Giroud Somehow Evades Tight Marking to Score
Arsenal at home and I’m on the train home from work – Brighton to Southampton and it’s like an Arsenal supporters charter train. Full of the buggers. I spoke to a couple of them – Wenger in or Wenger out and all that and they were kind of resigned to him staying. The main thrust of their complaining was that they accepted there would be a few lean years when they were paying for the stadium but once that was done, they expected to be challenging at the top table at home and in Europe and wedging out huge transfer fees. My argument that the £30 million plus fees for Sanchez and Ozil were pretty substantial was agreed with, along with my question on whether they would really have liked for Arsene to spend £90 million on Paul Pogba. No. It’s hard to feel sorry for them and I don’t but I have to agree that for a club that wants to be challenging for the title, they only have about three players who are good enough for that…. Sanchez, Cech and Ozil on his day, when he can be arsed.
Enough of Arsenal’s problems… I never even got to ask about Arsenal Fan TV Blud, Fam, Blud, Fam etc. Saints target for the season is of course to score a fucking goal by the end of it. Ryan Bertrand’s consolation goal header at Chelsea was our last one and it was also our last effort on target from open play. Claude has been taking in his pre-match press conference about the need to attack more and create more so one wonders what will be different in the selection and the way we go about things.
Evening games are always such a pain in the arse when I have to work and due to ridiculous traffic jams all over town, we arrive at about one minute to kick off, just as the abominable My Way shite is finishing. A quick look round and we appear to have made one change, Redmond for Boufal – so surprise, surprise – hardly any different to usual. I’d like to know what the fuck Redmond did in the Hull and Liverpool games to justify being recalled, just as he’d done nothing to warrant getting dropped before. Tadic is still picked despite being dreadful for the past month and Claude’s assertion that he ‘might’ change players because of tiredness was obviously bullshit. Arsenal’s line-up includes Chamberlain playing right wing-back so there has to be opportunities there and Rob Holding as part of a 3 man defence along with Monreal. It’s hardly Dixon-Keown-Adams-Wnterburn is it? Aaron Wanker Ramsey is playing but Wenger hasn’t picked Giroud to test out our physical player averse centre backs – instead it’s Welbeck, ably supported by Sanchez and Ozil.
Arsenal look quite handy from the kick off, passing it about until Romeu wins it and it goes to Tadic who immediately puts it out of play. An obvious outlet for us is down the left where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is being tried as a wing back in the latest effort to somehow justify his Arsenal career. Defensively he’s of course all over the place and Redmond finds space before pulling back to Davo on the edge of the box and that’s all you need to know, goal kick.
Chamberlain is of course ok going forward and he cuts in from the right and tees up Ramsay who should do better than just firing wide of the near post. Again the left is our way forward and Gabbiadini actually gets a pass from a Saints player but his low cross towards Tadic is well cut out by Cech. Cedric cross from the right causes a panic in the Arsenal box and eventually we recycle it and Romeu chips a lovely ball into Tadic who is in acres on the penalty spot but his touch is woeful, allowing Mustafi to slide in and tackle him. The rebound goes to Gabbiadini on the left but the angle is against him and Cech blocks well.
It’s been widely reported that Nathan Redmond is a moaner and a whinger and we get a great example of it when he runs with the ball from left to right in our half, skipping past tackles and all the time the ball is running away from him. He loses it of course and then is all arm waving and stamping his feet in the direction of JWP, whose fault it obviously was that he was chasing his touch and making it up as he went along. JWP is probably too nice a bloke to tell him to ‘fuck off’ but I certainly would have done. Meanwhile, Chamberlain has had another run down the right and gone down and he isn’t getting up – another injury and off he goes to be replaced by Bellerin.
Jack Stephens showed what he’s about on the ground when Welbeck flicked Ozil through but the Saints defender slid in and won it clean as you like and then passed his way out of trouble. JWP then picks up a booking as we lose it cheaply and Welbeck is away until JWP cynically pulls him back. Even Fat Jon Moss was close enough to see that one. Moss has an absolute shocker a few minutes later though as Mustafi goes in hard on Tadic and it’s a perfect hard but fair tackle, complete with attacking player squealing like a pig. Free kick 25 yards out and Gabbiadini shoves Tadic and JWP off of it and curls it horribly wide.
For 10 minutes the atmosphere goes all testimonial. Arsenal are average and we’re so slow in the build up that it’s painful. You can hear the sound of kids idly tapping their plastic clappers on their hands. It’s like Old Trafford in the tourist section – bloody awful. Is it the crowd’s job to lift the players or the players to lift the crowd? Is it the manager’s job to lift the players? If so, he’s sat on his arse. Dave Watson briefly appears and gesticulates but it’s suddenly got very boring. Then Monreal, one of those players who would have never got near a decent Arsenal side, hits a crap pass out of defence to JWP and we work it left and Redmond decides to let fly from 30 yards and it swerving all over the place and heading for the near top corner but Cech gets across well and tips over the bar with the air of a man who saw it all the way.
Half time. There has been the odd moment of marginal excitement in the middle of another uninspiring snorefest. The manager is getting on my nerves, as are a lot of the players; Redmond and his pathetic moaning, Tadic and his continually giving the ball away, Davis and his complete lack of end product. At least we’ve had a shot on target I guess but no goal for the best part of four hours.
I’m really expecting the standard of Saints’ performance which is to peter out as the half goes on but it starts encouragingly and we create a chance for Davis and guess where it ends up, yep, Row Z. Frank Lampard scored 400 goals from that position – I bet he never missed the target by that much in a 20 year career.
The match meanders on at testimonial pace for ten minutes or so and then we break with Tadic feeding Redmond with Bertrand overlapping. Redmond chooses a shocking option and passes straight to Cech. I wonder whose fault that was? Anyway, Cech rolls it out and Arsenal build from the back. Sanchez gets it and plays a 1-2 with Ozil, a good touch and a body swerve and he’s left both Yoshida and Stephens on the ground and rolls it past Fraser for 1-0. Brilliant player, superb goal and Arsenal’s first shot on target. Fuck it.
Now what? Oh yes, Arsenal take over with Romeu going into gift mode and continually giving the ball away. You only notice because he doesn’t often give it away but he’s having a bad one. Xhaka by comparison is having a decent game for Arsenal and he nearly makes it 2-0 with a good hit from range through a crowd of players but Fraser gets down well to save. We have a half chance as Bertrand puts over a good ball but under pressure, JWP can only head over.
It’s substitution bingo time. I predicted at half time that it would be Long and Boufal for JWP and Gabbiadini and I reckon it would have been if it was still 0-0 but Claude actually leaves Gabbiadini on and hooks Redmond instead. Whilst I applaud him at least trying something a bit different (even though I got ¾ of the prediction right), I reckon 95% of Saints fans in the ground would have taken Tadic off.
Giroud is on for Arsenal and I bet he scores and from Arsenal’s next attack, Sanchez crosses from the left to pick out Ramsay on the right and he loops a header back across to where Giroud, all 6 foot 3 of him is stood, 6 yards out and totally unmarked. He isn’t going to miss. 0-2. Neither Bertrand or Boufal tracked Ramsay, Yoshida was marking no one and Stephens for some reason was ambling back into the box, nowhere near Giroud. It’s shambolic and dreadful defending. Oh look, he's big, let's all shite our pants and hope someone else marks him. Pathetic.
There’s a mass exodus of fans as the ball hits the net and the rest of us cheer for the fact that Tadic is being substituted and replaced with J-Rod who gets his usual 8 minutes or so. We have a bit of a go in the last knockings with J-Rod running at pace and giving Gabbiadini a chance which is blocked and then Boufal weaving into the box before hitting the side netting. We don’t look like scoring though and Fat Jon Moss manages to get enough air in his lungs to blow the final whistle.
And so another wretched performance comes to an end in front of a two-thirds full stadium. I can’t really fault the effort of the players too much but that was rubbish against what must be the worst Arsenal team I’ve seen for 20 years. Chelsea, Spurs and City are a class apart from Liverpool, United and Arsenal. Arsenal were so average yet we hardly laid a glove on them, committing no players to attack and having no pace in our game at all. We play like a fucking training game when we have the ball in that we let everyone get back into position and then challenge ourselves to break down 11 men behind the ball. Even fucking Ozil was getting back because we took so long to create an attack. No forward runners from midfield as usual, Gabbiadini making runs but the player with the ball not even looking for him, probably because they assume no fucker will be running so it ends up back with the centre backs then eventually out to the wings for a hopeful cross into a penalty area containing three centre backs and a goalkeeper and one striker. Absolutely useless football. You hear talk of playing the percentages - well we do the exact opposite - chucking it in the box when it's 1 against 4. Then we started giving the ball away in our own half and Gabbiadini had to then feed off ‘throat’ balls banged at him from 50 yards away. Have you ever tried controlling a ball with your throat? At the other end we were always going to cough up a goal and Sanchez (their one class player) and Giroud (the big centre forward) did for us, easy as you like. Arsenal weren't very good - they didn't have to be.
Claude got one line out in his post-match interview before I punched the radio into silence. “We played well with good opportunities” – Did we fuck!!! I’m not having anyone saying we played ‘well’. The game lasts 95 minutes and we played ‘well’ for about 15 minutes of it. I can’t be bothered to do the maths but that’s about 20% which won’t get you anywhere. Our one attacking outlet with any intent is Redmond and Bertrand down the left and as soon as Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured and they brought on a proper full back in Bellerin, that was it. So, we didn’t play “well” Claude – we were dogshit, fucking dogshit and the first step to changing that is to admit it. Claude is getting more and more like Jan Poortvliet with every passing game and with every game, more and more people will be joining the “Puel out” bandwagon. It's not good enough to get interviewed after every spirit crushing home game and say the same utter meaningless bollocks. 17 goals at home all season and if it wasn’t for the little burst that Austin provided at the start of the season and the similar spell from Gabbiadini in February, we’d be in the thick of the relegation shake up and with the squad we have, that shouldn’t even be a thought in anyone’s head. The striker issues at the start of the season and the centre back issues in the second half of the season are well documented but the only question you need to answer about any manager is “Are they getting the best out of the players they have at their disposal?” No he bastard well isn’t.
As for the players, well… Fraser had no chance with the goals and Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida competed well all game until Giroud came on. Within 3 minutes he was added to the list of ‘Physical Strikers Who Had a Field Day And An Easy Goal Against Us’ along with the names of Andy Carroll, Diego Costa, Fernando Llorente and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Romeu was good for 70 minutes and then he went on a spree of giving the ball away, the same one that Tadic was on for 80 minutes until he got subbed. Moan in the media about being subbed after that game then Dusan.... He was fucking useless from first minute to last but our piss weak manager is frightened to take him off now.
I thought JWP was ok in the main until he predictably got substituted when we went 1-0 down. We’re 1-0 down and creating fuck all so of course, take off the player with the best set pieces and leave Tadic on. Steven Davis… great energy and never stops trying but he’s obsessed with sideways and backwards, even when there’s no reason not to try and play forward. Is no one calling and telling him there’s no one behind him? Maybe not – the players look as bored shitless as the crowd. As I asked earlier - Is it up to the crowd to life the players or the other way round? A bit of both of course but it also has to come from the manager who never seems to emerge from his dugout. I saw Dave Watson in the technical area once I think though admittedly, I’m not looking over there all the time.
So, we had over-rotation and now we have over stubbornness. What the fuck must players like Hojbjerg and Clasie think, let alone Caceres? I think that you can accept being out of the side if the 11 in possession are playing well and winning games but naming a virtually unchanged side and repeatedly scoring nil? Do something different Claude for fucks sake. Play three at the back to give us two up front perhaps or just leave out the under-performing players.
Looking forward, we have relegated Middlesbrough away, the United at home before Stoke at home. Boro should be a nailed on 0-0 draw – we are shit, they are shit and both teams are incredibly boring. Draw or lose that and the atmosphere against United will be shocking and quite possibly toxic. We’ll struggle to score in that one as well, regardless of Mourinho resting players for the Europa League final that they will be in. Stoke at home on the last day is a nailed on draw as well, probably tedious. So, my predictions for the last 3 games are:
Middlesbrough 0 Southampton 0
Southampton 0 Manchester United 1
Southampton 1 Stoke 1
I will be at the last two home games as usual, as will a lot of fans, just hoping that our manager drops the underperforming players, allows the players he does pick to express themselves and finds a way to actually get the best out of them. That’s his job in a nutshell. Doing nothing different will mean the same result. Southampton 0.