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Post Match Review

Post-Match Reaction: Three Things We Learned from Arsenal v Southampton

It’s hard to initially analyze a match in a one-off scenario. Typically, you look at the games in groups and the facts are that in the last 4 games Arsenal have looked woefully feeble.

Arsenal didn’t look terrible last night and if it were just a single game you’d be willing to write it off as such. Sadly, it isn’t and it has left the Arsenal fan base just as divided as it has ever been.

So with all that in mind we take a look at the three things we learned last night.

Santi Cazorla is sorely missed.

If it wasn’t already apparent the lack of the Spaniard has hurt Arsenal in its overall game. One of Santi’s many skills is the ability to start Arsenal off in transition from defending to attack. His ability to carry the ball from deep and retain possession help carry the ball forward and drive the team into the attacking half. Add to that his ability to know when to and where to make the right pass or hold the ball resorts in Arsenal having more purposeful possession going forward.

No one in the Arsenal squad right now has that ability to do what Santi does. Last night when we won the ball deep in our zone we’d look to pass it out usually with a poor pass that resulted in either an interception or the receiving player not getting a good touch resulting in a turn over. In most cases it put Arsenal under pressure immediately.

One of the most frustrating things is that for all of our possession we’re not doing anything with it. Alexis is just back and will offer some of that. Özil is drawing 2-3 men around him per game now and can’t be the only one to do anything. When Santi is in the squad it adds that extra dimension to our play that is not there and we are suffering for it.

The Title Run Isn’t Dead, but. . .

It’s on life support. We’re still within 5 of the top with all to play for. If this were March and this run were happening – I’d say the title run is done and dusted. But we are in the start of February. If we dissect the season and look at the arcs of it. We haven’t been in this position in years.

Typically, we are out of the title race by late October. We go on a false dawn run from October to December. We then stumble through January – neither winning nor losing. And come February we go on a run that lasts until the end of the season. Really most of the last 5+ seasons have all netted out this way. Sure there is an outlier or two but it’s the Arsenal model lately.

During the run of the season, it had to be expected that this kind of dip would happen. Sadly, it’s happened at the worst time. But it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the season.  Arsenal are still getting healthy and we’ll have options we didn’t have over the last month. Players like Alexis and Coquelin need to get reacclimated to the squad. Alexis for his part looked like he was making significant strides towards that last night.

When we look at our season run we always look solely at ourselves. It’s what we do. We assume that we’re crap and no one else will get a crappy run. If history AND this season teach us anything, that’s a pretty myopic view. We know Arsenal will right the ship (whether it’s too little too late remains to be seen), and we know that other teams will wobble. To write off the title now is absurd . . . just.

Sometimes you have to applaud the opposition

For my part I watch each match I can twice. The initial time is watched with pure emotion, the subsequent time to try and objectively (I do try) to look at a match and take it in. It’s part of my education as coach. That aside, when I looked at the match again last night it’s hard to not to stand up and applaud the performance of Fraser Forster.

He got pummeled with shots some that looked like surefire goals and he kept his net empty. In hockey they call that standing on your head and Forster definitely did that. He was exceptional.

Özil’s chance in the first half looked destined for the net but he managed to get across and get his hand on the ball.

It’s fair game to criticize our team when a run of results isn’t going our way but sometimes you just have to doff your cap to the opposition and applaud their effort. Arsenal were the better team last night and if not for the heroics of Forster Arsenal should’ve walked away with all three points.

Extra Time

Flamini does my head in. Twice last night I saw a pass to him that he just stayed planted in his spot and let a Southampton player latch onto and attack the center backs. In each case we were lucky. Go back to the Chelsea match and just before the Per tackle – Willian has the ball and rather than pressure the ball Flamini goes backwards allowing space to Willian to make the through ball. It’s clear he doesn’t read the game well at all. And then there is his wild, unorthodox style of play.

Arsene – get Coquelin back in there starting quickly!!

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