The curse of St. Mary’s continues for the Gunners as we slumped to a shocking 4-0 defeat against Southampton yesterday. We have now failed to win against the Saints at home for four consecutive seasons, ever since their promotion to the Premier League. And this season’s defeat was the worst of them all, particularly since no one saw it coming – after all, Arsenal were second in the League while Southampton were languishing in the bottom half of the table.
None of that made a difference however, as our players looked like a shadow of themselves all night and got bullied around by the Saints midfield. Watching the game, it was tough to pick out any positives for Arsenal at all, so bad was the overall quality of play by the team. This loss, while hopefully just a minor blip on the season, cannot be explained away by player fatigue or tactical errors; it was a complete failure across every single facet of the game.
Right from the start, we failed to impose ourselves on the game. The team was obviously set up to attack, as the forward runs of Bellerin and Monreal implied, but we struggled to hold on to any sort of possession and the full backs going forward left our defence even more exposed. In central defence, it was a nightmare display from both Mertesacker and Koscielny, who have been one of the most reliable pairings in the League this season. To cap it off, Ozil was pushed out of the game by a determined Southampton midfield and our attack never managed to recover from that.
There are several things that need to be analysed by the manager before the next game, in particular the fact that the players appeared to be jaded. Maybe they got overconfident, especially following Leicester’s loss early in the day. Whatever the reason, we need to get it fixed right away ahead of tomorrow’s game against Bournemouth, which will hopefully see us return to winning ways once more.
Here are our player ratings for yesterday:
Petr Cech – 5.0
The keeper had a nightmarish outing yesterday, as his defence imploded spectacularly in front of him. There was really little he could do about the first two or three goals, but the fourth goal was something Cech would have saved nine times out of ten normally. It showed how heavily the team had been impacted mentally that he let it go through between his legs.
Hector Bellerin – 5.0
Went forward frequently, but failed to make an impact on the attack. Meanwhile, the Saints capitalised on the gaps at the back in his absence.
Per Mertesacker – 3.5
Got off to a decent start, but it was all downhill from there for the German, as he failed to impose himself on the ground and in the air. With Flamini unable to fulfill his defensive duties, Mertesacker was exposed time and again by the pace of the Saints. There is always a risk when playing a high line with Mertesacker in the side, and we saw the consequences of that yesterday.
Laurent Koscielny – 3.0
Kos has been hands down the best defender in the Premier League this season, but looked like a Sunday League player yesterday. He seemed to have trouble staying on his feet, and was very very sloppy throughout the game. Simply outplayed by Shane Long.
Nacho Monreal – 5.5
Marginally better than his teammates at the back, but still far from his usual self. The Spaniard struggled as he was often outnumbered on his flank, and couldn’t keep up with the rampaging Long and Sadio Mane.
Mathieu Flamini – 4.0
The veteran Frenchman had a good outing against Manchester City, but I had said that he was not quite up to the mark. He showed his weaknesses today, as he was unable to perform his role at all. He struggled against the Saints midfield, ran out of stamina too soon and was totally ineffective as a cover to Per and Kos.
Aaron Ramsey – 5.5
Like his partner Flamini, Ramsey struggled to contribute defensively, which is where Arsenal needed the most help. Going forward, he had a few good touches, but gave away the ball too easily on a regular basis.
Mesut Ozil – 6.0
Ozil was still the best player for Arsenal yesterday, which is not saying much considering how the rest of the team played. The German playmaker created a couple of chances early on, but faded from the game as Arsenal struggled to retain possession. He was superbly marshalled by the Saints midfield and it a testament to his quality as a player that he made any sort of impact at all.
Joel Campbell – 4.5
Hardly managed to get into the game at all. He tried to help out defensively on occasion, but it was too little too late.
Theo Walcott – 5.0
Walcott had an opportunity with a header early on, but missed. After that, he was largely anonymous until his substitution, struggling to get a touch on the ball despite all his effort.
Olivier Giroud – 4.0
A poor night for the Frenchman. He too missed an early opportunity, and was then stranded up the pitch as Arsenal were put under siege by Southampton. Was completely irrelevant for massive portions of the game, and one has to wonder if he could have helped the team out defensively instead.
Overall, it was certainly a disappointing result, considering the form that we have been in. It was also a great opportunity to go to the top of the table which we threw away. The players have a lot to answer for, since this sort of insipid display would be out of place in a League Cup game, let alone in the Premier League. However, it is still just one game, and provided that we get back on track with a victory against Bournemouth, then there is no reason to worry too much about the season as a whole.