The line-up was greeted on twitter with a general meh and a ‘where’s the attacking fluency going to come from’? Flamini and Arteta were both picked along with Ozil and Cazorla. Where is the balance in that selection?
From the off, Southampton dominated possession and chances. Arsenal players were falling over. Fair enough the team coach was late but surely there was enough time to sort the correct studs. Early on, Nacho was caught with the ball in our own penalty area and Szczesny came to the rescue. After 20 minutes a superb tackle by the BFG was penalised by Lee Mason and Southampton scored after a Shaw cross (not sure I like the conjunction of those two words) was headed in by Fonte who looked to have shoved Monreal in the back. Szczesny could have done better on his near post. Dreadful all round.
More Southampton possession eventually resulted in a real gift for the home side but the chance was spurned with Szczesny closing the Saints player down. The TV company put up some stats, 7-0 to Southampton. We hadn’t turned up yet. A few minutes before half time Koscielny saved us yet again with a last ditch block when 2-0 looked a certainty.
Kos then had our only effort on goal from a corner and Boruc was lucky it bounced off his massive frame when it could have gone anywhere. Lee Mason refused to book Fonte after a shocking WWF bodycheck on Nacho just before the first 45 was up..
Half time and what a shocking performance it had been. Disjointed, clumsy and lacking in virtually any team interplay.
The second half began with the team looking as though it had had a rocket up its collective derriere. Immediately we created a chance and in the blink of an eye and a Sagna cross, Giroud had managed to pirouette the ball into the Southampton net.
Suddenly Arsenal looked as if they might be the top of the table side that had come to St Mary’s for 3 points. Mesut pulled the ball back across the edge of the area and Cazorla sliced it, with the precision of Nigella using a credit card, beyond Boruc’s right hand. Two one up and the away supporters wondered what they had been worrying about at half time.
In our recent defensive performances, one of the changes from recent seasons had been that we hadn’t conceded just after scoring ourselves. Well, unfortunately, we slipped back into old habits and immediately let Southampton back into the game from a hopeful long punt up field. The ball was not dealt with by Sagna and he allowed a cross towards an unguarded penalty spot and we were back level.
Just 5 minutes without giving them a lifeline, that was all we needed and I’m convinced we’d have gone on to win.
Ozil went on a scintillating run 10 minutes later and his deflected shot bounced off the bar with Porky beaten. Much of our good attacking play ended up at the feet of poor old Nacho who had a real stinker. His wildly shanked effort when clean through in the 72nd minute a case in point.
Flamini was sent off with the sort of challenge that even I knew merited a red card. What part about two footed challenges not being allowed does Mathieu not understand. He landed with both feet on the ball but could have caused serious damage if it had been on an ankle.
Our football suffered no noticeable degradation when down to ten men, which was, perhaps an indictment of the initial team selection. Santi looked mightily relieved when Gibbs was brought on in his place. He had been battered all game with no protection from the referee at all. Last night would have made him wish he was still in Spain.
We hung on for a point with no real scares in the 6 minutes of injury time. It would be difficult to say we deserved the 3 points, especially after such a shocking first half display, so maybe it was a point won rather than 2 lost. The pouring rain and a front 6 that looked like 3 pairs of two rather than any sort of cohesive attacking unit must give us all food for thought.
Anyway, upwards and onwards and on to Palace on Sunday.
Szczesny– A couple of good saves, a dodgy punch, poor positioning for the first goal and a boot in the crown jewels……7
Mertesacker – Firefighting for much of the game, some timely interceptions and up to his usual standard of commitment……7
Koscielny – Some excellent blocks, tackles and all round competence from Laurent……8
Sagna – Played well apart from their equaliser. Superb assist for Giroud’s goal….7
Monreal – Struggled throughout the game. Weak defensively, weak in attack. I wish Gibbs had been playing…..5
Flamini – Lacked his usual bite in midfield. If he plays with Arteta, I’m not sure if he knows whether to stick or bust. Did neither and the sending off could have cost us …..5
Arteta – Mikel looked rusty and a bit slow on his return from injury but gets some leeway because of that …….6
Ozil – Looked disinterested in the first half when it was lashing it down. Showed some class in the second half …..7
Giroud – Tried hard with no support for the first 45 but struggled to hold the ball up and bring others into the game. Improved in the second…..6
Cazorla – Santi must be bruised to pieces after that. I’m still not sure if Cazorla and Ozil works. …..7
Gnabry – Not Serge’s finest performance in an Arsenal shirt. Made several poor decisions about when to pass. Maybe should have been taken off at half time…..5
Chamberlain – Looked lively……..6
Podolski and Gibbs weren’t on long enough to rate.
Lee Mason – one of those refs who thinks Arsenal don’t deserve free kicks unless someone has been chopped in half……….2
Written by chas