Gillespie Guest Post – The Southampton perspective

What a difference a year makes! This last time I wrote for this site ahead of a trip to the Emirates both ourselves and the Arsenal were shite!

Look at us now, mocking those tin pot clubs like United and City who can’t keep up with us. Yes I am getting carried away but who can blame me!? This is the best football I have ever seen being played by my beloved Southampton FC, and for this reason, much like my trip to Old Trafford a few weeks ago, I genuinely look at Saturday’s game without any of the fear or dread that usually bestows a Saints fan for these types of occasions.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v Southampton - Emirates Stadium

The season so far has been great for us. Particular highlights include a win at Liverpool and a last minute equaliser at United, but my own personal highlights have been our last two home games. Both first half performances against Fulham and Hull have been outstanding. The team is really working hard and for each other, and the feel good factor around St Marys is like nothing I’ve experienced before.

It’s great to see three of the big performers rewarded for their fine form with England call ups. Although I was slightly surprised with Jay Rod’s call up, I certainly wasn’t about Adam Lallana’s. His form last season was a bit patchy, mainly due to injuries and niggles that plagued him all season, but this season he has excelled and become one of the best creative players in the Premiership.

Saints 2

Probably the most impressive part of our game at the moment is how tight our defence has become. In my eyes our player of the season so far, Dejan Lovren has been a major reason for this. He’s a natural leader, something we were crying out for last season, and with two quality wing backs in Shaw and Clyne, a very good goalkeeper in Boruc and an ever improving Jose Fonte playing alongside him, Arsenal will have to work hard to break them down. Another new signing who’s done well after a slow start is Victor Wanyama. Although his passing is pretty poor, his ability to break up play is exceptional and he’s got a massive role to play if we are going to get something from the game on Saturday. I’m rather surprised Arsenal didn’t go in for him in the summer to be honest as he’s the type of player that I feel you guys could do with.

The less we talk about last year’s game at the Emirates the better. It was one of those games where you wish you weren’t there, 6-1 and it honestly could have been ten. I remember the best player on the pitch for a lot of the game was old boy Gervinho! I don’t remember much else. I tend to block those kind of games out of my memory. I’ve been to some great games away at Arsenal. A couple that stick out are when we nicked a 1-1 draw at Highbury. Wiltord scored and then late in the game a very average midfielder of ours Jo Tessem scored a header. Another that sticks out is a 2-2 draw when some kid called Robin Van Persie scored a 95th minute equalizer after Rory Delap had scored two identical headers from corners late on. A game that still haunts me now is when Arsenal were 5-0 up against us after about 25 minutes, I’ve never been to a game and seen supporters walking out after half an hour. I remember Robert Pires was near un-playable.

Saints 3

I’ve been very impressed with Arsenal so far this year, Aaron Ramsey especially. The boy has almost come from nowhere this season and his volume of goals already is incredible. I have a lot of admiration for Oliver Giroud as well, his movement is superb and he works his socks off. Mertesaker coming back is a huge plus for you guys ahead of the game as I quite fancied Lambert up against Vermaelen. I think that the January transfer window is huge for Arsenal if they want to seriously challenge for the title this year, the squad is a little thin compared to title rivals and I think a centre forward and a defensive midfielder are must buys.
Do I think Arsenal will win the league? no. Do I think Saints will finish in the top four? no, but I think Saturday is going to be a belter.

Probable Saints line-up:
Boruc

Clyne Fonte Lovren Shaw

Wanyama

Ward-Prowse Schneiderlin Rodriguez Lallana

Lambert

Prediction 1-1 Ramsey and Lambert to score.

James Callen

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Gervinho: The New Thierry …

After two months out of the Arsenal loop, I returned to the Emirates for last nights game against Olympiacos. It is always refreshing to know that, in terms of build up, very little changes and the pre match traditions are upheld. On the pitch, as you all know, a lot has changed. Arteta’s successful switch to the defensive side of midfield was interesting to watch. I felt he successfully marshalled the team with a greater certainty than last year. Santi Carzola, despite apparently having a quieter game than usual, provided us with some incredible displays of touch and skill. Pre match, a fellow Gooner described his play as ‘erotic’; at times I find it hard to disagree. And of course the well documented rise of Carl Jenkinson was great to watch and I felt he had a very solid game.

Certainly one of the more surprising changes to the line up is the movement of Gervinho from the wide positions to the center of our attack. Picking a player
whose overwhelming weakness in the previous campaign was finishing seemed like madness, but to be fair he’s now netted five times this season surpassing his tally for the whole of last year.

After the game Steve Bould spoke highly of the team and Gervinho:

‘He is scoring goals so his confidence is sky high, He is a danger with his pace and movement – he could be a top player.”

Surprising comparisons have been drawn with Thierry to which Bould replied:

‘Well, if he gets anywhere near Thierry Henry we’ll take that all day long,”

For him to be mentioned in the same breath as Thierry is, for me, a bridge too far, but judging by the only live performance I have seen he seems to be
adapting to the position well. He is tireless and his movement was encouraging. Scoring and providing an assist, as well as setting up Carzola with a glorious opportunity most would have expected him to bury. It is clear that it will take Gervinho some time to win over many of the Emirates faithful and, given his previous record, this is understandable. There are calls from the stands for Giroud to be given more of a chance and it would seem logical that in the longer term a firing Giroud would be better suited to the current formation. Giroud adds a very different dimension to the attack highlighted by his excellent assist for Ramsey’s last minute goal. That sort of heading ability is something that Gervinho is not capable of.

It’s important to note that Gervinho is very much a work in progress. Even if that’s not what we want or need at the moment, there is no denying that he is
progressing into a more confident and dangerous attacker.

Is he to be the next Thierry? I highly doubt it, but I’ll gladly be proven wrong.

Will