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Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

Old habits die hard and any new year resolutions to drink less or eat a little better were promptly destroyed before our train had pulled out of London Waterloo. Following the excesses of New Year`s Eve, I lay in bed prostrate as my alarm sounded, dreading the waves of nausea that would inevitably sail me down to the south coast. At times such as these, the only option left for an Englishman is the nuclear option. So I hurried down to the local greasy spoon for a full English. The way I was feeling at that point, I`d have happily taken it intravenously.

As our 12.30 train pulled out of Waterloo, one of our party decided to dish out a round of jaeger bombs from a handy supply of plastic cups. Happily, mine stayed down without my body satisfying its urge to send it back to whence it came at trajectory. Out of the deep and earnest respect I`m developing for my liver as I approach 30, I abstained from further alcohol until we arrived at Yates` in Southampton. Lucozade was my companion until a few jars of creamy Guinness and a follow up cheese burger put me to rights. Jog on resolutions.

Unfortunately, judging by the game itself, many of the players also took the famed "bottle of glenfiddich, fry up and cheeseburger 12 hour marathon" that I did. To say the game was slow in coming to life would be a bit like saying that Jonny Vegas is an irritating twat. It doesn`t need to be said. It is self-evident. Santi Cazorla tried a strike from range in the opening exchanges, which took a devilish deflection off of Yoshida and dipped just wide with the chunky looking Artur Boruc scrambling. Boruc`s lack of match sharpness (and love of pastry based products by the look of it) became rather pronounced when he dropped two routine catches in a matter of seconds in the early stages. Surely Arsenal would take that as encouragement and put him under pressure for the remainder of the game. Right? Guys?.......GUYS?

Once again away from home, Arsenal struggled to show any kind of imagination or purpose in possession and Southampton found it rather simple to school and stifle the Gunners offensively. Arsenal have favoured taking a defensive shape and having numbers behind the ball defensively this season, which has been successful in that respect. We certainly look a lot less exposed and prone to being counter attacked than we did last year. However, I think it`s sacrificed some of our attacking purpose. Three of our goals against Newcastle came from "transitions" in play. Either counter attacks or interceptions deep in Newcastle`s territory. I wonder if the strategy of sitting off makes us a bit "back footed" for want of a better expression, in attack. We`re backwards in coming forwards.

On 35 minutes however, Arsenal didn`t so much shoot themselves in the foot as purchase a rifle, take the safety catch off, press it into Gaston Ramirez`s palm and instructed him to shoot at will. Podolski played a woeful pass to Vermaelen because, like so many players in our team, he was horrifically scared of playing the ball with his weaker foot so instead opted for completely the wrong pass at an awkward angle. As a result, the pass was over hit and Vermaelen couldn`t control it. Rickie Lambert tried to play a low cross to Jason Puncheon. Bacary Sagna got to it but executed a poor clearance straight to Gaston Ramirez, whom Gibbs could not prevent from stroking past Szczesny. It wasn`t so much a comedy of errors as a mini epic. It ought to have been narrated by Homer.

Fortunately for us, within six minutes we were level. Southampton presumably felt left out by our rock star display of self destruction and Guly do Prado promptly threw a television set out of his hotel window. Puncheon needlessly fouled Arteta on Arsenal`s right. Walcott swung in a free kick which didn`t get close to reaching an Arsenal player. Do Prado gamely tried to intercept but succeeded only in toe ending the ball into his own net under no pressure. Arsenal at least had the good grace to be too embarrassed to celebrate the goal.

Arsenal rarely bother with the first half nowadays, so I was feeling a tad more optimistic as the teams came out after the break. New year is the time for foolish optimism after all. But it was very much more of the same. When Wenger makes a substitution before the 70th minute you know that the situation is rather dire from an attacking point of view and Giroud came on for Podolski early in the half. It didn`t really change anything though. The front three didn`t swap and vary their threat as they had against Newcastle, when Podolski and Walcott were at once able to score centre forward`s goals and create goals for teammates with classic wing play.

Arsenal`s anaemia was almost compounded as it was the home side that looked more likely to score. But only slightly. Do Prado`s shot was beaten away well by Szczesny, then the Pole showed smart reflexes as a Ramirez corner bounced off of Sagna`s legs and towards goal. Arsenal`s sole shot on target came when Walcott`s tame effort was held by Boruc. Podolski was in a much better position in the area at the time. Walcott needs to be very careful that his ego doesn`t supercede the needs of the team. For instance in the 91st minute, when Arsenal were awarded a free kick tailor made for Jack`s left footed delivery. Walcott ushered Wilshere to one side and tried to swing one in on his right from an unnatural angle. He shanked it straight at the first defender and a presentable opportunity vanished with it.

With inspiration lacking, I do have to question the decision not to bring Rosicky into the fray, who offers greater precision and penetration. Aaron Ramsey is a good player, but he`s probably not going to conjure a goal with the scores at 1-1. Gervinho`s form is horrendous and it`s telling that, judging by Wenger`s post match comments, he`s not even going to try to convince Ivory Coast to let him stay for the Swansea game prior to flying off for African Nations duty. He looks terrified of taking a risk for fear of doing something wrong. But I also have to say he looks like he lacks heart. Ramsey has suffered a spell of poor form and had the crowd on his back, but always looked willing to fight for the cause regardless. There was a point when Gervinho- like many before him- slipped on the unctuous surface, but subsequently stayed down on the turf looking dejected as Southampton surged forward.

Jason Puncheon tried to wriggle his way past the Arsenal rearguard before smashing a shot into the side netting. Gervinho offered up a carbon copy effort at the other end. Saints had a goal ruled out when Ramirez shoved Koscielny in the back whilst collecting Cork`s through ball. But the match rather trickled away in the unconvincing fashion in which it had been played as Arsenal never looked genuinely like scoring. Save for perhaps when Gibbs got behind Southampton`s defence in the 89th minute, but saw his cutback cleared inside the box. Displays such as this are becoming the norm away from home now. Villa, Stoke, Everton, Manchester United, Bradford, Norwich and Wigan. All games in which we struggle to create anything of note. Few of those sides had to work terribly hard to stifle us. Lest we forget that the defence we faced yesterday was torn apart by Gervinho in the reverse fixture. Arsene Wenger insinuated after the game that he would be active in January and he needs to be, because this team really needs a spark from somewhere. LD.

31.BORUC, 18.CORK, 3.YOSHIDA, 6.FONTE (c), 23.SHAW, 20.DO PRADO ( Ridder `83), 8.S.DAVIS, 4.SCHNEIDERLIN, 42.PUNCHEON, 10.RAMIREZ (11.Ward-Prowse `77), 7.LAMBERT (9.Rodriguez `74). Unused: 1.K.Davis, 5.Hooiveld, 22.Richardson, 24.Mayuka.

1.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN (c), 28.GIBBS, 8.ARTETA, 10.WILSHERE, 19.S.CARZOLA (16.Ramsey `74), 15.CHAMBERLAIN (27.Gervinho `74), 9.PODOLSKI (12.Giroud '580, 14.WALCOTT. Unused: 4.Mertesacker, 7.Rosicky, 22.Coquelin, 36.Martinez.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday January 2 2013
Time: 9:43AM


Happy New Year all. I can't work out whether it's the quality of the squad or the way we're managed that's the problem. We look a 5th/6th place side to be honest. I don't get the point of having Coquelin in the squad if you never play him. How on earth is he going to get better if it's now January and he hardly plays? If he's not good enough to play, why on earth is he at AFC?
02/01/2013 10:08:00
At least Sagna wasn't reluctant to use his weaker foot in attempting to clear, but scuffed, a ball he did well to read. Maybe he should have used his stronger foot to have given Szczesny a chance to use his stronger foot. It seems a reluctance to use the wrong foot at times can be justified. I'm also a little perplexed at Wenger's reluctance to use Rosicky in the last few games. I would've thought that his experience coming off the bench at such key moments might prove more decisive than any talented youngster. Maybe our fragile Little Mozart is still not fully tuned but if not why have him on the bench?
02/01/2013 10:10:00
haha Sagna deserves absolutely no praise for their goal at all. Very similar to the goal at Goodison as well. We were there for the taking yesterday, Wenger said he hoped we hadn't underestimated them, well I certainly do as well Arsene, considering how many times we've done it in the past, we'd have thought with an experienced team like we have you'll be able to manage that out of them.
02/01/2013 10:36:00
My argument would be that players should simply work at getting stronger on their weaker foot. Worked out alright for a certain Dutch striker. The reluctance to use Rosicky has been odd because, if anything, I'd be looking at ways to start him, let alone as a sub.
Little Dutch
02/01/2013 10:42:00
I imagine Sagna would be quite pleased not to receive any praise for their goal - it's criticism for it he'd be more concerned with. They're a reasonably well organised side at home but unfortunately I don't think we underestimated them. If only it were that simple. Sadly we're just not that strong a team at present - especially in midfield where we have plenty of fetchers and carriers but few creators. Even more evident when Cazorla ends up playing too deep trying to get some possession behind a front line that doesn't always excel at keeping possession and using the ball well in the final third.
02/01/2013 10:56:00
Players should most definitely work on improving their weaker foot but while a forward getting it wrong on his weaker foot just means another unsuccessful attempt such decisions can be magnified if a defender gets it wrong.
02/01/2013 11:01:00
I don't agree that we don't have a team capable of comfortably turning over Southampton on a slick, passing pitch. I do agree that we're not that strong anymore, but we definitely are strong enough to turn in some better performances than some of our shocking away days this Autumn/Winter
02/01/2013 11:14:00
I think it's about time Jenkison got a run out. Sagna hasn't been that great, and Jenks is one player you can count on to give it his all no matter what. The performance yesterday was hideous, I'm nt sure what it is, but we need to come up with a way to not be so s*** away from home. Whether it be the fault of the tactics or players I'm unsure, but something needs to change.
02/01/2013 11:22:00
Slick, passing or 'unctuous' pitch? No one else has managed to 'comfortably' turn them over at St Mary's this season except Wigan perhaps in their first home game. Sadly if we were strong enough to consistently produce better performances we would have done so. We aren't so we haven't. No reason why we can't get better but the midfield/forward line still isn't where it needs to be at present. It'l take a season or two to get there though.
02/01/2013 11:29:00
Jenks is a whole hearted enthusiastic kid who may well be really good in a couple of seasons but we have such players in too many positions at the moment. The team is significantly better when Sagna plays. Maybe there'll come a time when Jenks should take over but it won't be anytime this season.
02/01/2013 11:32:00
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