When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
ARSENAL 2 - SAINTS 0
2:37pm Tuesday 30th May 2006 in 03-04 Season
WHOEVER takes over, whenever that may be, following in the footsteps of Gordon Strachan will surely be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand he leaves in place a great squad of players who last night proved once again they are capable of living with the best.
But, on the other, to keep them playing like this and then improve them is a very tough ask indeed.
If the rumours are true and this was Strachan's last game in charge, then it was quite a fitting end - apart from the result.
His team showed all the passion, desire and drive he has demanded throughout his tenure as Saints boss.
They set about Arsenal, showed them no more than a healthy respect and could easily have got a point.
And, if the final sight of Strachan as Saints boss was him shouting at the linesman and trying to accost the referee, then that will somehow seem an appropriate cameo too.
But it doesn't matter whether it's Glenn Hoddle, Alain Perrin, Paul Sturrock or Wee Jimmy Krankie who takes over, it's an unenviable task.
Yes, Rupert Lowe's right, it is a plum job.
That's only the case though if staying mid-table is the aim.
If the ambition is to actually better what Strachan has done, then it's not easy.
In fact, without considerable money, it's not far off mission impossible.
Look at the Arsenal side last night and the money that has been spent compiling that.
Look at the Manchester United side just over a week ago and the money that has been spent compiling that.
Then look at Saints.
They should have no right to compete with these sides if that's what you go by.
But football doesn't conform to that and Saints can and do compete with these sides - the best in the land and the best in the world.
They've not always - and they're not guaranteed to be able to do it in the future, but they can under Strachan.
But for some poor refereeing they might have got something last night too.
Thierry Henry was as imperious as ever but Saints cut out his supply line well.
Paul Telfer was detailed to look after Robert Pires, the scorer of so many goals against Saints in the last year, and did his job well.
Pires was virtually out of the game after two early efforts which required saves from Niemi.
That meant Henry saw less of the ball - his best option was to pull out to the left wing vacated by Pires who cleverly tucked inside to try to drag Telfer away to create the space.
But Henry and Pires did combine on 31 minutes to produce Arsenal's opener and Henry's 100th Premiership goal.
Pires slipped the ball down the inside-left channel to Henry, who looked decidedly offside.
The linesman's flag stayed down and the Frenchman closed in on goal and fired in his shot from an acute angle. Niemi got a hand to the ball but couldn't keep it out.
It was a real shame for Saints who had enjoyed the best of the opening half an hour.
They had a succession of corners taken by Graeme Le Saux, who was excellent on the left side of midfield, and might have had a penalty when Brett Ormerod went down under the challenge of Kolo Toure.
But this game was against Arsenal at Highbury and you don't often get decisions there - well Saints certainly didn't.
Ormerod had more good openings when he had time to square the ball across the six-yard box and pick out Kevin Phillips but just missed his target.
In the second half he also forced Jens Lehmann into a good save, as did Chris Baird who came on for the injured Anders Svensson.
But Henry was a constant menace and broke forward in search of another goal time and again - coming very close late-on with an incredible effort flicked over two players and placed narrowly wide.
Goal 101 did come in injury time - again in controversial circumstances.
Danny Higginbotham was clearly fouled by Ray Parlour and lay flat out on the ground.
'Play on' said the referee and Pires duly crossed from the by-line for Henry at the far post. He jinked past Ormerod before blasting the ball into the top corner.
Results might not be going their way right now but Saints are playing some good stuff.
Can they get better? Only time will tell, but the new man's gonna have to be damn good to live up to the old one.