Match Report: Arsenal 2-1 Southampton

Arsenal left it very late to secure 3 points against Southampton at the Emirates.  It looked to be heading for a draw until Santi Cazorla’s stoppage time penalty.  Arsene Wenger will surely be adding referee Robert Madley to his christmas card list.

With the clock approaching stoppage time, one could hear the faint yet growing crescendo of boos that now famously ring round The Emirates after a loss.  So no one will have been more relieved than Wenger when referee Madley spotted an infringement in the Southampton penalty area in the 92nd minute.

Jose Fonte wrestled with Oliver Giroud in the box and the big Frenchman went down.  Southampton were furious and justifiably felt hard done by.  Was it a shirt pull or was he bundled down?  It was hard to tell.

Fonte, like many defenders, will have to get used to conceding fouls like this with the new Premier League directives on shirt pulling in the penalty area.

The ice cool Santi Cazorla stepped up, sending Fraser Foster to the right as he powered it down the middle.  A goal the mercurial Spaniard deserved after a superb creative display that showed up a number of his teammates.  Cue a happy cheering Emirates, instead of an angry booing one.  For today at least.

As many of the Arsenal faithful have seen all before, the game started off fairly tepid and slow.  Lots of short passing with little creativity or penetration.  Painfully predictable and uninspiring; which seems to always inspire the opposition.

The winless Saints took this as their cue to push forward.  The south-coast outfit showed plenty of enterprise, breaking forward in numbers and looked the better team in the opening spell.  That was rewarded when they were given a free-kick on the edge of Arsenal’s box.

Dusan Tadic eyed up a big gaping hole with Petr Cech standing so far to the left of his goal.  With such a distance to cover, it was testament to the number 33’s keeping skills that he managed to dive and get a touch as Tadic whipped it over the wall with laser like precision.

The Czech stopper could only parry it onto the bar.  Fortunately for Southampton, the ball bounced back off the bar and off Cech’s back into the net.  Could our goalkeeper have been positioned better?  Possibly.  However to blame him for this familiar woe Arsenal would find themselves in would be foolish.

Arsenal pushed forward looking for the equaliser, not really creating too much in terms of clear-cut chances. They were rewarded with a corner on the half hour mark.

With all the talk in the summer, of centre back’s who can play like midfielders, the Gunners can go one better.  As the ball was tossed into the Saints box, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the end of it.

Up leapt Arsenal’s August player of the month and birthday boy Laurent Koscielny. Acrobatically meeting the ball with an overhead kick he sent it into the bottom left corner.  1-1.

All eyes had been on the new boys at kick off.  German international Shkodran Mustafi, the new £35 million centre back looked extremely conformable slotting in alongside Koscielny.  He made some impressive tackles and looked good on the ball; a centre back who can play like a midfielder.

Lucas Perez was the other player making his debut, the £17.5 million striker from Spain.  It would be perhaps harsh to suggest you get what you pay for with regards to the signings.  However this wasn’t the debut Perez or Wenger would have dreamed about.

Perez seemed perhaps too eager to impress, his movement was good yet seemed anxious in possession.  It is early days so it wouldn’t be wise to judge him on this performance alone.

What certainly wouldn’t have helped him were the poor displays from established Arsenal regulars.  Yet again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain disappointed.  To keep misplacing 5-10 yard passes repeatedly, season after season is getting tiring to watch.

Theo Walcott also didn’t get into the game but at least he didn’t keep giving it away.

Mesut Ozil had one of his quieter games.  Perhaps the international break could be the reason many didn’t perform.  Or it could be a deeper issue.  Arsenal didn’t play well today.  But this isn’t an isolated performance.  It is a regular occurrence, particularly at home.

Some fans criticise the style in terms of the short passing game.  They crave to return to the direct counter attacking style Wenger had most success with when he first arrived.

Yet when you watch teams such as Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, they pass and they pass.  Much like Arsenal do.  However there is a huge difference.

They seem to have much more purpose.  Pace, incision and penetration.  Lots of attacking movement and quality on the ball as they look to create as many clear-cut chances as they can.

Arsenal don’t seem to do this and haven’t for a number of seasons.  Its lacklustre, lethargic.  Waiting for something to happen.  All too often this is conceding the first goal.  The play can be sloppy, with bad touches and misplaced passes.

Arsenal got away with it today by the skin of their teeth.  This was by no means a match winning performance.  Arsene Wenger spoke this week that this was the best squad he’s had in a while.  He explained that he now has experienced men who are ready to compete rather than young potential.

He has to hope so, as things have to improve.  This was not good enough yet again.  It is no secret that there are many Arsenal supporters who believe the manager should go.  This was another display which strengthens the disgruntled fans cases.

 

 

Written by @stanipkiss1

Stanley Ipkiss

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