I didn’t get to see the game live but caught the extended highlights of the game on Sky Spors last night. From what I saw, Arsenal were poor in the first half, stepped it up in the second and almost snatched all 3 points. Southampton bossed the first 45 minutes, let Arsenal back into it and then finished strongly.
When Mathieu Flamini got sent off in the 79th minute the score was carefully poised at 2-2 and once we went down to 10 men the most important thing was not to go home with nothing.
The fact is Arsenal were sloppy in the first half. Players were giving the ball away, passes were going straight to Southampton players and nothing was coming off. We weren’t making decisive runs, players weren’t moving for each other and Southampton completely deserved their lead. And if it wasn’t for Szczesny it could have been worse.
The response after the break though was perfect.
Olivier Giroud scored a beautiful back flick from a Bacary Sagna cross 3 minutes after the interval and only 4 minutes later Santi Cazorla scored a well-placed shot into the corner to give us the lead.
Deserved? On the balance of play up to that point probably not, but to come out in the second half all guns blazing and claim the lead was a sign of the mentality potential champions possess.
It’s a cliche but they say you’re the most vulnerable after you’ve scored and less than 2 minutes after taking the lead, Southampton equalised. You would think that if we just managed to calm things down after Santi’s goal and keep the ball for the next 10 minutes afterwards, we could have killed the game off.
But is it a disaster? Certainly not.
We sit 2 points ahead of Manchester City and 3 above Chelsea – two sides who have had massive financial backing and spent about 20 times as much as we have on player transfers over the last few seasons.
Yes, they can go above us tonight with favourable results but they also play each other on Monday and at least one team has to drop points. We can also reclaim top spot on Sunday with a good result and performance against Crystal Palace the day before.
The fact is our performance levels may have dropped recently but we’ve been playing badly and still getting results. The draw against Southampton isn’t the start of a “downward spiral” as everyone suggests. We have some killer fixtures coming up against Liverpool (twice), Manchester United, Bayern Munich and so on but we haven’t turned into a terrible side over night.
The only concerns I have at the moment are the left-back position, and in midfield. Monreal had a shocker last night and you could tell it affected Mertesacker, Koscielny and Sagna’s confidence. And of course in midfield Wilshere is injured, Ramsey is out for 6/7 more weeks and Flamini got sent off meaning he’ll miss a few games. I’m not sure when Rosicky is back, so Arsene is going to have to find a system that includes Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski and Santi Cazorla.
With characters like Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Mikel Arteta in the side, you know that they will busting a gut to make sure the team bounces back from this draw and get a positive result in the next game. And when you have a setback like this, that’s all you can ask for.
We might have some tough fixtures coming up, but these are the games we live for and we have to have faith in the team and Arsene’s philosophy.