Being unpredictable is so predictable for Arsenal. You just never know what you’re going to get with this team once they take to the pitch. Their 1-1 draw in Southampton on New Year’s Day was a prime example of this. They’re basically consistently inconsistent and with the aid of an own goal and one which was disallowed they managed to remain unbeaten in their last five league games. However, their four-game winning streak was snapped and two valuable points against one of the Premier League’s weak sisters were dropped.
Southampton looked the better of the two sides in this holiday encounter and didn’t resemble the squad that Arsenal thumped 6-1 back in September. Gaston Ramirez put the Saints ahead in the 34thminute after a brutal clearance by Bacary Sagna landed right on the feet of Jason Puncheon who then set up Ramirez in the box. It didn’t last long though as the Gunners leveled things at 1-1 just seven minutes later when a Theo Walcott free kick was inadvertently knocked into the Southampton goal by Guilherme Do Prado. It was Walcott’s first game back in Southampton since leaving the club in 2006. Ex-Saint Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also started the match.
Southampton pressed to earn all three points, but the closest they came was when Ramirez fired the ball into the net, but had it disallowed because of a foul in the buildup. Arsenal should have shot from just about anywhere on the pitch after the game got underway since Southampton keeper Artur Boruc couldn’t catch a cold and the ball kept slipping through his fingers or off the end of his boot every time he attempted to catch or kick it. It was his first match since back on Oct. 28 and it certainly showed, but the Gunners managed just one shot on target during the match.
However, he settled down eventually and Arsenal didn’t create much in the way of offense. They did manage to beat Boruc once when Walcott drilled a shot passed him in the first half, but it was rightly ruled offside. Southampton had the better chances, but Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny was solid and made several good saves. After the game Wenger said he was disappointed in the team and the lack of chances that were created.
He added that he hopes to be active during the now-open transfer window, but ruled out a move for Thierry Henry, the Gunners all-time leading scorer. It’s believed Henry’s American club, the New York Red Bulls, would rather have him rested and ready for the MLS season which gets underway in March. It also looks like Wenger will have to meet Walcott’s contract demands now too because losing him would seriously hurt the team’s chances of finishing in fourth place.
With the top three teams winning on New Year’s Day, Manchester United, Man City, and Spurs, the Gunners dropped two points to all of them and find themselves in fifth place with 34 points. They’re four behind Chelsea (who have a game in hand), five behind Spurs, 11 behind City and 18 behind United. The good news is they have a game in hand on the top three as well as on West Brom, who trails them by a point.
The Gunners next game is an FA Cup clash at Swansea on Sunday. This is a crucial match if they hope to win any silverware this year considering they were recently embarrassed by Bradford City in the League Cup.
Player Ratings Jan. 1 vs Southampton
Wojciech Szczesny 8
Had a fine game and was called upon a few times to earn Arsenal the point.
Bacary Sagna 5
His terrible clearance led to Southampton’s goal and he had a poor game overall. If he doesn’t shape up it’ll be time to take him out of the lineup and give Carl Jenkinson a shot.
Laurent Koscielny 5.5
He didn’t clear the ball before the Southampton goal when he had the chance, but other than that miscue he was ok.
Thomas Vermaelen 6
Did his job adequately, but not much else
Kieran Gibbs 6
Was one of the better Gunners on the day, at least defensively.
Mikel Arteta 6
A steady performance as usual.
Jack Wilshere 6
Not one of his better games as he appeared to tire as the game wore on.
Santi Cazorla 6
Like Wilshere, he wasn’t at his usual best. Came off after 74 minutes.
Lukas Podolski 5
Was mostly invisible and he needs to get more involved. Came off after 58 minutes.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 6
Wasn’t too bad, he made a few good crosses early in the game, but faded after that. Came off after 74 minutes.
Theo Walcott 6.5
Walcott didn’t get much service. His free kick led to the goal and he beat keeper Boruc with a fine strike, but was ruled offside.
Olivier Giroud 5.5
Came on in the 58th minute for Podolski. Wasn’t given much in the way of service either, but when he did get the ball he didn’t really know what to do with it.
Aaron Ramsey 5.5
Came on in the 74th minute for Cazorla. Was mediocre at best.
Came on in the 74th minute for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Not sure why this guy is still with the team to be honest. He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn let alone the goal. Makes Arshavin look like an all star compared to him.