Points dropped from the start for a change!

Instead of throwing away a two goal lead in a bitterly disappointing late collapse, Arsenal decided to change things up and give Southampton a two goal lead right from the start. Aaron Ramsdale got things started with a crazy pass in the general direction of Oleksandr Zinchenko. It was easily picked off by Carlos Alcaraz who waltzed past Thomas Partey and fired across the goal past the outstretched hand of the aforementioned Ramsdale.

Sensing that maybe they could get a result and save their season, Southampton decided to press their luck – literally. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, what’s been happening over the last few months is that teams are pressing Arsenal in possession and Arsenal are not responding well to that pressure – mentally or tactically. Like I’ve seen over the last few weeks, the opposition managers have decided to cut off the passing lanes wide on both sides of the pitch. This usually results in a battle or interception near the mid-way line. Which is how Southasmpto scored their third.

Southampton overloaded the right-side wide area and a panic pass to Partey (who ran like a clydesdale in treacle all afternoon) couldn’t catch up to the pass. Once he was so far out of possession there was a gaping hole in midfield. But that hole there still didn’t really let them score, that took a brain fart by Gabriel who was caught ball watching as Theo Walcott stole in behind him and scored with his first touch. It was a goal borne on the back of a bit of tactical pressure and a lot of mental pressure.

Zinchenko rallied the troops and called a team meeting. I’m sure he told them that they can still win this, and he was right, it was clear to see that Arsenal were going to be able to score three goals and possibly win this match. And right away, they got stuck in – Martinelli in particular started driving at the Southampton defense, time and again getting into great positions to cross or set up a shot.

The assist for Arsenal’s first came from the other side of the pitch, however, as Bukayo Saka rinsed his marker and got to the bye-line. It’s no surprise that the man on the end of that cross was Gabriele Martinelli who pumped the ball home off the volley.

From that point forward Arsenal were in the ascendancy. Arteta made a tactical change and had Partey drop into the back line to start plays, this opened things up and made it difficult for them to just press our wings. We were progressing the ball much easier now and I felt incredibly confident that we’d get the two goals needed to win the match. Martinelli was a terror and Gabriel Jesus kept popping up in dangerous positions. Southampton barely had even a look in at the Arsenal goal until they won a corner in the 65th minute. So, despite some rather glaring misses I felt confident of Arsenal getting a result.

Then Southampton scored.

Arsenal aren’t bad at set plays. They have scored 12 goals from set pieces (3rd in the league) and have conceded 7 (7th in the league). This isn’t a weakness under Arteta the way it was under Wenger but man, you will not see an easier set play goal than the one Southampton scored. Perhaps it’s Ward-Prowse and his extra flat delivery but Arsenal had no chance to get to the first ball and Zinchenko was caught ball-watching as Caleta-Car scored the easiest headed goal of his life. Zin has got to shield the man at the very least and possibly even make a jump to put the attacker off the ball. But he didn’t and they scored a third.

To Arsenal’s credit, they didn’t give up. I gave up at that point, but they didn’t. Arteta put on Bossard for Vieira, who had another dreadful game. I know he’s young and learning how to be part of the Arteta system but Vieira is almost always anonymous in his games. He does pop up once in a while with an assist but for the vast majority of his time on the pitch he’s not doing anything. It’s like he has an invisibility cloak. This isn’t a scapegoat of Vieira for this result, just an observation. We often talk about the “drop off” from Saliba to Holding and it’s a fair criticism but we don’t seem to mention the same or worse drop whenever Vieira is asked to play (for Xhaka and especially for Odegaard) so I’m mentioning it now.

With Trossard on the pitch Arsenal just started hammering at their goal wall. It wasn’t a question for me of if but when we would score the 2nd goal. Unfortunately it took far too long to come and it took a bit of a thunder strike from Ødegaard to get the breakthrough. From there it was a frenzy of activity from Arsenal. And a nutmeg pass, nutmeg shot, save block, and finally the third was poked home by Saka.

It’s a bitterly disappointing result (are there other types of disappointment? Sweet? Salty? Sour? Umami?) but of course the season’s not over. These sorts of things happen in football and especially in a run up to a championship. Let’s not forget that the first title that Man City purchased was won on the final day, with the final kick of the season. So, until it’s over, it’s not over (for me).

But I don’t want to tell you how to feel about football or this season. If you feel like the season is over and it’s all shit, I get that. That reminds me of Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. He was so incredibly negative about Arsenal in that 1989 season, complaining that we’d thrown it away and even going so far as to not want to watch the final game. But in the end, he celebrated. He celebrated so much that he wrote THE book about being an Arsenal (I’d go so far as to say it’s the definitive book about being a sports fan) supporter.

If you’re someone who only wants to support the team, I also get that. That reminds me of Maria Petri. She was the ultimate positive fan, never once criticizing the team (according to legend) and always cheering on the players. Ian Wright posted a video today saying pretty much the exact same thing. These folks are also wonderful to me, because I can’t really get into that headspace.

But what I will say is that telling other people how to be a “good” supporter or that your way is “the only logical one” doesn’t seem to do any good. Being a football supporter involves an incredible array of feelings. Some people cried at the 3-3 yesterday, me I was completely unfazed. Does that seem crazy to you? Probably. But that’s the reaction I had. You telling me I’m weird or wrong doesn’t change that for me. I’m sure there’ll be a game later on where I’m more upset than you are.

And one last thing on this. We all seem to have gotten to the point where we accept that the players and the managers have certain reactions to the game. I’ve seen it said thousands of times that the “players are going to have an emotional reaction” and that we should accept that. Well, the fans are also going to have an emotional reaction – and it might not be the one you want, like when Xhaka stormed off the pitch telling the fans to fuck off – you might consider just letting them have their reaction. And honestly, if someone is bothering you? Just disengage. Maybe come back later and engage with them and tell them it bothered you. Or don’t, just block, ignore, find someone else who matches your emotional color better. There are a shitload of ways to be a supporter and the good news is that there’s a blog/twitter/youtube/tiktok for every single expression.

On a positive note, with the point, Arsenal can say that they have qualified for the Champions League next season and we can celebrate St. Totteringham’s day. It’s like a trophy.



  1. Two points dropped, again. I think it was the way we approached the game, like it was already a W in the bag. Too cocky, and arrogant, almost disrespectful to teams at the bottom of the table. Well, guess what? They are fighting for survival, and they got pride. Arteta and Co. thought they would cruise to victory and already had City in their sights. Not so fast. Abysmal performances by some, specifically Ramsdale, Partey, and Vieira. All three could benefit from riding the bench for a bit but that is highly unlikely. P.S. Who does ESR have to kill to get some minutes?

    1. Re; ESR

      I have no clue what’s going on there. He was integral last season but picked up that injury and since then has struggled to get minutes. Arteta’s subs are often mysterious but I guess I could see an argument for bringing Nelson on instead of him since Nelson got us a winner a few games ago and nearly another one yesterday.

      I’m also not a fair judge of this since I like ESR and would like to see him get more minutes.

  2. I have been pretty understanding of Arteta’s subs and reluctant to criticize but I really question Vieira for this game. I think Trossard should have handled the 8, and the difference he made when he came on proved it. Control, movement and ability to calm things down. A big miss imo. I hate that we need City to stumble at this point. A win at the Etihad when we’re playing this way seems like a big ask. I’m reconciling with 2nd place, and very happy for it in the big scheme of things. But 3 from the last 9 points feels deeply disappointing.

  3. Playing like this, especially so late in the season, with so much as stake, is nothing to be proud of, sad to say. We should have sewn this up at Liverpool with a 2-0 lead, and instead we are in the land of buts, and what ifs, and dumb mistakes and weakness against the press and the overall pressure of a treasure-laden season.

    In other words, we are not ready for the big prize(s) just yet. Questions are, can we, will we, be ready next season? This is two years in a row when we’ve bottled it late on, and is this a thing, or part of our development as the most talented young team in England?

    1. Next season? Probably not, took us 7 years from Leicester city to get here. Except you’re juggernaut City, even Liverpool couldn’t sustain ‘football on steroids’ . When opportunities like this presents itself, you grab it with hands and feet plus i expect the usual suspects who’ve been shiite this season to perform better next.

      1. The reality is that clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea will be back in the top four race next season. You have us and City and Man U in that race and add in Newcastle and you have 6 into 4. I think Spurs are on the way out but they will probably fight for 6th, which puts more pressure on, and then you have other clubs who are playing really well like Brighton. It’s going to be a tough fight for the top of the table.

        1. Nagelsmann is tipped to join Spurs

          That might throw a spanner in our traditional St. Totteringham Day

          1. I don’t know. He’s a great coach but then so is Conte and despite how much I hate him Mourinho ain’t bad. Before that they had Pochettino who also is a good coach. I think that there’s a problem at that club and his name rhymes with Berry Pain.

  4. Happy St. Totteringham’s Day/Weekend indeed!
    At the very minimum, we are the one single club who have provided the league and the world with the highest level of entertainment this season.
    I’m sure the neutrals have loved watching the Arsenal this year.

    I’m firmly in the “f*ck whatever narrative surrounds the match/team/season” camp and watch each game in the present

    Even when I don’t know how to feel right after the match. Like against Liverpool and Southampton most recently

    It’s quite like sex. You’re always left breathless and sometimes emotionally recharged and sometimes emotionally drained, sometimes satisfied with the result, and sometimes disappointed with the result even when you didn’t lose. But you’re always ready to give it a shot the next time there’s an opportunity

  5. turned the tele on to see who was playing only to see spurs getting slapped 5-0 by newcastle…at halftime! lmao! it was like 4-0 in the first 20 minutes.

    coincidentally, i watched villa slap up newcastle last weekend but that’s not happening today. i mentioned in the previous thread that i was more concerned about the newcastle game than i was the man city game. i feel it’ just our luck that we’d find a way past man city only to blow it against newcastle. it’s what happened last season. i remember xhaka accusing some player(s) of playing scared after that game and i always thought he was talking about odegaard. we’ll see how the season works out.

    1. Love it. No matter our up and downs, we’ll always have S#&RS and St. Totteringham’s Day

  6. My younger brother, a United fan, likes speaking to people about football and then coming to hear my opinions on their comments, especially about Arsenal. At the beginning of this season, there were regular conversations, mid-season he wasn’t in touch as much, but now during this second half of the season it has been a phone call everyday. Especially these past few weeks.

    Now I get that we have dropped the ball these past 3 games, but what he tells me of other people breaking down over this situation and basically saying the season is over is sad to me. Also, the sheer delight from rival fans has shocked me as well. I don’t know how many times he has been told to ask me about my feelings towards bottling the league.

    I won’t lie, it kinda pisses me off a bit. I do not know if it is human nature to derive joy from someone else’s misery, but I have been surprised at how many people want to see a person unhappy.

    But I explained how I felt to him in this way:

    Say you have a son who is average at school. He usually passes with averages of 60%, so that will logically be your expectation for any upcoming school year. You hope he can do better, but you know his level. Now imagine he starts coming home with marks in the 90s. You obviously get excited, but keep your hopes in check. He shows up with more marks in the 90s during the year. You see his hard work and his discipline as he is now on course to be the best student in his class, which has a genius student in it. He does his best, but ends the year with year average of 85%.

    As a father, do you look at this boy and see a failure? Do you look at all the work he has put in and regard him as a failure for not beating the genius kid to top honours in his class?

    The reality is that you can see it as “Arsenal went are bottling the title just like how they bottled top 4 last season” or “Arsenal went from challenging for top 4 last season, to challenging for the title this season”.

    I know expectations change as performances improve, but this is still a team that didn’t qualify for the Champions League just last season.

    Win it or lose it, I have been very critical of Mikel (justifiably so), but I see so much progress that it’s just useless to really be down about what is happening. At least for me. I was happy about this season by the end of January, because it was confirmed to me that we are actually a good team and that our position is earned by our quality and tactical nous. A team will own the right to winning anything, the best you can do is compete and hope things go your way. That is what we are doing, finally competing, and in a fashion that suggests a prolonged spell of challenging Europe’s elite pound for pound.

    At this stage, I can’t wait for next season, and if we win the league, it will only make me happier.

  7. There is a tendency of this team to “choke” at important points (knock-out matches in the cups and run-in). I think this is one weakness in Arteta’s managerial style, his teams lack what Wenger called “mental strength”. He is still young so I am sure he will iron it out.

    While return to CL (almost confirmed but Brighton still have a mathematical chance of pipping us) is good for the finances, I am not too sure we will be competitive in that cup.

  8. I can understand the stress, the mental fatigue. I can understand the lack of depth of the team and the disastrous consequences of the absence of Saliba (and Xhaka). I can see the overall improvement and the amazing qualities of some of our youngsters. I can imagine some more shrewd recruitment next year and an even stronger and deeper team, still young and energetic but more experienced and tactically astute. The only thing that bothers me is the coaching and, in particular, the inclusion of Vieira. I suppose Arteta sees things during training that justify his selection. But on the evidence of matches, Vieira is alarmingly anonymous, as Tim pointed. Why him? Why does he stay so long on the pitch, delivering next to nothing, during such a crucial game? Bring Trossard, bring Emile, bring Tierney and push Zin to the middle. All those guys make things happen. But do not entrust this unexperienced kid with 60 minutes of high level, critical football time. So mysterious…

    1. Yeah, hopefully Xhaka is back, but I’d find a plan B that’s different from Vieira if he’s not. Vieira wasn’t responsible for the latest set of bad results…not like he made a lot of huge errors. But he’s not really had much positive impact either. He’s just there. We need someone to bring a little more.
      Sounds like Saliba is probably out for City, maybe for the season :-(. Not sure I’d switch Holding out though, more disruption there might not be better. I’m as nervous about Zinch facing Mahrez, might be more inclined to play Tierney there, particularly since Zinch was not great against Soton.

      1. Zinchenko’s defense has always been passable at best but him switching off for that third goal should have been a dropable offense but we literally cannot drop him.

        Complaining about Holding gets on my nerves. I get it. He’s not as good as Saliba but again, he’s not the reason we’ve dropped 6 points over the last three weeks. We’ve scored plenty of goals and I don’t think he was personally liable for any of the 7 goals we’ve conceded.

  9. Oh, he is, he is.

    The entire back line becomes unbalanced.
    The backline defensive press is less forward.
    The entire way Arteta plays from the back changes, and the organic system is all out of whack.
    Everyone has to play different because on his physical and mental limitations.
    Lacks pace, gets beat over the top or on the turn on the wrong foot, holds onto the ball forever, one two three four touches than a side pass. It is why teams let him have the ball.

    Go back and take a look at our goals conceded with Saliba and then compare them to Holding and one can clearly see.

    Besides the data, the squad lacks confidence with him in the squad, possibly the reason Aaron passed the ball straight up to Southampton instead of Holding which would have been Saliba.

    The eye test is even more clearer.

    Holding is a passenger against top teams with skill and pace, the same way Viera is.

    I, for one, do not want to see either in the squad versus the oilers.

    1. Extreme exaggeration but ok. We have scored 7 goals in three games with this passenger. He’s delivered some incredible long passes. The mistakes we’ve made are almost entirely other people. But I guess he’s to blame for everything.

  10. Scoring is not the problem, now, leaking goals is.

    Yes, I even said during some games during live blogs a few passes were very good.

    But, the entire system is changed, tentative and not confident. Teams are symbiotic in nature, and sometime the squads are greater than the sum of the parts and others not.

    Holding is a good player, but not one for the system that Mikel has set up, and his deficiencies are not overcome by the surrounding players in total, small margins. He does not make the team better.

    Worse, Viera was a non player, and should not even be on the pitch at the moment.

    If Mikel struts out the same squad, the team is going to get smashed.

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