Having not been able to get an acceptable stream on any device in my household (I possess one of the world’s oldest Dell laptops and my iPhone never plays ball with streaming from t’internet), I must confess that today’s blog is a little bit light when it comes to personal experience of the game.
Given that the result was not one in our favour, I’m not sure if that is actually a blessing in disguise, as we wake up this morning knowing that there is one less competition we can win than there was this time yesterday.
Whilst lack of viewing means any kind of effective analysis or post mortem over the defeat at the hands of Southampton is relatively redundant, what I can give you is the thoughts of somebody who is looking a little bit more in black and white at the result based on responses from people on Twitter, as well as the manager. I certainly don’t have the gnashing of teeth that I have had before after watching a defeat, or in recent weeks the performances against Leicester and Dortmund.
So what of yesterday’s result? First and foremost, the word that springs to my mind is ‘unfortunate’, because it’s a competition that we have a more realistic chance of winning than the Premier or Champions League. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, with the lack of defensive options we currently have, there’s no way in which we could have still been in all four competitions come February next year and managed to keep all of our key players fit. Rotation has to be the aim of the game and Arsène did the right thing by giving Per, Kos and Gibbs the night off.
What is unfortunate however, is that by the sounds of it, our offensive squad players hardly covered themselves in glory. Rosicky, Podolski and Campbell all had a chance to prove that they should be more in the managers thoughts than they are, yet the fact it was a only a superb Alexis finish from a dead ball position within 15 minutes that we had to show for our troubles come full time, shows that they clearly didn’t show what they are capable of. Goals are not everything, but from what I’ve read Rosicky and Podolski were particularly notable in their poor performances, whilst Joel Campbell’s quiet night will have a lot of Gooners wondering if we have a Costa Rican Carlos Vela. Although admittedly he did love this competition and scored a few decent goals in it too.
It’s the fact that the squad players didn’t perform which worries me more than the actual result. If we’d have lost on penalties after a 4-4 draw in which all of the forward players had scored there’d probably be more cause for optimism, yet our laboured attacking play makes you wonder if beyond the first 13 or 14 players that regularly play for the first team, we have enough quality to cover if another injury crisis sets in at the pointy end of the team.
But perhaps snap-judgements should not be the Soupe de jour and we should accept that it was an off night for Arsenal. Let’s not forget that this wasn’t a League One side we were up against. Southampton are once again surprising everybody and with the way Koeman has them playing at the moment, I think they’ll be a top 10 Premier League side come May, easily. A penalty and wonder strike aside, the teams appear evenly matches and when Southampton next visit the Emirates in the league, we won’t be taking the opponents lightly in any way, shape or form.
Back to the squad rotation worry, and there’s part of me that wonders if the fact some of these players aren’t played enough (we all know Arsène isn’t a fan of rotation), makes a difference in performances like this. After all, being asked to play 90 minutes after you’ve barely featured as a sub could perhaps lead you to being slightly off-key on a night like last nights. Maybe I’m being too lenient, but if Arsène rotated a little more game-by-game, maybe we’d have seen a different Rosicky or Podolski? Genuinely not sure with that one.
So it’s hardly the best preparation for the weekends NLD, but hopefully it won’t affect the players’ confidence too much, because the likelihood is that Wenger will make wholesale changes to his team. Worryingly, he spoke of slight knocks to Mertesacker from the weekend, but he did say that he should be ok. At this point I’m sure you’re rolling my eyes at the prospect of some of our defenders already being ‘on the edge’, but given that I’m becoming a bit of a broken record on the defensive deficiencies in depth, I won’t labour the point too much. Suffice to say I hope you are crossing everything every week to ensure that we have our defenders remain fit until at least January.
Before I sign off for the day, there’s one point Arsène did mention in his post-match press conference, which was about having Diaby as a defensive minded midfielder. It’s an interesting comment because he has all of the physical attributes to play that role, but given his propensity for an injury or seven, I do find it surprising that Arsène is talking up a man like Diaby to play a role in which you’ve got to be a bit robust in ball winning. It also means that Diaby would have to curb his natural instinct to galivant forward to support the attacking players. We’ll also have to be wary as fans that we attach too much hope that he can fill the gap that exists in defensive midfield. This is a guy who has all too often broken down so quickly he has barely put together a run of five games, so to expect him to be anything else other than injured in a months time (as sad as that would be), would be to ignore his previous. But hey, maybe I’ll be proven wrong and he’ll be the missing link that spearheads our title challenge.
Just don’t put any of your hard-earned cash on it.