Southampton Review: Alexis Rifles In For The Great Escape

Southampton 0 – 2 Arsenal

The rev counter increases as the eyes stare intently toward the horizon. Daunting but not impossible; the razor wire presents a formidable barrier to freedom. The fingers release their hold and the engine roars into life.

We all know Steve McQueen ended up tangled in the wire. Arsène believes he will make the successful leap to freedom, to the top four and the Champions League. Three points at a ground where we have a wretched record reinforces that belief.

Pull off a repeat victory at Stoke this weekend and Wenger may have a point. Particularly if Liverpool continue to go all ‘Spursy’ or Manchester City join them in that quirky behaviour.

It’s happened before so there is no reason to think it won’t happen again. However, it’s not much of a ‘plan’; there are a few self-evident flaws.

After the game, Arsène praised the team:

“I felt that you should look at the performances. You couldn’t be disappointed from the goalkeeper to Danny Welbeck, everybody played well.”

The biggest question seems to be ‘why?’ on so many levels. To some extent there’s no point in asking; we rarely find the answers, or at least the full answer.

Alexis, to the disgust of his detractors, proved the decisive factor; after Mustafi and Cech stepped in to fill defensive breaches.

The Chilean’s footballing stats were good. That’s all you need to know about any player. Football – or Arsenal, in particular – is suffering from a welter of over-analysis at present. Not for the right reasons either; Alexis suffers from not being Arsène Wenger’s favourite player.

Which may well be true, but if he isn’t Wenger’s favourite, he ought to be because he is very much digging the Frenchman out of a hole.

Go And Make A Change

The finish was exquisite, throwing more dummies than at a four-year-old’s birthday party. Arsène enthused about the goal which saves his bacon, or at least one of them:

“I think the goal that he has scored tonight showed what he is about.

“Very good technique in a short space, he scores important goals. And with very short technique he has invention in his head.

“He’s creative because he’s not fazed by anything and he’s surprised everybody in the stadium tonight by what he did.

“They expected him to take a shot and he is very quick, so overall he has done extremely well.”

This is the same Chilean who doesn’t work hard enough. Are being the club’s best finisher and working hard mutually exclusive? Of course not, and Alexis is an infuriating player with the way he cedes possession too readily at times.

But he is also worth £300k per week to Arsenal – and Arsène by extension. Just get the deal done, financially. Whoever is manager next season – and there’s a suggestion or thirty that isn’t quite as clear cut as it was previously – needs to find plausible and convincing reasons for the player to stay.

Of the two goals, I found the second more pleasing. Alexis’ was a moment of individual brilliance, the second more of a team effort with the maligned striking a chord for their survival at the club. Certainly Olivier Giroud in that sense.

Personally, I think he is slipping down the ranks with a new striker needed which pushes Danny Welbeck to Plan B or C, with Giroud down to D in those circumstances. His header, as ever, was well-taken but made by Aaron Ramsey’s equally well-executed header across the goal.

Waiting For The Day

The Welshman floated the ball over the defenders and into Giroud’s path, which is impressive technique. It won’t rescue him from savaging any time soon but underlines his value to the side when he has the freedom to attack. Find the right formation and midfield partner and the player we thought we were signing – the player he had before Shawcross – emerges.

Did I mention Alexis’ involvement in the goal…

It was a night of positives, with a black cloud. Every silver lining has one and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hamstring twang was a thunderstorm sized one. Hector Bellerin will no doubt step into the breach and has the weapons in his armoury to be an effective replacement. Stoke will test him, that’s for sure.

More will become later this week about the extent of Ox’s injury but for the minute, savouring a rare win on the south coast is enough.

Anyway, that’s your lot for today.

’til Tomorrow.

47 thoughts on “Southampton Review: Alexis Rifles In For The Great Escape

  1. This result shows if the players want it they will deliver. Which begs the question ‘where has that desire been recently?’

    Adding to that Wenger is a lucky manager. Where’s that lasagne recipe?

  2. ….good morning all

    For as brilliant as Sanchez’s goal was, the touch pass by Ozil was equally as brilliant.

  3. Yogi – you could almost hear the Southampton defenders saying to themselves: “Alexis won’t shoot with his left foot, Alexis won’t shoot with his left foot … Oh, shit….”

  4. Morning all.
    A great post Yogi. (Thought I’d try and get in first today for a change !).
    I hope everyone will heed your advice and savour the rare win at So’ton. 😉

  5. I also thought that Xhaka played well and I guess I am in the minority but Ramsey bombing forward and neglecting his defensive duties or just running around not being effective, for me doesn’t constitue him having a good match. I thought he was actually quite poor until he got the assist to Giroud.

    Also, Giroud:
    9 starts: 3 goals
    18 subs: 7 goals

    He is a good impact player off the bench with easy tap-ins.

  6. Yesterday was a very good sports day for me:

    Arsenal win….CHECK
    Penguins win Game 7 and oust the Caps (best team in the regular season)…..CHECK
    Win my playoff game…..CHECK

  7. Thanks, YW. I see the first as just as much a team goal ultimately with the great passes to set up Alexis in the box. It required great individual skill on the finish but the overall beauty comes as well from the build up, namely the elegance of Ozil’s one touch pass from an incisive through ball. Best of both worlds! On the second, Ramsey has numerous assists in the box with cushioned headers, chests, and so forth. I remember the Ozil right foot finish that Ramsey set up for him a few games ago. Good to see him making things happen.

  8. Xhaka is good when he stays back and us not pressed so he has some time and space to pick a pass. Press him and we are more vulnerable.

  9. Interesting read I must confess.

    Hope Ox’s injury will not be something serious, he’s been vital in our new found form

  10. C,

    Good post YW. I agree with you C about AR. Yes he contributed well to the goal however and there is a caveat his over all attributes that he brings to the team are more negatives than positives.

    There were way to MANY moments when play broke down last night and he was way to far forward. His positional sense and footballing intelligence are questionable. His pursuit of individual glory rather than the team collective team leaves us at times so obviously wide open and legless.

  11. Morning all i might have to eat my words about us missing out on top 4. Bill i can’t believe it you were right all along.

    I was happy with Mustafi he was my man of the match yesterday after so much time out he came back with the same kind of form he had 1st half of the season. Ramsey seems to be flourishing in this system. Sanchez seemed to be playing a little higher up the field aswell where he is capable of doing exactly what he did, yeah he does gives the ball away a lot but he is the only one with the balls to take risks to create chances for himself or his team mates and personally if he is taking risks in the the opponents 3rd of the of the half. Ozil too played better lovely one touch 1st time pass for sanchez.

    Holding can not be dropped now so composed I think talk of him being future arsenal captain is too soon. Praying ox is fit for end of season final.

  12. Ras,

    That’s my thing, I’m not saying he is a shit player; but I do think that his positional sense and doing the things that CM’s do, he bombs forward but doesn’t track back. Its why I think Xhaka had a good game because he was left to defend the midfield essentially by himself.

  13. Afternoon,

    I thought that Ozil had a bit of a shocker in the first half, his passing was abysmal. The NBCSN commentators couldn’t believe how many times he hit a Southampton player when finding an Arsenal player would have been easier. Early in the second half he played a a 5 yard pass out for a throw and it looked like he just wasn’t concentrating. For the last third of the game he seemed to dial himself back in and slipped in some lovely passes, including the ball he slotted through to Alexis for the first goal. Xhaka gets plenty of praise on the BBC website today with 94.4% accuracy on his passing.

    I can’t believe Wenger will actually pull off the top 4 finish, but you could see Liverpool slipping up and maybe getting a draw against West Ham at the weekend. City have got home games against Leicester and West Brom plus an away game against Watford on the final day of the season, so I wouldn’t expect them to drop points. Pulis is good at spoiling parties though.

  14. Sanchez is the first Arsenal player to score 20 league goals in a season since RVP and has 49 in 100 league games. His overall total is about as impressive with 67 goals in 141 appearances. It’s a massive hole to fill if he goes in the summer and I really don’t think Wenger is up to the task.

  15. that was interesting consol basically record revenues, record profits….not reflected on the pitch. we will still make profit even if we miss out on champions league….booyakasha. if sanchez and ozil re-sign then we cant expect any other marquee signings unless we cull other members of the squad. interesting bit about why clubs are running contracts down with players, not just us, because otherwise it’s very difficult to offload those players into europe. we have roughly 90m to spend this summer. stan kroenke for 67% paid 425 million, if sold today at current share price would be worth 200 million profit just like that. and that is why, to me, stan is so utterly ghastly.

  16. For all the talk of Nacho though needing to be put to pasture, I think he has been at his consistent best since his early season struggles. I honestly hope that once Kos is fit Nacho is moved to wingback instead of Gibbs and Nacho also offers so much more both attacking and defensively than Gibbs.

  17. Great review Yogi

    Really nice game. Another clean sheet. No surprise that our defense finally wakes up for the annual end of the season run for the top 4. 2 really nice goals. The second was a nice team goal and ended up with a simple finish. The one touch pass from Ozil for the first goal was nice and the finish from Alexis is a candidate for goal of the season. There are probably not more then a handful of players in Europe who would have scored a goal on that play. Alexis gives the ball away more then he should and he does run hot and cold but the reality is that the way our current squad is constructed he is irreplacable unless we want to spend $100M or more in transfer fees and then the player we buy will be on a huge wage anyway. No way a team can be competitive at the top of the table without goal scoring firepower and he is the only legitimate big team top of the table worthy scorer on our squad. He is in his late 20’s but he is currently having the best season of his career and showing no sign of slowing down. Even with his warts he is certainly worth a wage that is competitive with other big stars in Europe. If we lose him and don’t replace his goals we might struggle to make the Europa League

  18. I know that I could rightfully be accused of being a bad fan and a WOB for saying this but I am not really sure I even want us to make the top 4. If there really is a power struggle going on in the club then those looking to reform our culture will lose whatever momentum they might have and the impetus for change will vanish.

    Its always been amazingly frustrating that we can play so poorly for half of every season but when we need to refocus in order to make the top 4 we can turn things around almost in a heartbeat. Why not concentrate and try to play well for the whole season instead of just 1/2? I speculate a lot but I can’t pretend to understand how our culture has evolved this way, but the fact that it has become a part of who we are as a team is undeniable.

  19. C’s comment at 11:04 demonstrates just how short of legitimate firepower we are after Alexis. Giroud’s record this season in goals/min played is very good but it looks better then it really is. 1 goal in every 3 games as a starter is never going to be enough to be a real difference maker and at best he is a candidate for a long term role as squad player and impact sub. However, even with that the reality is that Giroud is the second best goal scoring option on the squad. Theo is the only other possibility but he has been around for 11 years now and never been able to stay healthy and in form long enough to score more then 11 league goals in a season. We really need some major investment this summer.

  20. Bill,

    I feel quite the same Bill. Sad state when you don’t want the Arsenal to do as well as possible, but I think 4th would be more of a disaster for the fans than ever. The 4th place trophy is simply a corporate cup

  21. Completely agree. Nacho is far more dynamic than Gibbs.

    C:
    For all the talk of Nacho though needing to be put to pasture, I think he has been at his consistent best since his early season struggles. I honestly hope that once Kos is fit Nacho is moved to wingback instead of Gibbs and Nacho also offers so much more both attacking and defensively than Gibbs.

  22. Bill,

    To be fair to Theo who I know isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, I don’t really understand why he was dropped this season. Yea he went through a bit of a bad patch of 4 matches (started 2 came on as a sub for 2) but since then he went 5 out of 8 matches scoring a goal and then got dropped for Giroud who wasn’t in any form at that point. I know he isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but he is more likely to score than GIroud especially if we move Sanchez to CF and put Theo on the wing. Before you say well just leave Sanchez on teh flanks and bring on Giroud, its still 2 goal scorers.

  23. C,

    I agree about theo surely he will get some game time before the season is out, his problem is he is vying with Giroud & Welbeck for just one spot as Wenger wont drop either Sanchez or Ozil for him and no way can you play him right wing back.

    In all honesty I see Walcott going this summer along with Wilshere & Mert especially if we get a “proper number 9”.

  24. Wavey,

    Twenty league goals eh? Not bad for a lazy, greedy, selfish bastard 😜 I guess he is back in the fold for now but I’m sure that as soon as it looks like he’s off in the summer we’ll hear that he was actually rubbish and was holding the team back….

    Damon,

    Agreed. Can’t say that I get excited about our CL exploits anyway so I wouldn’t miss it. I’m sure that qualifying will rubber stamp his new contract though and we’ll see that smug smile and tales of how we have great character and don’t actually need a new striker etc, etc…

  25. silvergunner,

    I agree and it is strange that Theo seems to be vying for a spot with Welbeck and Giroud when in reality those 2 should be vying for a spot with Sanchez.

    I do agree though, I could see quite a number of players leaving this summer including the ones you mentioned and one of Welbeck or Giroud if we do by some miracle (should Arsene still be manager) get a goal scoring CF

  26. C:

    you will always try to be fair and look for the bright side when Theo is part of the discussion. 😉 The main point was not to compare Giroud and Theo’s ability to influence the game but to suggest that neither of them are good enough to be the second best scoring option on a team whose objective is to challenge for PL titles and go deep in the CL

    If you really want to make an attempt to be fair then you have to judge Ramsey in a similar of less even less demanding standard then Ozil. The reality was that each made one nice pass but did not have any real positive influence for the rest of the game. In truth, neither have been impact players for most of the last 18 months which is a big concern if we are counting on both of them being significant parts of our squad in the coming years.

  27. C

    If the objective is to be fair I think we have to accept that Giroud and Theo both run hot and cold. When either of them is healthy and in best form they are very good. The problem is neither can be counted on for more then short runs of good form and/or in Theo’s case good health. I think that is why neither of them is adequate for what the team needs throughout a full season.

  28. On a side note anyone watched “the Szczesny show” with Radja Nainggolan rather amusing and Radja drops the arsenal bombshell which Schezny has to quickly rebuff. I would love Schezny back and he could bring Radja with him. God knows we need more midfielders with real steel.

  29. Both Ramsey and especially Ox have done better with the new roles they have been given with the switch to a back 3 which is a reason for some optimism because we know both of them have more then enough “talent” to be important players for Arsenal. On the negative side is both tend to pull muscles and have other issues that limit their availability.

  30. I agree with Silver we need a real #9. Giroud is really good when he is hot but he is the most incredibly inconsistent player I have ever seen. Theo was good early this season but that was really a surprise because he was arguably the worst player in the whole squad for all of last season and we certainly can’t count of having the good Theo. Danny Welbeck is a nice player but he has only scored 2 league goals in 700 minutes this season which probably matches his career norm and that is no where near good enough.

  31. Ramsay and Ozil cannot play in the same team otherwise you have a midfield area inhabited by one player for most of the game which is exploited every time with those teams with either basic the ammunition or the tactical set up to do so.
    We must not forget that Utd played a second team and are interested in the Europa league and Southampton are basically on holiday.

  32. Bill,

    I agree that neither Giroud nor Theo should be the 2nd best goal scorer at your club if your fighting for a title.

    I will continue to disagree with you about Ozil not being impactful for the last 18 months. At the start of season same as Sanchez (though in their own style and games) they drove us and carried us and yea Ozil didn’t have the assist numbers but he was showing a much more complete style which is hilarious because it what everybody said they wanted from him but when his assist dropped and his goals increased he is viewed as not being impactful; that doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t judge Ramsey and Ozil’s impact because they play 2 different positions and are being asked to do different things. Ramsey is seen and plays that box-to-box role were he is supposed to not only help defensively but attacking wise as well and to be honest, when you go 24 straight PL matches without a goal playing as much and frequently as and has been given license publicly by his manager to bomb forward with no other responsibilities then, yes I can be harsh on him because he is getting into positions but not finishing (he had 2 chances inside the box were he missed both wide).

  33. Bill,

    I can see that. Its funny, Theo has only had 2 runs (one 5 matches where started 3 and used as a sub 2; and the other 4 where he started 2 and was used as a sub 2) of really inconsistent play but if your asking your winger to be in double digits than Theo is doing exactly what we needed from him or no? You can’t compare Giroud and Theo because one is a winger and the other a CF.

  34. Ok… I was wrong… Although Soton looked tired and we did feck all in the first half we can only beat what’s in front of us.🤗

    CL debate… personally I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to qualify if we want change but on the flip side I hate losing so I suppose I could take it or leave it…

    CF Debate: OK I might be a bit controversial here but I feel who AW selects we always seem to play the opposite of their strengths. For example Giroud needs balls from the flanks but we decide to play through him and expect him to keep up with the pace. Welbz and Theo need through balls to run onto but no… we play of the flanks with the moaning Chilean alternating with the CF which pushes them out wide to cross the ball to him…

    Last night was a prime example… Welbz was so isolated that he got deeper and deeper and basically ran all over the place in the hope that someone passed him the ball whereas he should be on the last defender ready to spin behind… but if there is no supply what is the point especially when you have a break on and you pass left to right?

    So I believe we have half decent strikers but typical wenger tries to confuse the opposition as well as our own.

    Did anyone else notice that AW stood up a lot yesterday, well when we was winning?

  35. C,

    Yep like You C I am not saying he is a shite player. With him and Ozil in the team at the same time one is a “luxury”. Against better teams he’s sadly akin to a headless chicken running around but ultimately neither here nor there. Against better teams that press both He and Xhakia are not competent with ball at feet in tight space. In fact both then tend to cough the ball up or in US parlance a turn over

    In fact the turning arc of Xhakia as he relies so heavily on his left foot is embarrassing.

  36. C

    For what its worth, the one thing you have to consider is that Theo had the good fortune to get most of his minutes when the team was playing at it best form in Sept/Oct. Giroud and Welbeck have had the bad fortune to have played almost all of their minutes when the team was at its worst. Even Iwobe at LW looked like a great idea in Sept because we know from past experience how the rising tide raises all ships. Danny Welbeck scoring record probably would not look quite as anemic if he had been starting instead of Theo during our good run.

  37. off topic but it could be worse, mourinho could be the manager, man utd are utter garbage, celta vigo should have got themselves into the final they’ve got about eight minutes to try and knock them out

  38. If we finish outside top 4 and AW stays with no willingness to work in a new structure, how would the movement for reform be aided? Perhaps AW is just talking tough, but it didn’t sound to me like he would countenance any major changes that altered his control over all football related matters. Perhaps you could argue that failure to achieve top 4 would allow board/Gazidis to require some substantive concessions to modernize the club and prepare better for a transition to post AW future I need a couple years. That seems pretty thin gruel to me. The key really is for the club to be decisive and brace enough to make a big change. I don’t see those attributes at the moment.

  39. Bill,

    Another thing you have to consider, the team played their best football because Walcott was in the side and scoring.

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