Arsenal v Saints Afterthoughts
I am sure not to be the only one who isn’t too sad Arsenal are already out of the League Cup. Yes a great competition to blood the youngsters – I still have great memories of witnessing Arsenal putting Sheffield United 6-0 to the sword – but also an added pressure on Wenger and the team.
The media regard Arsenal as their favourite potential banana-skin victims, and so our cup games often end up being televised. As a result, Arsene often opts to play a stronger team than needed, even though I am sure he does not rate the competition very much, which could easily lead to fatigue or injuries to key players. For example, in yesterday’s game we risked Alexis and Jack, who both could have done with a break after a hectic, intense start of the season. But Wenger had to match the strength of the Saints’ defence to some extent in order to avoid a potentially humiliating outcome.
I watched the game on a half-decent stream and really enjoyed it. Both teams played some very good football, both tactically and technically.
Almost all of us would love Arsene to buy a really solid, beast of a DM and if you, like me, enjoy the art of midfield defending, you will also have wetted yourself from watching both Wanyama, and especially Schneiderlin, bossing proceedings through large parts of the game.
Still, during the first 20-30 minutes the best midfielder on the pitch was our very own Abou Diaby.
He was strong and incisive, sprayed passes around and produced a couple of exquisite through-balls, and during that time he and Wilshere were in charge. Is it fair to say that Arsenal started to wilt from the moment Diaby lost that initial drive and power?
I, for one, strongly felt that as soon as the Saints levelled from the penalty spot, we would end up losing this game. Somehow, our opponent wanted it more on the night, or was it just that their line-up was stronger?
I reckon we gradually lost the battle in midfield as both Wanyama (calm, organised, strong, disciplined) and Schneiderlin (energetic, seeks the one to one battles, good positioning) gradually took control of the midfield.
After their stunning second goal, Southampton showed great team composure by both breaking up our build up play from the back and putting up a formidable defence if and when we managed to get to the area in front of their box. There was almost no way through, and without a strong presence of a (holding) striker in the box – Podolski is not that sort of forward – and Rosicky and Campbell struggling to impose themselves on the game, we were simply not strong enough to hurt the Saints on the night. We had our chances but not many, and if and when they arrived our players felt pressure to not miss them…
For me, that was the game in a nutshell.
I should repeat what I said yesterday, that Alexis was impressive and his goal was simply sublime. Our defence played well: Ospina oozed calm and, in my view, could not have saved the Cline screamer. Bellerin is making progress and gaining confidence, Chambers looked solid and composed, Hayden did well too and Coquelin did surprisingly well as our LB.
Campbell struggled quite a bit in the first half, but had a good spell early on in the second half (I guess Wenger had a word with him). Rosicky was rusty and tried to overcompensate this with his drive, and he will not be impressed with himself after giving away a cheap penalty. Pod is an impact sub and cannot lead the line for us; there is not much more to it imo. A real shame we did not see much of Akpom, but let’s hope he will have some time in the first team soon.
Although the competition does not mean much to me, I still feel a bit down. It’s not because we lost the game, or we are now out of the competition, or even that it felt all the way we were not going to win it on the night. No, I guess it is to do with those performances of Wanyama and Schneiderlin for the Saints, and the fact that they are not ours, and that they made the difference on the night.
Written by: TotalArsenal.