Monday, January 30, 2017

FA Cup 4th Round - Southampton 0 Arsenal 5

Read the Fucking Sign

There seems to be three teams that we always get drawn against – Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Arsenal.  You feel confident of beating the others but Arsenal are a problem because quite frankly, they are a class above the other two.  We’ve already knocked them out of the EFL Cup of course so I’m sure Monsieur Wenger won’t be wanting a repeat – after all, they aren’t going to win the League or the Champions League so this is it as far as silverware is concerned. 

Arsenal always have a melt down during the season and Arsene has been at it recently – despite having a season where virtually every controversial refereeing decision has gone in their favour.  He got what he thought was a bad one (it wasn’t) last week against Burnley so he lost his rag, got sent to the stands and basically refused to go, giving the 4th official a shove as he argued.  Now, he hardly flattened him and I doubt the 4th official even noticed but if you did that on a park pitch and it was seen and reported, you’d get a six month ban at the very least.  So, what did the FA, the guardians of the game and the Respect campaign and all that do about it.  A four game touchline ban… wow, that’s gonna hurt.  So, he can still pick the team, watch the match from the stands, decided on the substitutions and relay every decision to the bench.  Fucking joke and I suspect he knows it.  Will it stop him kicking off about referees in the future – no it won’t but the FA will think that they’ve kept him onside in case he decides he wants to leave Arsenal one day and become the England manager.

I said at the end of the Liverpool game that today was going to be a bit of a free hit.  I expected a half and half side of youth and experience and a narrow defeat.  Little did I know that my ‘free hit’ assertions was going to be tested and it got tested as soon as I heard the team news.

So I am walking to the ground down Britannia Road and I managed to see the team sheet on my phone. Lewis, Martina, McQueen… this is really already not looking like a very strong team. Jack Stephens, Gardos ... well, we really are forcing everybody who can stand up into action today…. Reed, Hojbjerg, Clasie… two midgets out of three... hmmmm.... Sims, Long, Isgrove…. Isgrove? For fuck's sake. Can we go home?   That’s got to be the most lightweight, impotent Saints XI I’ve ever seen…. What’s the Arsenal team? A quick look reveals lots of changes from their regular league side but Ospina…. International keeper…. Gibbs, Walcott, Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain…. Ok that’s four England internationals…. Mustafi, Bellerin… two first teamers…. Holding, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles…. Three physically imposing youngsters and Perez… who they signed for the same money as we paid for Boufal.  We’re going to get completely fucked aren’t we?

Possibly because the prices were cheap but probably because this game has been included as a game towards your chances of getting an EFL Cup Final ticket if you’re a member, the place is packed and away we go with us looking nervous and disjointed as you like and as you’d expect.

Of course, I write these bogs after the match and so, in keeping with the attitude of the club towards this fixture, I can’t really be arsed.  It will be long enough if I just stick to describing the Arsenal goals so I’ll do that.

15 minutes and it’s 1-0 to Arsenal as Martina demonstrates just how shit he is, allowing Welbeck to simply run past him on the outside and pick up a pass from Perez.  I don’t think Martina has even seen Welbeck so he would have been surprised when he turned round to see that Welbeck had superbly lifted it over Lewis and in off the bar in the far top corner.

2-0 when Oxlade-Chamberlain chipped a ball diagonally and over Stephens who has lost Welbeck and he brings it down superbly before poking it under Lewis who has come out with no conviction at all and not even spread himself to try and block it.  It’s like a 12 year old who has been press-ganged to go in goal on a cold day with no gloves.  Turn your back on it and hope it doesn’t hit you.  Well it didn’t and we’re 2-0 down and this game is over.  We have a decent effort not long after as Martina plays a decent long ball down the right and Shane runs onto it and hits it near post but Opsina is in the right place to make an easy save look difficult.

3-0 and this is a candidate for the worst goal I’ve ever seen us concede.  Jack Stephens is on the ball to the right of centre in our penalty area and he hasn’t got a short option so he goes to cream it up the pitch but instead of that, he welts it straight at Hojbjerg who turns round just quickly enough to get the ball full force in the stomach.  It bounces Arsenal’s way but the ball across is poor and McQueen should clear it but he just stands there and Walcott manages to poke a toe at it and knock it into the net from behind McQueen.  It’s humiliatingly bad.

Half time and all around are conversations about when people are going to leave.  The common concensus is 4-0 or 75 minutes if it’s still 3-0.  It occurs to me that Wenger might take pity on his old mate Claude and just pass it around in the second half and this appears to be happening for the first 15 of the half and then he brings on Alexis Sanchez – fucking hell!  We’ve still got Isgrove on the pitch for fucks sake and they’ve got one of the top 5 players in the world.

4-0 as Stephens plays a lousy ball out of defence and we get picked off with Sanchez getting to the line and pulling it back for Walcott to roll easily into the net.  Fire Drill.

On 78 minutes there’s a bit of a break and for only the second time in about 42 years of watching Saints – fuck this I’m off.  I know I’ve had a go at others before but that’s mainly aimed at people leaving with the game in the balance.  This is not and we are never going to score in a million years.  I was half way down Brittania Road when I heard the cheer which sure and shit wasn’t from our end and Walcott had completed his hat-trick.  Probably the easiest one he’ll ever score.   Again we’ve given the ball away up front and one long ball has taken out the whole team.

Well that couldn't have been more shite if it tried. An absolute waste of time from the time of the team sheets were handed in until the final whistle. The one thing that I'm clinging to was that this was more or less our third choice team and guess what, Arsenal’s squad is better than ours which shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. When you look at the defence today, you see what I mean about third choice. At right back, Cuco the Clown is third choice behind Cedric and Jeremy Pied, at left back Sam McQueen is certainly behind Bertrand in the pecking order and will possibly be behind Matt Targett when he's fit again. At the start of the season, Gardos and Stephens were our fourth and fifth choice centre backs. Behind them you have Harry Lewis who is probably actually our fourth choice goalkeeper behind Fraser, Alex McCarthy and if it came down to it in a league game, he's probably behind professional substitute Stuart Taylor as well. After his brilliant performance against Liverpool it was noticeable that Jack Stephens had a complete shocker which is of course due to the lack of protection around him, more on that later. We all knew that Martina would be shit and we all knew that Florin Gardos would be rusty, which you tend to be after nearly 2 years of not playing.  I actually thought that the Romanian acquitted himself quite well.

The strongest part of the selection today should have been the midfield. Hojbjerg and Clasie regularly start games though they are probably behind JWP and Davis in the pecking order. Only Hojbjerg today looked remotely capable of doing anything positive and at least looked like he was trying to make things happen. The twin midgets of Clasie and Reed were completely fucking hopeless and you would not have noticed if they weren't there and frequently, when Arsenal broke, they weren’t there. Reed in particular was diabolical. We've just given him a new four year contract and in a couple of games earlier in the season he looked quite good but both today and in the Norwich game a week or so back, he has been appalling. This applies to Clasie as well but if you are a very small player then you have to have something else, some other attribute to make up for it. You are the have to be incredibly aggressive and really strong in the tackle or you have to have loads of pace or you have to have loads of skill. Reed has a reputation as a tackler but all I saw today was him bouncing off of tackles and being knocked backwards by the much bigger Arsenal youngsters like Reine-Adelaide and Maitland-Niles. 

Talking of midgets, we had Lloyd Isgrove playing. Isgrove is 24 and is League 1 standard at best. Why the fucking hell we still have him in the squad is completely beyond me as he has absolutely nothing in his game whatsoever.  I’ve seen players who put themselves about more in the Tyro League Under 13’s.  We in effect played with 10 and when you add the abysmal performances of Clasie and Reed into the mix then it's no fucking wonder we got hammered. Josh Sims looked a little bit like a little boy lost today as well, though he did at least get on the ball occasionally and had a couple of moments. Captain Shane Long really had a thankless task given all the shite that was around him. Even so, he was pretty poor.

So, we put out an abysmal team that would've lost to absolutely anybody from non-league to Premier League with four midgets in the front six. I paid 15 quid for my ticket to watch that that utter shit and that money would have been better spent on 4 pints of lager or on a CD or on quite frankly anything. I understand completely why Claude did it with a league game on Wednesday and having had the Liverpool game the previous Wednesday but he must've known that that team was going to get slaughtered whatever line-up Arsenal put out. If they had wanted to beat us 10-0 then they could've done quite easily.

Things I've learnt today that I didn't already know are that individually some of the young players like Sims, McQueen and Stevens look quite promising when they are within the framework of a strong Saints line-up but stick them all in the team at the same time and they are not good enough to carry it. Harrison Reed needs to go out online at the championship for a season because on his last two performances, he is never going to make it as a Premier League player. I would not give a shite if Jordy Clasie was sold in the summer. He has one game in about six where he is not bad but the other five games he may as well not be on the pitch.  I swear he can go half an hour without touching the ball.  Okay, Martina is dog shit and when it actually matters which is at either end of the pitch, he hasn't got a fucking clue.  He never crosses the ball when he should and when he does it hits the first man.  Defensively he has no awareness of danger or what he should do.  I've included that one in the list of things I've learnt even though I definitely knew all that already.

That should be it for the weakened sides and the rotation for the season.  We can but hope.  I can understand why Claude did it but for me, it went too far which is why we got humiliated and no one left the ground feeling like they got value for money, no matter how little they paid for the ticket.

Two Premier League matches are coming in the next few days with Swansea away and West Ham at home.  Quite frankly I fear for us against West Ham with Andy Carroll playing well and in addition to Maya always having a nightmare against him, Jack Stephens it not the most physical either.  Also, it will of course be the return of Jo$é Fonte which is a script waiting to be written.  So – in my opinion we need to beat Swansea on Wednesday.  Before that though we have the closing of the transfer window on Tuesday night and we simply have to get in a striker and a centre back.  Manolo Gabbiadini appears to be the man for up front and the defender looks like it will either be Mamadou Sakho (assuming the bin dippers lower their ridiculous valuation in order to get rid of him) or a German international on loan named Serdar Tasci who is with Spartak Moscow.  Sort it out Les….

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