One Step Closer

By David Oudôt

Online Ed: Arsenal win at Southampton to keep CL hopes alive

(Ed’s note – Many thanks to David Oudôt for stepping in and doing the write up on last night’s game, which I was unable to catch)

Whilst Groundhog Day is unarguably one of the greatest comedies ever produced, for our beloved football club to have lived their own version in real life for over a decade is painstaking rather than humorous. In a largely uneventful Wednesday evening game on the south coast against a team that have been on the beach themselves for a few weeks now, a 2-0 win was accomplished and as per every season for over a decade now, a last minute burst down the home straight may see us make the top four and retrieve the Holy Grail of a further £50m+ going towards Kroenke’s global sporting brand’s EBITDA during the course of next season. Job done as far as the majority owner and his lackeys are concerned.

In light of the 2-0 win against Wenger’s nemesis on Sunday, the common sense standard of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was used, and the only change made to the match day squad saw Koscielny being replaced by Mustafi after picking up what hopefully is a minor injury against ManYoo and he was, essentially, rested. Whilst I’ve never been the biggest fan of LK6 (very much the best of a bad bunch in our Club’s defensive options) it was clear that we missed him in places last night in terms of ability to organise the defence and function as a unit rather than 3-5 individuals. Mustafi gave a good display as a centre back in terms of his performance against Gabbiadini and company man-to-man wise, but by playing as the centre of three defenders, a crucial part of his role is to organise the defence and that was a lot poorer than as we saw on Sunday with questions over positioning at times and Southampton players exploiting the space often left.

True, Koscielny was Captain that day so it can be argued that more is expected of him in that role, but fingers cannot be pointed at the replacement skipper, Cech, as it is impossible for him to organise a side that is generally many yards in front of him on the pitch. Further proof that captaincy at our football club has not meant anything since the days of Fabregas (and briefly Van Persie) when there was a skipper who actually seemed to speak to the other players on the park. Since his departure the club’s official captaincy has, for some mindboggling reason, been given to an injury prone reserve (Vermaelen, Arteta, Mertesacker) whose job at the Club is to have their photograph posted above an article in the home game programmes that has been written by one of Mark Gonnella’s office juniors, whilst the on-pitch armband is tossed to whoever’s nearest. If any of you do actually see BFG anywhere could you please ask him to phone us and let us know he’s safe?

Anyway – back to the game. The opening 20 minutes saw Southampton come out fighting with several shots at goal and in return Ramsey placed it just wide. But the most notable incident during the course of the first half was defensive disorganisation and a poorly played offside trap that gave Southampton a good chance which brought a great save out of Cech at his near post, spreading his body to deny Gabbiadini. Although there was some minor panic 20 minutes later when the Ox limped off with a hamstring pull, to have Barcelona’s next £35m signing from Arsenal on the bench in Bellerin we were more than covered and as a pacey right-back he fits into the 3-4-2-1 formation as well as AOC15 has.

In terms of the second half, the game was killed off with the beautiful opener from Sanchez. His dance through the defence, feigned shot to dupe the defenders, and clinical finish past Forster, showed that he is worth the £55m Citeh/Bayern/China will pay for him in the summer (despite his perfectly deployed tap of the heart/badge his agent instructed him to do I think it safe to say his time at the Club is ending. Enjoy him while you can, folks). Thereafter Saints offered nothing and applied suntan lotion, and a Wengerball perfect second goal drew a line under it all – great layback from Ozil, inch perfect chip over from Alexis, instant return header across the goal mouth from Ramsey, and a bullet Giroud down header. Bish bash bosh.

As a whole it was a solid, efficient, and decent team performance to get the needed result, but there were certain performances to point out in terms of looking forward to next season. The lesson the whole squad got at WHL has taught each of the players a few things, but Ramsey and Xhaka have been equally good in the last two games. Fans could spend decades wondering why an England midfield of Lampard and Gerrard never worked (spoiler alert – pretentious w***ers’ egos) but our two central midfielders share similar skills to that duo and hopefully more can be made out of them. Ramsey’s box-to-box engine and appearing in the right place at the right time for the killer assist paired with Xhaka’s Quarterback-esque passing (and vastly improved tackling) promises something. Also, Giroud’s new role as target supersub, the 21st century David Fairclough, acting as a relief to Welbeck for the last 15 minutes after a lot of Thierry Henry style tracking back to get more involved with the team and starting the build-up deeper quicker may also be a beneficial tool/duo. But if next season’s First Team Head Coach (whoever that may be…) plays us in a different way then maybe the whole thing is moot problem and/or a solution that was found six months too late.

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to everyone’s favourite stadium against another team with nothing to play for, if we look to get the first goal and tie the game up early then our last minute sneak into the 4th place may well be on as long as one of two teams drops points. And if that is somehow coupled with an FA Cup victory against the country’s best team by a mile the Board will only see it as a successful season. And there will be another Groundhog Day as Wenger re-signs, comments about Great Spirit and quality ensue, and we all begrudgingly renew our season tickets for another season of 4th place finish after a good Cup run, and being humiliated in the first knock-out round in the Champions League.

One point to note is that whilst a Champions League qualification may be worth more than anything to Clubs’ owners, the exposure last night’s game with Southampton got worldwide suggests a lot. The fact that an ever-reliable pub in Finsbury Park that shows every single Arsenal game via whatever broadcaster anywhere in the world is showing it couldn’t find a channel showing it until the 35th minute (many thanks to Canal+ 2 in France) says a lot. Every other broadcaster was showing the Madrid derby in the Champions League semi-final. If only that could be us one day…

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11th May 2017 11:33:05


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Exeter Gunner  12:21pm 11th May 2017

I've never believed in fate or destiny... except when it comes to Wenger's Arsenal. It feels so inevitable that the last 3 games will be won and that Liverpool will drop points in one of their remaining two. And that we'll continue to have this season for years and years more, until Wenger eventually dies in post. - Post No. 107056

Redshirtwhitesleeves  12:31pm 11th May 2017

Everything's falling nicely into place for Wenger and another top 4 finish, groundhog season again, surely the new contract is being readied for signing as everyone gets what they want except for us the fans who don't matter to this club anyway - Post No. 107057

Andrew  12:54pm 11th May 2017

It was also missing from both 5 Live and Talksport. - Post No. 107058

TonyEvans  13:45pm 11th May 2017

Here we go again - the improbable slowly becoming more and more likely, with Liverpool the most likely candidates as this season's stooges. - Post No. 107061

Up For Grabs Now  14:05pm 11th May 2017

Jeez, beam me up Scotty, if the infamous fourth placed trophy somehow once again lands in Wenger’s lap! Surely, sooner or later, just like St Totterinham day, the Wenger dictatorship will end one day, won't it?! - Post No. 107062

GoonerRon  14:25pm 11th May 2017

That winning feeling is quite nice. Really hope we batter the inbreds on Saturday. - Post No. 107063

mbg  14:27pm 11th May 2017

It's groundhog day alright David how many is that now ? steamrolling lowly opponents (with their heads already on some far off beach) in end of season games with no pressure, to scrape through into fourth place by the skin of the weasels skinny arse to win our fourth place trophy, which some are putting down to great tactical change and know how and getting all moist over. You couldn't make it up. We want wenger out. - Post No. 107064

mbg  14:43pm 11th May 2017

Redshirts, indeed mate, and I hope all those mind changers remember that next season when/after they've changed their minds again after getting moist over a run of a couple of wins against mediocre opposition with more important things on their minds like where their going to go for their holidays, when the same old same old starts again, along with the stuffing's, humiliations, embarrassments, no signings worth talking about, spin, etc, etc, from an old past it excuse for a manager. wenger out. - Post No. 107065

Cheltenham Gunner  15:06pm 11th May 2017

Really hope that we don 't batter the inbreds on Saturday as I don't trust Liverpool not to drop points. The last time we finished 5th was the season before Wenger took over, so appropriate we finish there this season to signal's Wenger's departure(please!!). You have to laugh at Sky's 'Run in' tag, how desperate are they to try and extract some excitment at the end of this frankly tedious premiership campaign. - Post No. 107066

Yes its Ron  15:14pm 11th May 2017

Cyril - as much as the TV hype up the 'run in' to keep viewers, the fact is that Clubs like Utd, Saints, Stoke, are as good as done, on their hols mentally. AFC are just knocking over teams who arent at it, like we always do. Yr falling into the time worn trap. - Post No. 107060 - Post No. 107067

Gaz  15:28pm 11th May 2017

Can't believe any fan can fall back into the trap of believing a top four finish is in any way shape or form an achievement. Three years ago after finishing a lot closer to the eventual champions in a top four place we were told an FA cup win would be the springboard to greater success. Three years later and the same thing has happened apart from the fact we're a lot further behind the potential champions! Yet bizarrely some fans will still see this season as progress. Let's call this as it is. Our fans are the problem and I hope they all **** off with Wenger when he finally leaves. - Post No. 107068

RobG  16:14pm 11th May 2017

No sod it ! Gravity applies to all. I refuse to accept that Wenger is some Demi God to defy the reality of human existence. They won't make fourth, however dippy the Scoucers, however dopy the Mancs.. Wenger Out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - Post No. 107069

Bard  16:52pm 11th May 2017

Spot on Ron; these sides are on their holidays and easy meat. The side doesnt look improved in any way. Without a bit of Sanchez brilliance we might still be out there trying to score. We always do well against sides that lack focus. As Kevs recent article suggested I believe there are rumblings behind the scenes. - Post No. 107070

mbg  17:23pm 11th May 2017

Yes there's always those who are fooled year after year season after season, will they ever learn ? (silly question I suppose) Groundhog day and Premature Ejaculation certainly come/go hand in hand, pun intended. - Post No. 107071

CORNISH GOONER  19:31pm 11th May 2017

Very, very bored with it all & a bit "glass empty" with the likely outcome at the end of an endless run of Groundhog seasons. The "Manager's" touchline antics after the second goal just made him look sad & past it imo. Unlike a few on here I actually don't have a problem with Jeremy Corbyn who I think is a rarity, an honest politician, but his pro-Wenger stance is giving me doubts - sorry Jazzer! - Post No. 107072

dartford gooner  20:54pm 11th May 2017

Maybe the old boy is waiting to see what happens at PSG before he makes up his mind. If they fail to win their league they will sack their manager and Arsene can move in and say the fans drove him out. Just an idea or is it wishful thinking. - Post No. 107073

mbg  20:56pm 11th May 2017

We haven't heard much from the AKB wengerites lately about all these fabled conspiracies (excuses) against their messiah, the petitions, etc, I guess it's because their all working in his favour now, home games, other managers playing their reserves, games against mediocre opposition at the right time, opposition players more worried about what beach on Bali their heading to, all helping him out on his way to achieve his invisible trophy, you can just imagine the furore if Maureen would have played his strongest team and beaten TOF again (the excuses and conspiracies would have been flying) these teams/players already on their hols busting a gut and getting decisions and winning, or drawing, heaven help us the out cry would have been deafening it just wouldn't have been fair, but saying that, their messiah hasn't done it or made it yet so it's not too late. @no new contract, We want wenger out. - Post No. 107074

GoonerRon  22:21pm 11th May 2017

@ mbg - getting your pre-emptive rationale in early just in case we do make the top 4? I still think we should get a new manager in the summer, but if we do make top 4 and win the FA Cup, that is probably significant overachievement compared to what the vast majority of experts, pundits and journos predicted before the season started. - Post No. 107075

Moscowgooner  23:46pm 11th May 2017

Gooner Ron. Setting the Wenger issue briefly to one side, difficult to do I know, is making the top 4 this year good for the club anyway? Nothing will change next season: we'll qualify from our group; get hammered in the round of 16 - resultant hangover and injuries to key players overplayed will see us drop well off the Premiership pace once again. If Wenger has to stay, wouldn't it be novel to see if he could do anything (not much I suspect) with a squad that can be 100% focused on the league rather than treat the UCL as the holy grail? - Post No. 107076

Cyril  23:57pm 11th May 2017

Ron, it's still fascinating and there in lies the rub! We are still hanging in by the skin of (may I say) old teeth. I think we have a chance Ron of top 4 and a nice day in the sun. I'm hoping for a final ticket, I hope your coming along. " she wore a yellow ribbon in the merry month of May" come on you gunners ! - Post No. 107077

mbg  0:03am 12th May 2017

GoonerRon, hit a nerve there have I ? no i'm not at all, I leave that for his apologists, I fully expect TOF/us to scrape into the top four again, I hope he doesn't just for the blow to his ego it's going to be to both him and his apologists,(and the fact it might hasten TOF's departure) and we'll certainly hear the conspiracy theories (excuses) then, and vice versa if he does scrape through yet again (and it will be no thanks to him and his tactical knowledge and skill )the whooping, backslapping, celebrating the told you so's from his followers and wengerites will no doubt be deafening, maybe your getting warmed up for that with your pre-emptive overachievement rationale. #no new contract, wenger out. - Post No. 107078

markymark  7:02am 12th May 2017

Talking about conspiracies MBG I surprisingly detect less POGMOL chatter on Untold. Couldn't be because we are winning surely? If it carries on like this then Mandy Dodd (bring back the Dandy Modd), Pat will have to rely on NWO (new world order) and the Bilderburg group to provide them with their fill. It's an odd site after just 10 reads I found myself saying "I must obey Tony, Tony Attwood is right, The Great Leader must live forever " Oh dear better get reading Le Grove and quick! - Post No. 107079

GoonerRon  8:41am 12th May 2017

@ MoscowG - I think it is important for the reason it increases our chances of getting better players in and also of keeping our better players too. The fact is a £40-50m hole in our revenue won't be filled by the owner (another conversation entirely) or by commercial income so either we have less money to spend on players, less money for wages to improve important player contracts and / or the fans get hit with price rises on everything. I'd love us to have an un-hindered bash at the league but the fact is we've never been close to finishing in a non-European league position under Wenger. - Post No. 107080

Yes its Ron  10:00am 12th May 2017

Morning Cyril - looking forwawd to the FAC mate very much.I think we can and will beat Chelsea. I m done with the PL now. I dont think we' ll get top 4. I think we ll draw at Stoke tomrw and to be honest we dont really deserve to make it do we? Is it a good thing anyway? No, i wont be at Wembley sadly. Hull Final was my last and i only got a seat for that through a friends illness last minute. Felt a bit of a fraud really as ive had no membership of the Club since 2011. I was there in 78 and 79 and 93 though. Great memories mate but my times done bothering to go to Finals now i suspect unless a ticket falls my way. Too many other things on and footie s well down the pecking order these days matey. - Post No. 107081

Time for change  11:27am 12th May 2017

Nice to get a clean sheet away from home. Wenger out now. - Post No. 107082

Alsace  12:12pm 12th May 2017

A family friend went to an Ice Hockey game in Vancouver recently. Apparently it was festooned with WENGER OUT banners. At least Canadian Gunners have some brains. This end of season surge sickens me to my boots. I hate the managers guts, and increasingly that of the players too. - Post No. 107083

mbg  15:07pm 12th May 2017

markymark, yes everything's seemingly started going well now for TOF's apologists and conspiracy theorists for now anyway, but just wait until it doesn't happen or mathematically can't, and their messiah ends up getting his comeuppance ending up with nothing and his big ego bruised and embarrassed in the process, the balloon will go up and the conspiracies will be flying again from his apologists as well of course from TOF himself. We want wenger out. - Post No. 107084

MAF  17:03pm 12th May 2017

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/05/12/ivan-gazidis-lined-mls-role-loses-arsenal-power-struggle-arsene/ - Post No. 107085

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

Frozen North Provides Relief For Arsenal

Rare comfortable away win for Gunners v Ostersunds