Southampton v West Ham United

We can't help but feel that Preview Percy's "upper respiratory tract infection" will carry on for just as long as people keep mentioning the words "medicinal brandy".

Anyway, in between bouts of self-medication he found time to take a look at this weekend's visit to Southampton...

Next up we venture down the M3 in the direction of St Mary's where Southampton will be our hosts. Kick-off on Saturday is an annoying 5:30pm. No engineering works on the way down but at the time of writing there will be industrial (in)action on South Western Railway.

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The late kick-off will give you plenty of time to get down there but post-match you realistically have the choice of two trains. If there isn't much in the way of stoppage time and you are reasonably fleet of foot you may get the 19:56. After that it's a two hour wait for the 22:00 which is your last train home - something you may want to take into account if you fancy just one more pint for the road.

So Southampton then. They have been responsible for what was without a doubt the worst performance in the Premier League this season. Which is saying something given that some of ours have stunk the place out.

However, nothing was quite as toe-curlingly dreadful as that 9-0 home capitulation to Leicester. I know Leicester are going great guns at the moment but that day they barely had to break sweat - indeed had it not been chucking it down raining the Foxes could have dropped their kit in the bag and not bothered the laundry team until after the next match.

Their results have perked up a wee bit over the past few weeks, though closer inspection suggests that this might have been expected. A 2-2 draw at the Library was followed up with a brace of 2-1 home wins, though given that these were gained at the expense of Watford and Norwich respectively these might have been as expected.

Their visit to the North East against a recently resurgent Newcastle Utd took the sheen off the previous two weeks, ending as it did in a 2-1 reverse. All of this has left them in 18th place, two places and a point behind us, their goal difference also being inferior to ours.

Daisy, the personal assistant with the beautiful smile, tells me they didn't go mad during the summer. Although the official listings say that three first teamers arrived on permanent deals, closer inspection reveals this to actually be just the two. The discrepancy is accounted for by the fact that the third player was Danny Ings, whose loan from Liverpool at the end of last season was made permanent this summer.

Ings, who always looks like he is playing with a large chunk of his surname missing, is actually their top scorer this season with 11 goals in all competitions; nine of those coming in the league. It's taken Ings a few years to end up at his boyhood club who rejected him as a kid for being too short. I don't suppose they are too worried about his height these days.

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Ings's form has meant less of a look-in for the oddly named Che Adams, who arrived from Birmingham on a five-year deal for a fee believed to be in the region of ?15m. Adams was much sought after at the end of last season having stuck away 22 goals in the Championship for the Blues. In the league he has started six and has five sub appearances this season. He has failed to trouble the "goals" column of the stattos' wall charts to date however.

More successful in the goals for column has been Malian international Moussa Djenepo, a ?14m arrival from Standard Liege - a club you don't hear much of these days. Djenepo was on target in their wins over Brighton and Sheffield United back in September. He's been a bit in and out of the side this season though - four of his nine league appearances gave been from the racing car seats.

They did bring in a loan player in the form of Austrian international Kevin Danso, who has an interesting back story. Born in Austria to Ghanaian parents his family found all that beautiful mountain scenery just that bit too overwhelming and, with Kevin at the tender age of six, elected to up sticks to the slightly-less-known-for-its-outstanding-natural-beauty environs of Milton Keynes. As you do.

He joined the Dons' youth set up at Under 9 level and remained with the club until his 16th birthday, whereupon a hankering for alpine scenery saw him end up at Augsburg, a town which I am reliably informed boasts a number of tourist attractions, though let's face it, just the one would immediately place it miles above Milton Keynes in any meaningful list. A full Austrian cap he was the youngest player to make a league appearance for Augsburg. Still only 21 he's on a season loan with an option to buy.

On the injury front they will be without right back Yan Valery who has a viral infection which, presumably, the medical team won't let him treat with a medicinal tot or two. It's tough being a professional footballer sometimes I guess. Sofiane Boufal has a 50-50 chance of being available after his comedy toe injury - his kitchen table received a yellow card for that nasty tackle and he still requires painkilling jabs to get through a game. Elsewhere, they are hopeful that Stuart Armstrong will have recovered from his tight hamstring.

Meanwhile, in the wild and wacky world of Association Football congratulations to the Premier League who have managed to hold onto a chief executive now for, ooh two weeks now. You may recall the previous incumbent resigned before he managed to find his way to the office having been caught bombarding a woman young enough to be his granddaughter with text messages.

This came after the second choice for the role changed her mind after the first choice turned down the offer. So welcome Richard Masters - let's hope you are more honest than your namesake Scudamore was in the job. Meanwhile, I reckon the Baroness should throw her tiara into the ring next time the role comes up for grabs. I have no idea whether she would be any good at the job but at least it will get her out of our hair.

Meanwhile, my prediction that the, er, individual caught "apparently" (thanks lawyers) making monkey noises in the Salford v Manchester derby would have some sort of ludicrous explanation for his actions proved remarkably accurate "I was shaking my arms to keep warm" was pretty close to "it was me putting my hands in my pants". Maybe I should have stuck the traditional ?2.50 on that instead. I still think he would have sounded more convincing had he claimed he was dancing to Wham! mind. One looks forward to the day in court.

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Us? Oh dear. Again. We somehow managed to lose against the worst team I have seen all season - including us. Yet again, a goal against us saw us fold like an origami black belt. The equaliser was so against the run of play it was unbelievable but such is the fragile state of our team one goal would always be enough to see us collapse. Ans so it proved.

Part of the problem is an almost total lack of confidence. We got into good positions on a number of occasions in the early stages of the second half but nobody wanted to pull the trigger. The final ball was invariably delayed and as I remarked to the bloke next to me the failure to take chances was always likely to prove costly. Especially against a team whose main tactic seemed to comprise falling to the floor for lengthy treatment at every opportunity lest their opponents get up a head of steam. 12 minutes of stoppage tells its own story.

So we move on. It'll be the same squad this weekend. I suspect my earlier prediction that the spare week on the 21st will be used as part of Lukasz Fabianski's rehab will prove to be true. Aaron Cresswell ought to be ok - the space given on that left-hand side by Arthur Masuaku when he went off was a major factor in our downfall. Andriy Yarmolenko faces a late fitness test while the usual suspects of Jack Wilshere and Manu Lanzini will be absent whilst Winston Reid continues to build up his fitness.

So, with a suitably heavy heart, I move on to the prediction. Monday night was so depressing - indeed even pre-match for the first time in over 50 years I considered not going. I went of course, mainly because I am daft. I shall go on Saturday for the same reason but I don't expect I will see any more fight or intelligence than I saw on Monday.

Southampton are no great shakes and ought to be there for the taking but unless there is a complete change in mindset and attitude I foresee another dispiriting trip home. Much as I dislike doing so I will be putting the ?2.50 I saved by not bothering to place a wager on the election on a home win. Mr Winstone put me down for 3-1 to them when your turf accountancy premises open in the morning please.

Enjoy the game! Oh and since this is the last one before Christmas they tell me that I have to wish you all a Merry Christmas, which I will begrudgingly do only on the proviso that they tell me where they have hidden the damned brandy...

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When last we met at St Marys: Won 2-1 Premier League December 2018.

A team that, thanks to injury, was down to the bare bones to the extent that only 6 subs were named went out and put in a decent shift. The opener from the home side was against the run of play but a brace from Anderson gave us an unexpected but deserved victory.

Referee: Martin Atkinson


Danger Man: James Ward-Prowse

It was a toss-up between him and Ings. Ings is top scorer but Ward-Prowse is a danger from set pieces and we do seem to give an awful lot of them away.

Percy's Poser:

Last week we plundered the depths of the Islington Gazette from 60 years ago which gave us the following headline:

"Islington man arrested for having 800 stolen XXXXXXX XXXXXX stuffed in his jeans pocket"

Well done to Mrs Hildegard Sputum-Sample of Corringham who correctly identified the missing loot as being postage stamps.

This week we look at the Southampton Daily Echo. Let's face it no local paper would be complete at this time of year without a "Christmas Is Ruined" story So take a stab at the missing words from the following then:

"'It's ruining our Christmas'. 2,000 Southampton homes banned from XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX"

Good luck, everyone!

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