So yesterday Arsenal traveled to Southampton for a tough fixture in which would give us a chance of going four points clear at the top of the table until Chelsea and Man City play today where one of, if not both, will probably win. The boss made a number of changes to the side, bringing in Monreal over Gibbs and Arteta back into midfield due to Wilshere picking up an ankle knock. The decision to play Gnabry over Podolski had me baffled because although Serge has been playing well, Lukas got two goals at the weekend and his experience would have been welcomed in such a match.
I didn’t manage to catch the second half due to getting fed up of streaming issues but I watched the first, and from what I saw we played awful. Southampton completely outplayed us, we couldn’t keep the ball, we looked nervous and it was inevitable that they’d go onto score really. Unfortunately it came in controversial circumstances where in my opinion, a blatant foul was committed on Monreal. Now, I know Monreal isn’t the strongest of types but the fact of the matter is you cannot use another player to boost your leap, it’s the rules. Fonte climbed on Monreal’s back, so that is therefore a foul. I don’t want to hear excuses either or pointing the blame at Monreal, it’s a foul by clear definition of the rules.
Now don’t get me wrong, Southampton deservedly led 1-0 at the break and I’d have preferred they’d have not got that goal and perhaps scored one of their other fair chances, but at times like that you’d think the referee or his assistant would offer more protection. Hey ho, home advantage and all that.
The second half I missed but we came out a different side. We scored a goal within minutes, with Sagna (if I remember correctly) feeding the ball to Giroud who very cheekily flicked it between his legs and into the far post. It was a lovely goal, both a mix of fantastic strength and classy flair. No more than ten minutes later, we got our second, with the ball coming across to Santi Cazorla he very neatly placed it in the bottom left corner.
At this point you felt that Arsenal would go on to deliver a positive result and performance, making amends for their abysmal first half, however we completely let our concentration slip as minutes later Lallana went on to score and make it 2-2. Looking at the goal I can’t help but feel Szczesny should have done a little bit better but really the blame should sit with the team. They all fell asleep and gifted an opportunity to Southampton, so we can’t really blame the Pole, he did what he could.
For the rest of the game Arsenal pressed and pressed and you could feel a change in the tide coming but which way was unknown. I had a gut feeling we’d get a red card and literally two minutes later we did. Our sublime Flamini went in two-footed to win the ball and was given a straight red for violent conduct. Now he did get the ball, it wasn’t in any way high and the opposing player came out unscathed, however there’s absolutely no place in the game for that kind of tackle. I’m a firm believer of punishment for two-footed and/or reckless tackles, so the card is justified for me.
Perhaps the disappointing thing is that Flamini has been an absolute beast this season, hardly making a mistake. However when you consider he’s 29-years-old, turning 30 in March, you’d think he’d have more experience to know you cannot make challenges like that. He let the team down and killed any chances of us getting the three points. Fortunately we managed to see out the game and hold onto the draw, but it wasn’t enough, we needed a win.
We’re now two points at the top with Man City two points behind us and Chelsea just three points, with both having a game in hand. If Man City win or draw tonight against Tottenham, they go above us by two points or on goal difference and if Chelsea win by more than one goal, they go above us on goal difference too. So in one result, we’ve gone from top, to third, it’s that damn close at the top.
The boss gave his usual post-match conference and highlighted much of the same I’ve addressed such as Southampton’s first goal, the overall performance and the Flamini red card. He said ‘it’s a difficult point but a fair one’ and you can’t help but agree. Southampton didn’t deserve to lose, we didn’t deserve to win and there’s no shame in taking a point. Heck, City did the same and everybody is raving on about them, Liverpool even lost here, so why so much drama?
I gotta say it was outright embarrassing, shameful and just frustrating seeing so much negativity and doom and gloom from our fans all over Twitter. It’s dramatisation at it’s finest when #WengerOut is trending. The guy has managed to get us top of the league on peanuts against sides with unlimited resources and the fan base is still not fucking happy. Grow the fuck up, it’s actually pathetic. You’re supposed to fucking support, so SUPPORT. Not criticise, complain and scrutinise at every given opportunity.
I’m personally still feeling very optimistic. I look at our remaining fixtures, where I see nine games as winnable if we deliver a professional and focused performance, that’s a total of 27 points, taking our tally to 79 for the season. That leaves Liverpool away, Man Utd at home, Tottenham away, Chelsea away, Man City at home and Everton away to try and pick up as many points as possible to win the league. I think realistically we can win at Tottenham and Everton and hopefully United at home. That’s nine points, taking us to 88, which would almost certainly win us the league.
Of course, Liverpool away, Chelsea away and City at home are all three games that won’t be easy but generally we do well against Liverpool and also City at home, so perhaps we can win those too.
So let’s be realistic, let’s be optimistic and let’s be honest – the season isn’t over yet. There’s still 15 games to play for, a huge 45 points and a title at the end of it. We can definitely still win the league, we just need to keep on going, keep on working and keep getting those three points on the board. Who knows what might happen if it does?