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Saints At Arsenal The Verdict
Monday, 9th Apr 2018 09:05

A narrow defeat at the Emirates, but the fight in the side suggested that we can get the wins to stay up, the soft goals conceded suggest that we might not.

There were officially 59,374 in attendance at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, but some parts of the stands were not even half full and the real figure could be anywhere between 15-20,000 less, if the stands above us were as empty as the other three sides.

This was a game that gave us plenty of hope with a gutsy performance that saw us opening the scoring and a fight back that seemed to have earned us at least a point and at that stage possibly more, but then we shot ourselves in the foot yet again with poor marking in the penalty area to concede another soft goal and this was a step too far.

Mark Hughes changed formation and went with three central defenders with Bertrand and Soares to the side of them, we came to do what I felt we should have done at West Ham a week earlier and that was to get a grip of the game and then try to push home our advantage.

We seemed to be well on course when Shane Long put us ahead on 17 minutes, but we then did what we have done too often this season and that is switch off at key moments. All three goals could really have been prevented especially the winner which was very much a case of deja vu.

Hughes formation might have looked defensive, but it had the ability to attack, indeed we had more attempts on goal and on target than the hosts, but sadly they rarely gave us the slack marking that we did to mean we scored as many as them.

The performance owed much to the hard graft of Shane Long and James Ward Prowse both of whom had been out of favour for recent games, JWP covering more ground and making more sprints than anyone else according to the stats .

But it wasn't to be and Saints remain stranded in the bottom three, however this game showed hope something that was in short display a week earlier a few miles us the road, the spirited display giving grounds for optimism that we can turn the season around.

But on the pessimistic side there is that penchant for giving too many easy and unmarked chances in the penalty area, if we do go down the seeds of this season were sown in January last year where we failed to sign a replacement for Jose Fonte, Wesley Hoedt came in last summer, but in the last two transfer windows we needed to sign a replacement for Van Dijk and didn't, every club know our weakness is marking in the penalty area and it is no coincidence that we have conceded more goals from headers than any other team and more goals from set pieces.

Alex McCarthy made several top stops and was arguably the man of the match on either side, but he was left exposed too often and that has to stop.

What we need now is one last push where everyone digs in and gives 110% effort, we had that at the Emirates, if we can do that for the final run in then we can pull clear.

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DorsetIan added 09:35 - Apr 9
We have seen spirited performances like this before this season, e.g. with similarly narrow defeats away at Chelsea and City.

The defensive frailties are still there (and maybe made worse with Stephens’ red card) and we need to score one more than them, not one less.

I have given up thinking about what will happen next and whether we are improving. Unless and until we can find a win, nothing changes.

Onwards to Chelsea where hopefully that win will come.

LordDZLucan added 09:41 - Apr 9
Ok we lost but I saw some encouraging signs in that performance. At last we managed to score some goals and we could have had one or two more. Learning how to score goals again is crucial if we’re going to stay up so that’s the good news. The bad news was that third goal. It demonstrated to Mark Hughes that you can only play Cedric as a wing back in a back five but not as a full back in a back four. He’s just too short to play full back. Ronald Koeman knew that which is why he played Martina instead. I’ve lost count of the number of goals that we’ve let in from crosses to the far post on our right-hand side. I’m not saying don’t play Cedric but play a third centre back as well. If Mark Hughes learns that lesson from this game then we have a chance.

LondonSaint added 09:59 - Apr 9
Frustrating not to take anything away from the game but really pleased to see some effort, fight and ambition. To be honest, if we can do that most weeks I'll be happy whatever league we play in, and whatever the results we get!

halftimeorange added 09:59 - Apr 9
I agree with Lucan and would like to see Cedric played in front of Pied who I consider to be the more reliable defender. Cedric is a better winger than, say Redmond. The team showed lots of fight and the much-maligned Shane Long and JWP both gave everything. It was very apparent in the first half that Stephens was very wound up, constantly swearing at his teammates whenever there were misplaced passes of which, once again, there were far too many. After their first goal, whenever Arsenal attacked they always looked as though they might score, our penalty box marking was very poor and McCarthy can only do so much (but he really is good). As far as the dismissals are concerned it seems really wrong to me that the instigator of the trouble, Wilshire gets away virtually scot-free in a million pound industry. Okay, Stephens should have kept his head, but as I've already noted, he was already in a desperate frame of mind however, Wilshire's shirt-pull unfairly weakens Saints bid for survival. If this showing is going to be the norm for the remaining few games then Saints have a chance of hanging onto our EPL place but those defensive holes have to be plugged! McQueen?

BaselSaint added 10:14 - Apr 9
Agree with DorsetIan - Consistent spirited performances are required not just occasional ones. If this momemtum is found then we may have a chance of survival in the EPL.

SanMarco added 10:26 - Apr 9
Getting nothing from such a golden opportunity against a slumbering Arsenal in a half-empty stadium outweighs any 'positives' in my view. Hughes clearly had them wound up and Wilshire finished the job for Stephens. We were unlucky in the sense that Welbeck waved the back of his foot at the ball for the first and it happened to go just right + deflected second but it was still the soft centre that has cost us all season. The centre-half who was never bought taunts us with his lack of presence.

And it is our defensive frailties that are going to send us down. In a tough relegation struggle scoring 2 HAS TO get you something. Good equaliser means nothing due to a simple floated cross to the far post, 3-2 and goodnight Saints. Wet Spam let in 1 at Chelsea will we do the same next week? We sure as feck wont score 4 against them so the usual 3 conceded = another and probably terminal defeat.

People felt 'humiliated' after the Newcastle and Wet Spam capitulations. I think losing to a half-asleep, weakened, Arsenal team is just as bad.

saintpp added 10:34 - Apr 9
Great second half but its a case of too little to late which sums up the season.
We are now 4 points away from safety and with two tough games v chelsea and away game at leicester days before the semi final we probably will be at least 6 points adrift if we dont achieve two unlikely results.
This defeat however unlucky it was was the game that opened up the gap between us palace huddersfieid and swansea and for me i cant see us staying bar up a miracle.

highfield49 added 10:35 - Apr 9
I agree with halftimeorange concerning Wilshere, surely his action was either serious foul play or violent conduct within Law 12? To my mind that is excessive force when not challenging for the ball but, of course, the referee will have been instructed to only issue red cards for retaliation and not the severity of the offence that led to the retaliation. McQueen at left back and Bertrand playing central defence looks like the best option against Chelsea. Great to see so much more passion against Arsenal, had Lemina been fit, whether from a physical or mental complaint, his drive in mid field at the expense of the ineffective Tadic could have won three points.

helpineedsomebody added 11:26 - Apr 9
mark hughes this match just sums him up

playing arsenal 2nd eleven

& then plays 8 at the back we dont need draws we need


wibbersda added 11:33 - Apr 9
Much better performance, however we still conceded another 3 goals with a flat back 5! Chelsea will steam through us next week.

rjh added 12:10 - Apr 9
We are down. We have been so spoilt with quality defenders over the last three to four seasons, but the ones we have now are a joke and that is what will send us down just like in 2005 with Jakobssen and co.

schatfield added 12:38 - Apr 9
I dont mind losing if we play like that, with some fight and belief, something that was sorely lacking with West Ham and Newcastle. Dont agree that Chelsea will steam through us, they seem to lack motivation right now and I think we still have a chance to get out this the rele zone, but only by 3 points still.

ChristchurchSaint added 12:49 - Apr 9
Nick, you say we signed Hoedt as a replacement for Fonte- Sorry, but with all due respect ( and WH did not have a bad game on Sunday, IMO) he is not the defender that JF was. I appreciate that JF did throw his toys out and had a self inflated opinion of himself at the end, but he was the mainstay of our defence for several years, and none of our current central defenders are anywhere near him at his best. Sadly, it comes down, once again, that we (or Les Reed) tried to do things on the cheap, rather than buying the best available at the time. Although we have been chronically short of goals scored, the sloppy goals that we have conceded throughout this season will be one of the reasons that we go down, assuming we do.

petedoors1 added 12:53 - Apr 9
Another game where we lost because Les Reed failed to replace VVD. How many times do you see Stephens out jumped by strikers. Stephens had a very bad game yesterday and was at fault for the third goal. I still don't think Prowse does enough to be in the starting line up. I know a lot of people don't like Tadic but he had a better game yesterday. Maybe if he had taken Stephens off instead off Yoshida we might have got a point.

saintmark1976 added 13:45 - Apr 9
I posted last week saying that I thought we had a chance of staying up if we had a change of attitude from the players. We got that yesterday but in all honesty it just further showed to me that attitude alone is not now the problem. Put simply we no longer have the quality of players to deserve to remain a Premiership club.

Arsenal were very poor all afternoon long. They gifted us an opening goal and then let us back into the game at 2-2 and we still came away with nothing. Any Saints team from the season when we finished in sixth place under Koeman would have blitzed them.

Over the last couple of seasons the quality of players at the majority of clubs in the Premiership has moved on.We in contrast have at best been left treading water and at worst sinking with most of our high value signings regularly sat on the bench or not even in the squad.

We have had the ninth highest income stream in the Premiership together with vast sums of money from player sales yet we are now looking relegation in the face.Relegation,which in my opinion has been solely caused by the gross mismanagement of the club by its owners and their appointed representatives.


REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 14:24 - Apr 9
I share a lot of the sentiments above about the team showing fight (literally) and spirit, which has been lacking of late, but ultimately yesterday was another missed opportunity. Arsenal were dangerous going forward, and Hughes had us set up correctly, but they were there for the taking.
Another back post headed goal conceeded against a non-existent challenge from Cedric. It's a terrible weakness and so obvious for our opponents. A real shame, but at least Cedric got 2 assists and did well going forward. I agree with above, play him where he doesn't have to be the man defending deep crosses, ie a winger.

Looking forward, 36 points might keep us up, 37 points will almost definitely keep us up. We currently have 28 points so 9 points needed.

Our remaining fixtures: Chelsea H, Leicester A, Bournemouth H, Everton A, Swansea A, Man City H.
Looking at these fixtures you have to say we need 4 points in our next 2 games, otherwise it could all be too late.

You can predict results and standings here:
The teams that came out finishing below Saints as well as Stoke and WBA were:

Huddersfield currently have 32 points. Thier remaining games: Watford H, Everton H, Man City A, Chelsea A, Arsenal H. For them it all comes down to thier next 2 home games. Fail to win either of them and they are down.

Brighton currently have 35 points. Thier remaining games: Palace A, Spurs H, Burnley A, Man Utd H, Man City A, Liverpool A. I can't see a win in there for them. They could end up in trouble.

SanMarco added 14:32 - Apr 9
I think that what Christchurch says about us doing things on the cheap is a very interesting point. Our 'obituaries' if (probably getting towards when by now) we go down will be 'you can't keep selling your best players' and many Saints fans will add the point about replacing them 'on the cheap' as Christchurch does here.

My question is have we actually relaced them 'on the cheap'? In my view Hoedt, Carrillo, Boufal, Lemina and Gabby were not cheap. It is more that they were either not good enough or not needed (ie square pegs when we needed round ones or already had square pegs just as good). There was one game a few weeks ago when Reed's manager MP had four record signings on the bench (vs Brighton maybe?) That to me is a supremely eloquent comment on the state we got ourselves into. Were they too cheap or just the wrong signings?? Did we need to spend more to get the necessary players or did we need someone in charge who knew what he was doing??

PS - on Wilshire, I suppose by the laws of the game it was just a yellow. Having watched the incident carefully on tv I do wonder whether Stephens could have been let off with a yellow too. He didn't hit him - alright the shove was to his head but that is not a part of Wilshire's body that contains anything vital...

BoondockSaint added 14:46 - Apr 9
Playing up or down to the level of the opposition has been a problem even going back to league one. But we used to have good players who could pull out a win against the top teams when they were on their game. I would argue that that is why Tadic's game has fallen off: His passes used to find Lambert, Pelle, Mane, or even Lallana. We just don't have the talent anymore.

How many times this year have Saints put in a good effort only to lose to a top team, and we think "Great team effort-play this way every game and we'll be OK!" only to have them come up flat the next week? Here's hoping for a change of habit next week.....

REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 14:58 - Apr 9
SanMarco - to follow up on your point above, the signings Saints have made in the last two years weren't on the cheap. They've spent a lot of money on signings that haven't worked out.
Gabbi could be a great striker in the right team but we don't play to his strengths. His movement and finishing is excellent but our 'creative' players don't find him.
Boufal has tons of talent but very little end product making him pretty much useless.
Hoedt has high potential but his performance level this season indicates he still has A LOT to learn. He'd probably be ok with an old head next to him to learn from like Fonte.
Lemina could be a great player but has suffered with injuries/fitness and inconsistency.
Carrillo looks like a signing out of pure desperation and possibly encouraged by the clueless Pellegrino. I can only imagine we failed to sign any of our shortlisted target men.

The two good signings have been Hoijberg and McCarthy.

It really doesn't help that we've had a useless manager for most of the season. A good manager gets the best out of his players.

dirk_doone added 15:05 - Apr 9
This is the first time in 16 months that we have lost 3 consecutive league games. We used to grind out a lot of draws but not lose every game, and we even drew with Arsenal as recently as December, when we still had van Dijk. Our central defence has been sold and we are letting in 3 goals a game without it.

skiptonsaint added 17:16 - Apr 9
Most has been well said but a quick note on Leicester

Reading in the papers that it is not all great there with the players and Puel and their next game is Burnley away at the weekend.

Lose that and Europe is gone and when we turn up it might not be the full on Puel love in and fired up Leicester we saw crush Saints earlier in the season.

However if they beat Burnley then Europe is on...well worth keeping a strong eye on that game this weekend ...we need some luck

saintjf added 20:51 - Apr 9
Interesting ref Puel. I suspect we would all be very unhappy if Puel was still at St Marys and Leicester fans and players now seem totally fed up with him. On another subject. Just supposing that Fonte decided to leave Saints because he saw a change in ambition from the club that did not meet his then new expectations. I know he got right up himself but was that the only reason. It has been totally down hill all the way since then.
I am just trying to make sense of the situation we find ourselves in. It did not happen overnight.

vanmans added 20:55 - Apr 9
Looks like we could be going down all because this board were to stubborn to admit they were wrong with the last two managers and were to tight to spend the money they got from the Van Dijk sale on a good centre half.

jerseysaint added 11:16 - Apr 10
the game calculator is pretty good.
i think we need 33-34 points which means beating the cherries and Swansea.
if we cant do that then we deserve to go down.
Huddersfield have some very tricky final games.
I think Palace will pull clear.
so its between swansea,us and huddersfield for final place.

SaintBrock added 11:36 - Apr 10
Too little, too late. We are going down because everyone else spent their money and got better whereas we made a profit and got worse.

A narrow defeat is a kind way of saying we got beaten yet again. Face the truth Nick and guys!

We are going down there is no doubt about that and it is a waste of passion to pin hope on false dawns. Saints must be top of the league for those.

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