Arsenal v Southampton
Sunday, 8th April 2018
IBO Reporter : Mandochris
Having already decided Saints were going down, I anticipated this match report as a bit of a chore. The worst part of it was that as kick off approached, a small flicker of hope appeared somewhere in the canyons of my mind.
Hughes rang the changes with a back three, bringing Yoshida in. Out went Austin, Gabby, Redmond and Lemina - were these the ones he was referring to as not trying? Lemina apparently called in sick and Davis, who was listed as fit, picked up a knock on Saturday.
In came JWP (a welcome return, bringing a bit of steel in the midfield), Oriel to put some muscle in front of the back line, and, frighteningly, Long up front. His logic is understandable: Long runs, harries and tries. But no goal for club or country in 47 starts was a shocking stat.
In a half empty stadium, Saints started nervously with a row of 5 behind a row of 4, allowing Arsenal to play the ball around on 30 yards. They seemed afraid to commit to the tackle.
(My notes read It’s just a question of time - 3’. And then Hoof, and it comes back - 5’.)
Then Saints gradually started to get more into the game. On 7 minutes we had our first attack and Hoedt put a good ball in. From another attack Tadić got in a good cross that led to a corner. Hope started to rise as PEH shot well from the corner, but wide.
Arsenal were passing the ball around well and Saints were allowing them to do this and dealing with it comfortably. The Gunners won their first corner on 14 minutes as they broke from a Saints attack, catching us out of position (I guess that proves that MoPe’s theory of not attacking is right, Haha). Our 3-man defence was standing up well to the Arsenal’s attacks, with Maya in the middle, Hoedt on the left and Stephens on the right.
Then on 16 minutes, the floodgates of hope burst open. Some good work down the right saw JWP get the ball forward for the on-running Cédric, who somehow squeezed in a low cross to the near post, before the ball went over the line. Long was there to glance it in. It was an excellent goal but in all truth Čech and Mustafi should have dealt with it. 0-1
(Don’t sit back, read my notes. And Why do I think this won’t change the result?) Well, 18 months of watching the negative style of play conditions a man. But Saints didn’t sit back any more than before the goal. Arsenal continued to play it around on 30 yards and Saints stood up to it well. They weren’t pressing each man on the ball, but they closed most of the gaps.
(Got through the first 20 minutes intact. Good sign!, from my notes.) Saints were starting to pass the ball around with some confidence. The half empty Emirates Stadium was a like a library, as Arsenal did little to excite their fans. But they were putting some nice passes together and starting to stretch the back three at times. (Every time we break up their attack the ball goes back to them. Just a question of time - 26’.)
And then, there it is. The equaliser. Good work from Wellbeck sees Aubameyang put it home. It seemed like Cédric and McCarthy politely said “After You” to each other and Aubameyang nipped in. 1-1
Naturally, the whole physiognomy of the game changed. The Library came alive, Arsenal started to knock the ball around and, more disturbingly, through the Saints. We weren’t seeing any of the ball. (We need to see this out or play our way back into the game - 32’.)
Then Long went close from a ball from PEH. Then Tadić got through, but was offside. Fouls were going Arsenal’s way as Long was tipped over and nothing was given. Arsenal got a free kick, which was blasted over. Saints were fighting their way back into it, epitomised by our three in midfield, who chased and worked hard all the time. But Arsenal were, it has to be said, better at the passing game and at keeping hold of the ball for longer.
Then on the break, Arsenal took the lead on 38 minutes as Wellbeck’s shot was deflected and left McCarthy with no chance. 2-1.
Saints immediately tried to fight back leaving more gaps at the back, open to Arsenal’s more incisive passing. On 41 minutes Cédric put in a cross that went way over Long. Long seemed to have picked up an injury and wasn’t running any more. On 44 an Arsenal corner was not well dealt with by McCarthy, it went for another corner and PEH was clattered by Bellerin.
At half time it was 2-1 and Saints were not out of it. They were definitely up for the fight.
No changes at half time, which seemed surprising, seeing Long struggle. Arsenal kicked off and immediately Saints started pressing them higher up, but Arsenal are a good passing side and played through Saints too easily. McCarthy pulled off a couple of excellent saves, one down low to his right to force a corner on 47 minutes.
Then the game settled back into its pattern of Arsenal knocking the ball around on 30 - 50 yards. Long won the ball back on half way at 50 minutes and Bellerin got a yellow card as he halted the potential breakaway. Arsenal started passing it around again and Saints let them. McCarthy pulled of another good save.
On 52 minutes, Saints played well down the left. JWP got the ball to PEH who let go a shot that Čech parried. Unfortunately there was no-one close enough to get on the rebound. Tadić and Bertrand then combined down the left to win a corner on 55. Hoedt glanced the corner across the goal and it was cleared off the line. (Saints are not out of it! - 56’.)
Saints are playing better and look like they could force something. But Arsenal are always dangerous and on 57, Yoshida fouls Wellbeck, dead centre, 30 yards out. The free kick is cleared and another good spell by Saints ends with a throw in to Arsenal.
More good play down the left led to a header from Long that Čech scrambled away for a corner. Then on 63 minutes, Long finds the net but was offside (just).
Arsenal debutant Nelson, who had a decent game, made way for Wilshere. Mustafi then flattens Tadić and there is no free kick (again). Saints are starting to think they can get something and look really up for it. Another long range effort from PEH is saved for a corner by Čech.
Arsenal break again, but Saints are equal to it. On 71 Long is at last awarded a free kick on the left edge of the box. Austin comes on for Yoshida before the kick is taken. JWP’s low drive is blocked for a throw, which Saints take quickly and the ball goes over to the right. Cédric goes on a mazy run into the box, pulls the back superbly and there is Austin to tap it in on 73. 2-2 and well deserved.
I don’t know about you but I am now enjoying watching Saints again. With Austin playing for Yoshida, Saints have gone to 4-1-4-1, with Austin as lone striker. (If Saints get another, I might start to believe! - 75’.)
The game is now truly alive with action going from end to end. Saints break well with some first time passing that sees Long lob a first time ball into the centre that creates some confusion as it goes for a corner. Then Arsenal break and Wellbeck misses from two yards giving flashbacks to Gordon Hill for Man Utd at Wembley in 1976. Could it be?
Long now looks completely out of it and is replaced by Sims on 79. Immediately Arsenal go up and score. It all seemed to happen in slow motion and a bit like Saints first goal. I remember thinking there’s no danger there as MCarthy and two defenders seemed to have it under control, until Wellbeck pounced. 3-2. Shit. But there was still hope as Saints were really up for it now.
Sims broke down the right and Tadić’s shot on the turn went for a corner. Saints were putting on the pressure, but Arsenal were now playing into the corner as the clock moved onto 88.
As 4 minutes was shown for added time, PEH broke through. Then it all went off. Wilshere was left holding a large piece of Stephens’ shirt, Stephens reacted — not badly, but badly enough to warrant a red card. Wilshere, the little cn, only got a yellow for breaking up a good move. I hope he was made to pay for the shirt.
The last few minutes were frantic as Saints poured into Arsenal. Someone in red got sent off (El Neny, I think). And then it was over.
Saints deserved something from the game. They at last played with some heart and desire and seemed to actually enjoy playing together again. And they have re-ignited the spark of hope and even love in me. There are still points to play for. Chelsea seem to be in some turmoil; Leicester have come under Puel’s spell. Swansea and Bournemouth are both beatable. I had resigned myself to go down, and was even made up for it. Now, I have to go through it all again.
Well, that’s football, I suppose. Even more, that’s Saints.
Man of the Match
Difficult to call. I thought Maya did well on his return; Long played a great game up front, doing just what was asked of him; PEH once again showed what it means to play with pride, passion and purpose, with not a little guile and skill. But I guess, I will give it Cédric. He defended well, got up the wing well, linking variously and effectively with PEH, JWP and Tadic, and had two assists.
24 Bellerín - Booked 50' (Holding 74')
35 El Neny - Dismissed 90'+3
61 Nelson (Wilshere 64' - Booked 90'+2)
14 Aubameyang (Lacazette 71')
5 Stephens - Dismissed 90'+2
3 Yoshida (Austin 72')
6 Hoedt - Booked 90'
7 Long (Sims 80')
Sunday, 8th April 2018
- Aubameyang 28'
- Welbeck 38', 81'
- Long 17'
- Austin 73'
Referee : Andre Marriner
Attendance : 59,374
- Arsenal 65%
- Southampton 35%
- Arsenal 13
- Southampton 15
Shots on Target
- Arsenal 7
- Southampton 8
- Arsenal 8
- Southampton 6
- Arsenal 11
- Southampton 7