’80’s Hip-Hop collective De La Soul laid down some lyrics that seem very relevant right now for Gooners.
Three, is the magic number.
Now, it wasn’t quite ‘magic’, but the number three conspired to rob Arsenal of three points and put a rather ugly dent in our title challenge.
1 – Lee Mason was the match official for this game and his decisions bordered on the farcical at times. Several Southampton players had made five or six fouls which went unpunished but Francis Coquelin makes a five minute cameo and he is booked almost instantaneously. The referee was so bad that he was highlighted by none other than Arsenal-hater and Sky Sports pundit Phil Thompson for his awful decisions. Lee Mason was certainly a factor
2 – Fraser Forster. The England goalkeeper seemed to be imbued with the talents and spirit of Lev Yashin as he repeatedly made saves that defied the laws of physics. Not satisfied with merely keeping Arsenal at bay, he chose to be a one-man wall as he saved from Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud, Koscielny and Walcott, sometimes saving twice from the same man – most notably his double save from playmaker Ozil. The giant keeper is the latest goalkeeper to represent a worrying trend that is rearing its ugly head again now it comes to crunch time in the league. Every team who opposes Arsene Wenger’s men on the pitch can count on their man with the gloves having the game of his life and nigh-on single-handedly keeping a clean sheet. The last four games for Arsenal have resulted in exactly zero goals. Some of this has been down to profligacy, some has been down to the goalkeeper having a wonderful game. Forster, after suffering a horror ACL injury last season, looks to be back to his best.
3 – Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey cannot play together. The diminutive Frenchman gives his all for the team but in brutal honesty, his talents mean he should be nowhere near the first team. He should be summoned from the bench if required to close out a game for the last ten to fifteen minutes, but to command a starting berth whilst we contend for the title is a mistake. Compounding that error is playing Aaron Ramsey alongside the Frenchman. Ramsey likes to rove upfield and aid the attack, so needs a player with a strong positional discipline. Flamini lacks this in droves. Ramsey then, should rein in his attacking instincts and use his incredible stamina to aid our defensive effort. He doesn’t do this. It seems that at this current time, Aaron Ramsey is best suited to the right hand spot – the position he has openly declared his distaste for – and until he can adapt his game, then Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin will continue to be first choice.
So, three reasons why we failed to score and keep the pressure on our rivals. Three reasons why our North London neighbours are now level on points with us.
There are other factors of course. Theo Walcott has shown in bursts what he can be capable of, and that is what makes him perhaps the most frustrating player in our squad currently. The England speedster has always lacked consistency, but now he lacks confidence, he looks a shadow of the player who is capable of terrorising the best defenders. At this rate, he struggles to make the bench.
Southampton will have left The Emirates basking in the glow of a job well done. They had their chances too, Pelle and Tadic were unfortunate to find Cech equal to their efforts, but with four points from the two games against each other – Ronald Koeman can be pleased. They now sit in seventh spot and haven’t conceded in their last four games. Their rocky patch has been overcome it would seem.
Arsenal are suffering their second sketchy period this season. The results in the last four games haven’t been of title contending standard. Arsene Wenger relied upon Theo Walcott ably aiding Olivier Giroud in the goal stakes to fire Arsenal to the title. Instead of signing a striker, he knew that Walcott had the talent to score enough goals for Arsenal to succeed. Unfortunately, Walcott has been missing this season.
Arsene Wenger has the best chance to win the League that he has had since Eduardo suffered that horrific injury. He will be more than aware of this. We simply cannot continue to look to the next game to capitalise, as the games are running out. We have the players, but they are underperforming. We have the motivation, but we aren’t showing it.
There are bright spots. Manchester City don’t look particularly convincing and Leicester City – although they deserve to be where they currently are and are playing some fantastic football – haven’t suffered with injuries nor a sticky spell. We can live in hope.
Time to shape up. Otherwise changes must be made.