It had to happen eventually. Our winning streak that had started with a victory over West Ham ended on Tuesday night after seven victories in the league and the FA Cup respectively. An away match against Southampton shouldn’t have been considered as an easy fixture given that our hosts have had a very decent campaign this term and possess a lot of talented players like Shaw and Lallana in their ranks. Manchester City couldn’t win at St Mary’s either – they were held at a draw as well.
It seems that we were either thinking too much about how the hell Chelsea had sold Mata to Manchester United or what kind of February and March we would have before we fulfilled our obligations regarding January. We could have been at least two goals down before the break and I can’t help to think that anything else aside from complacency caused that sort of first half-display.
In the second half, we had managed to turn things around before we spilled the lead too easily. After Flamini had been sent off, we had to settle for a draw and even that one point nearly slipped through our fingers. Fortunately, Szczesny did his job well. Here are some key pointers from the game:
1.We can’t beat anyone in the top half of the table even with the slightest bit of complacency.
We simply can’t afford ourselves to enter a game with any kind of complacency before or during the game. Take a look at Sagna’s approach to the ball before we conceded the second goal. He took that one too easily and we were punished only seconds later.
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2.Our full-backs need proper support from our wide midfielders/wingers.
Both Southampton goals came after crosses from our right flank. For the first one Gnabry was beaten by Shaw and for the second goal it was Sagna who hesitated for too long to clear the ball out. Now, it would have been much easier for Sagna had we had Rosicky, Wilshere or even Ramsey on the right flank to support him. Gnabry is not a finished article yet and that includes a required improvement on his defending.
3.Podolski might leave Arsenal in the summer.
Despite the fact we have been a Germany-oriented club lately, one of our Germans might look for a new club in the summer. Lukas Podolski hasn’t had too many opportunities to show his finishing skills that have been repeatedly praised by Arsene Wenger. His two-goal-performance against Coventry didn’t persuade Wenger to give more than seven minutes (that includes a six-minutes-long injury time) against the Saints. Podolski didn’t offer anything for that short amount of time he spent on the pitch and given his wage and desire to play, we might see a mutual agreement that will lead to Podolski’s sale elsewhere. He is a top-class finisher that I can see doing well as a second striker where his lack of pace won’t be so visible.
4.Cazorla strikes again.
It seems that our best player from last term has found his shooting boots and that makes Aaron Ramsey’s absence less visible, at least when it comes to goal-scoring. What is more important, he scores goals from the outside of the box which adds another – almost forgotten – dimension to our attacking play.
5.Giroud has shown his first-touch-scoring ability.
Olivier Giroud has been criticised for missed chances ever since he had joined Arsenal. Now, I’ve pointed out many times that Giroud prefers shooting with his first touch and that he had done that with Montpellier as well. If he receives the ball to his feet, he becomes vulnerable as he isn’t the paciest guy out there and his technique is not exactly Zlatan-esk. However, Giroud is an intelligent player and he has shown that many times this season. Just take a look at his goals against Spuds and Saints.
That is the reason why we need pacey help for him on the right wing – Giroud needs a bit of space to release a powerful left-footed shot and if he had a player of Walcott’s abilities for the whole time, he would have reached double digits in terms of league goals way before Tuesday night.
6.Flamini-Arteta combination doesn’t work.
It has been said many times but it should be repeated. Arteta and Flamini are experienced midfielders but their pace isn’t what it used to be and that leaves both of them exposed. It’s no wonder that they have been sent off this season. Either of them should be paired with either Wilshere or Ramsey. We played at St Mary’s without Rosicky, Ramsey and Wilshere which means we didn’t have enough dynamics and directness in our play before Özil decided to take things in his own hands.
7.Özil led by example in the second half.
He got a lot of critics for his display. Some of them were deserved – he gave a poor performance in the first half. However, in the second half, he decided to lead us to victory. He assisted for Cazorla’s goal, he ran past Southampton players and hit the bar and, when we were reduced to 10 men, he was constantly looking for the ball and opened space that none of his team-mates was capable to use.
8.A draw at St Mary’s isn’t that bad.
Manchester City haven’t won at St Mary’s either. They were held at 1:1 draw. Our unbeaten streak has been stretched to seven games in the Premiership and nine in all competitions. We were poor at St Mary’s and yet we managed to snatch a draw.
9.We can’t concede two goals and expect a victory.
Aston Villa, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Napoli, Manchester City, Southampton. What all these clubs have in common? Well, they have been our only opponents that have scored more than one goal in a match against us. That means we have lost five out of six matches in which we conceded two goals or more. That doesn’t speak only about how our defence is great but also how we can’t rely on our attack to bail us out if we make any defensive howlers.
Our goal-per-game ratio is still too low for the title contenders. We have scored more than two goals on just eight occasions this season – six times in the Premiership (five victories, one defeat), one time in Champions’ League qualifications (a victory) and one time in the FA Cup (a victory).
Now, we are all waiting for the epilogue of the January transfer window. We need a player or two for the forthcoming battles but I’m not too optimistic about new signings. Yes, we signed Monreal and Özil hours before the deadline but I don’t see a player that Wenger will sign.
I know that Draxler is a very popular among Gooners right now but I’d rather leave that one for the summer given that the German wonder-kid is currently injured and we already have enough injured players. We need a straight-away reinforcement but I don’t see anyone joining us in the next two days.