Lucky to Draw
For long parts of last night, Arsenal were outplayed by Southampton. Their high pressing game meant we could not get our passing game going, we defended to deep allowing their midfielder’s too much time on the ball, and for the majority of the time, we were over run in midfield. Despite having 2 defensive midfielder’s on the pitch, we were unable to get to grips with the game.
Lucky to go in at half time just 1-0 down, a scintillating 7 minute spell after the break saw us take the lead. What is worrying is this is the second time this season we have taken the lead against a side, and conceded nearly immediately. How much will dropped points against Southampton & Everton cost us at the end of the season?
It was the midfield that lost us the game. The problem with playing Flamini and Arteta together – an axis which many already know does not work – is that when the opponents have the ball, both of their 1st thought is to run back towards their own goal, getting into defensive positions. This allowed Southampton the freedom of the midfield. When we play Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey, they push on and press higher up, attempting to win the ball on the half way line. If they are beaten, the opponent still has the DM to try to beat. Yesterday, with no one pressing, it meant that once Flamini and Arteta were beaten, Southampton were straight at our defence.
They provided little cover for the defence, and Adam Lallana seemed to spend his time in the gap between the two of them. We would have been better playing just 1 defensive midfielder, who could then man mark Lallana. Saying that, with Ramsey suffering a set back, and both Rosicky and Wilshere having knocks, we had very few other options. Oxlade-Chamberlain? Frimpong? Arteta? That were our options. 99% of fans would have gone with Arteta before kick off.
Without trying to detract from our poor performance, it is important to remember the part Lee Mason played in the game. It was never a free kick for their 1st goal, Monreal was then blatantly fouled when the cross went in, Koscielny was dragged to the ground for what should have been a blatant penalty, and controversial as this might be, Flamini was unlucky to get sent off – he won the ball cleanly and barely touched the player, it was a good tackle.
The saddest thing about the draw last night was the overreaction on twitter. You would think we had just lost our 9th game in a row, not just gone 9 games unbeaten. One fan tweeted ‘Emirates, get me a flight so I can shoot Wenger in the head.’ Let us put last night into perspective:
- Arsenal are currently top of the league
- Arsenal are unbeaten in 7 league games
- Arsenal are unbeaten in 9 games in all competitions
- Arsenal had previously won their last 7 games in all competitions
- This was only the 3rd time this season Arsenal had conceded more than 1 goal
- Southampton have beaten Liverpool (away), drawn with Manchester United (away), drawn with Manchester City (home), drawn with Newcastle (away) and only lost by a single goal to both Everton & Spurs . They are no mugs.
Yes, we were outplayed last night, but to for our own fans to label us as a club in crisis is a disgrace. If fans were more than happy to celebrate the last 7 wins in a row, then deal with a single draw, away, to a decent side. Grow up. To call for Wenger’s head over a draw is little more than a childish overreaction. It makes me wonder, if some of our current fans and twitter was around in 1997, what would the reaction have been on the 13th of December when we lost at home to Blackburn, our 4th defeat in 6 games.
I have seen people saying that Wenger is due to get a contact, and earn £8 million a year yet can not beat Southampton. Well Pellegrini is on £7 million a year and couldn’t beat them. Many also pointed to our midfield, saying that playing Arteta and Flamini showed we need to ‘Spend some fucking money’. Well for 2 positions, we currently have 5 players (Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky). 7 if you throw in Frimpong and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Could we go out and buy another central midfielder? Yes. However, there are more important aspects of the team to build on.
As a final point, on spending money, Manchester city have spent £500,000,000 in the last 5 years, including £95,000,000 on central midfielder’s. And they drew away to Southampton.
One bit sad aspect of last night was the clear demise of Mikel Arteta. As previously discussed, the axis of Arteta and Flamini does not work. Despite this, Arteta is now looking a shadow of the man he used to be. Despite only being 31, he is starting to look at lot older, as the injuries he had at Everton seem to be catching up on him. Never blessed with pace, he seems to have completely lost the half yard he did have.
Now part of his sluggish performance might be due to rustiness due to lack of playing time – he had not played for 24 days, but he has looked slow all year. The worry is that once an opposing midfielder runs past him, he is unable to track back. This creates 3 problems.
Firstly, he is unable to drive forward with the ball out of defence. If he attempts to bring the ball out, even only up to the half way line, and the side then loses position, he is unable to chase back. This means often he picks the ball up off the defence, plays a short forward pass deep within our own half, and end up passing around the back too deep.
Secondly, if he decides to press up high and put pressure on the opposing midfielder, and is beaten, he is again too high up the field and unable to track back. This again results in him standing in front of the defence, not coming out to face players, and inviting pressure.
Lastly, as we saw last night, if a midfield runner gets the drop on him and gets past him, he does not have that burst to catch back up. He was caught flat footed with Southampton’s second goal, with Lallana running past him as if he was not there.
Arteta was a brilliant buy at a time we were struggling. He has 18 months left on his contract. He has done a very good job for us, and has been very influential with youngsters at the club. It is unlikely a buyer will come in for him during the summer, so we will have to let him see out his contract. He is perhaps justification of why Wenger does not give at long contracts when a player hits 30. Arteta as 3rd choice DM next season will not be too bad. Due to Flamini, however, we now have to see him play in the next 4 days. Ensure you back him.
For a long time, I have been a fan of Morgan Schneiderlin. I remember watching him (and Lallana) breaking through for Southampton at a similar time, and remember thinking ‘he is French and young, he is ideal for Arsenal’. Since Southampton’s rise to the Premier League, his stock has risen further, and last night, he was a dominant force in the middle of the park.
Following on from the Arteta demise talk, we would do far worse than attempting to get Schneiderlin next summer. Yes, he might not be the big name, but he is, in my opinion, a top, top player. Already settled in the Premier League, he would be the ideal replacement for Arteta. He has pace, power, positional strength, tackling ability and is a very good passer of the ball. He reminds me a lot of Xabi Alonso. And at just 24, he has his career ahead of him. He averages 3.8 tackles a game (3rd in PL), averages 52 passes a game, at a success rate of 88.3%. Only he and Fernandinho feature high in the Premier League top tacklers and passers. We could do a lot worse then getting him to become our lynch pin.
Up next is Crystal Palace. Lets stop the overreactions and cheer the team to victory.