Arsenal (1) 2 Southampton (1) 2
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 23rd November 2019. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(3-4-1-2) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos; Hector Bellerin, Lucas Torreira, Mattéo Guendouzi, Kieran Tierney; Mesut Özil; Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, Shkodran Mustafi, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (18 mins, 90+6 mins)
Yellow Cards: Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira, Nicolas Pépé, Mattéo Guendouzi, Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 62%
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Upon leaving the Emirates after the Crystal Palace match a few weeks ago, a friend of mine overheard an excited young boy asking his father if they could go to the next game; in reply, Dad said that he couldn’t afford to take him again for a while, but as soon as he could scrape the money together for them to go back, then he would. Contrast that story with the Arsenal Board of Directors, well-heeled, successful and wealthy members to a man.
Their power is absolute; make no mistake, Stan Kroenke’s hand-picked group of bureaucrats hold the future of Arsenal Football Club in their very hands. But remember, the Board of Directors are merely only the custodians of the club, and like us, eventually will pass the torch onto the next generation of Arsenal people. The disconnect is, of course, they are able to make decisions that can alter the direction of the club, and we are unable to do so, therefore making us utterly helpless. Soon, they will be forced to make a decision over the future of the manager, and depending on the outcome, could very well determine as to whether there will be an exodus of both players and supporters at the end of the season; bearing in mind that attending Premiership football matches these days is no longer an affordable day out for many supporters, if the decision that they ultimately arrive at should be the incorrect one, then it could very well be that it will be will not just be the aforementioned father and son that won’t be attending matches at the Emirates over the next few years, it may well be everybody.
Here we go again, what price concentration for our defenders? After just eight minutes of the match, a sense of déjà vupermeated the winter air of The Emirates, when a seemingly innocuous free-kick taken quickly by Ryan Bertrand found the foot of Danny Ings, who wasted no time in placing the visitors ahead with a firm shot that went into the back of our net viathe post. For the next few minutes after conceding the opening goal of the day, we were completely all at sea, with no clue whatsoever how to defend, or even an idea of how to break out of our half; that was until the eighteenth minute, when plucky little Mesut Özil, playing in the deep-lying centre-forward (Puskas) role, appeared on the left side of the pitch and passed the ball to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose shot was blocked on the line. Thankfully his striking partner Alexandre Lacazette was on hand to finish the job, to equalise the scores, so early in the game.
Southampton came at us time and time again after our equaliser, as they seemed to realise that our defence is extremely suspect under pressure, which it is, of course. And still we play out from the back, and still we get caught out. Insanity. We received two bookings in the first half from referee Stuart Attwell, one for Lucas Torreira after he performed a reckless challenge on Nathan Redmond, and an unlucky one for Sokratis Papastathopoulos, when his trailing arm caught Danny Ings after half an hour. We had an inability to impose our will on the opposition and ultimately, the match; no surprise when the half-time whistle went, the cat-calls and abuse rang out across the stadium as the players trundled off, leaving this unhappy half of frustration behind them.
Nicolas Pépé replaced Calum Chambers for the second half, and in doing so, Unai Emery changed the team formation in a heartbeat. But even then, it still wasn’t convincing, as the visitors soaked up pressure easily. With the exception of Nicolas Pépé’s shot hitting the bar, and Alex McCarthy stopping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot from close-quarters, the inevitable happened on the seventy-first minute. Southampton took the lead from a James Ward-Prowse penalty, when he scored from the rebound of Bernd Leno’s initial save. From then on, we were totally on the back foot, and were extremely fortunate that we did not concede even more goals. Incredibly, our chance came in the sixth minute of injury time when Alexandre Lacazette equalised from a Gabriel Martinelli cross; embarrassed, he did not seem in the slightest bit interested in celebrating his goal. A minute or so later, the final whistle blew, and the Emirates crowd again showed their displeasure in the way that we have come to expect in recent matches.
This match, from our perspective, was a disgrace. Twelve shots on goal, five on target, whilst Southampton had twenty-one shots on goal, with six on target. And six of our players booked as well; all against a team (no disrespect intended to Southampton) who shipped nine against Leicester City and are languishing second from bottom in the Premiership table. The whole club has now become toxic and needs a root and branch reform, and quickly too. If it is left too long, then I fear the damage could be almost irreversible.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Eintracht Frankfurt at The Emirates on Thursday, 28th November at 8.00pm (Europa League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.