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For the second week running I am forced to report on a game I really don’t have the stomach to review.

Arsenal travelled to the South coast to face Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium this afternoon. We were coming off of two straight disheartening defeats, against opponents from whom we should have taken full points. Poor team selection, awkward play, and missed opportunities cost us all six of the points on offer. We all were hoping for a reversal of that fortune, especially given Brighton’s success earlier in the day at that tiny club from Middlesex.

With our injured and absent list mounting, we played the best team we could put out, with Eddie up top flanked by Saka and Gabi, Mø in the middle with Xhaka and Lokonga aside and behind, and the Gabriel White Axis supported by Tavares and Cedric in front of Ramsdale. ESR was left on the bench with Pépé; we brought up Hutchinson, Swanson, Ogungbo, and Azeez to make the numbers next to them with Capitola Rob and Mo’neny.

It should have been enough. We had 3/4 of the possession, outshot them 23-9, and forced 6 saves from Fraser Forster to the 2 they elicited from Ramsdale. But it wasn’t enough. We were beaten by a fine strike from Jan Bednarek just before halftime. And the MOTM Forster kept our shots out of his goal with a series of fine saves. And that was the game.

I could mention Eddie’s essential absence in the second half after a decent showing in the first. In the 17th minute he created our most promising opportunity by stealing the ball near the center circle from a Southampton defender (Lyanco?). The defender held Eddie’s arm just enough to prevent him from beating the other defender (Valery?), forcing Eddie to pass to Gabi out right. Gabi’s sumptious cross to Saka was turned towards goal high to Forster’s right; just about any other goalie would not have reached it. Forster did, and that was our moment. If we had any other striker of note on the bench Eddie should have been substituted early in the second half.

We had a couple of other minor moments where Forster did well to save or punch away, but persisted in playing the tight horseshoe of death, arcing from corner to corner and never really getting penetration either with a quality cross or by breaking their lines with a quick through-ball. Everything was overhit, underhit, or not chosen.

Good notes: As I said above, Eddie’s first half was good, not so much the second. After the last two poor outings, Tavares showed he could play the position for most of the whole game; I thought he did well, and showed good recovery of spirit if nothing else. Lokonga looked much better than last week with Xhaka in support. The former looked assured on the ball and was able to move it quickly through the middle with a number of nice turns and some incisive passing. The latter did the job in midfield, advancing the ball more than he usually does with his tendency to play backwards. When he was forced to be the 3rd of a back three for the final 20 minutes he played made no major mistakes.

Mø looks like he must be carrying and injury, or perhaps an illness. He is not moving as well as he was prior to the interlull, nor making the same kinds of passes to free up our front 3. Gabi and Saka looked good, though not sharp enough. They’re both being found out for their cuts inside, and teams are double-triple-quadruple-teaming them on those cuts in the absence of someone in the middle who can actually score a goal.

The defensive lapse that led to their goal was largely down to a slow Ben White not getting up after he barged himself off the post. When the ball fell to Bednarek White should have been up between him and goal. Instead, Bednarek had a free shot from six yards which Ramsdale had little chance of stopping (and good on him for getting a forearm on it; it would have been a stunner if he’d saved it). Not to rag on Ben, but he made a few mistakes throughout. Gabriel made fewer; even though Southampton broke through a number of times they held firm until help arrived. Except the once. Sigh.

And now what? Three straight losses, wherein we scored one goal, is really worrying. Had we won all three we’d be a point ahead of Chelsea in 3rd place, though Chelsea would have a game in hand. Alas, we’re now settled into 6th place, behind United on goals for (even though we also have a game in hand). We will have to try to get a point out of Chelsea, and beat United, West Ham, and Tottenham over the next month, or we could fall out of the European places altogether.

The biggest question: where are our goals? When teams pack the area, how do we score? When we break, how do we score? When we pass and move, how do we score? We are dying from lack of goals, and I don’t know what is the solution. I daresay MA8 and his staff had better figure out something, and quickly. We are running out of time.

But enough with the negativity. On behalf of all of us here at Goonerholicsforever, Happy Easter, Chag Pesach Sameach, and Ramadan Mubarak to Arsenal fans of the world. Even in our time of (relative) crisis, there is hope!

21 Drinks to “Good Friday, Terrible Saturday”

  1. 1
    bathgooner says:

    Thirst…..for goals.

    Thanks for a very measured report, scruz. The deficiencies of this squad are being pitilessly revealed and I fear the target of a CL place is beyond them. Whether we can cobble together decent enough performances and results to achieve any sort of European competition next season is hard to predict at this moment.

    May the ancient goddess Eostre bless Arsenal and all Holics everywhere.

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    You’ve done an excellent and valiant job in tough circumstances again . It’s hard to make much of a comment because this situation was obviously going to occur when you have no strikers . If the Chavs or Dippers win the FA Cup sixth will get you into the Europa but sixth means a play off stage I think . If Wet Spam win the Europa it will be up to seventh place probsbly . Beyond that you have the Conference League .
    We finished 8th last season and I think most Gooners think we have made progress but we have also spent £166 m. Questions must be asked if the season does tail off . We were tough on Emery and he finished fifth and got to a Final . I believe in Arteta but we don’t look likely to finish with a flourish . I hope I am wrong

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks scruz, my sympathies for the short stick two weeks running but you’ve done well with a fair report on a bastard of an afternoon for the team.

  4. 4
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks for a fair report Scruz. Please only volunteer for a five nil win from now on. Spurs away perhaps?

    We headed off mid morning on a glorious day and pointed the car south down the M3 to Southampton. I managed to find a parking space the same side of the water as the ground, about a mile away, but meaning we didn’t have to climb that bloody bridge and then face horrendous traffic on the way out. As we approached St Marys, Gooners were getting out of their coaches and relaxing in the sun. A quick pit stop for a hot dog lunch and then into the ground. I missed my footing on an unseen step and took a tumble onto the tarmac. Strong young Gooner hands brought me to my feet and advised me to take more water with it (not a drop was taken officer). The stewards hurried up to make sure I was OK, then opened a side door to let us in without going through the longish queue. What nice people they are in Southampton!

    Into the away concourse in time to see the last 15 of the Spurs Brighton game. Bissouma, who I very much wanted us to buy last summer, was having a blinder, shielding the back four and ensuring that Kane and Song barely got a kick. Then, with only a few minutes to go, came the first highlight of the day. Brighton scored an excellent goal to the great and raucous delight of the Arsenal travelling faithful. Voices were raised in surely the best of this season’s new songs “Wherever they go, Tottenham get battered”. Grins all round, the camaraderie of the terraces was on full show. I loved the tweet by the BHA account which simply said “We own North London”. Fair comment!

    Into the ground and up to our eyrie towards the back of the away stand by the corner flag. Buoyed by the Spurs result, the Southampton dirge of “Oh when the Saints go marching in” was widely mocked as we approached kick off.

    I don’t think I can add much to Scruzgooner’s excellent report above. We saw exactly the same game, with the same flaws. He refers to Eddie’s good first half. Time and again he made good runs through the middle only to be ignored as we predictably spread it wide time and again, ending with crosses which were headed away by the big Southampton defence or caught by the excellent Forster. The away fans kept encouraging the team, but many of us were not optimistic that we could score. So it proved.

    By the end the Southampton fans were jubilant. Walking back to our car, one Gooner was loudly bemoaning the fact that “we couldn’t even beat Southampton”. This was too much for one Saints fan who replied “You know the trouble with you lot mate? You still think you’re one of the best teams in Europe. We know we’re shit”. Again, I think, fair comment.

    Back to the car and within twenty minutes on the M3. The second highlight of the day came in an Indian restaurant in Winchester as the first mouthful of Cobra hit parched throats. My son commented that the thought of that pint was all that kept him going through that dreary second half. An excellent meal inside us, we headed back up the motorway. Home at 9.30, 290 miles done.

    Seven games left. I’ll be at five of them. Please Arsenal, give me a couple of good days out to finish this curate’s egg of a season?

  5. 5
    Bathgooner says:

    Good stuff, C100. Your dedication to the cause does you credit.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Countryman100 says:

    Another view of the game from the always excellent Mike McDonald on gunnerstown

    Nketiah and The Lost Puppy: Something’s broken at Arsenal and they better fix it fast [SOU 1-0 ARS]

  8. 8
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the link c100 and the away day report – glad you got two highlights.
    A good review from Mike as you say, a realistic summary of our situation overall.

  9. 9
    scruzgooner says:

    c100, bright and shiny at #4, thank you. glad a grand day out wasn’t a complete ruin!

    i think i will avoid reviews and stick to previews. at least for the tail end of the season. i just don’t have the heart for it!

  10. 10
    scruzgooner says:

    nice, from mike. the lost puppy syndrome is it: but did we lose the puppy, or are we the puppy?

  11. 11
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    RIP Steve Rowley.

    An Arsenal man all the way. My life would’ve been less rich without watching players he found in our colours.

    My thoughts are with all who knew him.

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    Firstly may I add my condolences to those on here to the friends and family of Steve Rowley . As GSD wrote he had a huge part in our success.
    Secondly ( and only second because of my respect for Steve ) many thanks to C100. It has indeed been a curate’s egg of a season . Few of us can see a way this ends well

  13. 13
    scruzgooner says:

    agreed all on steve rowley, RIP. so young, too. damnably.

    and ttg@12, we all can see a way this ends well, but its likelihood is diminishing with each match. COYG!

    on brighter note, depending on if the month has 30 or 31 days in it, in 9 or 33 hours (give or take) it will be 61 years since the tinies up the road won the league.

  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    9 or 33 hours you say, Scruz? That gives us a fair amount of latitude so let’s start celebrating now! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

    BTW, Thanks for a great report. (Not blaming you for the shit game or the shit zero points)

  15. 15
    Uplympian says:

    Thanks Scruz for manfully doing your duty with a realistic match report. Regretfully another poor show with the oft repeated lack of penetration. Our fellow drinkers have already given their view on where the issues lie – their little scope of changing personnel to change the malaise. Let’s hope they can regain their mojo in the remaining games.
    I am stilled scarred by the marsh dwellers winning the league those 60 years ago. I had just started out in the world of commerce in the City that summer and their followers were in full gloating mode ( which stayed with them many a long year after having nothing to gloat about). One of my new colleagues was from Tottenham, he was a vile person and extremely racist, not a good start to one’s career. Our clock will still be running when they reach their platinum anniversary 😎

  16. 16
    Ollie says:

    Cheers scruz. Tough to have to write the match-losing reports. Hope you get a happy win on your next round.

  17. 17
    bathgooner says:

    RIP Steve Rowley, a key man in the Wenger era. Another good man, taken too soon.

  18. 18
    Trev says:

    Well done, scruz ! Only just been able to face reading about it. Hope you get a chance, for all our sakes, to write an enjoyable one about another fine win.

    Thanks too, C100 – another enjoyable away day report. And well done to the travelling Gooners for some noisy support.

    RIP Steve Rowley. Became a full time scout in the 1980s in George Graham’s reign having turned up Tony Adams and Ray Parlour among others. Arsene Wenger appointed him Chief Scout in 1996 and he held that position until 2017.

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    RIP Steve Rowley. His eye for talent was foundational to Wenger’s teams.

    Scruz: You are cornering the market in minimalist reports that get straight to the nub of a game. Here’s hoping you get to apply the technique to a thumping victory soon.

    C100@4: Evocative away day report. Be careful to stay on your feet. Those tumbles can fracture wrists.
    ~@19: Interesting to know why the club feels it needs an external consultant at this point and who needs indoctrinating.

  21. 21
    Bathgooner says: