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Bottling Arsenal Make It Hard To Believe In Them

Match Review: Arsenal 0 Southampton 0 - Premier League 02.02.2016

Sometimes it is a very stressful and painful thing to be an Arsenal fan. From a few points clear in first place to sitting behind Sp*rs in fourth, our start to the year has been quite simply, wretched. What was a blip when we drew at Liverpool and Stoke is turning into an alarming and very damaging slump, that has seen us take just three points from a possible twelve, while rivals have hit form. After such promise early on, we’re all experiencing de ja vu as the title challenge slips away and is replaced by a scramble for fourth.

I don’t know Wenger’s reasons for leaving Coquelin on the bench and starting Flamini. Coquelin might well have been unfit to play ninety minutes and I hope that’s the case because it is the only reason that could really justify leaving the younger Frenchman out. Elneny didn’t even make the squad which may mean he has already picked up an injury, while Campbell was started in place of out of form Walcott. Gabriel kept his place from the weekend, despite Mertesacker having served his suspension.

I’m still a bit upset by this game, so my judgement of the match might be a little harsh. In my opinion though, we did not turn up for the first half. Özil had two great chances, one where he was a bit casual and probably should have scored and one where Forster made an excellent save. Those chances came out of nothing though, there was no sustained pressure and Southampton, like so many teams, pressed into mistakes and sloppy passing. Simply put, we didn’t look like a team challenging for the title and itching to get revenge for our 4-0 drubbing in the away game.

ozil arsenal southampton

We were better in the second half and created enough chances to win the game, but a combination of shoddy finishing and Fraser Forster joining the long list of goalkeepers to have had the game of their lives against us meant it wasn’t enough. Koscielny, Walcott and Giroud all missed very presentable chances and taking just one would have been the difference, as Cech was not forced into any serious action. Southampton came to press, bully us off our game and leave the Emirates with a point and they executed their plan well. It’s not a criticism of them, ultimately they’ve taken four points from their games with us and I imagine they’re delighted with it.

Our cause wasn’t helped by Lee Mason putting in a stunningly inept performance, allowing Southampton to foul with impunity. They committed nineteen fouls in the game and only one player was booked, not to mention the time wasting from goal kicks. However, this is no excuse. We had the chances and we didn’t take them. We bottled it.  

I wrote after the Chelsea game that I didn’t trust this team to come through when things got tough. I doubted their desire and I doubted their ability to fight and grind for the title and I’ve seen nothing to put me at ease. I’m not one for saying ‘see I was right’. I take no pleasure in it and I wish I had been completely wrong, but unfortunately I wasn’t. I was talking with a friend leaving the ground and we came to the grim conclusion that we didn’t think Arsenal had put in a good performance in the league since we beat City. That was on December 21st, well over a month ago. After that we got trashed at Southampton, edged a win over Bournemouth and scraped a very nervy victory against Newcastle. That was the last game we won, exactly a month ago. I don’t like being negative, but you absolutely cannot be well out of form for the amount of time we have and call ourselves title contenders.

Leicester are five clear of us, City two clear and Sp*rs’ ten goal lead on us in goal difference almost counts for a point in itself. I, like many, dismissed Leicester’s title challenge but when we compare our results to theirs, they have a much better claim to a challenge than we do. Every test so far they seem to have passed: They beat Liverpool at home, we didn’t; they beat Chelsea at home, we didn’t; from trips to West Brom, Norwich and Southampton, they picked up seven points, we picked up one; difficult games away at West Ham, Tottenham, Stoke and Everton have seen them go unbeaten.

I’m looking at our remaining games and wondering how we’re going to keep pace with City, Leicester and Sp*rs. Assuming we need at least 78-80 points to win the league, we need at least 11 wins from our remaining 14 games. In those 14 we visit Manchester United, Tottenham, West Ham, Everton and Manchester City on the penultimate weekend. Factor in a difficult home game against Leicester and I cannot for the life of me see us picking up the necessary points to top the table. How can anyone when we consistently bottle presentable opportunities and have some of our toughest tests to come. Let’s not forget that we haven’t won at United in the league since 2006, our recent record at Sp*rs is horrendous and our results at Goodison haven’t been much better. I hate being this down on the team, but it’s hard to be even slightly confident. The title race isn’t over, but if we’re not the one’s lifting the trophy in May, we will almost certainly look back on this period as where it slipped beyond our grasp.

Teams

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)
Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel (Y), Monreal, Flamini (Coquelin 85’ (Y)), Ramsey, Campbell (Walcott 62’), Özil, Alexis, Giroud
Subs
Ospina, Gibbs, Chambers, Mertesacker, Walcott, Chamberlain, Coquelin

Southampton (4-1-4-1)
Forster, Cedric (Y), Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse (Juanmi 83’), Romeu, Tadic, Mane (Targett 86’), Long (Pelle 69’)
Subs
Stekelenburg, Yoshida, Martina, Juanmi, Targett, Pelle, Clasie

Player Ratings

Cech - 7/10 - Not really called upon, only player with urgency as the game progressed
Bellerin - 4/10 - Poor, lost the ball a lot and struggled to contribute in attack
Koscielny - 6/10 - Didn’t do much wrong, but didn’t exactly pocket Shane Long
Gabriel - 5/10 - Looked very shaky, nearly gave away a penalty and an errant pass near our goal
Monreal - 6/10 - By his standards, merely an average performance
Flamini - 3/10 - Horrendous, clearly extended exposure to Flamini is very harmful
Ramsey - 2/10 - Positionally woeful, tactically brain dead and looks a shadow of himself
Campbell - 5/10 - Largely ineffective, often let his defender beat him to passes
Özil - 5/10 - Created chances but missed some big ones himself
Alexis - 6/10 - When the rest of the team is playing poorly, he tries too hard to do it all
Giroud - 5/10 - A bit anonymous, the ball never stuck to him and he missed a good chance
Subs
Walcott - 3/10 - Did nothing but spurn an absolutely golden chance
Coquelin - N/A

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Tags: Premier league, Ramsey, Giroud, Match Review, Özil, Match Report, Arsenal vs Southampton, Bottle Job, Behind Spurs, Title Gone, Challenge Over, Walcott miss, Lee Mason Wanker, Bad Ref

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