Arsenal Home FA Cup 4th Round Lost 5 – 0
It may have been the 4th round of the FA Cup but the line-ups chosen by Southampton and Arsenal would have been more appropriate to the Checkatrade Trophy, had Arsenal bothered to enter it. I think the players are more robust than manager Puel believes, but this time I have more sympathy with his rotation for a game that came three days after the EFL Cup semi final and three before an important League game – it is a fact that Saints have played more games to date this season than any other Premier League club and you wonder how much more was left in the tank anyway. Trouble is, size (of squad that is) matters and Arsenal’s is bigger, not withstanding that Saints were without long-term absentees McCarthy, Pied (remember him?), Targett, Van Dijk and Austin, plus Rodriguez and Ward-Prowse who were casualties at Anfield. That left us with a defence of Lewis, Martina, Stephens, Gardoş and McQueen, and none of them will be filing away copies of the match video to remember in their old age. After a quiet first 15 minutes, Welbeck wasn’t tracked properly by Martina and he fired in off the bar. Seven minutes later, the same player scored again, through the legs of the advancing Lewis but it was Stephens who failed to stop Welbeck running on to Oxlade-Chamberlain’s long pass and who then reacted too slowly when trying to cover Lewis. Worse was to come for Stephens on 35 minutes when his clearance smashed into Højbjerg and as the Gunners gained possession, again he failed to match Welbeck who crossed for Walcott to score, although McQueen really should have done more to stop him. That saw Saints through to half time, and they did have opportunities of their own in the opening period. Perhaps the break would have been a good time to explain to Gardoş or Stephens that things weren’t really working out, and Yoshida could have been introduced to limit the damage, but the only changes came after the usual hour mark when Tadić and Redmond came on for Saints; unfortunately Sanchez was introduced by our opponents, and within minutes it was 0-4, a poor clearance by Stephens and the inadequacies of Gardoş resulting in Sanchez crossing for Walcott to roll the ball into the corner. Time was mercifully running out when Sanchez picked up the ball on the left, but there was little doubt that another goal was coming here, and it was Walcott who scored it to complete his hat trick – TV pundits attached some of the blame for this one to Lewis, which seemed harsh, but he was no Fraser Forster either.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jordi Clasie, but he was not in a position to influence matters very much.