Yesterday’s defeat was painful in so many ways. It was painful because the Scum had given us an opportunity to draw level and we didn’t take it. Its was painful because it was obvious to see that Southampton were not very good. It was painful because we picked the right starting line up in my opinion and it still went south. It was painful because as soon as Southampton scored you knew we wouldn’t get anything from the game.
If there’s one thing that we are all now acutely aware of, it is that under Mikel Arteta, we don’t have a team that fights back because in 89 matches in the Premier League, only once have Arsenal come from behind and won the game, which was against Wolves. That is a shocking stat and also one which shows that we cannot break teams down after they get their noses in front, which is exactly what happened yesterday.
We created chances, Forster made some great saves, but the defensive mistake that we had to concede the goal effectively rendered the game finished from the second it went in and I said as much to the Management’s uncle watching the game with me (he’s a Newcastle fan). We don’t come from behind because we don’t know how to break teams down and Southampton sat on their edge of their own box and asked us to come up with answers.
We had none.
Up until the goal and after the goal, we controlled the game I thought. Saka should have possibly have done better after a mistake that Eddie latched on to, but it was still an inspired save from Forster. I thought Nuno did alright at left back although showed understandable conservatism and in midfield Sambi and Xhaka felt a lot more balanced than the Brighton game. Eddie started spritely in the first half but then completely vanished in the second and had we not had a couple of brain farts at the back the worst that would have happened today was that we’d have come away with a draw because Southampton really offered little threat throughout.
But everything is going wrong for us at the moment and now the season looks like it is imploding. Three defeats in a row will become four on Wednesday night against Chelski at Stamford Bridge, then we’ll go in to the game against United staring down the barrel of not even finishing in the Europa League spaces. We’ve played three teams with absolutely nothing to play for except mid table mediocrity and we’ve looked fresh out of ideas going forward.
And in hindsight that’s probably exactly what we should expect when we put our faith in young players. Arteta has been lauded for his belief in those youngsters who have performed admirably for him for big chunks of the season, but the gamble he and Edu took in January by not strengthening is now looking like a big mistake. We have – it feels like – nobody who can drag us out of this slump and I fear that by the time the season ends, at this rate, we could be looking at another seventh or eighth place finish. And if that happens, I am going to be seriously question whether this manager is the right man for the job. He will have overseen an implosion in both of the full seasons he’s been in charge and you start to wonder if that is just the team he has built. I remember people used to joke about it with Charlton under Curbishly all those years ago when they were in the Premier League. They’d get to 40 points, be sitting comfortably in mid table, then it was like they’d done their job and would collapse towards the end of the season. Sound familiar? Because that’s what it feels like right now.
Perhaps I’m just reacting to the sting of yet another defeat, but this one really smarts, AGAIN.
Individual performance-wise we’ve seen some shockers too. Cedric taking set pieces SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. He is terrible at them. And I’ll be so glad when Tomiyasu is fit and back in the team because if I have to see him swing in pointless crosses from deep I’m going to end up tearing all my hair out. And I like my hair.
But it wasn’t just him. What has happened to Odegaard? His form is in the toilet and he just isn’t running games like he was six weeks ago. I went on a podcast with Amanda last night and she says he seems to be either brilliant or useless, there is no seven out of ten from him. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the case. The distances between him and Saka – again very quiet yesterday afternoon – are too far and when we were at our best he was performing well and in close proximity to the England international. But he seems to be lost at the moment and when Odegaard and Saka don’t function, we don’t function.
We are getting punished for every mistake right now, whilst not getting the breaks, because Forster was in inspired form and maybe on another day one of those goals goes in. But it isn’t happening. Yesterday we had 74% possession, 23 shots, but it is the shots on target that was the problem, because only six were on target and we only had one big chance creation. To me it is all too clear what the problem is and we already know it – in the centre of our attack we need players who can step up and finish.
Which leads us to the summer and at this rate if you could just give me a Europa League slot and finish the season I’d do it. It feels like we’re limping over the line with too many injured bodies and in the summer the club has massive work to do. The club won’t sack Arteta but after the season finishes and we’ve had another implosion on his watch, there should be some serious questions asked of his tenure.
Catch you all tomorrow – maybe – I have a bit of travelling back home from The Management’s family so it might be a Tuesday check in from me. Have a happy Easter anyway peeps.