To me to you. Like the prop in an oh so hilarious Chuckle Brothers sketch the theoretical advantage in the race for the top four rarely seems to stay in anyone’s possession for long. Chelsea have the points but the tougher remaining games, the Gooners have smugness and much the easier fixtures and we have the game in hand advantage and a mixture of tough and not so tough games dependant upon our opponent’s relegation angst when we play them.
A game in hand is only an advantage if it’s a game you’re likely to win of course and given that our one is at Stamford Bridge, not the happiest of hunting grounds to state the bleedin’ obvious, it’s an advantage in the minds of the purest optimists only. Unless one of the others slips up badly, we’ll need to win there and also triumph in our other games too.
Which brings us to Southampton. Their relegation angst is small but will be nagging away still. The 3-0 home defeat to West Brom last weekend seemed to indicate that the charabanc has already left for the seaside, perhaps co-piloted by Ramirez and Danny Fox who both saw red in that game but they still need a couple more points to be sure of safety. Their slow start to the season gave cause for alarm early on but then they picked up momentum and points at a steady rate, barely stuttering when they replaced, to most people’s astonishment, manager Adkins with Pochettino, a Premier League novice. Ricky Lambert has led from the front but it’s been a team effort and Puncheon, Schneiderlin, Lallana and Rodriguez have all contributed. The youngster Luke Shaw has received a lot of good press and is probably on Villas-Boas’s radar as he searches for someone he can trust at left back next season.
The game needs to be won, as I said, however our porous recent performances mean that’s unlikely unless we goal crazy. Even a Saints team discussing their end of season party at restarts isn’t going to ignore the gifts we’re handing out at corners these days; a concession in 5 of the last 6 games now. I’m sure the PFA team of the year would’ve been giving Vertonghen black looks if he’d allowed Emerson Boyce to score as straightforward a goal last week should they really have got together for a kickabout. The defence is a bit of a mess and has been for a while now, there’s no avoiding it.
After the late comeback against Man City AVB made changes to the midfield but they were half-hearted. Not playing Holtby and Assou-Ekotto missed the point in my opinion in that our lack of width wasn’t fully addressed. Aaron Lennon may be fit enough to start this week in which case I hope that it’s Parker he’s swapped for and not Huddlestone. Having said that, much depends on the extent of Dembélé’s injury; we’ll miss him if he’s not there. Adebayor may or may not show up to try people’s patience once again.
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t win this one. Southampton will be looking to get the points they need against Sunderland or Stoke rather than at White Hart Lane. A win would put a modicum of pressure on the gooners at relegated QPR; they kick off at 5:30.
Fatty Dowd is down to referee. COYS.
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