Saints v Arsenal Afterthoughts
No eight positives from me today fine fellow Gooners. Instead a bit of perspective and an an attempt to take this one on the chin and swiftly move on.
Let’s face it, this was a disappointing result that puts our feet firmly back on the ground. And the latter is the positive we can take out of this game. We all know that Arsenal are often at their weakest after a big win, but we appeared to have overcome such frailties this season. It did not help that we had to play away on Boxing Day – there was only one away win, and six home wins in today’s PL games – against a team hungry for a win but not expected to beat us. A more clever person than me could put all of this in some sort of formula: high Arsenal confidence after what looked like a season defining win last Monday versus playing an out of form team away that is hungry for a win but the supporters have low expectations = higher chance for us of to get beat.
Usually, our answer to these sort of challenges is playing at a high tempo from the start and not allow the home team to gain confidence and momentum. Alternatively, we absorb pressure for twenty minutes or so, and then start turning the screw on the opponent, slowly getting into our game and then pounce a couple of times in short succession.
I reckon the latter is what we tried to do today and we looked pretty much okay until Martina scored one of those goals we have all dreamed of a few times in our lives. It was a cracking goal that broke the deadlock but it was exactly what we did not want to happen. Koeman knows how to set up his team defensively and now we had to come out and take risks at the back. This is a dangerous approach against a team with willing, speedy runners and a pretty solid central midfield. And we lost the battle in midfield due to lack of energy, cohesion and invention. On top of that our wings were well blocked off, and we lacked our usual penetration from there. Yes the referee was a bit too lenient towards the overly physical approach by the Saints, but Wanyama and co were on top of their game and our midfielders were not.
The next goal would be decisive and it went deservedly to the home side, and after that it went only further downhill. The second goal gave the Saints wings and we didn’t looked like we were capable of turning the game round. Wenger’s options from the bench were extremely limited, with only inexperienced or low on confidence attacking options available. How different would it have been if we could have put Alexis, Wilshere, Welbeck, Coquelin or Rosicky on the pitch in the second half?
This is of course no real excuse for the lack of energy and leadership we displayed last night, and Wenger will need to use this game to refocus the mental side of the team. On the other hand, we should not stand still too long at this loss and see it as just one game of many in a busy period. Our next two games are winnable home games and real champions-to-be treat a loss like this as a bad day at the office and move on swiftly.
With our feet back on the ground and our pride hurt, the Gunners will be well up for the visit of giant killers Bournemouth.