Southampton Preview: Using Saints to Exorcise our Demons

When your team isn’t doing well, finding solace in others misfortune is the default mode of a football supporter. I don’t celebrate Manchester United’s win yesterday, more find it amusing that City blew the title party. Spectacularly. As someone on Twitter said yesterday, City went from Arsenal 2004 to Arsenal 2018 in the space of 20 minutes.

Another wag noted that City are behind Arsenal 2004 and 1991 now in the list of ‘greats’ although obviously, the 1991 squad is just a figment of our imagination as we know football didn’t exist before 1992. As an exercise in mass psychosis, the shadowy figures which run the world scored a big hit with that one. Get your tin foil hats here…

I’m not the only one enjoying the hiccup on City’s title parade. It’s inevitable they will be crowned champions at the end of the season, so any frailty is good to see. That isn’t to lose sight of the bigger picture, i.e. how bloody terrible we are, but it does provide a wayward distraction.

We’ll get an idea of our problems with today’s line-up. Dave’s Alumina-esque injury means who plays in goal is Wenger’s first decision. Probably not Petr Cech is the answer. While a hamstring can twang at any point, is it worth risking him today with a more important match on Thursday? No.

Laurent Koscielny will drop out, but should we rest Shkodran Mustafi as well? Or is the thinking that the German will play himself into understanding defending, a bit like running off an injury? We’re going to need a bigger roll of cotton wool because I can make a case for Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette not playing. We need cotton wool for Jack anyway so there’s nothing new as far as he’s concerned.

Do We Have the Squad Depth to Rotate the XI Heavily?

That’s a bloody good question.

The reality is that the league position doesn’t mean a great deal anymore. Sixth is already in the Europa League third qualifying round and seventh will most likely join them with Southampton the only team left in the FA Cup who can stop that. And very unlikely to, I have to say.

Would that ruin the Tiny Tots season if they won the FA Cup knowing they kept us in European competition by doing so? How low has our season sunk that I can find humour in something so repugnant?

We know from bad experience and watching yesterday’s matches unfold the impact that heavy rotation of the side can have. Our form is just picking up – as far as being flat-track bullies is concerned – and there’s a momentum building that you don’t want disturbing, particularly in front of goal.

Defensively, we’re always going to be ‘hit or miss’ under Wenger. Zonal marking is the last refuge of the attack-minded coach and that’s not going to change. He hasn’t had an epiphany nor is he swayed by the presence of the axe hanging over his head. Wenger is too long in the tooth to change; his dalliance with 3 – 4 – 3 is evidence of that.

All we’re left with is hope. Hope something clicks defensively so the brain farts which caused CSKA’s goal don’t happen again. Who am I kidding? Happen too often.

Southampton need the points so will welcome anything which induces a lacklustre performance from us. I’m not expecting a particularly adventurous performance from them; far from it. They don’t have the players to descend into Hughes’ trademark thuggery so will rely on our generosity to get them out of jail.

XI or Not XI? That is the Question

All of which leaves us with the XI I’d choose and the one Arsène will play. There’s usually a gap between the two, I know.

Macey; Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Mustafi, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka; Iwobi, Özil, Willock; Aubameyang

Generally, that means the whole of the first team playing with a couple of changes:

Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Monreal; Elneny, Xhaka; Ramsey, Özil, Iwobi; Aubameyang

Four days recovery time and you can’t wrap everyone up in cotton wool, can you…?

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

78 thoughts on “Southampton Preview: Using Saints to Exorcise our Demons

  1. Good stuff.

    I do think we have squad depth in certain areas. Play Elneny and Iwobi(who needs match time) we also have Chambers and Sead for Kos and Nacho. Macey for Cech and were all good.

    Funny to think that people kill Ozil for getting sick in the winter for 2 weeks but since his return I think he has started in every match. Bellerin literally has no back up and of Im not mistaken has played every min of evefy PL match this season.

  2. Team news is in:

    Cech
    Bellerin—Mustafi—-Chambers—Sead
    ——–Xhaka—–Elneny—–
    Nelson——Iwobi——Welbeck
    ——–Aubameyang

    Subs: Macey, Holding, Nacho, Jack, Ozil, Lacazette, Nketiah

  3. If Hughes’ latest team win at Emirates, he will have managed five teams that have beaten a Wenger team: previously, Man City, QPR, Blackburn and Stoke which was a record anyway I think. So five will crown it for him. But I think Arsenal will cruise home today. Not that I will be watching.

  4. I think Iwobi has talent but his confidence and passing is absolute shit right now. All he had to do was roll it into the path of Aubameyang and he somehow pass it behind him and way to soft with no pressure on Iwobi at all

  5. Long nabs a goal from nothing, thats shambolic. Mustafi should have went for it but Cech should have claimed that.

    In fairness to Mustafi, Cech started to go for it and then for whatever reason he stopped and casually went back into goal.

  6. Mustafi is too expensive a defender to keep making those errors. At what point does his Germany place come under threat?

  7. Yepp, we go one goal down thanks to clownish defending with Mustafi and Cech in leading roles. Nothing unusual here, keep moving folks. No need to watch this.

    Absolute pants and and we still can’t defend. Though today we have no offense and that might be an issue.

  8. Great post Yogi

    I just saw the line up. This might work because Southampton is terrible, but I guess Arsene does not care that much about our league results. He must feel confident about his position regarding next season. Either that or he thinks the only way to save himself is win Europa league and he is willing to sacrifice the league results.

  9. Matches like this is when Iwobi and Welbeck should be buzzing and infleuncing the match to show Arsene they deserve more match time yet they are doing the exact opposite.

    Its funny watch Xhaka and Elneny pass it and ask for on of the 3 infront of them to come and get it and they simply won’t. Aubameyang is looking for something.

  10. Just disgraceful. Too many changes against a packed defence. Our defence is all over the place yet again. Beyond me how Mustafi can assume Cech is coming for that. A very poor decision from a defender who is crying out for some decent coaching.
    Iwobi is a complete horror story. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, if you cannot deliver a single decent ball in the final third you might as well not be there. Welbeck is clearly taking the view that he can’t do anything good, so he’s doing nothing.

  11. Aubameyang does what Aubameyang does!!!!!!!!!!!

    have to say, that was a brilliant flick from Nelson then Welbeck ans Aubameyang with a deft little touch.

  12. Wavey,

    Watch it, Cech actually starts to go for it and then decides not to at the last. Mustafi should have cleared his lines but Cech either needs to come and get that or not make the attempt and then stop.

  13. Welbeck with a goal and he actually did quite well, bit if a deflection but he did well to drive forward

  14. Fair play to Welbeck for taking responsibility with his goal. I was waiting for him to take the easy inside pass.

  15. Thes last 15 minutes are abysmal. They put att little high pressure on us and we fold☹ .

  16. Well, that was coming. What a piss porr comedy gold defending.

    That’s us, at our worst and Mustafi is there.

  17. We really suck in the league, but to be honest we are playing as a team who has nothing to play for and just making the numbers.

    I honestly thought we will give Southampton the 3 points to help them not get relegated. We might still do that.

  18. I’m sorry but Cech, for being such an experienced GK really doesn’t help out his defenders.

    Welbeck misses AN ABSOLUTE SITTER!!!!!

  19. Cannot believe how poor we have been again in this second half. We seemed to have the momentum at the end of the first half and came out toothless up front and easy to push around yet again. It happens time after time.

  20. Its so weird to think that Welbeck and Iwobi have shown literally everything we hate and love about them in one match. Iwobi capable of creating chances for goals, being direct and smart then unable to connect a pass with no pressure. Welbeck, able to grab a brace, be lively and direct but also capable of missing a sitter from a yard out and unable to really do anything right.

  21. Credit where it’s due. Having been absent from the game for a good slug of the first half, Danny has set up one and scored two today. Well done Welbz.

  22. Xhaka and Elneny have actually played well together. Southampton’s two goals have come from Cech and Mustafi mental lapses and then Jack not tracking his runner.

  23. For being a footballer in a fysical competitive league, Well becks kinda bambiesque on ice like.

  24. And that is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING STUPID BY JACK!!!! He has been shit since coming on and honestly, Jack should have been sent off too.

    Elneny gets sent off for what???????

  25. If Eneny goes there, so do at least two others from each side. Just trying to even it out now. Jack was stupid but the ref does himself no favours by letting too many handbags fly earlier in the game. Just trying to clamp down after he’s already lost control.

  26. Yepp, Elnenys card is nothing. He’s standing up for the team and trying to prevent a goal. More of that please.

  27. I’m sorry but shit like that from Jack is unacceptable and anybody who applauds needs to re-evaluate shit. Jack unnecessarily pulls Stephens back and then after Stephens releases the ball Jack continues to pull him back and then pushes him for no fucking reason.

    It leads to Elneny getting a red card for literally doing nothing.

  28. Woolwich Freddie,

    Honestly mate, that had nothing to do with earlier challenges, Jack played a shit pass which Stephens intercepted and Jack doing something really really fucking stupid when we are trying to see out the match and it literally helped nobody.

  29. 6goals and 1 assists is most by any Arsenal player in their first 7 competitve matches. Looks like money well spent.

  30. C,

    He’s what we’ve needed for a long time, someone who doesn’t have to get caught up in this pass pass pass pass business, just get’s into the box right time and scores.

    looking forward to seeing he and Lacazette play together! Both good finishers and Auba looks comfortable out on wing as he does up top.

    I feel this end of season surge will end up with Wenger deciding to stay his final year. Which worries me, with everyone else set to spend a fortune this summer, spurs moving into stadium etc we need major reinvestment in this team. Too many players don’t make the grade and unfortunately again today far too many misplaced passes from Xhaka.

    Good win, Welbeck did well with his header. But another player i can bare to lose in the summer, 4 goals a season isn’t enough for a forward especially with a team who aim to get back into top 4.

  31. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Agree with you about Aubameyang, I think he and Lacazette are the sort of strikers we have missed. Ozil will create and is brilliant at picking out players going threw in and around the box and both of them are finishers who want to finish not set others up.

    I’m torn because I wonder if Arsenal win the Europa League(like I think we will) would Arsene walk away after finally winning in Europe, part of me says yes.

  32. YW,

    Wonderful epic post YW and so much logic and clear second level thinking in it. First level is easy and invariably never right.

    I like Tony Adams well quoted words “he couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag”.

  33. Very thoughtful piece, YW.

    A timely piece and thought provoking. At least one hopes that it is.

  34. Ha ha ha ha….Elneny sent off for being violent…….Elneny is about as hostile as a nun on Prozac. Joke red.

  35. C,

    I agree Jack was out of order but a lot of little shoves and tugs at least as bad as Elneny’s were ignored (Bellerin was doing a fair bit of shirt-tugging, the Danish lad kept having tantrums, etc).

  36. Went to the game today. I thought Welbeck had his best game in an Arsenal shirt for a long time (possibly ever). Full of energy and drive, two goals and an assist.

    Weirdly watching the short highlights on Sky, Iwobi looked good but he was awful for most of the game.

    I also thought Jack was poor again, I’m beginning to see why people question what he is actually good at. He gets our muscled too easily, has no pace and no longer goes in for tackles. And when his passing is shit like today he really offers little. Compare that to Elneny who wasfully of running, was on the ball all the time and was constantly trying to get the team moving forward.

    Anyway I a wins a win and hopefully sets up us nicely for Thursday.

  37. Woolwich Freddie,

    There were challenges and little tugs all match but Jack’s frustration seemed to come from a horrid performance and another stray pass(when a simple pass gets us clean through on goal) and then pulls back Stephens for about 20 yards and then pushes him at the end of it which then cause Stephens to react. Elneny getting sent off is a complete and utter joke and Bellerin and Tadic were going at it all match.

    Sure there were little pullbacks and what not but Jack went over the top.

  38. Not the kind of match Jack should have featured. AMN would have been the better sub, but that’s hindsight. Iwobi needs discipline and tutelage, or else he would soon be the new Ox. Notice how we could not play out of our own half leading to the second Southampton goal. It was evidence of our midfield lacking the ability to exert the correct influence on the game. The pressure piled, aided by stray passes and inability to guard/shield the ball and pass to the next player. Jack, Elneny, Xhaka, and Iwobi should never be first team players for a club with ambition.

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