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Southampton V Arsenal The Verdict
Monday, 24th Oct 2022 09:28

I said in the preview that a hero had to emerge if we were to get anything out of this game and one did in the unlikely form of Lyanco who showed his team mates the spirit they needed to get something out of the game and they followed his example.

When the team was announced at 1pm the real shock was the omittance of Che Adams from the starting XI, but many were equally surprised that Moi Elyounoussi was still in the side, but more of that later.

In essence though Saints were missing 4 of their 5 best players though injury, and it could be said that if he hadn't been unable to play as it was against his parent club Maitland-Niles would have been a 5th player in the side after his performance at Bournemouth.

So here we go, a team with half of it's best outfield players missing against an Arsenal side who in their previous 10 games had won 9, dropping points in just one game.

Arsenal started brightly as you would have expected, they probably read the reports from last season that suggested that if you came out of the traps early doors against us then you could catch us cold.

That seemed to be the case as they created several chances in the first 10 minutes, but they went wide and Gavin Bazunu also saved well, however on 11 minutes they scored, a fine move down the right seeing the ball bulled back for Xhaka for fire home leaving the keeper no chance.

At this stage you could feel the worry in the Saints support and Arsenal for another 10 minutes or so looked like they could rack up a hatful.

However around the 20 minute mark you could feel something had changed, Saints had a new found resilience, suddenly they were winning balls that before they had been losing, they weren't letting the Gunners play little triangles around us and you could see hope that Saints were not going to lie down as they would have done in the previous seasons.

As the half went on Saints grew in confidence and part of that was a tactical switch where we went to a back three with wingbacks.

As the half wore on we actually pushed the visitors back and a flurry of corners sadly didn't produce a real effort on goal, but we had got to the break without conceding a second and had something to build on.

The second half saw the Gunners again threaten but then an unlikely hero emerged, firstly on the hour mark with Jesus through on goal it looked like even God wouldn't be able to stop him, he was being chased by Moi Elyounoussi who up to this point had not had the best of games, no one was holding out much hope, but somehow the Saints man got in a sliding blocking tackle just as the Arsenal man pulled the trigger.

This seemed to inspire Saints and with the crowd now firmly behind them, the equaliser wasn't far off and it was again Elyounoussi who played the star role, driving towards the goal with the ball he laid through a perfectly wwighted pass that Stuart Armstrong slotted past Ramsdale.

Now the crowd was up on it's feet and suddenly the game had turned, but the Gunners weren't finished, they still looked threatening but in the main the Saints defence stood firm, the only worrying moment when Ødegaard seemed to have scored, but the linesman spotted the ball had gone out for a goal kick before it could be crossed.

In the closing stages Arsenal again looked dangerous as they looked to get all three points, but Lyanco was now urging not only his team mates on but the crowd as well and we were in no mood to give it away now we had got a point in sight.

The 5 minutes of extra time were tense but an almighty roar greeted the final whistle.

This was again another great team performance by Saints, those that have been claiming that Ralph Hasenhuttl has lost the dressing room had no evidence here, this was a side that was battling and not collapsing, it had team spirit and as mentioned half of the side were missing.

At the back we looked strong after the opening flurry, Caleta-Car held the back line and brought in the experience and leadership we have lacked, it will be interesting to see how he now develops and although he might not be another Virgil Van Dijk, he is a step up from what we have had since the Dutchman's departure to Liverpool, actually that is not quite true, Salisu & Bella Kotchap are very good signings, which shows how we have progressed over the past couple of years and Lyanco showed that he can play a bigger part in the team than he has so far.

In the midfield James Ward Prowse got low markings from fans, but that is unfair, since the injury to Lavia he has had to play a different game, for the past few seasons he has played like Steve Williams at the heart of every Saints attack, but due to the youngsters injury he has had to sit back in front of the backline, he is now Steve Davis, playing a role that goes unappreciated at the time, he ran he battled he harassed the Arsenal midfield, he tidied up the loose balls, he was available for a short pass and an outlet, he rarely lost a tackle or a header and in the main he just did the job he was there for, when he got the ball he played the simple 10 yard pass.

No one wins the Ballon D'Or for this type of role and judging by the voting not even a man of the match award, on the BBC match report Saints fans gave him the worst mark of all the Saints players of 5.64, even Theo Walcott who did little in his 17 minute cameo got more, what is that all about !

This was a game that for us was never going to be about flowing football and taking the opposition apart, it was going to be about working hard for every inch of the turf, keeping concentration and staying focused on the task in hand and we did that.

The heavens opened up in Biblical proportions as Saints fans streamed out of the stadium, but it didn't dampen the spirits and we all left with a smile on our faces.

We have built up a squad with potential, that now just lacks a finishing edge to it, we have gone from the side that gave away more points from winning positions, to the one that has rescued more points from a losing scoreline.

In our 12 games we have played 5 of the Big Six clubs so no one can say we have had it easy, we can cope with injury crisis now, as we have a squad with more depth, we are a young side and getting better and more experienced with every game.

The future can be bright for Saints, although sadly I feel that many refuse to see that as long as Ralph Hasenhuttl is in charge even though we are clearly moving forward.

As always at Southampton FC we have to do things the hard way, there always seems to be an issue, at the moment it is an injury crisis, some of those out will be back before the International Break, but some may not be, however when football return's after Xmas we will have these players back and in January if we get a striker then we could shock a few people.

Yesterday was a game that we keep going to football for, one that we battled against adversary and got something out of the game, it was enjoyable to cheer your team on and get that feeling at the final whistle of joy and excitement, there was no toxic atmosphere at St Mary's.

These days I only fear defeat because of the toxic posts on social media that follow, a small minority who have spent the last couple of year always needing a target for their abuse, be in former owner Gao, CEO Semmens or Ralph Hasenhuttl.

But I should finish this verdict on a positive note, at 1pm 8 days ago before we took on West Ham, we knew we were facing a tough three games, but we have come through them with 5 points in the bag and that has been a step forward.

Lyanco was not the best player on the pitch yesterday in terms of ability, but he made up for that with his fighting spirit, he won every ball and epitomised the spirit this team has at the moment, it is young and lacks Premier League experience, but the youngsters are not shirking and the likes of Lyanco and James Ward Prowse are driving them on by example, they can only get better, of course things aren't perfect, but we can see hope going forward now, something that was hard to find over the last couple of years.

Photo: Action Images

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SanMarco added 09:49 - Oct 24
With our best players out that could have been a disaster but instead it was a very pleasing second half performance. I am a Ralph-sceptic but I think credit where credit is due over the last two games. His in-game decisions were brave and they worked. We scored a lovely goal and deserved the point for our fight (quite literally once or twice and I enjoyed the whinging from Arsenal fans after the game!!)

The failure to sign an Ings/Broja replacement cost us a real chance to go on and win it because after our goal Arsenal were, if not 'there for the taking', at least very vulnerable to letting in a second. Che came on and battled and Theo came on and got caught offside and dived. If Theo had have been Ings....

We are not out of the woods by a long way but the way we stayed in the game was encouraging. Now we need our better players back asap and a goal scorer in January.

jameslastfan added 10:23 - Oct 24
JWP was off the pace compared to the higher standards we have seen him play. But other than that and Lyanco’s ‘unlikely’ hero comment I agree.

We were a different team in the final 75 minutes, led by Lyanco who always shows passion and commitment - so don’t get the unlikely tag. He may not be the best technical player but my goodness we need someone with passion.

Of everyone when we saw the team sheet, Lyanco’s name was the one we associate with chest thumping shirt wearing passion - something other team member would be well advised to follow. The team looked knackered when they walked out at the start - not enthused to perform - thankfully that changed with the new formation after going behind ( good decision to change quickly, but wrong set up at the start).

A good team performance that felt like a win - no mean task to take points from this Arsenal team - led by Lyanco and his keeping Martinelli in his box.

More of the same please Ralph.

landsdownsaint added 10:33 - Oct 24
Spot on article .Regards Ralph losing the dressing room is ridiculous , fringe players like Lyanco don’t put in shifts like that if theirs dressing room problems . Regards Elyanousi Iv allways thought he could end up in one of the top six clubs as he’s far better than we’ve seen so far , he’s as good as what’s around him & we now have very good players

halftimeorange added 10:41 - Oct 24
Lyanco must have been reading the WW1 French General Robert Nivelle's memoirs, given that he adopted his "They shall not pass" attitude to the extent that Martinelli looked like a cowering schoolboy awaiting his punishment whenever Lyanco went near him. Lyanco also roughed up several other Arsenal players and judged his hard tackling to perfection. Sure, he got booked but, that just reflected his commitment. Perraud was outstanding and generally kept the diving Saka quiet, which was no mean feat. We lack height up front and, although Sam Edozie isn't a giant at 5' 10", he's Broja fast and it occurred to me that he could be tried as a central partner for Che Adams. This was an unexpected and thrilling performance which was helped by an unfussy referee in Peter Bankes. He deserves a shout out.

HythePeer added 10:43 - Oct 24
The manager always seems to do better when team selection is forced on him. 🤔

DorsetIan added 10:47 - Oct 24
The way we turned things around was very impressive. Their goal we stood off them too much, but after that we were much more combative.

And Arsenal are no Man City but we smothered them defensively once we'd got settled.

Going forward we looked light and in the first half I was looking at Ely and S Armstrong not doing enough in that respect. They made up for it though.

Lyanco and Perraud stood out for me in terms of their effort. Adam Armstrong too. If he could get a few goals, maybe things might still click for him.


SaintPaulVW added 11:10 - Oct 24
That was a great goal with the ball worked quickly from defence to attack. Would love to see us make more breaks like that than all the stop start ball to feet stuff we seem to major on.

Lyanco, and to some extent Caleta-Car, imposed himself on their younger players and got in their heads. Someone was only on here the other day saying that you used to be able to put big 6 sides off through more physical play. Case proved.

Finally I've not really rated Moy in the past but he does have a never say die attitude. Ralph was right and he has deserved his place in the team.

COYR a draw that felt like a win!


SaintNick added 11:33 - Oct 24
"The manager always seems to do better when team selection is forced on him."

Give him some credit, although he couldn't play 4 players, he still had to choose to replace them, he could easily have moved Perraud to right back and played Larios or Djenepo on the left leaving Lyanco on the bench.

Ifonly added 11:44 - Oct 24
Nick: "We have built up a squad with potential, that now just lacks a finishing edge to it..."

That's the one thing I disagree with in this report. We lack creativity and don't create enough chances. Yesterday was not the game to judge this on as we just had to battle for a point, but if you look at our general form and style of play, it's pretty obvious.

I agree with SaintPaulVW, we need to move the ball quicker and take some risks going forward. If we had a big hulk at no. 9 we could get goals by working the ball forward and then crossing. But that doesn't work with the players we've got (Che's goal last week was a rarity and due to unusually slack marking). We need to get the ball forward quicker before the spaces are closed down.

ElSanto added 11:51 - Oct 24
I'm just happy. Looking forward to an interesting season and hope our players can keep developing.

I do agree that we should take a few more risks in trying to break quickly or playing the ball forward. But it should be balanced with trying to build from the back at times too.

Well done team and management and club.


beynali73 added 11:55 - Oct 24
Credit where credit is due and from getting the push Ralph has somehow managed to buy himself some time. We've been here so many times with Ralph over the past few years so I'm still keeping my expectations low but well done to Ralph, the players and the fans for getting behind the team.

allsaint54 added 12:56 - Oct 24
I agree with most of whats been said but felt we rode our luck & for once getting 50/50 decisions. It was great to see Lyanco & CC bully their opponents, more of the same.

Ely's last ditch tackle on Jesus seemed to give him an extra confidence boost as up to then he'd been struggling.

Whilst the fighting spirit was great there are still a lot of cracks to paper over:
1. Our creativity is poor. JWP just doesn't cut it, yes his workrate is great but ability to move the ball quickly is non existent almost waiting for the defence to be set up & surprise surprise the ball goes backwards.
2. Our aerial threat is zero. No goals from corners. So why oh why do we persist with long throws, we may as well just give the ball straight to the opposition.
3. AA for all his efforts & enthusiasm is too lightweight to play up front on his own.
4. What does Theo offer now?

Can't wait until some of the walking wounded return & hope Edozie gets more game time soon.

A1079 added 13:10 - Oct 24
One observation I forgot to make but you did in your summary Nick.

We had 7 corners in a row before Arsenal had one. In all of them we failed to test their defence or keeper - indeed, in most of them we failed to get past the first Arsenal man. I am old enough to recall when corners used to be like having a penalty for us but now we seem completely inept at them. Such a shame as it should yield some fruit.

derbydog added 13:20 - Oct 24
I think Nick came very close then to agreeing that we have four decent centrebacks (not including Stevens, Bednarek still on the books or the Tranmere loanee I can’t remember his name for the moment and any kids on the way up.) That’s progress in itself!
Ralph got unlucky with KWP’s injury just before a game with Arsenal. I’m sure Maitland-Niles was signed in part to provide cover at right back. At least he can now play there until Livramento or KWP are fit again.

Peterx added 13:27 - Oct 24
Good article. Some observations:
We need to mix it up on corners, JWP can deliver well but I suspect one of the last corners we scored from was when Redmond floated one in last year. Variety can bring results.
Edozie looked like a difference maker when he come on, he should start soon.
Armstrong and Ely should be on the pitch together more, they are on the same wavelength. RH should not have an excuse not to pick Stu after that goal.
Diallo probably had his best game in a Saints shirt after a good cameo at Bournemouth and for someone who I thought was becoming a bit of a lost cause there is hope.
AA is much better in a support role down the left, but he did a job.

ItchenNorth added 13:46 - Oct 24
Some really good performances in there again. The defense looks so much better than in previous years. We have options back there now.

Lyanco is an inspiration. His passion is infectious. We've been crying out for leaders, and he certainty brings it every minute he's on a pitch. A captain, no. But every squad needs this type of player.

A mention for Bazunu as well, because when called on, he's not really made a mistake. He looks like the keeper we've wanted for a number of year's now.


SaintPaulVW added 13:55 - Oct 24
Derbydog sorry for my fat fingers I meant to give you a +1 but slipped.

andoverpedro added 14:42 - Oct 24
Lyanco is what saints are all about heart and effort , we do not have the world class players needed to outplay and steam roller teams at this level . so we have to win the battle first . AKA the old days of the dell with Benali/magilton/Dodd/Monkou and co . i do think defenders need to be able to defend first then attack if there is time and space and for too long defenders ( full backs ) are used as wingers. yesterday if walker peters had been fit i dont think he would have coped with the physicality of Arsenal down the flank . Caletta Carr is coming on now and will get better so i am looking hopeful for the future. We still need to score goals and i cant see where they are coming from especially against teams who sit back against us . considering JWP ( set piece expert) with the amount of corners we get we score very little goals from them . I cant remember the last time we did?. But well done to the team yesterday it really made my day .

deanosfc8 added 15:17 - Oct 24
I think there are some notable posters on here that pray on defeats or Ralphs so called failures and cant wait to tell us all about it! Well- common, step up, be a man, give the team and Ralph some credit when its due and fully deserved...

Coming out of ground (and I didnt mind getting soaked!) I couldn't've been more prouder to being a Saints fan..

underweststand added 15:24 - Oct 24
YES - it was top of the league Arsenal who having put to bed better sides than us already this season had to make do with just one point, and after scoring during their early match dominant period faded slowly as Ralph's makeshift defence did us proud.

Caleta-Car looked the part and got stuck in and DAJFU without fuss (or bookings).
Lyanco shows what defiance is all about showing shades of Golac and Case with his hard-man performance. When he tackled the Gunners' " stars " - they stayed tackled. If he continues to turn in showings like this, he'll put a deal of fear into a few of the Prem's " glamour boys" when they eventually meet up with him.

The oft-criticised Elyounoussi has shone of late and really earned Ralph's MoM tag.
Likewise Perraud ran himself into the ground in both defence and attack and Stuart Armstrong finished Mo's exquisite pass into the far corner leaving Ramsdale scrambling.

With some of our best players still on the treatment table, the rapidly approaching World Cup pause may become the saving of our season, with the hope of signing a star-striker in January to bolster our goal tally as we still lack that killer instinct in front of goal.

felly1 added 15:44 - Oct 24
Just at the moment when Jesus was about to resurrect Arsenal, Mohammed moved mountains to get back and prove who is the real saviour. Allah akhbar.

Ali_Diarea added 16:42 - Oct 24
…whilst Pope was playing with kids in Tottenham

JoeEgg added 17:12 - Oct 24
"I think there are some notable posters on here that pray on defeats or Ralphs so called failures and cant wait to tell us all about it! "

Well sadly the recent defeats and Ralph's failures have given us plenty of practice!

This by contrast was a great effort by our team and the point was thoroughly deserved. Which makes it all the more frustrating why we couldn't see the same kind of response from the self same players against the likes of Villa, Everton and Wolves.

From the start of the season I have applauded and recognised the talent that now graces our Squad. Our scouts did an amazing job - with the blatant exception of failing to bring in a recognised striker. My complaint has always been that through poor tactics and team selections that talent and ability has not been evident sufficiently on the field of play and that it was time for a change at the top.

It seems almost certain that the new owners are planning to replace Ralph very soon. In the meantime if the players repeat their amazing efforts against the Arsenal, they will be given the full vocal support of those that apparently are only here 'to prey on defeats'!

onetowatch added 18:06 - Oct 24
Nick, please don't put JWP in the same sentence as Steve Williams or Steve's not deserved. You went out of your way to defend JWP, but said nothing of the excellent legwork put in by Diallo who has far more of a presence when defending, is far more difficult to get past, mainly because he's quicker over the please, credit where it's due. When everyone back and available, RH must realise he does have options in CM...

landsdownsaint added 18:10 - Oct 24
“Onetowatch “ I can’t believe what you’ve said their lol

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