Southampton Review: Comedy Defending So Next Goal Wins

Arsenal 3 – 2 Southampton

Three points are three points. In the context of this season, it’s the only way you can look at any Premier League fixture. We’re beyond wondering where we’ll finish or to an extent, even caring whether it’s sixth or seventh. Neither makes a difference beyond prize money; we’re in the third qualifying round of next season’s Europa League either way.

Indeed, if United’s experience last season is anything to go by, seventh place here we come.

Arsène has one advantage over Jose; when it comes to putting a tutu and lipstick on a pig of a season, Wenger is an expert.

Not that he can expect help from some of his squad. This match definitely falls into the ‘got away with it’ category. Post-match, he hinted that he didn’t need to strengthen his forward line, which having spent over £100m on two strikers this season ought to be a no-brainer.

It comes as a relief since we need to invest heavily in defence. Shkodran Mustafi flicks a switch in his head and goes from a decent central defender to park footballer instantly, sometimes in the same match. Yesterday, he pressed the big red button – the one marked “DO NOT PRESS” – which took any semblance of defensive sense from his body.

In a team which has a well-drilled back four, we could get away with carrying a passenger. We did so with Pascal Cygan, so Mustafi could be accommodated. But we don’t ‘do’ defence; it’s so passe. To some extent, we spent 90 minutes trying to prove that. Long had a goal chalked off being offside by a gnat’s whatsit.

Southampton are another team who will leave the Emirates thinking they can get out of trouble following their performance. We’re good like that; offering false hope.

The Good and the Bad Turns Ugly

It was a mixed afternoon, with the headlines changing in the space of a few minutes for Danny Welbeck. His first goal, with the aid of a slight deflection, underlined his value as a wide attacker in a not dissimilar fashion to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal in Milan.

Then we got the Danny we know and love when he contrived to miss from almost under the crossbar after Jack Wilshere’s only positive contribution for the afternoon when he hooked a ball which seemed destined to land out of play, across the face of the goal.

There’s no doubt about it; Wilshere’s form is tailing off. Tired? Nursing a knee injury? Disillusioned? Maybe it’s all three. Niggling, annoying and stroppy, it was little wonder Jack Stephens gave him a slap after Wilshere ripped his shirt. No surprise either that the Southampton centre-back saw Andre Marriner wave a red card in his direction.

That was the warning for other players. Keep your hands to yourself, watch your flailing elbows. Elneny capped a tidy performance by thrusting his hand into a Southampton neck. The Saints were sinners in trying to nick ten yards in a free-kick, provoking him. That’s no excuse for his actions nor that three of their X could have seen them finish with a VII, though fair points they may be.

Arsène talked about appealing the red card although it won’t happen. Instead, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has a return to the first-team in his favoured position.

Welbz’s completed his redemption. A far more difficult chance, he rose above the defence to score with some aplomb. He mentioned afterwards about keeping on plugging away, of how misses can’t distract you or prey on your mind. He has a fair bit of experience in this area…

Fine Words

Most of all, it’s job done. Wenger rotated and we took the points. Danny Welbeck got a brace which will do his confidence the world of good, standing us in good stead for the trip to Moscow this week. Alex Iwobi as well; he needed a good performance and gave one. It doesn’t completely redeem him, but he needed to show that he hadn’t lost his way completely.

We’re left with hints of good things in matches. Not enough to hang your hat on that a corner has been turned, that a new training regime was in place which could improve us. That fundamental change isn’t going to happen until there is a change not only at the top but also in the core coaching staff.

While we’re on the subject of fundamental changes, here’s a long-form article I penned George Graham: Building the Foundations of Arsene Wenger’s Success.

’til Tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Southampton Review: Comedy Defending So Next Goal Wins

  1. Someone mentioned Iwobi being under Ozil’s shadow, on arseblog. I strongly disagree. He may be a confidence player, but with his skill set, the manager or coach should tell him to play more offensively. He has the height, stamina and skill to shield the ball. All he needs is consistence, direct playing and greater effort. He seems influenced by complacent coaching.
    My man of the match was Welbeck, the weird one.

  2. Did anybody think Jack did the right thing?
    He lost the ball – other Jack broke quickly to begin counter and played pass whilst purposefully striding forward.
    3-2 so our Jack took yellow for team by making sure he strode forward no more.
    Professional foul. Well done.

  3. Arsestralian,

    Problem is, there was litetally no need for him to take that yellow given we only had 3 players(one of which was Jack) in attack given the reason why Stephens had the ball was due to yet another shit pass from Jack in the match. Sure, pull the jersey, take the foul but Stephens still strode forward and played a pass and yet, Lil Jack still held on to his shirt and gave him some extra stuff, for what? That then led to Stephen throwing/hitting Jack, but lets not forget that Jack jumped up and another ref on another day sees what Jack does as a headbutt then he sees red which ultimately led to Elneny’s red and a free kick for a club who defensively was all over the place and has been shit at defending deadballs since Arsene pushed Keown out the door because he was getting too much praise for how good a job he was doing with the back 4.

  4. Good stuff Yogi.

    So Aubameuang just keeps scoring goals huh and the best part is he doesn’t want to get involved with the build up just in finishing off the move.

    Welbeck and Iwobi, well the match pretty much summed up the enigmas that they are. Iwobi had a good game after Southampton got their first but before that his passing waa meh as was his decision making and then he looked a better player. Welbeck brilliant flick, can’t trap a basic ball, scores a goal(though it was deflected but it was already headed towards goal) then misses a ball that was basically already in and then scores a lovely headed goal showing his strength and leap.

  5. Outside of thr red card, I though Xhaka and Elneny had good matches and kept things both tidy and effective and stitched things together.

  6. 6 goals out of 7 games for Auba. Had he come in July he’d be above Salah and Kane!

    On European league soccer – the big five at least – it couldn’t be worse. No real competition for Mancity, PSG, Bayern, Barca and Juve domestically. At this rate maybe a European super league or some financial style capping like in the NFL!

  7. Great post yogi.

    You know that we have hit our annual purple patch when Danny Welbeck scores twice and we find a way to win despite heavy rotation. The Europa league results are the only ones which really matter for the rest of this season. The current run of good results probably erases any doubt regarding Arsene’s status for next season. Hopefully Stan and josh won’t be fooled again and make the colossal mistake of giving Arsene another 2 year contract.

  8. C:
    Outside of thr red card, I though Xhaka and Elneny had good matches and kept things both tidy and effective and stitched things together.

    True. But the spell before the second Southampton goal was down to poor organization and poor passing especially by the midfielders.

  9. lari03,

    I do think that part of it was the introduction of and then reshuffling because of Jack whose passing was horrid. Maybe its just me but I thought the midfield of Elneny and Xhaka were sort of getting on and the team was. I’m not absolving Elneny and Xhaka of a couple stray passes but I thought overall they both played well and I think because of Jack’s poor form and him being the sort of player who tries harder when things are going, there is a fine line between brilliance and destruction in that style of play.

  10. So with Chelsea looking like they are on the verge of a mini collapse, we could end up 5th and thr Europa League crown(I think we will).

  11. If you’re looking for omens, C, they finish their season at Newcastle. That’s always been a ground where results go our way on the final day…

  12. YW,

    Yup and by then Hazard will have completely switched off and Abromavich might not even let Conte manage that match

  13. Really enjoyed your George Graham piece, Yogi. You wrote it like a good referee – very observant, firm of judgment but ultimately fair.

    And you had me laughing aloud at “Yesterday, he pressed the big red button – the one marked “DO NOT PRESS” – poor Mustafi, you have him to a ‘T’.

  14. Afternoon YW the Arsenal machine seems to kicked into some kind of consistency as the pressure in the EPL has waned.

    With regards to Jack the club must take some blame in the scenario that has been unfolding for the past few months, why should he take the pay you play contract when others are not. I know i am biased as I well known for my love of his midfield potential. But I can’t help think the club are making a mistake in not looking after one of the few that has come through our academy and then no disrespect towards Elneny but his new contract might have added fire to what must be a feeling of some kind of betrayal and bafflement.

  15. The Likely Lads……..

    Good afternoon YW. Yes I would agree that We did in fact get away with it.

    I’m not to be truthfully honest interested in the Europa League. I ask how is AW going to find another 30 points next season to bring this Team into contention? . This Team, Squad is woefully inept.

  16. Why can Wenger teams only perform when there is nothing to play for at the end of a long season??? Sadly, it will probably be enough to get Wenger over the line and the Owners will not question him seeing out the final year. So we will have another season of under achievement with a squad that could (and should) do a lot better with a more dynamic coach.

  17. I have to say that Jack would not make my team. He appeared completely lackadaisical in this match and without interest. It would be nice to sell him if there is a taker anywhere in the Premiership. As well, Mustafi also appeared switched off. Our Keeper was upset with his lack of effort and gave him an earful. At times our entire defence looked a bit too youthful in their assessment of defensive danger. I thought the team was lucky not to give up another goal or two although that would not have been entirely reflective of the entire match.

    Xacha had a decent shot at the goal with a great save by the Southampton Keeper.

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