There’s no doubt that this morning there will be plenty of frustrated Gooners waking up and slightly stewing on the result that we had yesterday at St Mary’s against Southampton. After last season where we lost with pretty much their only attempt at goal, yesterday afternoon’s game was one that I thought we would see us out for some revenge and I waited in eager anticipation for kick off yesterday morning.
Then, when after the first 11 minutes saw us net our first goal of the game, I thought we were playing very good football and we would go on to get more. We’d already created one or two before then and Southampton looked there for the taking. We moved the ball around well, we controlled the game, our team looked like it had the air of a side that is playing full of confidence and swagger.
The goal itself was a fantastic one, with the deft flick from Saka setting up the excellent Ben White on the overlap, before his cut back was superbly delivered to the man of the moment Granit Xhaka. It was another finish with his right foot and another example of him arriving late in to the box to bag us another goal. He’s going to smash his previous best goal tally for Arsenal in all competitions this season. He’ll probably even do it before the World Cup at this rate and yesterday I thought he was once again excellent throughout. But Whilst that first half was very good in terms of territory and possession, the biggest worry in the Premier League is that unless you get a second or a third, you leave yourself open to a sucker punch. That was to follow in the second half but I’ll come to that in a sec. Because before then we’d had chances to put the game to bed and had Odegaard not dragged his shot wide, had Jesus not hit the side netting, had we’d taken any of those big chances we got in that first half, we’d probably not be lamenting the performance.
I’m talking as if we lost the game yesterday when of course you and I both know that we picked up a draw. But it was a draw that felt like two points because Southampton hardly peppered our goal like Leeds did. The stats will tall you that on shots we were pretty level, but I don’t remember Ramsdale having too many saves to make. We restricted them to a few long range efforts and most of them were straight down Ramsdale’s throat. They created little other than their goal, which was well worked and caught us in transition – again – and I’ve been trying to work out what went wrong on their goal. It’s a dummy that both White and Partey get caught out on right on the halfway line, but I have to say I think Tomiyasu gets twisted and turned a little too easily by Elyounoussi, who then flips a decent reverse pass to Armstrong. It wasn’t a massive mistake by Tomi and I don’t really want to pile in on him, but perhaps he’ll look at that and think he could have done better. It was pretty much the only time they cut us open and probably explains why this morning I’m feeling like we’ve lost rather than picked up a point which keeps us two clear at the top of the league.
And that’s still important to point out. We are still top of the league and with Liverpool, the Scum, United and Chelsea all dropping points, we have found ourselves in no worse position after game day 11. In fact in the case of the Scousers and The Scum we have gained a point. So whilst we can all be disappointed that we didn’t knock down another narrative that Southampton are a bit of a bogey team, we can at least look at our situation in the knowledge that we are still in a good position.
The worry is that we’ve had two second halves in a row now in which we’ve looked leggy. Arteta refused to blame fatigue and talked about how he doesn’t want any excuses, but that second half we let Southampton have a little too much of the ball compared to the first half and it gave them a little more impetus. I thought in the second half our passing started to get really sloppy and players like Partey and Saka had one or two instances where their range felt off. Martinelli started to tail off in the game and we just seemed to lose our verve. Gabby Jesus probably had his worst game in an Arsenal shirt as well, but when he plays poorly it doesn’t manifest itself as him being anonymous like it did with Laca and Auba, but instead that he doesn’t seem to take his chances. I’ve mentioned the side netting chance, but there was also one from a lovely flick from Odegaard that he shot straight at the ‘keeper, as well as the one-on-one chance that he really should have buried. It will be a game he probably wants to put behind him and I suspect a few of those players will want to do that.
One other person I suspect will want to forget about this game is referee Robert Jones, another North West referee for the PGMOL’s hall of shame who yesterday had a terrible game, let’s be honest. He booked Saka for diving when there was clearly no dive to be seen. He afforded Caleta-Car the freedom to do whatever he wanted with his arms, both inside the box and outside the box when even the Sky Sports pundits were starting to say “surely that has to be a foul?” after the fourth time of him wrestling Jesus to the ground, then he took no action when Lyanco went to headbutt Nketiah in stoppage time, then followed it up by a throat grab. He was poor all game but then that’s what we all come to expect from PGMOL these days. They have a shocking roster of referees and he’s just another relatively new one in a long line of shocking North West referees who will not get any better, just varying degrees of worse each week.
But whilst we can bemoan the performance of the man officiating the game, we can’t hang our hats entirely on that, as we had the chances and we didn’t take them, then we allowed our opponent a sniff and didn’t shut our own back door.
A couple of final points from me before I head off for the day. Firstly, I didn’t think it was Arteta’s finest managerial day. I can kind of guess his thinking with Tomiyasu in at left back as a “you don’t change a winning team” thing, but given it was that left hand side that cost us the goal, you have to say it didn’t work. KT probably positions his body differently as a natural left back and shows Elyounoussi down the line so he can deal with him, but Tomi didn’t manage that. So I think the boss got it wrong there and hopefully he learns from that. Tomi is a fine left back as a third option, but when you’ve got a perfectly good one in KT sitting on the bench, you have to go with that. Secondly, the subs, although I don’t know if that is more on them than Arteta, but Nketiah didn’t work at left wing and I certainly don’t think it is something we should be trying again. Jesus wasn’t having his best game through the middle so why not just switch him around and see if he can do more damage from out on the left coming in, with Eddie in the middle of the three? Then there was Fabio Vieira who came on at 83 minutes and stunk the place out. He gave the ball away a couple of times and was muscled off it. He’ll certainly want to forget his cameo.
We’re all disappointed not to get three points but let’s look at where we are, how we’ve been playing, how we deserved to win that game yesterday and that you can’t win them all. The important thing is bouncing back on Thursday against PSV, or more importantly against Nottingham Forest at home on Sunday.
Catch you all tomorrow.
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