Southampton v. Arsenal: watch out for cracks

I went for my daily walk yesterday. It’s a path I’m well familiar with. I cross a Chihuly festooned footbridge, scamper down some oddly-spaced steps onto a waterfront promenade with a wide open walkway where I can sort of wander and lose myself in thought.

Just as I started across the bridge I heard the shrill chirp of a hummingbird. Their song sounds like an old cassette desk, when you would hit the play button and fast-forward at the same time, and the song would speed up into an indecipherable but shrill shriek.

I always stop to catch the hummingbirds when I hear them and spotted this one pretty easily as it was on top of a nearby branch. He was exceptionally close. So close I could see his little eyes look into mine as he swiveled his head back and forth to survey his land.

His body was a sort of bland green but his throat was the color if cranberry and glitter had a baby. He saw me looking at him, knit his brow and lifted off the branch. He made no pause and swooped at me in a large arc, letting out a high pitched chirp as he buzzed past me. As he reached the zenith of his arc, he paused in mid air, looked down on me, and came in for a second pass, again letting out the chirp.

The scene reminded me of a WWII dive bomber where the planes would swoop in, let their bombs fly, there would be a momentary whistle as they released the bomb, and then the planes would pull up steeply to let off as much velocity as possible. The little hummingbird even did what looked like a nose up stall, reaching the peak before dropping back down into his dive over and over.

I stood there for a minute while the hummingbird told me to buzz off over and over again before I noticed that there was a second hummingbird. When she came out, he stopped messing with me and the two of them flew corkscrews together, chasing one another, before flying into a hole in the boughs of a pine tree and disappearing from sight.

Realizing that I was bothering a dude and his lady I quickly walked away down the bridge toward the waterfront. No need making him burn up precious extra calories they can probably ill afford.

As I walked along I thought of poem fragments. Zero to one-hundred. One-hundred to zero. The long swoop. His cassette tape song. That pause at the top of his arc. The fearlessness of his stare and fierceness of his defending his nest against a creature 2000% his size.

Then my foot caught on a small crack and I stumbled. Not enough to fall. Just enough that I needed to wave my arms around furiously to catch my balance. A young tourist and her friend saw and smiled. Laughed really. It was laughable, an old man with a beard walking around staring at the sky, and nearly falling over after tripping on what looks like smooth ground.

I pointed to the ground where I had nearly fell over and said “watch out for that,” and then to distract them I said “there’s a hummingbird over in that tree.”

Arsenal should have no problem beating Southampton on Saturday. I know that Southampton have been something of a crack in the sidewalk for Arsenal – Arsenal have lost both of their last two away games to Southampton by an aggregate of 6-0, and worse, have never beaten Southampton at St. Mary’s since the team came back up to the Premier League in 2013 – but there are extenuating circumstances this time.

The first is that Southampton just won an emotional two-legged tie against Liverpool to reach the League Cup final. Let’s not underestimate how much this final means to them and their manager. They played 90 minutes of defense first football against a team who really gave them a test. But far from just Allardycing this match, Southampton were proactive and attempted 28 tackles, winning possession back 29 times for their team and using that possession to slice open Liverpool’s rather vulnerable and error-prone defense.

The second is the fact that Southampton played on Wednesday and only dropped two of their main starters: van Dijk (supposed injury though there is a lot of speculation that he wants to leave) and Hojbjerg. The remainder of their small squad started that match and the match before.

Arsenal have had nearly a week’s rest and Wenger has some options to rotate if he wants to give further rest to certain players. In defense, Arsenal could see the return of Bellerin, our own ruby-throated little hummingbird.

Wenger could also play one or two of the more forward players who don’t get starts, like Ox, or maybe even Theo Walcott who has finally returned to training. Welbeck also might get a run instead of Giroud. And at left back, I suspect we will see Monreal get a break and Gibbs come in.

Arsenal should be healthy, they have more than enough firepower to overcome a tired Southampton side who will be suffering a hangover from reaching the League Cup final. But Arsenal still need to pay attention to the ground and be wary of any small cracks that might trip us up.



  1. I love how you allude to your musings in daily life before coming full circle on the Arsenal. This site is always the first one I turn to whenever I want to read more about whatever goes on around the club, but more often than not, I come away with invaluable nuggets about how to approach life, how to look past the mundaneness of happenings and so much more. Here’s to your writing and to the many commentators on this site. Thank you for this repository, and thank you for bringing me nuggets of wisdom, and happiness for as long as I’ve been here. Cheers.

  2. Quite brilliant. That hummingbird story really pulled me in. Assuming the photo you posted is of the one from the story? Does have the cranberry and glitter thing going.

    I’m not as confident about Southampton. Maybe it’s just my natural predilection to be wary of any arsenal match ups especially one in which we have a poor record. I think they can hurt us on the counter and with a new midfield pairing (again), I can see us struggling a little bit as Ramsey and Coquelin adjust to each other’s games. It’s the FA cup, so I won’t be too sad if we lose but I also don’t want us to go out to the same team in both domestic cup competitions in the same season. I definitely don’t want a draw. As big of a squad we have now, our midfielders need all the rest they can get.

    My bold prediction for this game: Le Coq scores to usher in the year of the rooster.

  3. Gong xi fa cai (gong she fa tsai).

    We will celebrate the Year of the Rooster by being Cock of the Walk tomorrow. A little bird told me so.

  4. I also feel confident about this match IF winger rotates wisely. I hope alexis is completely rested. And Ozil is brought off early 2nd half.

  5. Gong xi fa cai (gong she fa tsai).

    We will celebrate the Year of the Rooster by being Cock of the Walk tomorrow. A little bird told me so.

  6. Under the circumstances this match should be a gimme but given that this is Arsenal, I will strike that thought. We’ve seen ocassions where we had a favorable situation and have made the the match a nail biter. Whatever we do, if Shane Long does not score, we should win.

    Wenger starts his 4 March ban tomorrow and they better have the lines of communication working flawlessly between the box and the bench.

  7. Wow. Only one starter, Mustfi, who played last weekend and no sign of Özil, Coq, or Ramsey. No excuses for a jaded performance today. Disjointed perhaps. Guess Arsene is all hands on deck for Chel$ki.

  8. Great writing as always.

    The four match ban isn’t a surprise.

    I know it’s difficult to compare incidents but considering the inconvenience of the four match ban it will be interesting to see what penalty is given to City for failing to inform testers of the whereabouts of their players on three separate occasions. You’d think that would be a big deal.

    Good start to the game so far.

  9. Can somebody please give me any reason explanation for Welbeck for Alexis when we are 3-0 up?

  10. A win is a win is a win and that is what we deservedly got for a change. I don’t want to be too ecstatic about the performances in this game against the lineup that Southampton put out but I have to say I was mightily impressed by the Jeff and starring Maitland-Niles as the Beaver (in the role of Coquelin).
    One can be tempted to forget that The Ox is a really good player through the middle since we only ever see him out wide in.
    Bringing on Sanchez amounted to inflicting gratuitous violence on Southampton.
    The most impressive thing for me today was the intensity of our closing down led by Perez, Welbeck, and Walcott that was a refreshing change from the 1st team efforts apart from Sanchez.
    You never ever want to praising your goalie for having quick feet. Scary that.

  11. I have not seen us press that high up the pitch with so much gusto and effectiveness.

    Ospina’s wanderings left me…bemused. Dude must have wanted that bacon sandwich bad to go roaming like that.

    A great day at the park, though. A 5-0.thumping after such a long time is most welcome.

  12. You have hummers in the winter? In the new? I don’t know that?
    2.5 months before they return here in CO

  13. “Man Utd vs Wigan: Paul Pogba always wanted to be the best but he keeps having stupid haircuts, says former youth coach Warren Joyce ahead of Old Trafford return”, from the London Evening Standard.

    See? there is is, right there.

    I can’t think of a truly great Arsenal player with a bad haircut.

    Pires was divine. Thierry was neither here nor there. Bergkamp was losing his hair when he retired. Adams had great hair.

    Alexis’s flatop might deserve consideration as bad but no, not even close to something like Pogba. We should be winning trophies every year based on haircuts alone.

  14. Good call on the likelyhood of a good result today. When I saw we were playing southampton I wasn’t hopefully of going through because of our bad results against them recently.
    Roll on the last 16.

  15. Fabulous and highly enjoyable result. Things I liked. Firstly, 4-3-3. Hope to see more of it. Ox’s performance. And while Danny and Walcott deserve their plaudits, I thought Perez had an excellent game as playmaker in chief. He had a big hand in three of our goals. First, he assisted Danny with his first goal with a beautiful around the corner flick. Then the pre-assist to Danny, releasing him to cross for Walcott’s first. Finally, the pass of the game with a 40 yard pass which curled perfectly into Sanchez’s path, releasing him to then set up Walcott up for his hat trick. He’s impressed every time he’s played and I’m glad we “missed out” on Vardy.

  16. Just watched the match.

    I thought Southampton, despite very reasonable expectations that they wouldn’t be fully at the races, did want to win this game. Puel rotated heavily but they played with gusto and did their best to unsettle a very young midfield. Their fans were in full voice about going to Wemberley and the manager gesticulating with vim and vigor. If they had Fonte and Van Dijk plus an experienced keeper in there I think this match would’ve been much different.

    Having said that, I don’t want to take away from a quite brilliant performance by the trio of… Jeff, Ox and AMN. Yes, the forwards were good too but my eyes were constantly drawn to the way the midfielders used the ball, saw passes, took up positions in defense, and how they covered for defenders and each other. You have to say it was a mature performance from all three on all counts. Ox in particular gave them fits as they tried to press him; he could just turn on the burners and be into the final third. Once there, he played several good passes, including the assist for the second goal, though subtlety is not his main strength. Ox also showed at times his “tigerish” side in the tackle, though he still has a tendency to switch off for a split second here and there. Jeff, for his part, showed excellent technique, composure in tight spaces and desire to track back to help out his team. He played perceptive through balls in heavy traffic which set up early chances for his team. AMN’s athleticism was the main feature I noticed, but he too was up for this and showed fantastic commitment. If I’m being picky, his passing was too conservative and he didn’t show too much vision or the composure to suggest a deep midfield role is his long term future.

    In general I really liked the commitment and mobility of the whole team. We didn’t let Southampton win the midfield duels despite fielding prospects and Ox in an unfamiliar role, and the speed on both flanks and down the middle was a joy to behold. Southampton couldn’t live with Walcott/Bellerin in particular. I also enjoyed the combination play between forwards, and Welbeck showed outstanding composure for his first goal. A really good win all in all.

  17. It seems so Arsenal to have as close as possible to having a fully fit squad with only a single player out with injury but still only have two senior midfielders available for the next couple of weeks

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