Arsenal crashed at Southampton in what felt like a fairly predictable game and sadly, historically familiar.
The odds felt slightly stacked against us even before the game started. Two centre-backs suspended, Holding out longterm, our two returning defenders 32 and 33, and Lichtsteiner who is 34. Things were so rough, Emery once again elected to drop Xhaka into the back three.
We didn’t make it easy for ourselves, as has been the script all season. For the 17th time this season, we couldn’t manage to head into halftime with a lead. Our defending was awful, we conceded 7 shots on target, despite dominating 66% of the possession. The most damning stat? Southampton scored 20% of their goals against us yesterday. What a joke.
We went a goal down on 20minutes. Bellerin marshalled Targett out wide, the English left back whipped in a beautiful cross that evaded Koscielny at the front post, finding Ings who breezed past a dozing Xhaka. It really was an exceptional ball, but it was being defended by a player who hasn’t dropped a full 90 for 250 days, and a deep-lying midfielder who obviously isn’t going to be comfortable in a back 3.
We clawed our way back into the game, Iwobi used a burst of pace really well to release Monreal, the Spaniard found Mikhi in the box and his bullet header from 10 yards was enough to pull us level. We still managed to fuck things up, Redmond, who’d caused problems with his pace all game, evaded MG and Iwobi, floating a perfect cross between Lichtsteiner and Koscielny, finding Ings who lofted a perfect header under the bar.
The second half saw Lacazette emerge. We had a really good opening 15 minutes and drew level on 52 minutes. Lacazette rustled the ball as Southampton looked to break, he fed Mikhi who bundled home a dirty deflected shot.
I don’t want to scapegoat here, but I felt the air leaked out of our performance when Iwobi blazed over a backheel pass from Auba. It really was atrocious technique and the difference between Arsenal and the elite teams in the league. I really can’t fathom how anyone can defend that chance. When you’re an international footballer, you should at the very least be hitting the target.
Our final goal was also a calamity. Mesut Ozil lost the ball on the halfway line with a stupid stepover, the ball made it down our end, Austin is picked out at the back post, Leno came flapping and missed, the rest is history. Not good enough, and another silly error from our German import.
This is what the first season under a new manager will look like, if we’re honest, we’ve had it very nice up until today and we should be grateful. It took Klopp 3 seasons to make things work for him. We cannot expect Emery, with limited summer investment and a dirty Arsene Wenger hangover, to perform miracles. Our squad is very slim and we were exposed today.
The club needs to continue to upgrade. We need better wide players, we need to move on names that either don’t want to be here or aren’t suited to the system, and we need to focus on bringing through quality.
Emery needs to take stock of a few things that he’s been getting away with… namely, our shocking first-half performances. It’s true that our resilience to bounce back has been a joy to watch, but 17 games without leading in the first half is a semi-crisis. It means the manager is making poor decisions. We need to be seeing better selections and we need to see players more focused from the off.
I joked yesterday that an Arsenal player could play keepy-uppy in his own box and roof it into the net on purpose and you’d still have a group of fans screaming ‘FOOTBALL IS A TEAM GAME THAT’S NOT HIS FAULT’… well, in most jobs, there’s an element of individual responsibility. Mesut Ozil needs to take some stick for giving the ball away then not going hard to retrieve it. The great thing is that sort of subpar attitude might rub with some of our fans, but it won’t with Emery. The club needs to move him on. It’s clear that he’s not right for how the team needs to play, and he’s also not right for the sort of structure we need to build wage wise. He needs to move on.
We also have to do something about Aaron Ramsey in January. We have a very good player who would have been more useful than Mesut, sitting on the bench today. If he’s going to be a nothing player, let’s sell him and bring in a talent that can give our midfield the extra ingredient it needs to create and press.
That said, it is worth remembering that we don’t have a coach that’s denying we’ve been less than optimal. He said in the pre-match prezzer that there is a lot that needs to be improved upon. That’s good news. We’re dealing with a coach that understands reality and pragmatism. Let’s hope Sven and Raul have something smart lined up in January… Pepe and Cahill both available as potential stop-gaps at the back.
Finally, big thumbs up to Hassenhutl. He’s a manager we scouted when names were rumbling for Arsenal. He’s brought a lot of energy to their squad, and he bought all theb fans a beer. Can’t know that sort of carry-on.
Right, see you in the comments!