Well, that’s that then, title done and the little hope we had of maybe ending our 19 year wait for a title has evaporated right in front of my very eyes at the Emirates on an utterly atrocious night – from a defensive point of view – for The Arsenal.
Southampton had scored 24 goals all season before tonight. They have struggled and toiled and looked abject all season. They have been an embarrassment and no doubt next weekend they will go back to being an embarrassment. But for this weekend, they have a dream and that dream has been gifted to them courtesy of the Arsenal players who – on their own ground – delivered the worst defensive performance of the season by a country mile.
And it didn’t take long for us to show just how bad it was going to get. Aaron Ramsdale has been a fantastic ‘keeper for us, he’s made some amazing saves this season and last, but he has also shown a propensity for the most idiotic of brain farts and he cracked an absolute doozie on us last night. One down inside one minute.
But it’s ok lads, we have plenty of time to make up that deficit, right?
And wrong because this Arsenal team has suddenly realised that it was in sight of something special. And we have folded like a house of cards. Gabriel’s complete lack of awareness of where an ageing Theo Walcott was was criminal, but let’s not lay the blame squarely at him; Ødegaard’s silly pass in the middle third was symptomatic of a team who have bottled it. We have got to squeaky bum time and shit the bed.
And for the third goal the marking was abject. Holding was out-leapt from the first ball, then absolutely nobody picked up that w*nker Caleta-Sar at the back post and that was the moment in which title talk – in my mind – has to now be pushed squarely to the back of our minds.
The football was ponderous at times. Holding walking around with the ball, Ødegaard with no incision with his football, Fabio Vieira putting in an utterly wretched performance in the absence of Granit Xhaka. When this team misses one or two of the key players, it is clear that it doesn’t have the capability to compete with the rigours of a title campaign.
There was a rally, let’s say that, at least. Odegaard’s finish for the second was composed, but it should have happened about 30 minutes before that. Then the equaliser from Saka was good predatory instinct. Trossard could have won it by hitting the bar but in the end finishing 3-3 just simply isn’t good enough. Zero points or one point is of little consequence if we get beaten on Wednesday night, which I feel like it is almost a certainty given the way we are playing defensively at the moment.
The obituary on our title attempt is being written by myself and the media already, but that’s understandable given our last few results. I don’t really want to have to read it to be honest, because this one stings, the same as Newcastle stung last season. City have a lovely buffer now and after they beat us – which they will – on Wednesday, they’ll even have a buffer with which to rotate players and have a gamble in the Premier League, because they’ll only need to win one of their two remaining games in hand and given their easy fixture list, they’ll be very thankful that we have crumbled when their fixture list is getting tough.
The post mortem must start now. I don’t care that there was a response and we brought it back to 3-3. The difference between us and City is five points. City have two games in hand. They will win those two games and they’ll beat us on their own turf.
I am raw after the draw. I am reacting emotionally and you may be reading this and disagreeing with me, calling me too negative, or whatever. But I’m sorry, you can’t concede three goals at home to a team as atrocious as Southampton and be happy, or even sticking with the thought that the title is still on. We aren’t playing well enough defensively, we are conceding stupid goal after stupid goal, with individual errors that title winning teams just don’t do. We now need to go to a place in which we lose every year, with a defence that has leaked six goals in three games, and get a win.
It ain’t happening people.
So now I am moving on. I am shifting my mindset to the positive. The improvement in the team this season compared to last season, and the season after that, has been brilliant. This season will ultimately result in nothing in terms of silverware, but we have a fantastic squad of young players who need to learn and go again next season. I will keep going, I will keep cheering on my team, I will be there until the end, but we need to be realistic about what the remaining part of this season is: securing top four and acknowledging that we’ve been great for 80% of the season, but when the crunch came, we didn’t have the mental fortitude to get over the line.
Focus on the positives. If we can build on this team, improve on some of the areas in which we need to (another right-sided centre half, a number six for when Partey breaks down), then we have a chance of maybe competing again against the financially doped juggernaut that is Manchester City.
Chin up Gooners. Focus on other things for the rest of this weekend. Life is too short. I’m off to Bath for the weekend with The Management to have some nice food, a spot of wine, then forget that football exists.
May or may not be back on Sunday – will be on the Same Old Arsenal pod on Sunday night for a bit of catharsis with Amanda and another guest.
Have a good one peeps.