January 23rd – Southampton 1 Arsenal 0

F. A. Cup. Who needs it. We’ve won it enough. Let’s give someone else a chance I say. We’re so nonchalant about it we’ll even score for the opposition. That’s how unimportant it is to us. And it’s not like we’ll be able to attend the final in person anyway.

Oh, hold on, It’s the one thing we’ve won recently. Bugger.

But if every F A Cup game is like this then I’m glad we lost. It’ was boring, tepid, dreary and depressing. It was like watching the worst parts of the Emery era combined with the dark period in Arteta’s reign.

It demonstrated again how close we were to relegation. A team with the four losers used to be our normal state. And that state was losing. And today we reverted to that. Willian, Eddie , Elneny and Pepe. WEEP. And, boy, did we weep. I was in tears. It was agony.

Most of the game was spent who was worse Willian or Pepe. My view has been Pepe because of the extreme money we spent to acquire a player who should be playing in Spain. A player who once every 5 games (or maybe it’s 10) will do something astonishingly good. But beyond that, he’s so easy to push off the ball. He’s so weak in his movement. There was one point where Bellerin passed the ball right through to him on the right. He was one on won and tried to cut back in and slipped over. I remember seeing highlights of his time in France when he looked to electric. Here he looks outclassed; out of his depth.

Willian is embarrassing. His movements are minimal. Minimal energy. Passing is off target and contributes basically nothing. We acquired this one for nothing but have to pay upwards of £200,000 per week. But, hopefully, we can off-load him to someone in Russia, Turkey or China. But we’re stuck with him for 2 ½ years more. I know we filtered around in different positions but, really, he looks disinterested and clueless. People used to criticize Ozil for his poor body language; Willian is lucky there are no fans around to abuse him (Willian not Ozil).

So which one is worse? I still think Pepe is. But only just. But when you combine these two with the members of the WEEP team, you end up with the slow, sideways, clueless performance we saw today. Thankfully WEEP do not play every game. Hopefully WEEP never play for us again. But imagine where we’d be without Smith Rowe and Saka.

Personally, I would have left them in for the entire game. I would not have risk Partey or Saka for this game. Today proved why we need to manage their time carefully. Even in their short period on the pitch they impacted the game and created a few chances. Unfortunately, two fell to Eddie. Oh poor Eddie. He’s not cut out for this. At some point we’ll sell him to a Championship team. Until then he’ll remain an unused substitute or will come on in the 85th minute.

And then there’s Elneny. If Partey makes everyone around him better – which he does – then Elneny is the anti-Partey. He will bring everyone down to his level. In the early stages of the NoHopeCup, against truly awful teams (sorry Ireland) he can give the impression of being a creative player. But against real opposition all he can do is pass sideways and backwards. And today he handed them their first and only goal. How we could try and play out from deep in our right hand corner with the players we had on the pitch is beyond me – and that’ on Arteta not the donkey that is Elneny. And once he’d given the ball away you can see Bellerin arguing with him. And then he proceeded to lose his man just at Gabriel decided to help them out.

Southampton had more energy, running, closing down and aggression than us. They also fouled more continuously. The referee today was a complete tosser. He barely called any of their fouls. They understand how to break up play. And when they had the ball they moved it forward much quicker. It was only when Partey joined the midfield did we win tackles and also move the ball forward quickly. Only then did we look even slightly dangerous.

Tuesday will be different. WEEP won’t be playing. But it will still be difficult. Hasselhoff has that team well drilled. Physical and speedy. He is like a mini-Klopp. A charmless Klopp. What’s less charming than a German – an Austrian.

I felt slightly sorry today for two people (aside from myself). Holding should not have had to play. We should be saving his legs for more important games. I thought he was fine again today but exposed by the lack of availability of players to pass to in midfield.

The other one? AMN. How much he feel not being able to get any playing time after his sterling efforts at the end of last season. He’s barely played now. He has to see Willian and Pepe get playing time ahead of him. And Cedric played left back today. He was crap. He can’t cross the ball and therefore adds no threat down the left. It’s not his fault. Put him on the right – as we ended up doing – and you can see the improvement (even if he did overhit every cross today). So what’s AMN supposed to do? I think he’ll have to hand in a transfer request at some point. He’s wasting his time. Until we solve WEEP he will be blocked. This was where SR could have been.

This team has made great progress over the last month. But today just demonstrated what we knew. That the squad is poorly balanced. There are still too many duds that cost too much money. Unfortunately we can only blame the current regime for Willian. And that is worrying. Pepe we can blame on others. And maybe we can sell him in the summer for £20m. Maybe then AMN could see some playing time. But, if I was him, I’d want to move on and play. And currently there are too many duds ahead of him. How could he not play today? I don’t understand that. When was the last time he actually played?

So we again saw how dependent we are on our starting 11. An injury to Tierney or Saka or Partey would decimate this team. At least we now have a backup GK. Even if he is Australian. And maybe Arteta can look at himself and realize he got it wrong today. He should have changed it up quicker. He should have pulled WEEP off. Or maybe he knew he had to give them time and the game was lost. But there’s no way WEEP can be let loose for a PL game. Then we would be back to square one.

And let’s see what we learn for Tuesday’s game. Will we expect their high press? Will we vary our approach or will we allow them to pressure us to give the ball away cheaply. Hopefully we’ll have improved creativity and movement. But we also need to be prepared for a more physical encounter. And at least we won’t have to wake up early to suffer as we did this morning.

  • LB7

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