Arsenal's All Saints' Day Party
1st January 2014 3 pm
There wasn't much between Arsenal and Southampton today which is an admission that shouldn't be too reassuring despite Southampton's bright start to the season. Once again we were obliged to not just tinker with the line up but field a permutation which looked experimental.
I'm not sure how many times Chambers and Coquelin had been paired together as a central midfield partnership but I'm guessing not that often before this week's training session. Nevertheless up until they scored we'd had slightly the better of the play with Forster having to make 4 saves albeit mainly shots from distance. Southampton though, throughout the game in fact, fashioned more chances inside the box than we did. Though overall goal attempts were more or less equal in number the Saints created 10 inside the penalty area to our 5. This may have been the consequence of fielding a front line that prefers to run into the box rather than establish a presence for others to play off but we went with what we had and on the day it just wasn't enough. Not because we failed to control the ball or were denied possession or were shut out entirely but while we threw in plenty of crosses, over reliant on them really, comparatively few found their targets - if there were any.
It's perhaps to Southampton's credit that they pushed our attack into areas which didn't suit the forward resources we had and suited their defensive resources perfectly. Having gifted them the first goal we became increasingly more reliant on speculative crosses throughout the rest of the game as we failed to find any truly penetrative attack. We were left with what Cazorla and Sanchez might create as individuals and Southampton were too settled and too well drilled to allow such prayers to be answered.
Having failed to cover the line when Szczesny vacated it for the first goal the second was probably even more of a gift. I guess Szczesny elected to try to clear the ball for the second fearing it might have been seen as a back pass. Perhaps he was just unlucky that his clearance found its way to Tadic but the feeling is that it was poor decision making between defenders and keeper. Either way while it might have made the game more comfortable for Southampton we didn't really look as though we were going to create a meaningful chance. The second goal allowed them to sit back and play long obliging our midfield to run back chasing theirs.
Some will doubtless be looking to the transfer window to add resources but while we need more quality in particular areas adding more resources won't solve this season's struggle to field a stable and consistent side. In the short term it may just exacerbate the problem. Whatever we achieve this season will be down to the players we already have. We just have to have them available.
The bare stats for this game might give the impression of a close encounter as the number of chances, attempts on target, corners won, possession all tell a story of effort and industry - but not of effectiveness. On the day Southampton were more effective and this game was won by the team that made the fewest mistakes.
Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain - hardly a faultless performance but didn't hide and had more touches, dribbles and, from midfield, more passes than anyone else.