By now you’ve read plenty of match reports, probably seen the game either in the flesh or on TV, you’ve checked your social feeds a few times and you know all about what transpired last night. So there’s no point in me giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened at home to Southampton. Well, there wasn’t any actual ‘blows’ in any event, so instead I can only give you an insight as to how I’m feeling. I don’t know how you are, but if you want to leave your thoughts on the game and how you’re feeling in the comments, that’s what we’re here for.
Firstly, the non-Arsenal related stuff, which chiefly relate to a ‘keeper in inspired form (for the second season in a row against us), as well as a referee who really was clueless.
I thought Fraser Forster was superb and there was one Özil save which reminded me very much of Pete Schmeichel in his heyday, palming a show wide with outstretched arms, when really we should have been ahead. Conversely, Lee Mason gave us the worst refereeing performance of the season at The Emirates. He ignored time wasting, he failed to spot a clear penalty on Giroud and for both sides he failed to give free kicks on some challenges. The rotational fouling that Southampton undertook was clever, but not difficult to spot, yet there was a spell of five minutes in the second half where it felt as though every Arsenal player was going to pick up a booking.
That’s the external factors that contributed to us picking up our third point out of a possible 12. Now for us. The number of simple passes we misplaced were, quite frankly, appalling. Bellerin, Gabriel and Flamini (I’ll come to him in a minute) were all chief culprits, but whenever you see Ramsey looking up to spray a 35 yard pass to somebody, you know it’s ending up out for a throw in. He has many fine attributes to his game, but long passing is not one of them, so I’d emplore him not to bother in future.
Perhaps he was trying it because there was no movement forward though, in the first half, specifically. We looked leggy and drained, which is absolutely no excuse for most of the players, who had the weekend off to rest up and be up for this game. For the first hour they weren’t.
And that, my friends, is why our title chances are fading fast I’m afraid. You simply cannot play two thirds of a football match where it looks like you’re going through the motions at times. Not if you want to rewards at the end of the season. You have to show that you are consistently the better side and yesterday we failed.
What has made it all worse, was that everyone else in the top six picked up points, as we laboured. There are other teams – like Tottenham – who are in better form than us at the moment and at a time in which we should be looking forward to getting some points clear of our rivals, we are slowly sliding down the league, due to our own mediocrity.
The goals have dried up. Giroud looks like he’s finding it difficult and Alexis is just coming back from injury will take time. Campbell too isn’t as prolific – for all of his work rate – and Özil isn’t going to bag 20 a season from midfield. But Theo Walcott, good grief Theo, what on earth are you contributing towards this team at the moment?
Walcott was given half and hour – rare for Arsène to give somebody so much time from the bench – and his sole contribution was a double save in which he was on his own in the box for the first chance, then denied by a great save, for the second. But that is a three second moment in around 2000 seconds spent on the pitch. He didn’t really want the ball, when it came to him he lost it quickly and quite frankly, it was like Arsène had tried to deliberately handicap the team by making us play with ten men. With each performance like this he must surely get further and further from a starting position.
But Theo wasn’t the only tragedy of yesterday I’m afraid, because our central midfield need to take some of the strain here, because the Flamini/Ramsey partnership should be consigned to history. It should be put in one of those boxes at the end of Indiana Jones and never found ever again. It doesn’t work. They make the middle part of the pitch look like acres of fallow land that haven’t been touched for years. The space for Southampton at times was terrifying and the one positive I can take from yesterday is that surely it means we can have Coquelin from the start against Bournemouth. And every other game from now on, please, Arsène. Quite why he bothered bringing Le Coq on with five to go is beyond me. It’s not as if he needed that five minutes. If you’re going to rest him from the start because he can’t do 90 minutes then fine, but give him half an hour, or don’t bother at all. Fives minutes at the end of a game is a pretty pointless exercise in my opinion.
But then again, sometimes the manager can confuse us all, because he does make strange decisions and sometimes he says strange things. Like in his post match interview when he queried the ‘same old Arsenal’ tag with a retort that we’ve been consistently at the top of the league for many years. That’s all related based on your outlook, Arsène, because I believe that being top of the league means you are in position number one in the table, not within the top four. You could argue on that basis, that any position from nine upwards is in the ‘top half’ of the league, so I’m not having that response as justification for our failings over many years.
We won’t be winning the league this season folks. Lord knows I want us to, so desperately, but nights like last night and form like we’re exhibiting at the moment tell me we are nowhere near consistent enough. There is no true ‘mental strength’ of champions that I can see. I want to see it. I’d love the old dog to show us that he’s got new tricks in him, but I’m coming closer and closer to the realisation that it probably won’t happen for him now, because I think there are some guys that just know how to set up and beat him. Koeman showed that yesterday. Alright, he didn’t ‘beat’ him in the sense that we lost the game, but his game plan worked and has been doing so a number of times. That shows that this isn’t a coincidence.
Sorry, today’s blog is born out of frustration and resignation, because I think it’s the beginning of the end of our title hopes. I’ll try to be more positive tomorrow. Maybe…