Referee : Lee Mason
Attendance : 60,044
Shots on Target
Arsenal v Southampton
The Emirates, Tuesday 2nd February 2016
> Arsenal fail to beat Saints again
> Saints up to 7th in the League
A Different Sort of Match Report
Well I'm just gonna put my full notes on the match here and you can pick from it as you feel necessary to fill out the report. Was going to edit it down then we had a snowday today and I'm currently bombarded by 3 young ladies all requiring answers to things and food. sigh.
As I was in the Summer sunshine at the other end of the world, I was never going to have time for that, but it the draft did make an interesting read in it's own right. So here it is, warts and all.
Arsenal start out a lil sluggish. Seems the energy in the Emirates is rather lacking and the players are reflecting that. Saints are pushing on pretty solid as a result. At 2' a poor challenge by Bellerin leads to a spot kick just outside the left corner of the box. JWP and Bertie line up and JWP hits a curler, still not sure if it was meant as a shot or pass but Cech had to deal with it on the bounce to earn a S'ton corner. Bertrand takes the corner and watches the ball barely slide over the head of Fonte and into the hands of Cech. Another typical near miss. But energy looks good and Arsenal needs to respond.
Arse piocking up the pace with the ball and the tight passing and give n gos. Starting to look dangerous as they are attacking together and moving to create space for each other. Arsenal's back four are playing fast n scared. Very dangerous passes and just need the right bounce and strike and Long or Mane or Tadic could punish. As it is it looks more like a pin ball table when we're in their final 3rd with the ball bouncing off of both sides.
Cute turn n hold by Mane earns another S'ton corner in the 9th min. JWP boots it a bit hard and Cech gathers it out of the sky easily. A minute later Cedric flails at pushing the ball up, Wanyama stretches out and finds Alfa open with space in the middle. He makes a great pass to find Mane down the right wing who has a nifty center to Shlong but he just gets a little too much on the first touch toward goal and Cech scoops it easily. 12th min. Beautiful over the top ball by Alexis to find Ozil right on top of Forster, a nifty kick save off a well struck ball by Ozil. Arsenal denied from stealing the lead early against the run of play. This is what Arsenal has that we don't however. Even when their whole squad is struggling in the back they've got world class attackers like Sanchez, Ozil, n Giroud... all any of those three need is a tiny window and the game and shift and Arsenal's numerous short comings are forgotten. A dangerous way to play if you ask me but one that highlights a consistent issue at Saints, we need a solid team effort every game in order to get points. We can't have a porous scared back 4 and really rely on the likes of Alexis and Ozil linking up in a split second and changing the course of the game. Forster was up to the challenge tho.
14th min. A great quick buildup off a turnover, good switch then just never did anything with it. Mane looks a bit uncertain of his decisionmaking and that makes him slower and less dangerous.
15th min. Arse wake up apparently and all of a sudden are actually pressing the attack. Til now we've spent half the match in front of Cech. Arse is going to have to continue to effective press our back 4 to avoid the ball going to their unsteady back 4. If they do so, should spell trouble for Saints.
18th min. Romeu just bitchslaps Alexis and takes the ball away then earns the freekick of Ozil. Back to frustration time for Arsenal.
19th min. Campbell turns the ball over horribly then takes Mane out from a poor back challenge. This is becoming a trend. I'm starting to wonder how no one got injured or sent off if it keeps up this way. 21st min. Arse look more and more cozy on the ball in our third. A nice lil buildup and Arse are challenging with numbers in the box. A nifty ball in from Bellerin finds the head of Giroud which finds the karate kick foot of Ozil and SOMEHOW Forster keeps it out. I'm really not sure on that one but I'm damn sure glad to see Fraser back there rather than shitty swiss cheese Stekelenburg (nothing but holes)...
30th minute. A lot of not too exciting back n forth, then Mane breaks free down the right wing, finds Tadic in the middle just outside the box. A few fancy moves later Tadic takes a shot... right at Cech. Not highlight worthy as it turns out.
32nd minute. Best chance of the match for Saints as Mane gets around Bellerin and puts a neat pass in to JWP who passes up the one time shot to play it back to Tatdic but they're not on the same page and the ball slips through and back to Alfa who puts a good boot on it but curls his shot just over the bar.
41st minute. Another chance by Mane off the lead header of Long. Really good working together but Mane is clearly not showing the class that made the big clubs pursue him.
Arse get some nice buildup to finish the half but no real dangerous chances. The only thing left for them to come up is Bellerin down the right and his crosses have left something to be desired. I have to assume this is by design but Tadic has seemed almost non existant. Mane just is off with his decisionmaking. Something i've hinted at in the past where he needs to get lucky and win a few coin flip moves to get around players.
2nd half underway. 48th minute. Long collects a poor pass then trips himself up over the ball, gives it away. Arse move it up rather poorly but it finds it's way to Giroud's foot and he puts it in the top far corner. Except Fraser's up for the challenge and pushes it wide.
51st min. More meh from Mane... he's got a 1 v 1 only a single defender to get a clear shot off which he does but then he just hits a low shot right down the middle. His balance is his weakness. When he's not pressing he's balanced and he can do more. When he's trying to do well too hard he's unbalanced and his shots and passes suffer. You'll also notice he's falling down a lot which is another aspect of playing on the edge of your balance.
56th min. Very nice but arguably unnecessary sliding challenge from VVD. Speaking of has looked focused and less confused (always a good sign, just about confidence?). Gives away the corner. Giroud gets his head on it and tries to tease it far post. Forster gets to it but most impressively collects it with 2 hands. It's the type of against the grain header that would often lead to a rebound dribbling out. Mayhaps this is one of the ways Forster being out improved?
Forster immediately boots it and Tadic sprinkles a shot from distance far n wide. Shortly thereafter BV looks fantastic as he shrugs off 2 gunners and finds Bertie down the wing right through the trap.
An hour in and the Emirates is buzzing with anticipation. Both teams are going back and forth off of Goal kicks into half chances.
60th minute. A flurry of activity... Tadic breaks free and finds Mane with space inside the box... blocked. JWP collects at the edge of the box and shoots, blocked... Romeu collects from just outside the box... well you get the picture. The kind of gutsy play that keeps Arse honest and should be shown in any objective account of the match.
62nd min. Sanchez with another lovely ball in headed away by Fonte with ozil cutting in 67th min Walcott v. Forster x2 and twice denied. Neither particularly spectacular but both on target so. That's 2 fewer goals than Stek. Then a head in by Sanchez which is more damming on Soarez as he lets Sanchez just mug him as he's watching the cross come in without picking up where the man to head it will be coming from. That was a great stop by Fraser as it was bouncing in and he was at full stretch to push it off. 68th min. Arsenal continue to press. It seems a matter of time. Saints are definitely working as a unit hounding each ball carrier and clearing their lines efficiently. Still.. need a breather and the sub of Pelle may serve that well. 71st min. JWP clears the line off a great low shot that finds its way to goal but not to net. 73rd min. Fonte n Giroud are battling every corner (and they're coming fast n furious now) and reaching out to hold back Giroud Fonte takes JWP's elbow to the head requiring stitches. A nice breakup to the building pressure Arse has been applying and a needed rest for the lads who've been flat out working their tails off this same period. More pressure from Arse but tough to get anything more than a half chance. A pretty give n go with, who else... Sanchez n Ozil leaves Mesut wide open dead center on Forster, til a sliding Van Dyke clears it away. Sanchez hits at the rebound but from the poor angle Forster clears it off. 90+ This is where I'm seeing the 'huge' VVD. Nips in front of Giroud then runs the ball all the way into the Arse end and gets the throw.
5 Gabriel (booked 89')
20 Flamini (Coquelin 85', booked 87')
28 Campbell (Walcott 62')
2 Soares (Booked 61')
17 van Dijk
16 Ward-Prowse (Juanmi 83')
10 Mané (Targett 86')
11 Tadić (Pellè 69')
I was high up in the gods in the home end watching the Saints scrap their way to a hard fought away point at Arsenal. In my eyes it was a defensive display to be proud of, yes we were rolling on the ropes taking the punches but our knees didn't buckle once and it certainly wasn't all one way traffic. Our attacks got more stretched as the game went on and the legs wore tired, but we played the ball around magnificently and showed the Gooners how it was done; we pulled of a fair number of reverse passes outside their box, a move Arsenal have perfected in recent years. We may have punted the ball at times, but this pleased me as sometimes just clearing your lines is the right thing to do. The stats might suggest that Forster had to make a bucket full of saves, but most of them were routine saves for an England number one. He did pull off a few special ones though, one of the these Mourinho's came so late in the game, that it would have been heart breaking had it gone in. This brilliance was equalled, but the sliding tackle (who was it, as I couldn't tell) that was a good as a goal and had I been in the away end, I would have celebrated like it was.
The game wasn't won, or drawn to be factually correct, through our defensive endeavours in the box, it was in the defensive display outside the box. We were on them all game, bumping them when they were on the ball, not giving them anytime to do their thing. We defended hard and close to the line, sometimes over it and with Lee Mason that line shifts all over the place. We intercepted, we nipped in, we stole and we gave a tackling master class. We were helped at times by a poor Arsenal, as in the first half they looked as though they had put each others boots on, but the good Arsenal wasn't far away and we could have been punished if it wasn't for our discipline and work rate. When we got the ball we looked to play it around and we did try to engineer an opening, with a little bit of luck or a bit more skill we could have got a goal. As the game went on, the luck and skill required grew and it became apparent that a draw would be our best result. This was a game where we needed to have scored before the last quarter and one where set pieces or crosses could have been our best route, but our delivery wasn't as good as it could have been.
I've asked myself whether I am viewing the game through Saints specs, a game where we had few chances and one where Arsenal were poor in patches, but I don't think I am. It was a brilliant result, in an era where many claim defending is a dying art, we showed it was alive and kicking and harrying and bossing and dressed in green shirts. Arsenal were desperate to win this game, because they needed to if they wanted to keep the belief alive that they have a credible claim to be champions. So it is to the credit of every man out there that they didn't, honourable mentions to Van Dijk, that run being one example of his skills; Romeu for dropping the shoulder (although the final dispatch let him down at times), Fonte, Wanyama and of course Forster and the sliding tackle man, but the result belongs to all.
Games say a lot about teams, to me yesterday is why Arsenal do not win leagues anymore, they are not ruthless enough, an Alex Ferguson's United would have won one - nil. Anyway I don't care about them, I only care for the South Coast Kings and what it says about us, is that we are together as a group, we want to progress and we are prepared to work at it. It answers some questions, is Wanyama's heart in it? Is Romeu good enough? Can Ronald walk on water? The question it now asks is what was going on during our losing streak?