Saints & Sinners: Southampton Report & Ratings

Houston, we have a problem

You have to admit, we are a classy club.

Yes, the FA Cup is our trophy. We own it. It should be called the AFC Cup and its permanent home is on a plinth in a cabinet in N5. But we’re so nice that on certain occasions we consent to lend it out to others. Yesterday was one of those occasions. We have generously bowed out of the 2021-22 tournament to give someone else a chance.

It must have been our intention, right? We put in such a poor and disjointed performance at St Mary’s that it’s the only explanation.

Either way, a very committed Saints side emerged as 1-0 victors. There was an element of luck about their goal, but even the most biased of Arsenal fans would surely admit they deserved their win.

For Mikel Arteta, the game will have reinforced some conclusions that he already seems to have reached: namely that Willian and Pepe are just not doing enough to be considered starters for an important game and that our best team is one that includes the names Saka, Smith Rowe, Tierney and Partey.

El Patron made seven changes from our last league game, resting Smith Rowe (not even on the bench), Lacazette and Tierney and giving starts to Willian, Pepe, Elneny, Cedric, Martinelli, Gabriel and Nketiah. Aubameyang pulled out on the day of the game because of a family issue.

Right from the kick-off it was clear Southampton were going to press us with real commitment and organisation. Our playing out from the back has been good recently, but it wasn’t in this one – which is not entirely surprising when you consider we had a right-footed left back and a rusty Gabriel making his first start since contracting Covid 19.

The Saints press meant we were unable to play through midfield and when we did get down the flanks we were unable to make anything happen. Cedric and Martinelli were not on the same wavelength and other communication issues cropped up elsewhere.

Players who have been reliable for several weeks started making mistakes (Rob Holding in particular) and at times we played like a bunch of blokes who’d never set eyes on each other before until they’d met in the pub car park half an hour earlier.

I really wanted Willian and Pepe to shine. We need them to show some decent form between now and the end of the season. But they were really poor. Pepe was invisible for most of the first half and Willian seemed to make a speciality of ignoring forward passes that were clearly on, taking too many touches, then passing backwards (on the occasions when he didn’t just lose possession).

Pepe was a bit better towards the end and set up a couple of chances for Nketiah. He possibly still has something to offer and maybe could become more influential with a run of games, but as for a use for Willian… I just don’t know. Do the cleaning staff at the Emirates need a new duster?

The Southampton goal came from a low shot which went through Cedric’s legs and looked to be covered by Leno until a deflection from Gabriel took it past him. The German had earlier made an excellent low stop but there was nothing he could do about this one.

At the other end Martinelli got through for a one-on-one with the Saints ‘keeper but fluffed his shot (admittedly a difficult technique – trying to volley a ball coming over the shoulder from behind). The Brazilian was energetic as usual but failed to make much of an impact on the game.

The second half saw more of the same until the final 20 minutes when Southampton started to tire (and also began to instinctively protect their lead) and our substitutes added a bit more intelligence and intensity to our play.

Partey and Saka came on just before the hour mark for Martinelli and Elneny. I can only imagine the club are still being careful with Martinelli’s minutes otherwise surely it would have been one of Pepe or Willian coming off (or even Nketiah).

Partey and Saka immediately made a difference and we started to threaten the opposition goal at last. A Saka cross almost found the head of Lacazette (who’d come on for Bellerin on 71 minutes) and Nketiah had a couple of chances including one really good one in the dying moments that he snatched at and skied over the bar.

The whistle ended a disappointing day for us in Hampshire. Arteta blamed the defeat on poor finishing in the second half, but the truth is we were second best overall.

We return to St Mary’s on Tuesday and some observers seem to think this win gives Southampton a psychological advantage over us for the league game but I’m not buying that. With our first team regulars restored it will be a totally different kettle of fish and I expect us to take all the points.

Player Ratings

Leno – 7

The only starter to really come out of the game with any credit.

Bellerin – 5

An indifferent performance.

Holding – 5.5

Usually so dependable, Big Rob misplaced too many passes in this one, although still performed his defensive duties well. He had one half chance to score and took his shot with all the finesse of a true centre half.

Gabriel – 5

A shaky, rusty performance from the returning CB. We know how good he is from his performances earlier in the season, but on this evidence it’s going to take him a while to get back to his best.

Cedric – 5

Some good intent from Ced with decent attacking forays but his crossing was terrible (admittedly he was on the wrong side of the park, but even when he cut onto his right those crosses were hit with a driver when a nine-iron was called for).

Xhaka – 5

What he did on the ball was fine, but what he didn’t do was get enough of a grip in midfield, so we were forced to play wide or punt long balls forward.

Elneny – 5

Same as Xhaka.

Willian – 3

He can’t want to play this badly, so what’s wrong with him? A truly terrible outing. We would have been better with 10 men and no Willian. And I mean that seriously, not as a joke. At least we would have lost possession less frequently.

Pepe – 4

He had some “moments” in the second half as Saints sat back. His footwork was good at times but he flatters to deceive. He was invisible for large parts of this game and is not a difference-maker.

Martinelli – 5

Willing as ever, but nothing much came off for him.

Nketiah – 4.5

Eddie was not involved enough in the first half (not all his fault but he could have done more) and when he did get a couple of decent chances he fluffed his lines.


Partey – 7

He immediately improved us for the better, helped take charge of midfield and got us moving forward at long last.

Saka – 7

His half hour or so had the main benefit of highlighting why Pepe and Willian should be kept away from the first team. Dynamic running, slick passing and intelligent all-round play.

Lacazette – 6

Not on long enough to have much of an impact.



53 Responses to Saints & Sinners: Southampton Report & Ratings

  1. LB says:

    Every now and then we have to give others a chance, lol, nice angle.
    Good read, hurry up Tuesday when we can hopefully get back to winning ways.

  2. Jim Readings says:

    Can’t be bothered!

  3. Mark says:

    Sorry but time for Pepe to be moved on for a major financial loss. His level at present is French football. Willian should go anywhere as his past reputation diminishes with every appearance. Pepe may be happy to go (anywhere) but Willian will do an Ozick and practice his running all the way to the bank!

  4. kfdickie says:

    i think he is managing them more as a player than a manager, he has to be ruthless in selection and not quote things like “He is above him in the order” when referring to Nketiah and Balogun. He has to be tough, and even unpopluar sometimes. If he doesn’t he will probably be on the end of ‘tough’.

  5. RA says:

    Thanks, Rocket,

    Sobering but fair assessment of the game.

    There is a question I would like to put to MA, which goes something like, – “Mikel, you know, and have openly admitted, that there is ‘a long way to go, to get us back to where we want to be – in the top 4 to start with,’ and you also know that this team can be very flaky, mainly because without our best players we can change from being pretty good I some games, to being absolutely awful, like in this S/Hampton game, so why do you keep insisting on rotation? Nothing good will come of it.

    You have also said that, you want to use the transfer windows to bring in better quality players (you are too diplomatic to use those words, mind) but why did you sell a goalkeeper who had been at Arsenal for years. and had passed the fans’ test (most of us thought he was excellent – and you know who I mean) – and then rather letting him and Leno fight it out to be the No.1, replaced him with a severely ‘ordinary’ back-up GK, who has now, in turn, been replaced by yet another borrowed GK. Why?

    We have been led to believe we will also have yet another loanee from Real Madrid — sounds good — but what is the plan? Onyergarde is a 22 y.o. creative midfielder, who plays in the same role as a rapidly improving talent of our own, namely Emile SR. They cannot both play in that position — so we would like to know what your reasoning for that is? Do you have one?

    Look Mikel — your a nice guy, and you are trying your best to put things right, but you have already mucked up early transfers, or at least condoned their acquisition by constantly playing them when they are so awful, I am referring to Pepe and Willian. What are you trying to achieve with them? How bad can they be, before you get rid?

    I want you to succeed Mikel, for that means Arsenal will also succeed, and that is primarily what I, and millions of Gooners, home and abroad want above all else. But I have to tell you, you need to improve your attempts in the transfer market, and if you cannot see that we need at least one and maybe two shit hot forwards, and not all this shilly shallying around with GKs, and doubling up on an already excellent young creative midfielder – the outlook for both you and the fans does not look good.

    Do you understand that Mikel? Really? I sincerely hope so — but hope is beginning to fade.

  6. fred1266 says:

    When ESR not playing maybe we should play 343 playing willian behind the striker is awful

  7. fred1266 says:

    Still have hope pepe will come good so wouldn’t mind giving him one more season

    Would love if we give him a try behind the striker and see if we get more out of him next time ESR gets a rest

    Yea willian another mesut in the making

  8. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers Rocky, a very accurate reflexion of the game. I think it simply was a case of too much rotation and rust among the players. Playing good football is about fine margins and automatisms between players: the way ESR knows where Saka will be and Saka knows that ESR will take on the defender before he passes; or the way Tierney knows where Xhaka will cut the ball to as to time his run perfectly. This was missing badly yesterday and it made players look bad, especially against the first team of Southampton away. We can now focus on two competitions and that seems the maximum at this stage of Arteta’s evolution.

  9. fred1266 says:

    Wow did he say that about Eddie and bolagun tough but I kinda agree cause Eddie hasn’t really done much wrong this season

  10. fred1266 says:


    With games so close I van understand the rotation, the Bright side now we now only have prem and Europa so team should be set in stone for the rest of the season

    Yea I never understand the emi sale

    I hope the loan move for a backup to ESR rather than a replacement cause I we can see from yesterday willan can’t play there and don’t think no one in our current squad can

  11. Gooner in exile says:

    The one position of overriding concern is left back, maybe Mikel is resting Tierney occasionally in hope of convincing someone above that we need left back cover, clearly any extended period without him is troubling, and rotation is even more troubling, at least if out for a long time anyone tasked with the role has time to get used to it, but one offs as recently seen by AMN (and I can’t comment on Cedric yesterday) can show players up totally fit their lack of experience ina position. Kolasniac was an adequate backup, we need someone else.

    You may think that a full back slotting in at left back or right back shouldn’t be a big issue but tackling and passing on the wrong foot is a huge change for them as is having the touchiness on the wrong side of their body from what must be ingrained muscle memory.

  12. Sue says:

    Goodbye Mesut *tears in eyes*

  13. jjgsol says:

    Fred, many contributors on this and other blogs have been saying for nearly 2 years that they/you hope that pepe will come good.

    After all this time, he is regressing and not improving so surely now is the time to cut our losses and sell him.

    Willian has been a mistake from the start.

    He is not another Ozil.

    Ozil was exiled for reasons that we may never know.

    Willian should be sidelined because he is simply not good enough.

    I cannot see why there was a need to rest so many players yesterday.

    The last game was on Monday and the next Wednesday.

    I fear that Arteta was trying to prove that his way works and that was a resounding flop.

  14. Rasp says:

    Thanks for the report Rocky. Your comments and scores are very fair. Like many, I’m not too upset to let another team have the chance to win the AFAC.

    It’s pretty clear who our best 11 is now, but there are some back up spots where the options are limited and worrying as GiE says.

  15. LB says:

    The straw that I am clinging to is, as we know, Soares was really poor against Newcastle in the cup, this led to many a comment and even a headline post asking why on earth is he at the club. But then come Newcastle at home in the EPL and Soares puts in such an impressive performance that people were shouting to sell Bellerin.

    Where I am going with this is that it might not be a good idea to judge his one and only LB performance on yesterday’s game.

    Again, it was so telling that Arteta chose to leave Soares on at RB in the hope of getting an equaliser rather than our so called first choice — Bellerin.

  16. fred1266 says:

  17. fred1266 says:

  18. fred1266 says:

    Jigsol my comment in saying willian is another mesut is that he will run down his contract at the club

  19. LB says:

    And on the subject of Willian, some people are comparing him with Ozil saying we now have the same issues.

    We don’t……………..

    Many people like me thought that Ozil was and is a very good player and would have enhanced our team yesterday for example.

    No one at all thinks Willian should be anywhere near the club.

  20. fred1266 says:

    u can see the trend once willian pepe start thr whole side tend to look horrible

  21. LB says:

    If they do have something in common it is the club who gave them the contracts they have/had, so blame the club, Willian was trying yesterday but he was crap so blame that on Arteta and Edu.

    Perhaps people are and I am missing the point.

  22. fred1266 says:

    I think people like me are making the comparison to mesut in someone not wanted by the club and because of a huge salary dey will stay and round down there contract

  23. LB says:

    Absolutely Fred, the thing is if you think about it when are they going to get another chance to play? Without the FA Cup those two will be on the bench for the rest of the season, not that I care, I don’t.

  24. fred1266 says:

    Hell yes am blaming edu for that shit, all it signing has been questionable first luiz then willian

  25. LB says:

    By the way did anyone understand what Mesut meant when he made that sign with his fingers?

  26. LB says:

    Can’t really agree about Luiz as I think he should be one of the first names on the team sheet on Tuesday but I think we will be chasing our tails round for days if we start getting into that one.

  27. fred1266 says:

    I never cared for willian, so hope he never plays again pepe still keep hope he will come good especially in Europa probably prem is a no go for him how teams hardly give him space but maybe europa he could exceed

  28. fred1266 says:

    Just googled it, it a tribute to his niece miera

  29. fred1266 says:

    Just googled it, it a tribute to his niece mira

  30. fred1266 says:

    If given the chance again to sign a CB would you sign luiz or another CB

    I know my answer is

  31. Sue says:

    Martin Ødegaard to Arsenal, here we go! The agreement has been reached after last contacts today between #AFC and Real Madrid. 🇳🇴

    Loan until the end of the season, salary paid by Arsenal. Arteta’s call key to convince the player. Medicals pending – then deal will be announced. (Fabrizio Romano)

  32. Aaron says:

    Have to rotate as Saka, ESR or someone else will get injured.

    Keep Soares as a rb only, AMN can deputize for Tierney, obviously not as good, but can play there surely better than Kola!

    Ode, if fit, and can pass medical because of his knee, will be helpful in rotation as a creator.

    We have Benfica coming up in Europa, and if we get by them somehow, more difficult teams will be on the horizon.

    Glad we got a back up keeper, wish he was taller, have a thing about tall keepers, just the way it is, think van der Sar, but not old and slow like Cech, but that goes back to forget about top 6 teams cast offs.

    Think Mikel has to try Balo over Eddie for a few games, the guy is playing well whatever age group.

    Feeling confident about the next game, believe the squad will be up for it!

    Uh, Sue, can you hail that uber again as it just finished dropping off oziL and can come back for a few others at this point.

  33. fred1266 says:

    Another ceballos sigh

  34. fred1266 says:

    Also hearing we inquiring about vinicius Jr Steups

  35. fred1266 says:

    How u know odegard will be good as a creator smh

  36. LB says:

    “Another ceballos sigh”

    Give him a chance Fred

  37. Gööner In Exile says:

    LB, that was kind of my point on Cedric of anyone at left back, given a run of games they can get used to the position, but in cameo to rest Tierney or if he gets injured through a game id much rather a dedicated leftie.

    On that note Pepe is left footed, maybe…..

  38. LB says:

    How do we know? We don’t that’s what make it all interesting.

    Saka works, Pepe doesn’t…………

  39. TotalArsenal says:

    LB, the three and a half finger stand for his weekly salary, each full finger representing £100k 😜

  40. fred1266 says:

    I just think it another poor loan signing, so rather he proves me wrong than get my hopes up

    Plus la liga players seem to not so good when playing for us

  41. LB says:

    “On that note Pepe is left footed, maybe…..”

    Good to see the old sense of humour is holding up GIE…………..

  42. RockyLives says:


    I think the point with Martinez was that he was determined to leave if he could not be guaranteed being first choice.

    Given his career in the shadows as an understudy, and then suddenly getting the chance to make serious money by moving elsewhere, it’s easy to see why he chose to go.

    He must have assumed that when Leno returned he would go back to being a mostly unused sub and sink back into obscurity.

    Also I’m not against getting in Onyergard ( 😀 ). It would be unrealistic to expect ESR to play all the games between now and the end of the season. However, I will be royally peed off with Arteta if Onyergard becomes our regular starting playmaker and ESR is demoted to Europa League and substitute appearances.

  43. Sue says:

    Aaron.. Have uber on speed dial 😉😂

  44. LB says:

    Nice one Total.

  45. RC78 says:

    I d suggest we loan out Pepe to PSG or any other club and give them an option to buy hi at 30 Mln. Pepe is struggling in the EPL. He will do well in Germany, Spain, Italy and France so maybe it s best to let him go…despite his obvious talent.

  46. RA says:


    You make very good points! Just as well that I was asking Mikel, he’s not as smart as you. 🥺

  47. RA says:


    How do you do that? you must have your own spy’s tipping you off. 😜

  48. RA says:

    Actually, Sue, you did not mention that we have shown an interest in £10m, 6’3″, Nathan Collins, 19 y.o. Irish guy currently at Stoke.

    Maybe a back up for one of the out going CBs at Arsenal.

  49. Sue says:

    Hi there, Mr Wichita 😜
    Maybe I had an early start at the supermarket checking out all the newspapers 😉 hehe!

  50. Sue says:

    We don’t need him when we have you, RA, you have a few more inches too 😝 oi oi!!

  51. Sue says:

    So glad Pool are out…now for West Ham to dump the Mancs out in the next round!

  52. Sue says:

  53. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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