Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arsenal 2 Liverpool 2

This campaign may be Arsenal's worst season in Arsene Wenger's 16-year tenure, with the fewest (10) Premier League wins from 24 games, but it seems that the worse Arsenal have been playing, the more crowd we get in the Arsenal end of Las Mimosas bar. The bar was packed once again and the neutral didn't get disappointed as we were treated to another entertaining game. However, as usual, the game was too tight for our comfort largely due to our shambolic defence.

Going into this game, Arsene Wenger's side was supposed to be full of confidence (at least on the offensive side, anyway) on the back of two consecutive wins in a week, including sound thrashing of West Ham. The Frenchman made 6 changes to the side that started in the FA Cup tie against Brighton on Saturday. Thomas Vermaelen was fit again to replace Koscielny. Rested Bacary Sagna, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, and Theo Walcott came in for Carl Jenkinson, Tomas Rosicky, Abu Diaby, Andre Santos, respectively. Aaron Ramsey started his third successive game as a deep-lying midfielder.

It was disheartening to concede so early and so scrappy a goal. After the match, Arsene Wenger blamed the nerve for his side's atrocious defending, but surely the defensive problem can be resolved other than through a psychological approach. Our defence showed their vulnerability against counter-attacks once again. Since we lost Alex Song, we tend to get exposed in those situations. Song had his share of criticisms for his tendency to get forward too often, but playing even more attack-minded players, such as Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey, in a holding midfielder role doesn't help improve our defence.

Five months earlier, our defence showed a remarkable improvement on the previous season. Steve Bould took all the praise for the transformation, but it was crucial at the beginning of the season since our new signings, the key attacking players, had to go though adaptation stages and one of them, Olivier Giroud, was even not fully fit to play at the time. Wenger says that leaking goals is a price for our philosophy with emphasis on attacking, but now our attacking players, including Theo Walcott, have found their form, it's time to focus on our defence again. The defensive problem should not be left unaddressed if we are to pursue a Champions League spot.

Another negative from the game was Gibb's injury. It was a big blow as we don't have an adequate cover for the left-back position. Andre Santos is never a Premier League-level player. When he gave the ball away and slipped in injury time, which gifted Suarez a golden opportunity to snatch a victory, it nearly gave me a heart attack. Even on the attacking side, it was obvious that Podolski came to life after Gibbs replaced Santos in a hard-fought win against Championship side, Brighton. Wenger cited Santos' match fitness as his reasoning behind the substitution, but how Gibbs' introduction changed the game speaks volumes for the difference in quality of the two players. Santos' sole merit as a left-back lies on the attacking side of his game, but if he cannot get the best out of one of our best attacking players, Lukas Podolski, what's the point having him in the team? Following Gibb's injury, the media reported Arsenal were in search for a left-back, but we should have started to look for a new left-back long before the January transfer window deadline day, perhaps, just after the Manchester United game (in which the Brazilian famously asked RVP for his shirt prematurely), when Wenger resorted to playing Vermaelen at the left-back even though Santos was fit. In fact, we hoped Wenger would replace Gibbs with Koscielny and move Vermaelen to the left-back in this game.

On a positive note, we showed character coming back from 2-0 down to earn a draw. Arsenal demonstrated the same intensity and purpose in the second half as they did in patches in the last four games. Although our first-half performance was accentuated by our dreadful defending, on the attacking side, we created some good chances and looked dangerous even in the first half. After the final whistle, it felt like two points dropped as we mounted pressure on the Liverpool defence, but the visitors also got close to snatch a late victory. On balance, a draw may be a fair result.

After all, a draw with Liverpool, who lie just below us in the table, was not the end of the world as we kept the gap to them at three points. On top of that, as Tottenham and Chelsea also drew last night with Norwich and Reading, respectively, (which highlights the unpredictability of this season's Premier League results), the gaps to them also remained intact.

With another tough game looming on the horizon, as early as Saturday, we need to sort our our defence quickly, especially how to cope with Gibbs' three-week absence. On the injury front, hopefully, we will have Arteta and Coquelin back before long.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 6
He had a number of shaky moments, one of which almost cost us a goal unnecessarily. On the other hand, he made a few good saves, including the one that denied Suarez's attempt for a winner at the death.

Sagna: 5
Liverpool's first goal started from his slip. There is no sign of improvement in his crossing. We want to see Jenkinson play in his place from time to time. Jenkinson needs games as he looked rusty against Brighton. The England international proved himself as a capable deputy at the beginning of the season and has better crossing than Sagna.

Mertesacker: 5
He dithered every time he got the ball, which allowed the opponents time to rob the ball. This has been seen in a number of recent games.

Vermaelen: 5
His air-kick allowed Sturridge a clear sight of goal and subsequently led to Liverpool's first goal.

Gibbs: 6
Replaced by Santos in the 37th minute due to a thigh strain.

Ramsey: 7
Worked hard in his new role as a deep-lying midfielder. He was unlucky as his touch ricocheted Santos after he took the ball off Henderson, who capitalised on Arsenal's misfortune to score Liverpool's second goal. On the other hand, he had a hand in Liverpool's first goal as he failed to clear the ball after Szczesny's fine save.

Wilshere: 8
He was impressive against Liverpool midfield, including his role model, Steven Gerrard.

Cazorla: 8
In the heart of Arsenal's creativity.

Walcott: 8
He made a good use of his pace. Always looked dangerous apart from a short spell during the first half when he went missing.

Podolski: 7
Created chances on the left flank. Completed his second 90 minutes in a row since he said that he didn't mind getting substituted in the post-match interview following his stellar performance against West Ham.

Giroud: 8
Another spirited performance. Scored his 14th goal of the season and provided an assist for Walcott's equaliser. After the Brighton match, Arsene Wenger said about the France international "When he gets into the fighting mode it is difficult to handle him." He was once again in the fighting mode and spearheaded Arsenal's fightback. He has grown to one of our most influential players in recent weeks. It was quite difficult to choose one standout player for Arsenal (the easiest bit was eliminating all the defenders), as shown by's votes for the Man of the Match, which were split among three players: Giroud, Wilshere, and Walcott. Giroud collected the most votes with 32%, followed by Wilshere's 28% and Walcott's 22%.


Santos: 5
Not up to Arsenal standards, or even bottom-table club standards.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Arsenal 1 Swansea 0 (FA Cup 3rd Round replay)

While empty seats at the Emirates attracted the media attention, the Arsenal end of Las Mimosas bar was packed on a cold (but not as cold as at the Emirates obviously) and windy Wednesday night. There were even a weather-defying group of Scandinavians outside in a tent, cheering at their national handball teams in front of a large-screen TV. Actually, an estimated turnout of 50,000 (as opposed to official ticket sales of 58,359) at the Emirates is considered respectable for a midweek FA Cup replay on a cold winter night. The media always like to put a negative spin on anything when things are concerned with Arsenal.

As has been the case this season, we didn't know how this game would pan out. Even ever-optimistic Cheryl admitted the day before that she was convinced that we would be beaten by Swansea. That epitomised the mood of the Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club after the disappointing defeat to Manchester City.

Wenger made three changes to his side who started in a 2-0 loss to the reigning champions. As Laurant Koscielny was suspended as a result of his sending-off in that game, Per Mertesacker started alongside Thomas Vermaelen. Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin came in for Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which meant Santi Cazorla moved to the left wing, while Jack Wilshere took a more advanced position in the Spaniard's place. Francis Coquelin was deployed in a deep-lying role, which is usually taken by currently sidelined Mikel Arteta. Midfield looked better balanced than in the Man City game.

Arsenal started the game brightly. Giroud went close to score twice. They looked like they had learned lessons from the Man City game, but then the tempo slowed down and Swansea had better chances. However, it was Arsenal, specifically Vermaelen, who had the best chance at the end of the first half.

The second half was one-way traffic. Arsenal mounted pressure on Swansea defence. As the boss said after the match, it was unbelievable how we managed not to score a goal. The stats show that we had 27 shots in total, of which 10 shots were on target with 10 shots off target and 7 shots blocked. Although our profligacy was partly to blame (the main culprits were Walcott and Giroud), Swansea deserved credit for their resolute defence. They packed the box with bodies, hoping to attack on the break. Two shots were cleared off the line. We were also unlucky, with Giroud's shot blocked by Wilshere on the line.

When we started conceding that extra time was inevitable, Jack Wilshere brilliantly volleyed home. His shot was our 26th attempt at goal. However, we still had a job to do. At this point in the initial tie, there was still time for Swansea to equalise. After Cazorla's wild shot, Arsenal seemed to have taken the game under control again thanks to Jack Wilshere's leadership. In fact, he was magnificent all night.

It was a great win, which saw us through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It was also great to show that we can beat Swansea by playing our own game. The Welsh club started becoming our bogey team and the most annoying thing was they outplayed us in our passing game on a couple of occasions. It was satisfactory that we stopped Swansea from playing their football by playing our game. The intensity of our attack forced Swansea to focus on defence entirely. When Michu came on the pitch, we didn't even worry about its implication this time around. In fact, he was forced to help out their defence with little to do offensively.

A trip to championship side, Brighton, awaits us in 10 day's time, but before that, we have two important league games. This weekend's clash with third-placed Chelsea was a virtual six-pointer. The West Ham match on Wednesday night is our game in hand, which offers a chance to close a gap to those clubs currently in Champions League places. Hopefully, the players will show the same determination to win in these games.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 6
As Swansea registered no shot on target, he had little to do, especially in the second half. Despite being a bystander for most of the second half, he stayed alert when Sung-Yeung Ki tried to catch him out. There is an argument as to who was to blame for allowing Kyle Bartley's header, which fortunately hit the bar. We think that Szczesny should have come forward and claim the ball.

Sagna: 7
Made himself always available. Looked more confident than recently, but his crossing left a lot to be desired.

Mertesacker: 7
His passing was indecisive at early stages of the game.

Vermaelen: 7
Made two crucial blocks. Went forward more often and nearly scored at the end of the first half.

Gibbs: 7
Good going forward especially in this game as he didn't have much to worry about defensively.

Diaby: 6
He seemed to have struggled to keep up with the pace of the game in the first half, slowing down our passing. He was good in winning back possession, but his passing afterwards let him down. Still, another 82 minutes (Wenger admitted after the match that he should probably have taken him off a bit earlier) under the belt is encouraging.

Wilshere: 10
Simply awesome. He had a great game offensively and defensively. This game showcased everything good about him: technical abilities, drive, physical strength, passion, tenacity, and leadership (have I missed anything?). Arguably his best performance since his return from the injury, if not in his entire career. We don't usually give 10 in our player ratings, but he merits it on this occasion as he even did what his team-mates couldn't do all night, which is scoring a goal.

Coquelin: 7
Replacing Arteta was a huge challenge for the 21-year-old, but he did a decent job. He took his shot well when the rebound from a corner fell in front of him.

Cazorla: 7
It was interesting to see how he fared on the left wing for the first time for Arsenal as apparently he was a winger before he joined Arsenal. He wasn't spectacular, but did create chances.

Walcott: 7
Lacked accuracy in his finishing.

Giroud: 7
He was involved in all attacking moves, in one of which he set up a goal for Wilshere. He works for the team, but he needs to improve his finishing, which is poor for a main striker.


Ramsey: 6
Replaced Diaby in the 82nd minutes and carried on where the France midfielder left off.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Arsenal 0 Manchester City 2

Going down to 10 men so early was always going to prove a huge handicap against the champions, Manchester City. At half time, we were just hoping that the scoreline wouldn't end up too embarrassing or too detrimental to our players' confidence ahead of a run of crucial matches. As it turned out, Arsenal's spirited display in the second half brightened up our bleak Sunday afternoon. Although clear-cut chances were hard to come by, our midfield, led by Jack Wilshere in the absence of Mikel Arteta due to a calf strain, was battling hard to obtain possession, while our defence looked solid against Man City's counter-attack, recovering well after shaky spells in the first half. The numerical equilibrium was restored when Kompany was sent off for his challenge on Wilshere with 15 minutes left. However, playing with one man down for such a long period had started taking its toll by then. We were unable to take advantage of the sending off of their talisman and fell to a 2-0 defeat.

Some question Wenger's team selection, but we are not going to go into that argument. Whichever the boss picks, Mertsacker or Koscielny, there is always criticism afterwards. Wenger chose Koscielny, probably based on his heroics in the reverse fixture earlier this season. It is unfortunate that the France defender could not reproduce the performance.

Obviously the referee's two major decisions were the centre of post-match talking points. Koscielny's foul on Dzeko was utterly stupid and there was no denying a penalty, but many argue that the sending off might have been a harsh decision. On the Sky Sports site, Chris Kamara called for a change in the rule book, claiming that when a foul that denies a clear goal-scoring opportunity takes place, you are given the goal-scoring chance back with a penalty kick. So the law should be changed so that the player should be sent off, only when such a foul takes place outside the box, because you don't receive a free shot at goal.

The defeat was a blow for our top-four aspiration as we failed to take advantage of Tottenham, Everton and West Brom all dropping points and now we trail fourth-placed Spurs by 7 points with a game in hand.

However, we can take heart from Arsenal's spirit in the second half. They gave absolutely everything. If only Giroud had buried his chance with a free header and Walcott's effort hadn't been cleared by Lescott off the line, we could have conjured up a miraculous comeback. Although we lacked the killer instinct in the final third, nobody could question our spirit and desire.

Another positive from the game was Jack Wilshere's performance. He battled hard to win possession and drove the team forward whenever he could. He even saved Garcia's goal-bound effort off the line. His contribution to the team has been impressive since his return from the long-term injury which kept him on the sidelines for 14 months.

Also, Diaby came through the game unscathed. He completed 65 minutes in the U-21 game against West Brom in midweek, his first game since September. This game was thought to have come too soon for him, but Arteta's injury had left no choice for Wenger but to turn to the France midfielder. Although he appeared rusty in the first half with a few passes going astray and wrong decisions for the final ball, he made his presence felt as the game wore on. Diaby believes he had no reaction to his thigh injury from Sunday's 62-minute exertion, which is good news for us.

There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. The crucial FA Cup replay awaits us on Wednesday night. This is a must-win game for us as the FA Cup is our only realistic chance to win any silverware this season. Arsene Wenger blamed his side's allowing the opponents to dictate the game for their defeat to Man City. Hopefully, the team will have learned lessons and take the game to Swansea from the moment the kick-off whistle has blown.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 7
Made a couple of great saves, including a penalty save.

Sagna: 6
Much improved display compared with his recent performances.

Koscielny: 4
The hero of the reverse fixture earlier this season turned to the villain. There is no doubt his dismissal swung the game hugely in favour of Man City.

Vermaelen: 7
Solid in the second half, but he should have done better as a leader in defence when Man City took a free-kick quickly.

Gibbs: 6
His losing of the battle against Zapaleta led to the free-kick, which eventually resulted in Man City's goal. Otherwise, did OK.

Cazorla: 6
Not as eye-catching as he was earlier this season, but did his job.

Diaby: 6
Encouraging performance in the second half, considering his long lay-off. Withdrawn in the 63rd minute. Hopefully, he will have a longer run of games this time. Keep fingers crossed for his fitness.

Wilshere: 8
He has been targeted by the oppositions because of the battling nature of his game and his well-known feistiness, but he has been coping very well. Great to see him making his trade-mark "bursts".

Oxlade-Chamberlain: N/A
He was replaced by Mertesacker, following the sending off of Koscielny, before he had a chance to assert himself.

Walcott: 6
He didn't do very much as a lone striker. His best chance came when he had moved to the right wing and was unleashed by Ramsey's pass, only to be cleared by Lescott off the line.

Podolski: 7
Worked hard.


Mertesacker: 7
Came on the pitch at the expense of the Ox in the 12th minute to replace Koscielny who was sent off.

Giroud: 6
57th-minute substitute for Podolski. Headed over the bar when he had received Cazorla's curling free-kick. It is disappointing to see his inability to make a difference in this kind of situations.

Ramsey: 7
Replaced Diaby, who was never expected to last for 90 minutes, in the 62nd minute. Had a decent game in his natural position in central midfield.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Swansea 2 Arsenal 2 (FA Cup 3rd Round)

When the draw for this tie was made early December immediately after Swansea had beaten us 2-0 at the Emirates, nobody could see any other result for this game apart from a home win. A month is a long time in football. Going into this gaem, Arsenal were regarded as a favourite to win at even odds, on the back of a decent run of form in the past month. However, more realistic fans would have taken a draw before the match.

We were back at Las Mimosas bar, with more members back from their stays in the UK over the festive period. Cheryl was back in business, selling a scratch card at half time for the first time in 2013 to raise funds for our Supporters Club.

Arsene Wenger made it clear prior to the game that he would field a full-strength team and would not rotate his players for the sake of it. The decision was quite right as this was our only realistic chance to win silverware this season and Swansea are a difficult team to beat at home even though they were expected to rest their key players for this game with their sights set on the Capital One Cup semi-final match against Chelsea on Wednesday.

Wenger made three changes to the side that started in their 1-1 draw with Southampton on Tuesday night. Per Mertesacker, who was left on the bench midweek, came in for Thomas Vermaelen to form a central defensive partnership with Laurant Koscielny. Aaron Ramsey started in place of Lukas Podolski on the left wing. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave way to Theo Walcott on the right flank, whose starting place as a central striker was taken over by Olivier Giroud.

Prior to the game, Wenger also suggested that one or two players might need a breather, who we thought could be Bacary Sagna. The France international has had some poor games recently. As Carl Jenkinson proved himself as a reliable deputy right-back earlier this season, we thought it would be a good idea to give him a run-out in the Frenchman's place. However, the England right-back didn't even make the bench, whereas Andre Santos was on the bench as a back-up full-back despite his lack of match fitness. We don't understand Wenger's reluctance to play Jenkinson. The boss has just given the young player a long-term contract and doesn't use him when our regular right-back is clearly out of sorts.

As usual, Ramsey's start caused us a lot of displeasure. I, for one, still believe that he is a talented player, but playing a right-footed central midfielder on the left wing does not help the player already low in confidence. Why the Ox was left on the bench was a mystery. Another conundrum is Wenger's seeming reluctance to play Rosicky. Amid fans' fear that Cazorla could be burned out before the end of the season, Rosicky's healthy return should certainly ease those concerns.

The first half was quite boring, but the second half lived up to Arsenal's standards in terms of dramas. Arsenal stepped up their attack in the second half, but it was Swansea who opened the scoring. When we saw Michu coming off the bench, we all feared the consequence and he scored with almost his first touch. However, we had our own answer to their super sub in the shape of Poldi, who fired home an equaliser. Within three minutes, we were in front for the first time in this game thanks to Gibbs' brilliant volley. However, Arsenal being Arsenal, this wasn't the end of the story. They always like to put us supporters through more ups and downs than they need. Our joy was short-lived. Danny Graham scored an equaliser with four minutes left to take the tie into a replay at the Emirates.

Wenger's substitutions often mystify us. Podolski's introduction was spot-on. Probably this was always on the card. Arsenal were pouring their attack, but lacked decisiveness in the final ball. The Germany striker, whose finishing is second to none, provided exactly what the team needed. However, at 2-1 with just 7 minutes to go, why Wenger didn't bring on Vermaelen or Coquelin to shore up the defence was beyond us. Earlier this season, such as in the Wigan game, we questioned Wenger's negativity regarding substitutions, but this was a case where he should have made those substitutions. We could have held on to the narrow lead and won the game on the day.

Arsene Wenger bemoaned a penalty opportunity turned down. The interesting thing is that there are those people who think it should have been a penalty. To us at Las Momosas bar, replays on the TV seemed to have indicated that Ramsey fell over. (Well, these days he doesn't have much of the fans' sympathy, does he?) Most of the media seem to have thought the same with one report even claiming that Ramsey was tripped by his own foot. On the other hand, the Daily Telegraph's match report read "Arsenal had a genuine claim for a penalty in the 51st minute when Ramsey was clearly tripped as he fought to cut across Tiendalli." Needless to say,'s match report, as well as the Arsenal blog, shared the Telegraph's view.

It was frustrating because we could have won the tie on the day, considering how many chances we created in the second half. Was it a missed opportunity for Arsenal or Swansea? Swansea fans must have fancied themselves to go through, based on their perfect form at home this season. We would like to think that we have a good chance to progress now that the tie has gone to a replay at the Emirates. Playing at home does not guarantee a win as the result of the previous encounter between the two sides shows, but Swansea will have played more games than us with the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at home awaiting them in the following week.

At the end of the day, what matters is that we are still in the competition. Fixture congestion may prompt Wenger to bring in new players. Who knows. We look forward to the replay. Hopefully, a seaside trip to Championship side, Brighton, in the next round will motivate the players.

Between now and then, there is a small matter of a Premier League clash against Manchester City. We produced one of our best performances this season, when the two sides met at the Etihad Stadium. One of our outstanding players on that day was Abu Diaby, whose return to first team action is thought to be imminent. He may be still short of match fitness for this Sunday's game, but having produced an impressive display during his 65-minute appearance in Wednesday's U-21 match, signs are encouraging.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 7
Made a great save to deny Graham's effort in the first half, but beaten twice.

Sagna: 6
He started the game brightly, but got worse later on.

Mertesacker: 6
Beaten in the air by Bartley. Unconvincing display.

Koscielny: 6
Both centre backs were culpable for Michu's goal. Provided an assist for Poldi's goal.

Gibbs: 8
Great going forward, scoring an exquisite goal, but was caught out of position at times.

Cazorla: 6
Not eye-catching, but did get involved in attack.

Arteta: 6
Should he have done better to prevent Graham's equaliser? I personally think it was a very difficult situation for him on the-man-at-post duty. He couldn't make up his mind whether to leave the post and block the shot or at least deter Graham from shooting, or to stay at the post. Perhaps, Sagna should have picked up Graham. Overall, it was not his best defensive game.

Wilshere: 7
Put a lot of efforts into the game.

Walcott: 6
His free-kicks and corners were poor.

Giroud: 6
Set up a goal for Gibbs through a brilliantly lofted pass, but his finishing left a lot to be desired. He should have at least put his header on target. Missed a couple of more chances as well.

Ramsey: 6
He did some good things, including a great cross only for Giroud to head it wide, and got into great positions on several occasions, but he still lacks composure in front of goal. On the BBC site, ex-Gunner, John Hartson suggested Ramsey would benefit from a loan spell. His reasoning was based on the Wales national team's point of view as he thinks that Ramsey needs to play in central midfield, where he cannot get a chance at Arsenal due to competition. We agree that sending him out on loan would be beneficial for him to get back into the form he was in prior to the horrific injury and to fulfil his potential. On the other hand, from Arsenal's viewpoint, the lack of the depth in the squad does not allow us to loan him out as he can be used as a utility player. If we can get a natural wide player and a defensive midfielder in the January transfer window, this predicament could be solved.


Podolski: 8
Replaced Ramsey in the 73rd minute. Scored a poacher's goal.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

Perhaps this is a game that we, Arsenal fans, want to forget quickly. It was definitely two points dropped, despite Arsene Wenger admitting that they were lucky to come away with a point. It wasn't a result we wanted nor a performance we expected following a scintillating game and a stellar attacking display against Newcastle. Wenger blamed a mental hang-over from the recent goal fests rather than fatigue for his side's lacklustre performance.

It was a very disappointing display from Arsenal players, who were brilliant going forward 3 days ago. There was no pace or purpose in their passes, which they struggled to put together. Their passing accuracy rate of 80.3%, well below their average, speaks volumes. There was no sign of what we saw in the recent games as a welcome change. In fact, Arsenal registered only one shot on target out of 6 shots in total including blocked shots, in comparison with Southampton's 5 shots on target. We didn't even try to take advantage of the Southamption second-choice keeper's suspect handling after the opening minutes.

Unfortunately, it was not only the offensive side of the game that let us down. Sagna's failed clearance led to Southampton's goal. I saw an Opta stat prior to the Wigan game that Arsenal had made 11 errors this season directly leading to goals, more than any other club. If Jack Wilshere's deflection in the Newcastle game was not counted as one, Sagna's mistake in this game was 12th of such a kind of errors. The figure highlights lapse of concentration, which we need to address.

Arsene Wenger kept his side that beat Newcastle in a convincing way last Saturday, which meant Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made starts against their former club. Per Mertesacker was left on the bench after recovering from illness.

Giroud's introduction was once again expected. However, his fellow substitute, Gervinho was a waste of space. Perhaps, Arsene Wenger wanted to give him a last chance before he departs for the Africa Nations Cup. As the boss stated earlier that he had no intention to rush the Ivorian back after the African competition, we are unlikely to see Gervinho for a while. Why the Frenchman didn't bring on Rosicky was a mystery to us.

One of our members, who is back in Southamption where he came from, was among the 3,141 strong travelling fans. We felt sorry for him for having to pay to watch his beloved Club playing so badly. It was disheartening enough for us to watch it in a bar. (Incidentally, our usual venue, Las Mimosas bar was closed on the New Year's day. Therefore a small contingent of us went to watch the game at the nearby New Odd Couple.)

Although Szczesny won Arsenal fans' Man of the Mach votes on the site, we think one of few bright spots in this game was Oxlade-Chamberlain's performance. He was one of our better players. It looks that he has cemented his place in the starting XI when Theo is playing up front. It is good to see the 19-year-old's form is getting back to last season's level. The Southampton left-back, 17-year-old Luke Shaw has been strongly linked to Arsenal in the recent months. Although he had a decent game, he was beaten by our 19-year-old winger a few times.

Another better performer was Jack Wilshere. He has been a target of rough challenges by opponent midfielders recently because of fierce temper he is well-known for (the refs haven't done very much to protect him and this game was no exception), but he has been controlling himself very well. As Southampton didn't give our midfield much space to manoeuvre, Jack's offensive contribution was relatively limited, but he was the best player in our midfield. Arsene Wenger stated a few weeks ago that he intended to rest Jack in one every four games, considering the fact that he hadn't played for 17 months. This game might have been one of those games he might have been rested as Wenger mentioned. Including 120 minutes he played in the Capital One Cup tie against Bradford, playing 6 straight matches since 8th December and still maintaining the same intensity is quite encouraging.

Hopefully, this was just a bad day at the office. We have another tough game on Sunday against Swansea away. We expect that all the new foreign players know what Cup games are all about by now from their humiliating defeat to Bradford. Besides, Swansea have already proved that they are not the opponents to be underestimated, by beating us at home not so long ago. So there will be no chance for complacency to creep in.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 7
Great save to save Sagna from a potentially embarrassing own goal.

Sagna: 5
Shocking performance from a quality player who used to be known for his consistency. He has recently had some poor games, which worries us a lot.

Koscielny: 6
Some dodgy moments.

Vermaelen: 6
Could have given away a penalty.

Gibbs: 6
Didn't do enough going forward. Probably those mistakes he made during the Newcastle game inhibited him from going forward.

Cazorla: 6
Kept quiet by Southampton midfielders. Didn't make those good runs he made against Newcastle. Had a shot deflected.

Arteta: 6
Failed to create rhythms, but his attempt went fairly close.

Wilshere: 7
One of the better performer on the day when all the players were below par.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
Lively on the right wing. Delivered a great cross into the box where nobody was present to collect it.

Walcott: 6
Failed to make an impact but didn't get enough service.

Podolski: 6


Giroud: 6
Replaced Podolski in the 58th minute. Made little impact.

Ramsey: 6
74th-minute substitute for Cazorla. Despite playing in his natural position, made little difference.

Gervinho: 5
74th-minute substitute for the Ox. He now seems to have gone backwards from last season, despite all the promising signs earlier this season. He was clueless. As he created some half-chances for himself, it was even more frustrating.