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.


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