Southampton vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned
Arsenal opened their 2013 with a disappointing draw at St. Mary's Stadium in this Barclays Premier League encounter.
After four consecutive league victories to round off 2012, Arsenal fans were rightfully hopeful of securing another victory against a team who began the day in the relegation zone. Instead, a lacklustre display saw them drop two points in the race for Champions League qualification.
Go to the next slide to see what conclusions can be drawn from a dispiriting day at the office for the Gunners.
Theo Walcott Won't Always Work Through the Middle
After his hat trick against Newcastle, Arsene Wenger will have had high hopes for what Theo Walcott could do against Southampton's leaky defence. In actual fact, the young forward struggled against his former club and was eventually shifted out to the right wing to facilitate the introduction of Olivier Giroud.
The basic problem was that, unlike against Newcastle, Arsenal's midfield rarely had control of the game. In a match where possession is hard to come by, teams need a centre-forward who is prepared to come deep, play with his back to goal and allow the midfielders to feed off him.
Walcott was just waiting on the shoulder of the last defender for a pass that was never going to come.
Bacary Sagna's Form Is Suffering
Usually, Bacary Sagna is one of the Premier League's most reliable defenders. In Arsenal's last two games, however, he has been poor.
Against Newcastle he was beaten far too easily by Gabriel Obertan on more than one occasion. Arsenal fans hoping for him to return to his best against Southampton would have been alarmed by an even worse display, capped by a disastrous attempted clearance which led to Southampton's opener.
It's hard to say what's going wrong for Sagna. Could it be that mounting speculation over his future is starting to damage his performances?
Arsenal Can't Blame Bad Luck
Sometimes, Arsene Wenger can be outspoken about the element conspiring against his team. On this occasion, he has no case.
Arsenal were arguably lucky to escape this match with a draw. The free-kick which led to Guly Do Prado's own goal was a very soft award, and that's without mentioning the fortuitous intervention of Do Prado itself.
Southampton will also feel a little aggrieved to have been denied a second goal for Gaston Ramirez. It was unclear if the referee blew for offside or a push on Laurent Koscielny. With the benefit of replays, either decision would be extremely harsh.
Arsenal's best bit of luck came before the game, with the postponement of their Boxing Day clash with West Ham. Playing one less game over the festive period ought to have given Arsenal the upper hand over the Saints, but they were unable to take advantage of their fresher legs.
The Bench Is Not Strong Enough
Arsene Wenger was clearly eager to make changes in order to shift the pattern of the game, but the trio of Giroud, Ramsey and Gervinho failed to make an impact after coming on.
In the case of Giroud, I think he benefits more from starting games. In the case of Ramsey and Gervinho, I simply don't think they're of sufficient quality to spark a turnaround in fortunes for an ailing side.
The transfer window is open, and Arsenal fans will be hoping Arsene Wenger takes advantage of this opportunity to improve his options.
It's Time to Call on Arshavin
In a game like this, when Arsenal are lacking any kind of creative spark, failing to have a player of Arshavin's calibre on the bench seems like cutting off your nose to spite your own face.
Whilst I will readily admit that Arshavin is temperamental and erratic, the same could be said of a player Arsene Wenger seems to favour: Gervinho. The Ivorian's contributions have become increasingly ineffective, and all the while, Arshavin continues to rot in reserve.
Gervinho has made 14 starts this season. Andrey Arshavin has made just two. Is that the best use of Arsene Wenger's resources? I'd suggest not.
It Could Be a Lean January
This round of results saw them slip five points behind rivals at Tottenham, albeit with a game in hand. It's crucial that Arsenal recover from these two dropped points to keep the pressure on Spurs.
If they're not careful, they could end this month out of the FA Cup and trailing in the race for Champions League qualification.