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Well, that was quite a game. Not quite what we wanted for an outcome, certainly not quite what we needed. Considering what was at stake it was quite a comedown, but considering how close we came to both losing and winning my blood pressure still hasn’t quite recovered.

Arsenal hosted Southampton’s Saints in a Friday evening fixture at the Grove, with the 8 pm kickoff meaning a lunchtime watch for your humble scribe from California. All Arsenal fans know what we had to do, to quote Peter Drury (himself aping Mikel Arteta), a win was “non-negotiable”. Top vs. bottom, an Arsenal in need of the three points to make two straight draws, both from leading 2-0, into something palatable ahead of that red-circled date with the-expensively-assembled-€itzens-of-(allegedly)-Off-Balance-Sheet-FC (™Lonestar Gooner) next week. The Saints arrived in North London looking up at the entire league, knowing a defeat here would keep them rooted to the foot of the table with yet fewer games to get themselves off of that dank canvas and back into the ring.

So I was hardly settled into my luncheon in front of the television when we were down a goal. After about 20 seconds Gabriel passed the ball back to Ramsdale, who had options left, and right, with Zinchenko offering himself between Walcott and Alcaraz at the top of the box. And our Aaron, who has done so well this season, made the wrong choice: he passed to Zinchenko. Alcaraz anticipated the move, intercepted the ball, and laced it in to the far corner, Ramsdale barely getting a touch that put it onto the post, but in.

Arsenal 0-1 Southampton (Alcaraz, 1′)

And the crowd, rowdy and boisterous (dare I say exuberant) at the start of the game, sat in stunned silence. No doubt they were asking themselves if they’d seen what just happened, and if they believed what they’d seen. I certainly was.

We began to play our game after that, though often careless passes put us under the cosh of their excellent press. A strong run by Gabi led to him running out of room at the byline; Mø put the ball into the side of the net on recycle from a corner. At that point, in the 6th minute, the Saints’ goalkeeper Bazunu began wasting time; I will note now it took until the 61st minute for referee Simon Hooper to warn Bazunu about this, and he largely continued to waste time at every opportunity until the end of the game without the sanction of a yellow card. Great job, Simon.

We spent the next eight minutes or so being successful again and again down the left, with Gabi’s cutbacks amounting to nothing, but building pressure. Suddenly, *poof*, it was gone. After a goal kick we won the ball in midfield, but Saints pressure forced Mø to fire a pass towards Vieira which was intercepted in the center circle. Our defenders had dropped deep, so there was both time and space for a pass to Alcaraz in the middle of our defensive third, with Theo outside right of Gabriel. Theo put on the afterburners to meet a sumptuous throughball from Alcaraz inside of Gabriel, Theo sidefooting the ball past Ramsdale into the far corner.

Arsenal 0-2 Southampton (Walcott, 14′)

All that could be heard was the Saints’ anthem about them marching in. I heard someone scratching their head about what they were witnessing. I don’t even think Cynic’s favorite drummer could muster a beat.

This lasted for two minutes. The fans gathered their breath, and their wits, and began singing and cheering Arsenal along in a rising tide of energy. Then Holding put a great ball to Saka down the right, and he crossed to Zinchenko at the left of the box. His fizzed cross was a bit hot to be met by Gabi, who’d kept running, and Saka, who had not. Foreshadowing?

Our next foray forward took a number of passes around the defense, who could not find a ball into the midfield until Partey played himself a nice backheel and passed to Zinchenko in the circle, who moved it forward to Mø between their lines. Saka carried Mø’s ball to the byline, beating Perraud, and cut the ball back to the middle of the box for an advancing Gabi to volley home.

Arsenal 1-2 Southampton (Gabigol, 20′)

Suddenly, the crowd was going nuts.

Even so, the next real action was from Southampton. Lavia (who had a great game, perhaps we should be looking at him once Southampton are in the Championship) wriggled away from Mø with some nice dribbling skills, passing the ball out left for Perraud to cross to the far post. Elyounoussi headed the ball directly at Ramsdale’s feet; Aaron blocked the shot, which rebounded to Alcaraz who worked hard to hit a high volley hard at our goal from about four meters. Aaron instinctively thrust his hand up and tipped the ball over the crossbar, certainly saving us from the Saints’ goal number three.

The rest of the first stanza played out largely in the Saints’ defensive half, with the Saints earning three yellows (Alcaraz, Perraud, and Walker-Peters) and having to substitute Bednarek after he was upended by Gabi and fell hard on his back, neck, and head. The Pole was decidedly unhappy about being subbed, trying in vain to get back on the pitch before Caleta-Car replaced him. Arsenal had a largely toothless 66% possession for the entirety of the half, though we very nearly scored during the 7 minutes of stoppage time when Saka’s corner was headed at the near post by White, only to be cleared off the line by Alcaraz. In the last action of the half Saka put in yet another beauty of a cross to Gabi, who volleyed it to Jesus. His header was blocked, and after a scramble White’s shot was blocked as well.

Halftime: Arsenal 1-2 Southampton

Sellés took off Alcaraz at the half. I don’t know why he did that, especially not why he replaced him with a defender in Lyanco. But he did, and I think, in the end, that was a good thing for Arsenal. Alcaraz had a goal, an assist, and saved a goal off the line…

The first 15 minutes of the second half was all Arsenal. We advanced again and again, our crosses from either wing leading only to half-shots, blocks, or clearances. For example, Saka again curled in a cross to die for, only for the defender to get the slightest of touches, taking it away from Vieira just enough it glanced out of play for a goalkick. In the 52nd minute there was a bit of a penalty shout; Elyounoussi had hold of Mø’s arm, preventing him from going after a ball in the box. Neither the ref nor VAR thought it was much of a challenge.

On 57′ Trossard came in for Vieira, and we continued to press for our second goal. As we tried to clear from a rare Saints attack Partey was caught out at the edge of our box, leading to a Southampton corner. Ward-Prowse knocked a sharp inswinger that Bella-Kotchap nodded on from the front post to Carleta-Car, who had a simple tap-in header amongst the Arsenal ball-watchers at the back post. Cue pandemonium in the visitors’ section.

Arsenal 1-3 Southampton (Carleta-Car, 66′)

And that seemed to be it for us on the night. Maybe for our title challenge. It was enough for many to start thinking about, then heading for, the exits over the remaining 25 minutes. That said, it took about four minutes for those who remained to get behind our boys again, when Gabi floated in yet another perfect cross, only for Jesus to volley over. It was a difficult shot, but one would have hoped he could have tested the keeper.

In the following minutes Eddie came in for Zinchenko, Theo (in probably his last visit to the Grove, thank you for all of it, Theo, well, except for that goal tonight!) and Armstrong came off for Sulemana and Onuachu. The latter is 6’7″ tall, and strong. At one point he carried the ball down most of the length of our half of the pitch before Gabriel could tackle it out into touch. We tried again and again to get our second goal, and like in the first half had shots blocked, nicked off our toes, and saved. I have to say something here about Gabi and Saka. I’ve not seen them play better all season, they were so switched on, so willing to put themselves on the line, and played balls of such high quality into their teammates. It was a close run thing between the two for my MOTM, but I’ve got to shade to Saka. You’ll read why in a minute (more foreshadowing).

Nelson came in for Gabigol in the 85th, just before Lavia (remember him!) came off for Diallo. The clock ticked towards 90 minutes and a famous Saints victory. First, however, Ramsdale hit a goalkick out to White, who dinked a lovely ball over the top for Saka, cutting in from the right. Saka’s cutback was cleared by Caleta-Car back to White, who played a 1-2-1 with Mø at the top right corner of the box. Mø took the return pass, got it out from his feet, and curled an absolute peach of a ball into the far corner. You could see what that goal meant to our Captain, his energy and emotion ran high and he was absolutely leading by example.

Arsenal 2-3 Southampton (Ødegaard, 88′)

After the restart Mø got the ball in the middle of their half and drove hard towards goal, passing the ball to Eddie; it came off him to Jesus, whose shot was blocked. We remained in control of the play, and a Gabriel throw-in ended up with Trossard on the left wing. He played a perfect nutmeg of a pass through Ward-Prowse to Jesus in the box, who knocked it still to an onrushing Nelson. Reiss’s shot was saved by Bazunu but only out to Saka just off the penalty spot. He made no mistake, his shot a nutmeg of Bella-Kotchap past the sprawling keeper into the back of the net. Cue pandemonium in the stadium.

Arsenal 3-3 Southampton (Saka, 90′)

2 minutes and 19 seconds separated our last two goals. Due to the timewasting and various “injuries” to Saints players in the second half a minimum 8 minutes of stoppage time was given. There was only one team that was going to score, and it wasn’t the team from the South coast. THOF was ROCKING.

In stoppage time Trossard made a glorious run to about 20 yards from goal and hit a shot off the crossbar that, had it been six inches lower, would have won us the game. These are the inches Mikel has been talking about lately. As the clock wound down we worked the ball up the right between Saka, Jesus, Mø, and White; Saka brought it inside, holding off his defender with wonderful strength, and passed it to Trossard. Our Belgian chipped it into the box for Saka to nod to Jesus, who went down under little pressure. The ball pinged around the top of the box until it fell to Bournemouth hero Nelson: could lightning strike twice? Unfortunately not, Ward-Prowse knocked his snap shot just wide of Bazunu’s post; again, just inches. Partey blazed an unlikely shot over, and in the last play of the game Trossard floated yet another beautiful cross to White, who gathered it in the box and sent it to Jesus whose shot was blocked but who also looked fouled…but no penalty was the decision. And that was it.

Full time: Arsenal 3-3 Southampton

We came tantalizingly close to pulling yet another rabbit out of this season’s hat. One could argue that we should be good enough not to have to rely on miracle endings against the team bottom of the league, but this year has really given life to the old cliché about “any given day.” Southampton were certainly worth their lead against the run of play; in the first half especially their pressing was excellent and they made our passing look woefully like Tottenham’s. We were better in the second half, but their third goal was yet another defensive lapse in a season that is seeing too many of them for my liking. Would that William is back for the game next week in Manchester!

And so it goes. We are still 4 points clear at the top of the league, even with the-expensively-assembled-€itzens-of-(allegedly)-Off-Balance-Sheet-FC (™Lonestar Gooner) having two games in hand. As Southampton showed, they could have beaten us. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could beat City, or at least come away with a fourth straight draw. The latter won’t benefit us in the sense that winning the title wouldn’t be in our own hands anymore, but I’ll take that psychological boost against a loss any day.

Oh, and Happy St. Totteringham’s Day!

31 Drinks to “Resilience and Exuberance…not…quite…enough”

  1. 1
    Goonersince54 says:

    Excellent summary Scruz.
    You wouldn’t want to have a weak heart or high blood pressure following our merry band of players.
    Leaking goals all over the place, making simple errors, playing like novices and champions in the same game.
    If we keep doing this to our supporters, the ambulances will be lining up outside the Ems.
    We are paying a heavy price for not having quality back up in defence and midfield.
    That’s not a criticism, just a bald fact.
    We will strengthen both areas in the summer, but whether it will be as PL winners or runners up, is only just still open to question.

  2. 2
    Ollie says:

    Cheers scruz. I still don’t know what to think, it was so frustrating.
    So close, yet so far. St Totteringham didn’t feel joyous.

  3. 3
    Bathgooner says:

    That’s the game I saw, scruz, on a stuttering stream on my phone with the volume turned down as the management had decided to go to sleep rather than share the rollercoaster experience. The individual errors were desperate but the team deserves huge praise for their fight back right to the bitter end. With a bit more luck they would have salvaged all three points.

    Everything has an upside as well as a downside. Going to the fakirs’ patch is difficult in any circumstance but the clarity of needing a win to regain control of our own destiny is I think a better psychological challenge than defaulting from the off to playing for a draw. We simply must not lose. There will be more twists and turns in this race.

  4. 4
    Countryman100 says:

    Scruz you’ve done an extraordinary job of describing the highs and lows of emotions in the stadium even though you were 8000 miles away. The come back was incredible, our boys just never give up. Sadly it wasn’t quite enough, despite the incredibly loud support. Remember that 89 run in. We lost to Derby, then drew with Wimbledon before Anfield. We can do this.

  5. 5
    Ollie says:

    Good point, C100, I found myself actually wondering if scruz was in the stadium!
    As for the rest, people, please stop giving me hope, I am trying to be realist, and you make me believe again! 🙂
    P.S. I told a mate I play footie with when rumour surfaced of Saliba’s injury at the start of that interlull, that I thought our hoped depended on Saliba being fit, but I don’t want to be proved right, especially as there are so many other factors (he’s definitely a huge loss for our overall game though).

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    Thanks, scruz for a comprehensive report at a difficult time for you.

    This is why I hate playing relegation scrappers with new managers at this do or die point of the season. Mind you, in this instance, our own injuries and some sloppy play have amplified their threat.

    I like Holding’s effort and loyalty as a squad member but he is sadly not up to the job of deputising for Saliba. We’ve been leaking like a sieve in recent games and our defence has come under pressure because the whole team is so spread out with the back line having to sit so much further back.

    I saw a stat yesterday for those who like such things – generally not me, I should add – but since Holding came into the team our ‘ xG against ‘ had gone from the second best in the league to the 19th best in the league. Yikes ! One can only hope Haaland is not reading this !

  7. 7
    Trev says:

    Having re-read that, it looks a bit unfair on Holding. He undoubtedly gives his best but …..

    Someone who I didn’t think gave his best on Friday was Vieira. How can anyone with that name not at least go about his business line a warrior ? He was poor and looks a long way off a Premier League player at the moment.

    Still, to be a bit more positive, we are 5 points clear of the oily fraudsters and even if we fail in this tremendous season, with strengthening we can be back again. Surely even City’s ageing stalwarts must get bored with winning the league eventually ….

    The sooner they are relegated for their 15,000 financial irregularities the better.

    Onwards and upwards, mes braves !

  8. 8
    Goonersince54 says:

    Good luck to the Ladies in CL semi final this afternoon.
    Having seen off one powerhouse German team in Bayern Munich, we now have to face another one in Wolfsburg.
    Without our 4 best players out for the season, and a threadbare squad,it will be a tough ask to get anything from today’s away leg.
    But with over 45,000 tickets sold for the home leg next Monday,
    I have everything crossed we can come home with something still to play for.

  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    An evocative report, Scruz. Heart-stopping just to read it.
    We are where we are. And not many would have thought it is where we would be when the season started.

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    Happy St Totteringhams Day indeed 😂😂

  11. 11
    TTG says:

    Terrific report of a highly exciting game. As I write the Spuds are 5-1 down, a reminder of the chasm between us .
    Theo was never my favourite but you could sense his loyalty to the Gooners . He was a thorn in our flesh all game . Our squad is not deep enough but it has magnificent fighting spirit

  12. 12
    Gooner_KS says:

    After receiving the notification for Wolfsburg’s second goas, as any sane person would do, I turned them off. A couple of hours passed and slowly, with one-eye, scrolled to the women’s scores, fearing the worst, when…. BAM, the ladies had equalised, against the odds and as G54 mentioned @8. Now any win home will do, I have no doubt they will. COYG

  13. 13
    Gooner_KS says:


  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    Many thanks scruzgooner for your thorough and entertaining report on a game I still haven’t seen. As I await my plane home at Newark airport I wonder what twists and turns still may be in this title race, knowing we’re due a good turn or two along the way. COYRRG

  15. 15
    Steve T says:

    Cheers Scruz.

    I arrived on Friday with hope, and in expectation. A point at Anfield is not a bad point. We dropped points at West Ham, and shouldn’t have. Friday was a must win for me, and a very much, should definitely win.

    After a fantastic season so far, we are now making errors that are proving costly. The luck currently is not with us. The atmosphere was again fantastic at kick off. Then, less than 30 seconds in, we are one down. We are then on the back foot. To concede a second was again far from being on the agenda.

    As others have highlighted, we lack back ups in important areas. Holding is a decent stopper. He never gives less than 100%. But he is no Saliba. If we play out from the back, he looks uncomfortable. The loss of Tomi has been a big blow. With him fit it would have given us the option of playing Ben White in the middle. I also wonder why Vieira started and Jorginho was on the bench? That for me was a strange one.

    The final fight back was gutsy and commendable. But it was also too little too late. The disappointing thing for me was the lack of shots on target for the majority of the game. The time wasting was incredible frustrating and should have been punished earlier. Book their keeper in the first half and it stops. Those of us in block 4 were expecting more than 8 minutes.

    We understandably look tired. At the final whistle, everyone had given their all. They will know that was a game we should have won. We all know where we need to improve and hopefully those upgrades will follow in the summer. This is year 3 of the 5 year plan and I would suggest we are way ahead of where we expected to be. We are still 5 points ahead with 6 games to play, and Citeh with 2 games in hand. We would have all grabbed that witn open arms if offered it back in August.

    So, on to Manchester. A draw is now not a bad result for Citeh. Bizarrely, the psychological aspect of that may well sow the odd seed of doubt. Especially if we play like we know we can, and the way we have earlier on in the season.

    Time to dig deep and believe.

  16. 16
    Goonersince54 says:

    Fantastic effort by our Ladies away at Wolfsburg.
    Very proud of them, and really pleased to see that Board Executives
    Josh/Vini/Tim and Lord Harris were in attendance to show their support.
    2 down early on, and not looking good, but showed great heart and fighting spirit to get it back to 2 – 2.
    If you haven’t seen our goals, Tim Stillman who goes to all the Ladies games, has them in his post match interview over on Arseblog.
    With the 2nd leg to come at the Ems, and what looks like a 50,000 plus crowd to spur them on, the joint will be rocking next Monday night.
    It’s been many a long year since both the Men’s and Ladies teams, along with our youth team have all gone so deep in the season together.
    Whatever happens over the final few weeks of a fabulous season for the Club, the future is looking brighter than it has since Arsene’s glory days.

  17. 17
    Doctor Faustus says:

    An excellent report Scruz — you captured the ebb and flow of the game and the accompanying emotional swings beautifully.

    Southampton came well prepared to press very high and alert to any sloppiness from our part. As it has now become abundantly clear, Saliba’s absence has a domino effect not only on the defensive solidity but also on our midfield’s ability to play a more aggressive game. We are also missing Tomiyasu who would have allowed us to play White next to Gabriel. Our set-piece defending has continued to deteriorate since the resumption after the World Cup and the ease with which Southampton scored their third was a bit alarming.

    Trossard was excellent after he came on and in addition to his own technical qualities and intelligence he combines really well with the others in attack. Reiss too, in his brief appearances, look promisingly purposeful and direct. Hope to see them more for the rest of the season.

    In Granit’s absence Jorginho could have been a choice, but Zinchenko (a natural move dgirjder)in the Xhaka role and Tierney at left back will be a more effective option than either playing Vieira, who I think needs one more pre-season and some significant strengthening to be able to contribute consistently in PL.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    Wonderful fight-back by the women’s team. Digging deep and not giving up after going two goals down is becoming a club hallmark.

  20. 20
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Fighting for CL with the four most impactful players of the first eleven out for the season is indeed a remarkable achievement. Extraordinary really.

    A good article about the academy, Per and Jack: https://theathletic.com/4444392/2023/04/24/mertesacker-arteta-left-arsenal-a-note-telling-them-to-keep-me-when-he-left-for-city/?source=user_shared_article

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@17: Your Tierney/Zinchenko solution is intruiging. However, Xhaka’s absence left an ESR-shaped hole in midfield, again raising the question of why it was not ESR filing it.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    SteveT@15: Agree with you on Holding. He would start for two-thirds of Premier League teams but none of the elite ones.

  23. 23
    bathgooner says:

    It looks distinctly probable that we will be facing a Chavski team experiencing a new manager bounce next Tuesday. Another hurdle in our path.

  24. 24
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Ned@21: My guess is ESR isn’t physically quite there to push himself as much as Mikel would expect in that role. But it would still be better to start with him than Vieira.

    Not only Saliba, we are missing Tomiyasu as well and his reliable versatility across the back line.

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    AMN is to leave Arsenal at the end of the season on a free, with the club declining to take up the option to extend his contract. It is difficult to see him getting into the team if he returns, so a fresh start elsewhere is his better option, especially as he is now 26. There will always be a feeling of a potential Arsenal career not being fulfilled, however, for whatever reasons.

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F.@24: Agreed. Mike MacDonald has some observations about our defence’s newfound nervousness. https://gunnerstown.com/arsenal/2023/04/23/44972/

    The word that Saliba has suffered structural damage to his back is deeply concerning. If that is the case, he would be out for the rest of the season. He is still only 21. Such an injury could blight the rest of his career.

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Best of luck to AMN wherever he lands up.
    I suppose, in hindsight, we should have sold him on a couple of seasons back but he’d done so well in the run to the cup success that it’s easy to understand why we wanted to keep him. Hopefully, like Iwobi and Joe W he can go on to a PL career.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@27: Blogs makes a similar point about AMN today. When Wolves put in an offer for him, he was performing well enough to have earned an England call-up and was by nor means an Arsenal write-off. And in the world of alternate universes (or should that be the universe of alternate worlds?), if AMN had listened to Arteta and become a right back, would Benny Blanco now be playing there?

  29. 29
    Doctor Faustus says:

    NBN @ 26: I am hopeful that with the right treatment and a careful rehabilitation Saliba will be back to his best at the start of the next season. He is an extraordinary talent and given how young he is can become a genuine world class modern defender, and we cannot just buy our way to an easy replacement. However, this experience of noticeable drop in our collective quality in his absence will convince the club to look for alternatives to Rob — loyal and competent though he is — who can better allow us to play the front footed game that we took for granted with Saliba and Gabriel.

  30. 30
    Lonestar Gooner says:

    Excellent write-up Scruz.

    Apologies for being incommunicado recently. Capitalism calls…and somebody’s gotta make the doughnuts.

    I got a feelin’ in me bones that the lads are gonna show up and show out tomorrow.

    We’re getting a result tomorrow. Mark it.


  31. 31
    scruzgooner says:

    cheers, all. it was a fun game to write up, after all. wouldn’t have been as fun if we’d not drawn.

    as steve t. says, time to dig deep and believe.