Perhaps we’re a little too greedy as Arsenal fans. Perhaps we want too much? Because after yesterday’s victory over Southampton, which saw us tiptoe into the top four after United’s draw, I found myself wishing that we could play like we did in the first half but in the second as well. And I wasn’t alone.
There were a few of my compatriots who also echoed the same feeling and after a 2-0 victory against a hard working Southampton side I’m wondering if the old “beggars can’t be choosers” phrase needs to be applied here to my own thinking.
After all what we all want from football is to see Arsenal win and we got that. What we also got was some fluid and creative football and some very good passing routines in the first half. Emery named a back four for the second game in a row and the defensive line up of Leno, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis and Kolasinac may have had a few worried faces in the pubs around the ground pre game, but as it transpired the defence held out for a clean sheet in the end.
Not that it couldn’t have been very different, mind, especially when Redmond broke through within the first five minutes and only a smart bit of goalkeeping stopped us from going one down. This Arsenal team will always gift big chances to opponents and so perhaps the new tactic is giving up those chances early so we get them out of the way?
Hey if that was the case it worked and certainly shocked us in to life because we scored almost immediately after we could have been behind. Lacazette showed us just how influential he’s become and turned in a nice early goal and the relief all around was palatable. One nil to the Arsenal and then within another ten minutes it was to be two.
Step forward Mkhi and Iwobi for the Armenian to double our lead. I have to say I thought both wide forwards played quite well yesterday. They looked bright, were involved in a lot of what was good about our play and it was as if the haunted look they’ve both been showing at times of late had been lifted.
We were playing good football. The quick transition of passing from front to back was there and some of our triangles to work space was leaving Southampton exposed. We probably should have had more in truth but after a first half in which we dominated the football and the chances, it didn’t fee too worrying at the interval.
So why on earth we couldn’t just maintain the same intensity in the second is beyond me. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the second half performance because it was one that saw Charlie Austin come on, Southampton to change their shape slightly, then us to start to wobble.
I guess in defence of the performance you could argue that lots of successful teams will take a commanding lead and then just ‘see out’ a second half. After all we saw it in the early 90s with George Graham famously building an Arsenal team designed to do just that. This is of course making the assumption that your defence is capable of remain resolute. As ours has demonstrated at times this season we are far from the 90s Arsenal version and whilst we did have a couple of good situations to make it three (think Auba’s deflected ball towards Laca that nearly went in), in truth Southampton had more of it in the second and at times it felt like we were hanging on.
That’s where some of the saves from Leno came in handy and whilst strikers feed off goals, ‘keepers feed off clean sheets, which are slim pickings if you’re an Arsenal ‘keeper. But Leno earned his clean sheet yesterday and made some smart stops in both halves.
We looked good in the first half, we were a little jittery in the second, but I think given how low on confidence we’ve looked at times this season that kind of performance in the first half will bring the players a much needed boost. But it needs to be followed up on Wednesday night at home to Bournemouth because if we’re going to draw on any hole of a feeing of momentum in the camp we need a third win in a row before we have to face the scummers of Tottenham next weekend.
So hopefully the players can regroup, refresh, then get their game faces on for just two days time because we need another performance like yesterday’s first half to believe that the swagger can come back to The Arsenal.
And that’s yer lot from me today. Catch you all tomorrow.