be linked with Chinese ownership, in this case a property company are the proposed buyers. I will admit that my initial attempt to look up news on this particular issue fell foul of autocorrect, giving me a long list of Chinese takeAWAY establishments rather than information on a takeOVER. However, following a quick recap, I learned that: a) the club is slightly miffed with the proposed purchasors for announcing to the Chinese Stock Exchange that an agreement in principle has been reached over the sale of the club; b) the current owners want ?270m for the club as opposed to the ?180m actually offered; and c) The Kachina restaurant on Shirley High Street apparently does a fine Mongolian Lamb dish.Those of you who like to play "buzzword bingo" will have not been disappointed when a club spokesman was quoted as saying that any deal will only be completed "if it's in the best interests of Southampton Football Club".

On the pitch their first XI for much of the season included the name of Fonte. Fonte was looking for a contract extension for a couple of years. Southampton consulted their famous "black box" database thingy and, in true Little Britain stylie, looked up from their desk and responded "computer says no". They did apparently suggest a one-year deal that would have kept the microchips happy but Fonte elected to pass on that one With his contract up at the end of this season and us needing a centre half (as I still call them) he moved. It all sounded all grown-up and amicable but I don't expect that will stop some of the locals from expressing a somewhat different opinion on Saturday, such is the modern way.

They were one of the more active top-flight clubs during the recent window. Not that that would have been difficult admittedly. They bought one and borrowed one. The work experience girl wearing a Jadis tour t-shirt without knowing who they are informs me that ?14m was the fee paid to Napoli for striker/winger Manolo Gabbiadini. Gabbiadini is apparently no relation to Marco Gabbiadini who, until yesterday, if you're honest, was probably the only other footballer with that surname you had ever heard of. He is, however, the younger brother of Meliana who is a regular in the Italian women's team (85 caps) and, I kid you not, is a qualified tattoo designer. Her kid brother has also been honoured at full international level but it's been nearly two years since he gained the last of his six caps for the Azzuri scoring just the one goal in the process. Irrespective of how good he eventually turns out to be it will be interesting to see how such transfers will go in the future once Brexit becomes a fact for the whole country and not just Arsenal every February. If the same work permit criteria were to apply as those currently in force for non EEA nationals, with Italy currently ranked 16th in the world he would have had to have played in 45% or more of their international matches over the past two years. On the same criteria we'd never have seen Paolo DiCanio at all and Payet probably wouldn't have qualified at first when he signed for us. If you're planning a Civil Service career the football work permit section of the DWP is probably going to be quite busy in the coming years.

The loan signing was a 'keeper in the form of Mouez Hassen. The 21 year-old has been capped at every level by France up to and including U21 though he hasn't bothered the full international squad yet. He comes in having worked with Puel at Nice in the past, though prior to his loan move he hadn't made a first XI appearance for the "Biscuitmen" as Nice ought to be called but aren't. He's seen probably more as a backup for Fraser Forster, who is the usual preferred choice 'twixt the sticks.

Top scorer Charlie Austin is out until April thanks to a shoulder injury. His usual replacement would be one of Long or Rodriguez. It may be a misconception on my part but whenever I see him on the box it seems that Long scores shortly after being brought on as a sub. I believe that the modern vernacular refers to such players as "impact substitutes", presumably so-called to distinguish them from all those subs you throw on the pitch in the hope that they have no influence on the game whatsoever. He did start against Swansea the other night and was on target so maybe I do him an injustice. The other option up front could be Jay Rodriguez, who missed out on the midweek overseas trip with an ankle problem and is listed as being a "slight doubt".

Before I move onto us the work experience girl wearing the Jadis tour t-shirt without knowing who they are has just dropped a piece of "breaking news" on my desk to the effect that defender Virgil Van Dijk will now definitely be out, his status having been downgraded from "major doubt" on the usual websites. His ankle problem is now a matter of months rather than days or weeks from being resolved and he will as a result also miss the League Cup final.

Us? Well to nick an old phrase Wednesday was like deja-vu all over again. Outplayed by a team for whom Silva's walk from centre circle to touchline when being subbed probably represented the furthest one of their players had gone without diving. Again we looked terrified of putting in a tackle and, as evidenced by the yellow issued to Obiang for a tackle that was all ball and no player, we had good reason to be. In the end Obiang was sensibly withdrawn to ensure future availability but it's come to something when you have to withdraw players because of the likelihood of an opponent faking injury to get you sent off. It seems that the clutching of the face is "in" at Man City at present judging from the number of times it took place. It's about time pundits stopped talking about "making the most of contact" and started calling it cheating. Of course I suppose if you source your pundits from the shallow gene pool that is Liverpool that's unlikely, but one can dream. Meanwhile if the authorities are really determined to stamp out "simulation" a points deduction for clubs with serial offenders would be the way to go. Missing out on the Thursday Night League spot they seem so keen on going for would certainly concentrate the mind of one or two players.
There doesn't appear to be any additions to the injury list and the squad will be bolstered by the return of Kouyate who has remembered to come back from the African Cuppasoup this time around.

Prediction? Well the loss of both Fonte and Van Dijk may be something that Andy Carroll might be looking forward to but, on the other hand, Wednesday night won't have done the confidence any good. So a point apiece I reckon. The traditional ?2.50 that I was going to spend on some lettuce will therefore be handed over to the young lady at Winstone's The Turf Accountants for a wager on a 1-1 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At St Mary's: Lost 0-1 (Premier League February 2016). Enner Valencia inadvertently set up Yoshida early in the first half. Despite enjoying 80% possession in the second half and a man advantage following Wanmaya's nasty potential leg-breaker on Payet, we couldn't break them down, though it might have been a different story had so-called "best referee in the world" Mark Clattenburg (honest!) not been the only one to consider Yoshida's trip on Valencia to have not been a penalty.

Referee: Graham Scott. Don't recall ever having had the pleasure. Is it too much to hope for that a referee might be honest & competent? We'll see......

Danger Man: Shane Long. Scorer of regular and vital goals. Irritating player to mark as he is a master of the niggle.

Percy's Poser: Last time out we asked you "how many times has Vincent Kompany been absent through injury since signing for Man City in 2008. The correct answer (all figures correct at time of broadcast) was 35. Congratulations to Mrs Winnifred Palermo-Haemorrhoid of Pitsea for being the first person out of the digital hat with the correct answer.

For this week's poser we ask you: Why is Southampton to blame for the fact that fish fingers are so bland and tasteless? The first correct answer out of the digital hat will win a discount supermarket packet of "fish" fingers (actual contents of breadcrumb casing to be confirmed).

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