By Walter Broeckx
To start this match at the team who was level on points at the start of this match we had these players Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Rosicky, Alexis. And on the beach we had Martinez, Monreal, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Campbell, Walcott, Akpom.
Gibbs came in the place of Monreal who dropped to the bench. Welbeck and Flamini are both out with an injury and so we got Rosicky and Coquelin taking their places.
The second difficult away match in a row for Arsenal in the Christmas period after having beaten West Ham last Sunday. And looking at the bench we only see two regular starters in Monreal and Walcott. Arsenal to the bare bones with the injuries once again. A quick count makes that 9 injured and 1 players suspended. Not really the ideal way to start the new year.
The two teams with a rather slow start and then suddenly a header from Pelle that just went wide for Southampton and Arsenal replied with a shot from Alexis that had to be saved by Forster. And then another chance for Southamtpon but this time Szczesny could rescue with his foot.
The we saw the first attempt to kick Alexis off the field by Waynama and the ref let the card in his pocket…. Southampton then get a corner that looked a goal kick but lucky nothing came from it. Then a good attack over Alexis to Rosicky who’s cross was met by Cazorla but Foster with a good stop.
And after 22 minutes Wanyama with a second attempt on Alexis and this time the ref gets the yellow card out. The next chance was again for Arsenal when Cazorla crossed to Chamberlain and his shot sailed just across the top corner of the goal.
And then from out of nothing came a Southampton goal. Mane wide on the left behind Koscielny, Szczesny came out not really needed and so the goal was free and Mane turned it over the line from a tight angle. Szczesny should have stayed on his line or should have gone in a real pursuit of Mane but now by turning back he found himself in the middle of nowhere.
Then the same assistant again invented a corner when the ball went over the side line and from the resulting corner we needed a great intervention from Szczesny to prevent a second Southampton goal. Meanwhile Southampton drew all their players back around their own penalty area resulting in lots of possession for Arsenal but not really big open chances as the many bodies from Southampton did their job. Arsenal 1-0 behind at half time. And suddenly missing Giroud and Welbeck and having no big strikers upfront look to make things difficult.
Arsenal the most attacking team in the second half as can be expected and after 54 minutes a big chance for Alexis but Forster once again with another good stop on the low shot. And then another defensive mix up at the back for Arsenal. And I must say that Szczesny again didn’t look that good. A low cross that was stopped by Debuchy and Szczesny kicked in the feet of Tadic who took this present and scored the 2-0. We should have been level and suddenly found ourselves 2-0 behind after 56 minutes.
Time to bring on Theo Walcott after one hour of play. Chambers was taken off right at a moment when Chamberlain was kicked on the ankle without the ref giving a foul to Arsenal. Seconds later Arsenal was lucky when Pelle hit the post from a low cross and the rebound went over. Koscielny then joined in the present mood and played a ball back but too short. Lucky Debuchy was back on the line to clear the ball.
Then Sanchez escaped and was brought down just outside the penalty area and the ref gave the foul but kept the red card in his pocket and only gave a yellow against Gardos. The free kick went over, just.
Arsenal had lots of the ball but missing both Welbeck and Giroud resulted in Arsenal not being able to hit crosses at height and had to try to play over the ground. And Theo wasn’t effective against 10 Southampton defenders as he had no room to use his speed. And if there is one thing that Southampton can do it is defending.
The final ball for Arsenal just didn’t come. With 7 minutes left Debuchy was taken off and Akpom came on. But it seemed that the tank of too many players was empty after two big hard matches a few days earlier. And too many former Southampton players not having their best day against their former club.
Too many players missing and on top of that some crucial defensive errors cost us this match. And making defensive errors against a team that is in the top 4 is not the way to get a result.
Let us hope that we can get a few bodies back before next Sunday. And cut out the defensive errors please.