Saints V Arsenal The Verdict
Monday, 17th Dec 2018 09:38
This was a game that had everything, but more importantly it had the one thing that has been lacking over the last year at St Mary's a home win !
Ralph Hasenhuttl's first game in charge saw the fans in positive mood for the first time in perhaps two years, although most were hopeful for a good performance rather than a point or even three.
Hasenhuttl sprung a surprise with his team line up playing three at the back and the welcome return of Danny Ing's.
From the kick off you could see that working with the new manager has already benefited, in the match build up I said that there was not much wrong with this squad that Motivation, Organisation & Fitness could not put right and it was clear right from the start that the team had a different attitude, of course things aren't going to be put completely right overnight but you sensed that some progress had been made.
Arsenal are still no mugs though and could have gone ahead when Yoshida lost his man early in the game, in fairness this was about the only mistake the Japanese defender made and he played a sterling role alongside Jan Bednarek who was the BBC's man of the match making more clearances and interceptions than anyone else in the game and Jannik Vestergaard also starting to show what he is capable of.
In the 20th minute Saints took the lead and it was a peach of a cross from Matt Targett that found Danny Ings who headed home to send St Mary's wild, from then on the game went one way or the other and it was end to end stuff with the Gunners enjoying more possession but Saints attacking with pace with Nathan Redmond leading the way.
But it was Arsenal who scored next just before the half hour mark and some thought that this was the beginning of the end for Saints, but it was nothing of the sort.
Usually it is Saints who concede just before the end of either half, but this was not going to be the case and on the stroke of half time Ing's got a second, another header from a great cross, this time from Redmond who picked him out from short range with pinpoint precision when it would have been easier to under or over hit a cross.
Saints leading at the break the crowd were wowed at half time and their was a buzz not seen for a long time, but in an enthralling second half it was the visitors who scored first to equalise, Oriol Romeu goy caught in possession, some blamed him but I thought he had little other options, with the ball caught under his feat and pressed by Arsenal players, the ball fell to Mkhitaryan unmarked and his shot took a couple of cruel deflections to send McCarthy the wrong way.
But this just seemed to spur Saints on even when Redmond in my opinion a candidate for man of the match and a constant threat to the Arsenal defence had to go off injured and on came Shane Long.
This was a game made for Long and he thought he had scored, but the goal was ruled offside much to the astonishment of the Saints support although TV replays later showed that it was the correct decision.
Long was soon joined by Charlie Austin on 71 minutes and some were worried that with Ings and Redmond gone our attacking threat was over, but this is a squad game and perhaps both players role in that squad is as impact subs and that they certainly had in the 85th minute when Long was sent clear down the right, he crossed, the third pinpoint cross of the game, Leno couldn't get it and Charlie Austin headed home.
That left Saints with five minutes of normal time and five minutes of injury time to hang on, but they were going to do no hanging on, they were strong and resolute and unlike a year ago in the same fixture there would be no 90th minute equaliser to break our hearts.
The team finished the game as they had started it with motivation, resolve, confidence and organisation and saw out these final ten minutes with relative ease.
Leaving St Mary's was a pleasure for the first time in a long time, the fans were in ecstasy, people whooped and high fived, they knew that they had seen a great game, but more importantly they knew they had seen a team with a different mindset, who were no longer scared of playing
There is still a lot of work to do, we still need to tighten up at the back, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can go into the second half of the season with confidence, something we couldn't say a week ago.
I have seen comments over the past few months from some Saints fans questioning how anyone could pay good money to watch "that Sh*t" as they describe it, the answer was there on Sunday, we go for days like these, we go through the bad times so the good times taste better.
Photo: Action Images
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|InsideOut added 09:50 - Dec 17|
Great day, excellent and happy match report ! Agree with everything, would just add that McCarthy also made some important saves. Hope that the confidence this gives the team will see us get free pints, sorry three points at Huddersfield.
|RobtheSaint added 09:50 - Dec 17|
It was like turning up to watch another team play. Normally the back line is right in front of us in the Northam Stand but yesterday they were a good 10 yards further forward.
Pleasure to watch. Good luck Ralph, me and Pete really enjoyed it.
|GeordieSaint added 09:52 - Dec 17|
What a great performance, however we definitely seemed to have the missing component of luck back on Saturday. Hopefully that is a corner turned in terms of belief.
|dirk_doone added 10:00 - Dec 17|
I haven't enjoyed a game at St Mary's as much as that since May 2016. It's like we have finally emerged from a long, dark tunnel.
Brilliant performance from our team. Every player played better and looked fitter and more determined than they have for years. We clearly have a great manager and can look forward to a bright future with him in charge. Man of the match: Ralph Hasenhüttl.
|DorsetIan added 10:20 - Dec 17|
Great day, great result! Think Valery deserves a nod - can't have been easy for him getting subbed off at half time against Cardiff but he played with confidence and didn't do much wrong all game.
|ItchenNorth added 10:27 - Dec 17|
A really entertaining game full of passion and fight from the Saints players. Hasenhutti's passion seems infectious !
As good as the game was, as nail-biting as those last few minutes were, what happened after the final whistle has not been seen or heard at St Mary's for a long time. My lasting memory of this match will be after the whistle with fans singing along to 'Just Can't Get Enough' (Depeche Mode), then the music stopped; and one of the most rousing renditions of 'Oh When The Saints' was sent boomed out across the stadium. Fans stayed to applaud the team and manager off the pitch. It was a moment. Perhaps a defining one; if we are to galvanise the players into believing and playing for the shirt.
Let's go beat Huddersfield now and get on a roll. The season started yesterday !
|highfield49 added 10:35 - Dec 17|
The euphoria attached to just winning a home game has lifted us all, thank you Ralph. Every supporter has pointed to the change in belief and attitude of the players and the added sharpness and fitness was a big factor in closing down the opposition. Bednarek showed the sort of defending we have been missing since Fonte and VD departed and both Long and Austin have been removed from my January sales list. Great to see Valery maturing, with a lot of advice apparent again from Austin, and brilliant to see Johnson coming off the bench rather than Davis or JWP. An afternoon that set us out on the journey to much better things. Mid table by February or is that expecting too much?
|saintjf added 10:37 - Dec 17|
Agree with all of the above. Brilliant game. You don't always know how it is going to turn out.
|SaintPaulVW added 10:38 - Dec 17|
Loved the high press. Really took the game to Arsenal, although understandably seemed to suffer a bit from titedness in the second half. Hjobjerg looked great. Ings and Redmond are made for this system. As per usual the Defence and even Romeu all made mistakes but never ever let their heads go down. Bednarak, Targett and Valery all took big steps forward for me.
Long and Austin as super subs? If so, not too sure who we can sell in January to raise funds for new faces.
All in all terrific performance and great to watch. Great start for RH and something to build on. Happy to eat my words as I thought we were heading to the bottom of the league. Hope is restored now! COYR
|Consigliere added 11:46 - Dec 17|
As I posted after the Man U game, the players themselves wanted to go for the high pressing game and with the new manager in charge they seem to have been given license - indeed encouragement - to do so. For sure there were some silly mistakes still but by defending in the opponents part of the pitch we were able to avoid the sort of concessions that have been so characteristic of this season, and we always looked likely to score again after the equalisers.
The most satisfying thing for me though was seeing the players fight for every ball and not letting their heads go down at any time. Make no mistake, this was a great result against a very good Arsenal team and it would have been easy to have given up hope, but we never did. That, I think, reflects the confidence that the new manager has instilled into them, and is what was so sadly lacking under the previous regime.
So long as we can string a few wins together and perhaps have a little cup run, we should be able to turn our season around, and come next summer we can give the keys of the city to our new man.
One very happy supporter here!
|underweststand added 11:56 - Dec 17|
It took me 20 minutes to work out who the team in the red/white shirts were ...what a revelation, or perhaps I should I say .....revolution in a week.
Not just a relief from a long-awaited winning scoreline, but felt like we had imported a boatload of new fans ...or maybe the free beer at half time made the difference.
Final result not so much a victory for Hasenhuttl tactics ...as a condemnation of Hughes'.
Lots of high pressing, and physical play - evenif the formation looked strange at first. Arsenal had 66% possession and played like we did last season ...and they still lost.
Santa Charlie changes from villain to hero in a week and denied Arsenal their Christmas present from St.Mary's again this year. Everyone looked good but can we really blame Vestergaard for the unfortunate deflection after last weeks catastrophe - he'll learn.
Back line looked more solid and on this showing Bednarek and Valery may get themselves on the team sheet a bit more often under Ralph.
Great welcome back for Danny Ings, he and Redmond looked terrifyingly good at times.
Clearly Austin and Long won't last for a 90 minute game (Ralph Style), but having them off the bench in the last half hour could bring future dividends against tiring defenders.
If this is the end of the old system and the beginning of a new one - I'm very impressed.
Survival is still a long way off, but this has a real "feel good " factor about it.
|davidargyll added 12:11 - Dec 17|
Playing a pressing game is exactly right... It has always seemed to me so logical that, when a ball is passed back to the oppo's goalie, you run at him: at worst he makes a decent clearance, and at best as happened a good few times yesterday, he makes an inaccurate kick straight back to us!
And I agree with almost everything else that has been said, except for Romeu's mistake which let's be honest was schoolboy stuff. Had we not got the third goal, I think there would have been a lot of screaming for his head, but, as has been done previously by others (Lemina?), he proved that trying to be too clever can be very costly. And in complete contrast I reckon Valery was really good and showed the rest of them how to do it: if in any doubt, kick it into touch.
But overall, from the very first kick, the team was doing just that, playing as a team. And yes I know, swallows and summers etc, but I do think that yesterday showed we are a lot better than many doubters on here have been constantly suggsting we are...
|bstokesaint added 12:19 - Dec 17|
Thanks Ralph. What a change a decent manager makes. No disrespect to Puel, as I think he did a decent job all things considered, but the new man seems like a far better fit and more aligned to what everyone involved with the club wants to see. I don’t want to get carried away after one result, but if we can play that well against lesser, more defensive opponents, then I think we can start looking up the table again.
|no7saint added 12:51 - Dec 17|
I was grinning all the way home despite getting soaked, I know it was only one match but it lifted a cloud that's been hanging over St Mary's for a long time. We weren't just hanging on but competed with Arsenal who are on hot form for the 90 minutes, which has to give us confidence for the rest of the season.
A great team performance with Bednarek rightly singled out, I'm glad you put in a mention for Redmond who I think is going to be thrive in the new system. He terrorised the Arsenal defence until they took him out. Hope it's just a knock and he isn't out for long.
|Sanguin added 14:03 - Dec 17|
I went expecting to get thrashed but to be pleased with the effort shown, what a delight Sunday way. After months of looking for positives, defending the manager and saying how we were unlucky, Hassenhuttl has shown that you make your own luck. The main thing for me was the confidence, against Man United we went 2-0 up and then both the fans and the players felt nervous about how long we would have to hold it for. At no time on Sunday did you feel like the team ever expected to lose.
|SanMarco added 15:13 - Dec 17|
I agree with all the positive comments. What impressed me more than anything was the way we responded to both equalizers. We all thought 'here we go again' after the first and then bemoaned yet more bad luck after the second but we kept going and this time the chance for the winner fell to the right guy who calmly nodded it in.
Let's hope the feel-good factor lasts - play like that every week and we will move to safety. My only note of caution would be that, good side that they are, Arsenal's defence was weak yesterday. Not many sides will be as obliging as they were yesterday. On another day Romeu's carelessness would have cost us - but it wasn't another day and notes of caution can wait until we've recovered from the wonderfully pleasant surprise of yesterday!!
Oh, and well done Redmond - start scoring the odd goal and you may be becoming the player we hoped you would be. And could Bednarek at least be one half-decent CB on our books?
|DPeps added 15:49 - Dec 17|
Agree with all the positivity. I thought Bednarek was especially excellent.
The only negative was Romeu, who looked like an accident waiting to happen. He was obviously at fault for the second goal (I don't buy that he had no options, as booting it to touch is always an option), and arguably should've tracked back better for the first goal.
Some will say it's negative to focus on this stuff, but we'll only stay up if we reduce these mistakes.
|BoondockSaint added 16:21 - Dec 17|
This the type of play we have been missing for the last 2 years!
Hope the players don't get too overconfident going into next weeks game (I don't think Ralph H. will let that happen).
Just a side note: When trying to kill the game off, and Saints got the ball in their own half, they booted it safely up the field- FINALLY some common sense! You would have thought Hockey guy Ralph K. would have explained "icing the puck" to the previous 3 managers!
|IanRC added 17:07 - Dec 17|
Bednarek was magnificent, two goal saving tackles close together. Really glad we didn't consign Shane Long to fresh pastures as many on here wanted.
|LoisDeem added 17:08 - Dec 17|
I am agreeing with all the positivity.
If I've any criticism it's the residual critical critics that now need to rein in the criticism, for Ralph and the team's sake, we must continue on a tide of positivity.
Everyone makes mistakes, and only one team can finish first, so lets see continued encouragement for what we are trying to achieve, and get off individual backs, especially iif they are working, what's the point of some trying to exorcise the demons, when others continue to dwell in a pit of negativity -it helps nobody -least of all the individuals concerned. Well done my Saints.
|LoisDeem added 17:12 - Dec 17|
Hockey Guy probably did explain in his own inimitable way, and that may be the problem?
Ice the puck, WTF?
|aceofthebase added 18:09 - Dec 17|
Stop giving Hassenhuttl the credit for this win, it was all down to ME!
It was the first game that I didn't see In one way or another for about two years(Grrrrr!). I'm sorry guys but I will be watching our next match.
|SaintBrock added 18:53 - Dec 17|
Time to stop blaming players for odd individual mistakes, every player on the pitch makes mistakes in every match they play - they don't all lead to goals. When mistakes lead to goals then it is a team problem of organisation. In all circumstances the team plan should allow for individual errors in any position and worked out how to deal with them.
Characteristically players some fans love to hate like Yoshida, Romeu & Cedic are not allowed a single lapse despite the 99% of good things they do in every match. Forget the blame game people and accept that even you are not perfect.
|DPeps added 19:56 - Dec 17|
Brock - but my mummy says I'm perfect!
I suppose I was a bit harsh on Romeu, but as a professional footballer I'm sure he'll be aware himself that he had a bit of a 'mare, and hopefully he'll regain his previous consistency. His treatment by Hughes was pretty shambolic, and I guess he was a little rusty.
Clearly this was a much improved performance, and it looks like RH is having an effect on the physical and mental fitness levels already. While this is the case, however, there were still quite a few sloppy bits of play (what in tennis you might call 'unforced errors'), and on another day the opposition might have been more ruthless. I have confidence that RH and the players can eradicate these errors, which it seems to me are more individual in nature than systematic
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