04 May 2013

And Southampton delivers! Well, their academy did, anyway…

I asked for Southampton to do us a solid today in its match against Spurs.

And Southampton complied. Well, sort of...

It wasn't pretty, but Southampton did its followers proud as two of its most-famous products scored game-winners today, delivering much-needed victory. Too bad that neither of them were playing for Southampton, and even worse that one was playing against Southampton in the form of Gareth Bale, who marked his 200th appearance away from Southampton by scoring in the 86th minute to secure three points for Spurs. For 86 wonderful minutes, then, the Southampton faithful—many of them temporary Gunners converts—were feeling pretty good. The Saints had up 'til then denied Bale and his new team a result, and then...well, you can't win 'em all. Spurs therefore will keep the pressure on for another week.

It's therefore quite gratifying that Southampton's other product, the one I deigned to compare to Bale, outdid his one-time teammate by scoring within the first twenty seconds, less time than it's taken me to type this very sentence. It was just enough, too, as QPR looked threatening enough to score but for some solid keeping from Szczęsny, especially in the second half. I daresay that he delivered one of his best performances in a while. That it came against the likes of QPR is a bit of an indictment of the ten who played in front of him, but I'll take the three points just as gladly as I'll take that kind of showing from the lanky Pole. Absent a hilarious-but-only-because-nothing-came-from-it throw that allowed QPR to take another shot, he was on his game, making a number of key saves and coming off his line intelligently to keep a well-deserved clean sheet. He was tested on a number of occasions and did quite well.

Today, however, will be mostly about Theo. Although he only tallied once, he's done well enough to earn the "glory" MOTM, a new but important category I'm creating as of this moment. Whereas Arteta and Ramsey should probably share the actual MOTM for their orchestration of defense and attack and while their trench-work laid the foundation for the victory, we would've gone home with just one point today were it not for Theo. Podolski looked a bit sluggish out there, but this is not to say that Theo should therefore assume the central role. Indeed, his performance today only further confirms my argument that he continue to play wide. Yes, he scored our only goal, but he was on the verge of scoring a second all afternoon. Four of his five shots were on target, and only decent saves from QPR's Green kept Theo from a brace or even a hat-trick. Put it this way: Theo had more shots on target than any other teammate even took. Yes, he fell short of my call for an orgy of goals, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Just as nice as the goal itself was the manner in which it was scored. The build-up was wonderful, involving no fewer than seven touches before finding Theo, onside (by contrast with last week) and ready to pounce. There will be no questions this week about the goal's legitimacy or style.

It would have been nice to see a few more goals, and I do feel it was a bit churlish of Ramsey, Podolski, and Cazorla to spurn my request, but three points is three points. I had hoped to compose a rather-smug post in which I mocked Spurs for their inability to close out an inferior opponent; then, I had to settle for a less-smug post in which I mocked Spurs for struggling to close out said opponent. At the end of the day, each of us has had to settle for a win less comfortable than it should have been. Here, then, is to Man U running rough-shod over Chelsea on Sunday.

The race for 4th is as tight as it was at the beginning of the day, but the pressure, momentum, and fixtures continue to favor us. We'll look forward to a Chelsea loss tomorrow and a draw with Spurs, if not a victory over them, on Wednesday. Last year, 70 points was enough to secure 3rd place. This year might require a few more than that. Thankfully, there are still six points just laying there, waiting for us to seize them.