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Did Pardew Set Ben Arfa Up To Fail At St.Mary’s?

8 years ago

Under a vibrant sun I found myself gazing up at St Mary’s with a bubbling optimism. It’s my first visit to Southampton since the days of the Dell and I’m hoping to witness a win for my beloved Newcastle.

Having found myself outside a Southampton gate I began to navigate my way round to the away end. Everywhere around me were Saints fans. Wearing last season’s third kit I looked like a little, orange Moses parting a red sea.

Suddenly all the shirts around me became two sizes bigger, the noise increased and the red transformed into black and white. This is what it’s all about. With my mum for company (cool I know) I entered the stadium and found myself in a crammed holding area. All around me vocal Geordies were belting out classic terrace chants.

We made our way to the seats and stood waiting for the game to start. A sunny day in March was unexpected. Now I hoped for an equally unlikely away win.

Ben Arfa was the name that adorned my shirt and I was delighted to hear that he was starting. However, it became clear quickly that Ben Arfa was under strict instructions. I can almost imagine Pardew’s conversation with him in the dressing room. “I’m going to give you your chance Hatem. Don’t let me down. I want you covering Mapou and tracking the runs of Shaw. Don’t you dare take anyone on and always pass to the nearest possible player. Now get out there and DON’T make it happen!”

Hatem did everything that was asked of him and looked like a wing-back for large periods of the first half. Rarely did he try anything special and at half time he was removed having not been given any freedom.

The first half we played the highest line possible without actually crossing the halfway line. Every ball over the top seemed to catch our back line flat footed and we could have been two nil down early on. Amusing as it was jeering every wasted Southampton opportunity, it was all we had to cheer in the first half hour.

Rob Elliot was very impressive. He made two great saves early on and did something I haven’t seen Krul do all season; palm the shots out of danger rather than into the feet of the nearest attacker.

It was clear that Jay Rodriguez had borrowed Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak as he consistently wandered down the right flank undisturbed by Gouffran and Haidara.

With mere minutes to go in the first half our high line was caught out yet again. I remember a game against West Brom a couple of years ago when Long’s tantalising pace repeatedly caught out our centre backs. Today it was lumbering Lambert who raced clear of Colo and Williamson. He strolled towards Elliot, with the acceleration of a shopmobility scooter, before easing it across to Mr Invisible himself, who rolled it into the net.

The second half was even more abysmal. Although, in fairness we did discover what the opponent’s half looked like and even had a couple of corners to celebrate.

Lambert scored soon after kick off and with Ben Arfa off I just knew it wouldn’t get any better.

Papiss looked isolated and disinterested once again. Free scoring Cisse is well and truly gone. I use other F words to precede his name now, the most family friendly of which is frustrating.

Watching Lallana walk through our lacklustre midfield before smashing a screamer into the top corner made me wonder what might have been had Ben Arfa been given free licence today. The free flowing football that Southampton were providing was astonishing.

For a while I assumed Southampton fans must have paid an arm and a leg for their tickets as for long periods they didn’t clap or get to their feet. They were completely outclassed by the travelling support. Shame that wasn’t translated onto the pitch.

There was a glimmer of hope when Dummett crossed to De Jong. But lucky Luuk decided his stomach would be the best body part to score with and neither controlled nor struck the ball and it was cleared. Anita has said this week that we should “snap De Jong up.” I’d like to snap him up but maybe not in the same way as Vernon insinuated.

There was no late goal. Nothing to appease the disgruntled travelling support. The only consolation personally was that I’m working next Saturday and won’t be able to watch the next fiasco against Manchester United. In the end Rodriguez scored again to make it a whitewash. I had to appease myself by pretending I was watching England play. Their opponents were Luxembourg by the looks of it.

Southampton are a stark contrast to Newcastle and I can’t help feeling jealous of them. The amount of quality they have introduced from their academy, as well as other impressive Englishman they have signed, is startling. It’s what every fan wants for their team. Combine with that an exhilarating style of football and you can see why everyone’s smiling on the south coast.

The black and white army were in full voice all game and even after the fourth goal continued their support. There were some boos at the final whistle but all in all the fans showed an immense and unflinching support for Newcastle United FC. Now we just need to see the same from Mike Ashley this summer. I won’t hold my breath for fear of suffocating.

You can follow Billy on Twitter @billymerlin


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