Arsenal 2-1 Southampton. Arsene Wenger’s testimonial season

by & filed under Match report.

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Morning all Alex here.

To avoid being overly negative, as is my wont when it comes to watching football these days, I am going to split this post into the following format; 2 GOOD and 2 BAD. A completely original concept I came up with all by myself.

2 GOOD

• Winning the game with a completely unfair penalty in extra time
I was watching the game on a grainy feed that cut out 5 minutes before the end, so I missed the drama and the joy of the late penalty. However, based on past experience, it really is one of the best feelings in football, especially if the preceding 90 minutes have been complete dross.

Was it actually a penalty? Alan Shearer and the banter lads on Match of the Day didn’t think so, but no one cares a fig what they think. And to be honest, there is no way of knowing. Penalty decisions have been so inconsistent this season that me writing this sentence right now might actually be a penalty. I don’t know.

The important thing to be aware of is that the lads didn’t kick the ball out. Not when Shane Long fell over like a bag of potatoes and not when their own captain took a toe to the eyeball. It was absolutely ruthless behaviour and an important lesson to children everywhere – if you show wilful disregard for another person’s wellbeing, you will get your rewards.

• Laurent Koscielny is a god
When he first joined Arsenal he looked like a kid who’d just got back from holidaying with his parents in Nice where he’d done nothing but play petanque and rubix cube all summer. Now he’s T1000. A half human, half titanium defending machine that eats strikers for breakfast and scores f***** overhead kicks. I mean what the hell? He was bleeding from his EYE yesterday. Put that on a washbag and I will buy some of your merchandise Arsenal.

2 BAD

• Francis Coquelin is an atrocious footballer
The game yesterday was terrible. We didn’t deserve to win, we played badly against a Southampton team that had all the dynamism of an egg and cress sandwich. And I’m not being dramatic when I say it was all Francis Coquelin’s fault. Well I am, but seriously who does this guy have to kill to get dropped?

It’s not that he’s bad in a conventional sense. Compared to me or you, he’s obviously a very good footballer. But when your team is built around controlling the midfield so you can build play out from the back AND providing sufficient cover to your back four when you don’t have possession, it makes no sense to play a guy who can do neither. Especially when you have two players on the bench who can. Maybe Xhaka was being rested for PSG, but why wasn’t Elneny starting alongside Cazorla?

If you just watch Coquelin in a game for 90 minutes you will see what I’m talking about. When we are not in possession he chases the ball like a dog, leaving huge gaps in front of the back four. When our defenders are bringing the ball out from the back, he is either in the wrong place to be a passing option or is so limited in his passing that, if he receives the ball, he cannot play the ball forward and will play it back to the defender.

Playing alongside Cazorla, who is good on the ball but doesn’t have the legs to play the role for 90 minutes, is why the team has no fluidity.

Case in point. Southampton’s first goal was a tidy free kick, but Arsenal’s defending in the build-up was Sunday league, under-6s stuff. The ball was headed into space in front of the back four. One of Cazorla or Coquelin should have been occupying the space to deal with it. Instead Laurent Koscielny was pulled out of position as he attacked the ball, leaving a huge space for Redmond to run into. It forced Monreal into a last ditch tackle which led to the free kick.

Later in the game, Shane Long had a guilt-edge chance to score when he found himself one on one with Cech. In the build-up, Coquelin got caught chasing the ball high up the pitch, meaning only Cazorla and his tired legs could provide cover. The back four were left exposed yet again. Long and Tadic linked up well, while Monreal decided to stand and watch, and they split us open like a week old banana.

• Arsene Wenger’s testimonial season
Luckily most fans, Ivan Gazidis and hopefully now Arsene Wenger recognise that we are coming to the end of the manager’s tenure. The briefing about Eddie Howe, while I hope untrue, came from the club, so there must be an acknowledgement from Weng that this is his last year at the helm.

There can be no doubt his achievements warrant some form of testimonial. Unfortunately for us it looks set to last the whole season.

After watching the Manchester derby earlier in the day, and seeing the tactical astuteness of both teams (admittedly one had slightly more than the other), it is clear that we are miles off our supposed title rivals.

We have a team packed to the brim with talent, and often we are relying on the individual brilliance of our players (Ozil, Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny) or refereeing high japery to win us games in a tactically limited set up.

The only thing holding the team back now is the manager.

Most Arsenal fans know this. It is out of an admirable but ever diminishing sense of loyalty to Arsene that he has been given the opportunity to try for one more season what hasn’t come close to working for the last eight. It comes at considerable personal expense to the fans, especially those who pay to go to games. But also to the club as world class players such as Ozil and Sanchez see us celebrate an abysmal but lucky performance like yesterday’s and wonder if they can’t do better elsewhere.

Finally, a word on Petr Cech (because James asked me to mention him). While not necessarily a terrible performance, he’s starting to make a fair few number of errors. His positioning was poor for the free kick yesterday. While not Ospina-esque, he was too far off his line to make a decent save. Do we need to talk about Petr?

Right that’s enough post-victory misery from me. You can follow me on twitter @aldo_doel

Have a lovely Sunday x