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.

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