WED, 10 MAY 2017
Referee : Jonathan Moss
Attendance : 31,474
Shots on Target
Saints v Arsenal
St.Mary’s - Wednesday, 10th May 2017
> The players gave everything, but it wasn't enough
> Undone by a moment of genius from Sánchez
> Pressure building on Puel
IBO Reporter : channonite
I have taken my time to do this match report, as I had so many conflicting feelings after the match that it made making some reasoned commentary almost impossible. It is becoming a bit of a mind numbing ordeal to report on these matches.
So, going into the match, the last goal scored by Saints had been James Ward-Prowse's 85th minute goal against Crystal Palace on the 5th April. I felt confident of a decent result, as Arsenal play the open type of football that we have done so well against in the past.
The team was essentially the same as in the last game, except James Ward-Prowse came in for Boufal. You would think that this team was used to playing together by now.
From the beginning I felt that my optimism might have been well founded, as the team looked much better balanced than it has recently. We were actually attacking the Arsenal goal. The full backs were getting forward and Gabbiadini wasn't quite as isolated as he has been. I have seen some match reports in the papers saying that the first half was dull. Well, excuse the feck out of me, but they can't have watched Saints last two matches! I actually enjoyed it, maybe because we were not getting over-run, nor sitting back around our penalty area waiting to break. There was some pretty good defending going on and Cédric was having a blinder of a game, getting in some crucial tackles and still finding the energy to race upfield. Romeu was everywhere getting several last-ditch tackles in.
My only problem was with the tactics of defending and trying to hit Arsenal on the break. If didn't work. Gabbiadini just looked isolated up front and increasingly came back to try and make some sort of contribution.
Still, at half time I was reasonably satisfied with 0-0, as Arsenal really hadn't caused Forster too many problems. We had to make more of an effort to actually score though.
The second half went the way of the first. At least to begin with. I was just thinking that maybe, just maybe we would get something from a top six side this season. Then out of the blue, on the 60' mark, Sánchez steps up several gears, having shown the square root of feck all up until this point and score a quite sumptuous goal.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Saints and suddenly several of the players were looking very tired. Not only were they tired, but they were also making mistakes. The frustrating thing was that they were not playing badly, if you look at the stats, they look surprisingly even.
The team had put in a huge shift, with one glaring exception. Tadić. What has this man got to do to be substituted? He was absolutely abject all game. Yet when Puel made a double substitution on 70', it was not for the worst Saints player on the pitch by a long chalk. No, it was Boufal on for Ward-Prowse and Long on for Redmond. There was a fair amount of moaning around me that Tadić was still on the pitch, but it was another ten minutes before Puel bowed to the obvious and replaced the Saints number 11 with Rodriguez.
Virtually straight after that, Arsenal scored their second goal through a well taken header from Giroud, who had only just come on the pitch at the same time as Rodriguez. Game set and match. Lots of Saints fans started leaving at this point, as it was obvious that the players simply did not have anything left in the tank. Cédric and Romeu in particular looked out on their feet. Talk of the players already being on the beach are just simply rubbish. Boufal had been one of the few bright spots to come out of this game, when he came on he played some nice passes, it was just a shame that the rest of the team appeared to be knackered.
If anything, this defeat has to go down as simply being a case of unnecessarily conservative tactics from Puel. Gabbiadini cut a sorry figure trudging off at the end, having been a marginal figure all game. What a waste of a great player.
I walked away from the ground slightly puzzled. The players (with the notable exception of Tadić) had worked really hard and there were periods of really good play from Saints, yet there was no end product. I suppose that has to go down as a management issue, yet we are still in the top half of the table. Just.
Man of the Match
I suppose the choices are Romeu, Cédric, Stephens, or Yoshida. I know I haven't mentioned Maya in the match report, but he was at the heart of Saints Alamo style defending. Goodness knows what the scoreline would have been without him. So, my MoM is Maya Yoshida.
16 Ward-Prowse - Booked 44' (Boufal 70')
11 Tadić (Rodriguez 80')
22 Redmond (Long 70')
15 Chamberlain (Bellerín 36' - Booked 90')
11 Özil - Booked 73' (Coquelin 89')
23 Welbeck (Giroud 80')