Happy Monday folks. It’s a wet and drizzly one in West London and has pretty much been like that since Saturday but I’ll not let that get me down. After all Arsenal notched another win, got three more goals, we saw Aubameyang get on the score sheet yet again, Welbeck even notched a few, so in the main it was a good performance that ensured that despite the fact it didn’t really matter our Sunday wasn’t hampered much.
Our defence however has a bit to answer for. Yesterday’s concession of two goals to a Southampton team that have struggled for them all season left a lot to be desired of and when Shane Long simply meandered into the box and was more alive to a cross than Mustafi, I’d like to say I couldn’t believe we were one down, but I can.
That first goal of the day was a joke. First for Kolasinac I’m not preventing the Southampton player out wide from popping a hopeful ball chipped into the box, but then for Mustafi to just ignore the obvious threat and not go to the ball, was the sort of thing a Sunday morning Dad coach would scream at his 11 year-old team. Petr Cech can take some blame too, however, because if he just screams “AWAY!” Or “KEEPER” then Mustafi probably reacts. But he does nothing and we go one down.
In the most Arsenal fashion possible. We make the improbable, probable, for so many teams.
Up until that point I feared the tone of the game was set. We had the ball, Southampton had shape and compacted three at the back into a five with two very deep-lying ball winning midfielders, then looked to press their forward men higher up the pitch and force us to go long.
For about ten minutes after their goal we looked like we were going to huff and puff all afternoon. The only excitement seemed to be when debutant Reiss Nelson got touches and there seemed to be little creativity in the side. But just on the half hour mark we got a glimpse of old-skool Arsenal and a nice little exchange which saw a flick from Welbeck to Auba puts us level and I’m thinking “why can’t we see more of that?”. We’ve had mere glimpses this season but that first goal was an example of what this team is capable of.
As soon as that went in the crowd – those of whom had decided to show up – woke up and the team seemed to up it a gear or two. We started to move the ball quicker and suddenly players realised that they could pass the ball forward instead of sideways.
Then wouldn’t you know it but Welbeck – out on the left wing – reacts well to a ball in under his feet and skips past a Southampton defender to get us in front. I have to say it was a very impressive move and had all the hallmarks of peak Alexis. But you can’t have a Welbeck goal that is pure. There has to be something scrappy about it and the deflection it took from the defender just dented the purity of the move for me. But hey I won’t complain too much, certainly Welbeck won’t, so we can just be pleased for a very likeable (if not sometimes infuriating) forward for getting on the scoresheet.
The second half saw a few decent saves from the ‘keeper but the second I heard that Charlie Austin had always scored when he plays Arsenal, I knew that there would be one of them there irritating ‘narratives’ that was going to spoil my afternoon. Even if only for a bit.
Once again the defending was suspect and why a player like Austin isn’t tracked/marked inside the six yard box is another disgrace. But then again that is just this Arsenal team. We concede goals. Silly goals. Self-inflicted goals. And had Welbeck not nodded in the winner with nine minutes to go we can have no complaints. Because as much as it’s great to see Arsenal back to free scoring ways like we have of late, the way in which we gifted two goals to a frankly poor Southampton team, leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth. Football is as much about defending as it is attacking and I just wonder what goes on in players’ minds like Mustafi at times.
We’re all talking about what needs to be done in the summer and naturally people get excited about forwards, wide men, creative players, but it feels like defensively we need a complete overall. And I’m also talking coaching too.
But let’s not get too bogged down in lamenting the frailties we all know have existed all season, because there were some positives to come from yesterday. Firstly Reiss Nelson’s Premier League debut which, I have to say, I thought went well. He doesn’t hide, clearly has bags of confidence, always wanting the ball. He’s got a trick about him as we all know and 60 minutes yesterday will hopefully have done him the world of good. He still made some sloppy passes and mistakes crept in to his game at times but given his age you have to give him a certain about of acceptance that it’s always going to happen. The club need to give him more minutes, integrate him in to the first team slowly, then let’s sign him up and see how much he can grow at the club.
The other youth product that did well yesterday was Iwobi. Certainly not my favourite, I question whether he’s good enough for Arsenal, but yesterday he notched an assist and looked a lot better than he had done of late. Some say he’s more suited to playing in the centre and the absence of Özil suggested he’d get that chance, but where I saw him play well was actually when he got the ball in slightly wider positions, so this idea that he’s better in the centre wasn’t unequivocally proven yesterday I think.
Auba was on the scoresheet again and if even there was an example of a world class striker you only have to look at his tally to see just how class he is. It’s lovely to have a player like that in our team and given this season is done domestically, he is preparing for next season and bedding in to the team perfectly I think.
We should probably mention Wilshere and Elneny, given that one was sent off, the other looked like he was barely even on the pitch. I thought Jack stunk out the joint and whilst he nearly had an assist from an acrobatic cut back for Welbeck to miss an open goal (Welbeckian), there was little else he did to suggest we’re ever going to see the old Wilshere back again. And that makes me sad. As for Elneny, well, if that’s a sending off for that slight nudge then I’m Donald Duck. Clearly the ref wanted to even things up for some reason and if that same level of punishment was aimed at every player who pushed another player we’d be staring at eight-a-side games every week.
It means the Egyptian will miss three games I believe and perhaps that will give a chance to players like Maitland-Niles when he’s back fit, but it will also put the pressure on Xhaka to play more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because I think he’s playing well at the moment and did so yesterday too, but we don’t want to be running him into the ground. Something to keep an eye on I suppose.
It’s been a good week for us and seen us notch seven goals in two games though, so there’s a little more to be happy about than a month ago, which I will take.
Sees you tomorrow.