Having spent the past few years chomping through his gum on the sideline, Steve Bould gets to show us his managerial mettle over the next fortnight, starting at St Mary’s this evening. Tomorrow’s headlines revolving around puns and quips of ‘Saints and Sinners’, depend on his touchline performance. His big chance is, though, reduced to a footnote in the story why he’s there.
To the derision of the tabloids who wanted Arsène tarred and feathered before being carted off to Traitor’s Gate, the FA banned Le Boss for four matches. A touchline ban to boot; not even a stadium one, which meant watching the games on an illegal stream at home.
Suffice to say Wapping’s resentment surfaced: “Six of the best at least!” which was just Graham Poll getting all unnecessary and confused. My favourite, the one where you could feel the hate oozing from his fingertips, Neil Ashton’s unfettered and unhidden resentment. You could hear the man humming Sade’s Smooth Operator as he typed, pleased with his latest epistle to the masses.
Arsenal announced there was no appeal forthcoming, possibly realising that with a £25k fine, Arsène had dodged a bullet. There’s also the handy test-run of how the side performs without Wenger. It’s a double-edged sword, of course. The wins are paramount, but it undermines his value on the touchline. It could change Stan’s mind and instead offer Arsène the job of CFO instead. Just saying what you’re all thinking…
When The Saints Go Gambling In
It will be Arsène’s team selection of course although it’s the only match of the four where he could leave it to Bouldy; give him his shot at the big time. Will Steve don his club suit and tie or is it a throwback to the old days, when managers wore tracksuits with the legs tucked into their white socks. Puma King’s were the obligatory footwear.
There’s a ‘hope’ that Bould, being ‘proper Arsenal’, will roll back the years. The no-nonsense defender turned uncompromising manager. George Graham with the flair. Or more accurately, George Graham before Benfica scared the living bejesus out of his sense of adventure.
It’s not going to happen, is it? This will be Wenger’s team with his presence haunting the action. He could join the travelling support and take on board all the substitution suggestions, and frankly having soothed the savage beasts at the FA, charming the fans is going to be a piece of cake.
A much-changed team is expected: the FA Cup special. A bit like a football special although the state those slam-door carriages were left in wasn’t pleasant. The worst I can recall was a trip to Watford where they had their own ‘hooligan halt’, and it resembled a war-zone we see through our television screens. As the last door slammed closed, the carriage gave up the ghost and collapsed in on itself in a convenient flat-pack and went to the wreckers yard.
Today’s team won’t feature anyone that close to the footballing knacker’s yard, or at least I hope not. Ospina might want more than cup football and be looking to move on next summer unless, by some fluke, we win the Champions League. Then I suspect, new contracts will be signed so quickly that the pens melt.
Return of the back: today or Tuesday?
Defensively, the XI will be interesting. Hector Bellerin is returning from injury and ahead of next weekend, needs match sharpness. Whether he gets that today with Tuesday on the horizon is another matter. He may do; Gabriel has surprised everyone with his performances on the right and a home match against Watford is the ideal time to give Maitland-Niles his first start in the Premier League.
Midfield is the quandary. Granit Xhaka’s suspension makes Francis Coquelin’s fitness a key issue. We’re praying for that, and an early Egyptian exit from the Africa Cup of Nations; sorry, Mo. Could today be the time to experiment? It makes sense, especially with Claude Puel deciding that the momentum from Wednesday’s win at Anfield isn’t worth keeping and he will rotate his side. I wouldn’t; the same XI would play if I were him. Arsenal’s record at St Mary’s is awful and Southampton must be brimming with confidence.
Is it the time to bring in a youngster to play alongside a more experienced head? A shame Santi isn’t fit in that sense. Is this the moment the ‘twitchers’ get to see Bielik? It’s been mentioned often enough!
I suspect Alexis isn’t going to play and nor will Olivier Giroud, not from kick-off. Danny Welbeck will no doubt lead the line, with Arsène resting Özil as well.
The XI I’d field is different to the one I suspect Steve Bould will manage from the touchline:
Ospina; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs; Ramsey, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez; Welbeck
Whatever the case, a win is the order of the day with a replay at worst.
A new playlist will be up on Dad’s Jukebox later today/tomorrow so catch The Charlatans Then …and Now.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.