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Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2014/15 season. Here you can read match reports, transfer news and other important things to do with Arsenal

Monday, 10 November 2014

Defence exploited as Arsenal slip up again

When will it all end? Season after season we see the same problems occurring, and season after season we fail to see those issues addressed. We can harp on about it all we like but something needs changing. The problems that could be seen from the Swansea game were nothing new for Arsenal and after the result against Anderlecht in the week you can only imagine how the fans reacted. It was inexcusable to lose a 3-0 lead in midweek at home, let alone to throw away another lead in the League in the same week.
Oxlade-Chamberlain showed glimpses of promise for Arsenal
Never have I been so annoyed as an Arsenal fan within the last week. There has been times of frustration over the last decade and that's putting it lightly. The FA Cup triumph of last season appears to all be a distant memory now. The summer signing of Alexis Sanchez was meant to benefit the squad, and it's done just that. 12 goals in 18 this season speaks for itself. However it's clear to see even for non-Arsenal fans of what we were crying out for in the transfer market. A defensive midfielder - a stalwart in the middle of the park that can protect the back four. Too many times we've seen the back four being left with absolutely no protection.

Against Swansea we were in effect left with a back two. We had started the game slowly but either side of the break we managed to up the tempo and scored a great goal on the counter through Alexis. However the problem that then arose was our lack of game management and sense of tactics. It's normally against the top sides that we get punished but the weekend saw Swansea take advantage. Before the game Wenger claimed we were getting the balance right between defence and attack. Those claims are simply laughable if you consider the way in which we conceded the first.

Swansea broke and with more than half of the Arsenal team forward they took advantage. Gibbs had to make a foul on the edge of the area as Mertesacker and Monreal has been heavily exposed by their lack of cover. As a consequence Sigurdsson curled the ball home from the free-kick.

I mentioned the lack of game management and simple tactics. Jefferson Montero was tearing Calum Chambers apart at right back and nothing was done to prevent that. Whether that was by getting the pacey Bellerin on at the break or getting Oxlade-Chamberlain to sit back. None of that happened and after Chambers had been booked it was going from bad to worse. Resultantly the winning goal came from that left hand side. Montero provided the cross and Gomis got up ahead of Monreal to head home.

The defensive frailties were once again there to be seen. In attack we had been good. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was providing the spark whilst Sanchez popped up with yet another goal. However had we replaced Vermaelen in the summer then perhaps we wouldn't be having to play a 5ft10 player at centre half. Wenger can't do anything about the injuries but our lack of squad depth has been a problem for many years now. Chambers and Debuchy came in but nothing more. Another option in the middle of the back four was needed, and with the injuries that is now evident. Koscielny is due back after the international break and his return couldn't come sooner.

Chambers could've been a viable option at centre back for the Swansea game. Especially after Monreal's showing in midweek. Chambers had played brilliantly in that position earlier in the season and you would've assumed that after Jenkinson was loaned out that Bellerin would be ready to play. However that doesn't seem to be the case and perhaps we've paid for it considering our last two games.

We'll have to come back after the international break all guns blazing. Our first game back is against Manchester United and a defeat there will mean Wenger is really under pressure, and it will also guarantee a lot of unhappy fans. As if they aren't already unhappy enough.

The teams line-ups:

Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, Bartley, Williams, Taylor, Ki, Carroll(86), Emnes(66), Sigurdsson, Montero, Bony(76).
Subs: Tremmel, Amat, Tiendalli, Britton(86), Fulton, Barrow(66), Gomis(76).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers(90), Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini(80), Ramsey(80), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck.
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Wilshere(80), Rosicky, Walcott(80), Podolski, Sanogo(90). 

Referee: Phil Dowd.
Attendance: 20,812. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Arsenal up to fourth with win over Burnley

Arsenal achieved back to back wins for the first time in the League this Saturday as they comfortably saw off the challenge of Burnley. The visitors originally frustrated but goals from Sanchez and Chambers were enough to see us move back into the top four. It was a dominant display from start to finish that once again saw Alexis star for the Gunners. He started in what was an unchanged line-up from the win over Sunderland the week before but Sanogo was back on the bench in place of Joel Campbell.
Alexis Sanchez now has 10 in 16 this season for Arsenal
Arsenal were always going to dominate this game with Burnley immediately looking to sit back and soak up the pressure. It was something they did well and Heaton in the Burnley goal had a great game and made sure it took longer than anticipated to get the first goal. It took until 70 minutes for us to finally break the visitors down in what had been a much improved attacking display from us considering the amount of chances we created compared to previous weeks.

Alexis Sanchez was at the heart of everything and could've had a first half hat-trick. He got the goal he deserved though in the second half. Chambers delivered a peach of a cross in from the right and Sanchez got up ahead of his marker to power a header home. The Chilean has been outstanding this season and although this game was against the team bringing up the table in bottom he showed what a class act he was. His trickery and ability to run at players and create chances was incredible and his form in recent weeks has seen us start to gain momentum. Sanchez also helped himself to a second in the dying moments of the game too. Gibbs slid the ball into the box and Alexis took the ball into his stride well before finding the net.

I mentioned that Chambers had a part in the first goal and he had a brilliant game and is beginning to mature into quite a player, credit to Wenger for snapping him up in the summer. Arsenal didn't particularly have much to do at the back but Chambers was solid and offered a constant threat down the right hand side with Oxlade-Chamberlain. This was of course backed up by his assist, but he also got on the score-sheet shortly after Sanchez's first. He managed to poke the ball home for his first senior goal after Welbeck's effort had originally been blocked.

The defence have been much improved in the last couple of games and that's despite not having both Debuchy and Koscielny. Monreal has slotted in at centre half and has coped well in the past two weeks and put in another assured performance against Burnley.

One of the biggest positives from the game was Theo Walcott's return to action after almost 10 months out. He injured his ACL against Spurs in January and he made his return to action with 10 minutes remaining. He didn't show any signs of rustiness and created a few chances and also made one or two for himself. Lukas Podolski came onto the field at the same time as Walcott and showed why he perhaps deserves to play more. He almost helped himself to two goals, one being brilliantly saved from close range and the other cannoning back off the post.

There's reasons to not get ahead of ourselves because we were playing a team that hadn't won all season, but it's great to see some of our players finding form and that as a team, we're finally beginning to build up ahead of steam in the Premier League.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta(63), Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain(80), Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck(80).
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Ramsey(63), Rosicky, Walcott(80), Podolski(80), Sanogo. 

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Ward, Marney(80), Jones, Arfield, Boyd, Ings, Sordell(69).
Subs: Gilks, Mee, Chalobah(80), Wallace, Keane, Kightly, Jutkiewicz(69).

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Craig Pawson.
Attendance: 60,012.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Sanchez at the double as Arsenal see off Sunderland

Alexis Sanchez was once again the star man for Arsenal as he scored twice to give Arsenal a 2-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday. Both sides were low on confidence and it was an extremely scrappy game, especially after the hosts had lost 8-0 last weekend. The Gunners meanwhile were searching for their first league win in over a month and they got that thanks to some horrible individual errors at the back from Sunderland. Sanchez capitalised twice on mistakes to ensure that after this weekends football we sit fifth in the league. Calum Chambers was back in league action after being suspended for the Hull game last weekend whilst Jack Wilshere sat out as he himself served a suspension. Arteta came in for him, otherwise it was an unchanged line-up from last week. Meanwhile, Szczesny was back after missing out against Anderlecht through suspension in the week. The game also saw the return of Theo Walcott who was on the bench after nine months out.
Nacho Monreal improved heavily as Arsenal beat Sunderland
None of Arsenal's victories this season have been very convincing and that was again the case this weekend. We looked dangerous around the penalty area but a lack of end product was evident as we didn't create many clear cut opportunities all game. However it is encouraging that we do look dangerous and do look like scoring goals. It was no surprise to see Alexis grab another two goals as he has been the driving force behind this Arsenal side so far this season. His hard work and willingness to never give up was shown in the way he pressured Brown and Mannone for his goals.

It had been a sloppy start to the game and it was difficult to see where a clear cut chance was going to come from. However Wes Brown aided that, he attempted to play the ball back to the keeper from near the half way line but made a hash of the pass. That allowed Sanchez to steal in and run in on goal before dinking the ball over the despairing Vito Mannone. Mannone, a former Gunner had won Sunderland's player of the season in 2013/14 but he can be heavily embarrassed about the second goal in which he conceded. The ball was passed back to him but his touch was poor and Sanchez was allowed to tap into an empty net.

It was one of the more bizarre wins I think I've seen in recent times from Arsenal, and it was only our third victory in the League in 2014/15. It was a vitally important win though as we gained ground and extended our lead over the teams in front of us and behind us respectively as all of the top sides excluding Arsenal dropped points.

It was extremely encouraging to see us get a clean sheet. We've had some defensive worries this season and that looks set to continue after Gibbs limped off with yet another injury. However we're just about coping at the moment but had we signed more cover in the summer then you feel we wouldn't have these problems anyway. Koscielny is due back after the next international break though. I questioned Monreal's ability to play at centre half after the draw with Hull but he impressed me this weekend. He looked a lot more confident and assured now that he's adapting to the role in the middle. Against the big teams Nacho playing there would be a worry and he may look a little suspect at times but he'll improve in the role as time goes by as he is already showing.

The form of Santi Cazorla is quite a worrying situation and in my opinion he had a pretty average game against Sunderland. He always looks good on the ball but compare his form to his first season at the club and the goals and assists have dried up. Since 2012/13, a Premier League campaign in which he bagged 12 goals and 13 assists, he has only got 4 goals and 9 assists in 36 games. He looks like a player short of confidence and with Walcott returning and Podolski waiting on the wings he'll need to improve if he's going to keep his place in the side. His lack of confidence and composure was shown late on when he wasted two good opportunities as he blazed the ball over on both occasions.

It was great to finally win again though, and hopefully we can kick on now and really start to maintain a challenge at the top end of the league. Next up is Burnley at home which with no disrespect to them, should be a comfortable win and will therefore hopefully bring us added confidence.

The team's line-ups:

Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, O'Shea, Brown, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Rodwell(74), Johnson(73), Larsson, Buckley, Fletcher(49).
Subs: Pantilimon, Reveillere, Mavrias, Bridcutt, Gomez(74), Wickham(49), Altidore(73).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs(73), Arteta(87), Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain(90), Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck. 
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin(73), Ramsey(87), Rosicky(90), Walcott, Campbell, Podolski. 

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Kevin Friend.
Attendance: 44,449. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Late Welbeck goal rescues point

Arsenal's search for a first Premier League win in almost a month continued on Saturday as they dropped points at home to Hull. It was a completely different game to the FA Cup final in May as Danny Welbeck scored late on to rescue the Gunners a point in what was an extremely poor team display. It was a performance that we've become accustomed to this season though as we sit sixth in the League with only two league victories to our name all season. Only losing once is a thing to be encouraged by but we haven't hit top gear all season and it's extremely worrying. Arsenal were forced into making defensive changes after Koscielny's injury over the international break meant Monreal had to deputise at centre half due to Chambers suspension. That also meant a first league start for Spanish right back Hector Bellerin.
Alexis Sanchez was once again Arsenal's stand out performer
If you're looking for positives out of what was an extremely frustrating game then look no further than Alexis Sanchez. Once again the Chilean was the star for Arsenal as he got on the score sheet and also assisted the other goal. Since signing Sanchez has been a revelation and has added an extra liveliness to the side which was missing last season. He is exactly what was needed with Walcott being out injured and with Theo to return soon we can look forward to some exciting wide play. Most of Alexis' goals have been of real quality for Arsenal and his strike to open the scoring against Hull was no different as he fooled Davies with a step-over before firing into the far corner.

The performances of Danny Welbeck is also something to be encouraged about as he added his fifth goal in Arsenal colours to rescue the game for the Gunners. Sanchez went on a brilliant run to cap off a superb individual display before working the ball to Welbeck who found the net.

Arsenal had had five players in the England squad and two of the players that had impressed heavily were Jack Wilshere, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, they failed to really transform their international form into Arsenal colours on Saturday and we're still lacking in midfield despite having some fantastic options in that area of the pitch. The final piece of the jigsaw is a midfield enforcer, a defensive midfielder that will sit and break up the play as they please. We had the money in the summer and ignored a clear position we've needed for a number of years now. Needless to say, injuries is what is faltering our progression at the moment.

It's difficult to put the blame on anyone in particular for why we've been so below par in 2014/15 as there are a number of reasons for our apparent downfall at the moment. Our defence haven't been nearly as good as last season whilst injuries have haunted us. However, had we signed a few more players in the summer then perhaps the injuries wouldn't have hindered us as much due to the fact we'd have able replacements.

I've got nothing against starting Hector Bellerin at right back but he's had a baptism of fire into the first team this season and still looks a little vulnerable. Meanwhile the decision to keep Nacho Monreal as a back-up centre half is a bizarre one. Wenger tried it in pre-season and he doesn't convince me in my opinion. Saying that, it was Flamini and Mertesacker that were at fault for the two goals.

There looked to be an initial foul in the build-up to Diame's goal and Hull's equaliser in the first half as he had his arms all around Flamini. It's easy to criticise the referee for not giving a foul but Flamini just stopped playing and turned around to have a go at the referee. It was a goal that could've been easily prevented and that's happened on a number of occasions now this season. Meanwhile Mertesacker was caught out for their second goal as he allowed Abel Hernandez to get up in front of him to head home.

It was a poor way to resume after the international break but a game against Anderlecht in the Champions League will hopefully bring us a chance to rediscover ourselves and begin to gather some momentum going into Sunderland at the weekend.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini(62), Wilshere(68), Sanchez, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck. 
Subs: Martinez, Ajayi, Coquelin, Arteta, Ramsey(62), Rosicky, Campbell(68).

Hull City: Harper(42), Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Dawson(84), Diame, Robertson, Livermore, Huddlestone, Ben Arfa, Hernandez(62).
Subs: Jakupovic(42), Bruce(84), Rosenior, Brady, Quinn, Ramirez(62).

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez. 

Referee: Roger East.
Attendance: 60,004.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Arsenal warm up for Chelsea with midweek win

Arsenal put a laboured performance against Spurs behind them on Wednesday night as they comfortably beat Galatasaray in the Champions League. Danny Welbeck scored a hat-trick whilst Sanchez added to his tally this season as the Gunners sealed a relatively easy win at the Emirates. It was refreshing to see us play with so much confidence and looking ahead to Chelsea at the weekend it should give us a boost going forward.
Danny Welbeck is quickly becoming a fan favourite at Arsenal
Danny Welbeck has given Arsenal a different option since he joined the club. He's the polar opposite of Giroud and showed that with his goals in midweek against our Turkish opponents. Each goal was taken with great assurance and showed our ability to now get players in behind. It meanwhile showed the willingness of Welbeck to impress and assuming he can now kick on he'll prove to be a great addition to the side. The first was a lovely reverse ball from Alexis into the English forward, the second showed great strength and determination to get away from Melo whilst the third was a little dinked finish over the keeper.

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have rarely played with each other so far in Arsenal colours but Wednesday showed exactly why they should be playing more often with each other. Ozil was deployed in his favoured number 10 position, where he was against Villa, so it comes as no great surprise that both of our best performances this season have come with Ozil playing in the free role behind the striker. The German provided the assist for Sanchez's goal who stuck his chance away in familiar fashion. It reminded me a lot of a Barcelona type goal he'd score and that made it even more pleasing on the eye.

Alexis Sanchez has been quite brilliant since his arrival in the summer and is already proving why he was worth the fee to bring him to the club. The Chilean now has 5 in 11 games and both his assist and goal were of real quality.

The only negative from the game was the red card to Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal had looked fairly comfortable for most of the night so to conceded was disappointing. The Polish stopper came racing out of his goal but brought down Yilmaz who was denied a goal scoring opportunity and therefore Szczesny saw red. It was then Yilmaz who sent sub Ospina the wrong way to make it 4-1.

With Chelsea at the weekend I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. We've struggled to find any real consistency this season and draws have been an issue. Saying that, I'd happily take a draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. It'll be very interesting to see how we line-up and whether Wenger finally changes his tactics for a big game or not.

As seen with last season's trip to the Bridge, we got completely thrashed as a result of our fullbacks pushing on and us not having a defensive midfielder. Flamini was average against Galatasaray in the week whilst Arteta is out injured. I'd like to see Diaby played there as I think it could be interesting to see what he could bring to that defensive minded midfield role. I think he'd suit it perfectly and providing he's fit enough to play, he could be the midfield enforcer we've been looking for in these big games.

I'm feeling more positive for the Chelsea game due to the win in the Champions League in the week but if we don't change things up tactically we could be on the end of another drubbing. One thing's for sure though, we definitely won't suffer the same sort of embarrassing score-line, and the players will desperately be seeking revenge!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain(67), Ozil(76), Sanchez(60), Welbeck.
Subs: Ospina(60), Bellerin, Coquelin, Wilshere(67),  Rosicky(67), Campbell, Podolski.

Galatasaray: Muslera, Chedjou, Melo, Kaya, Sari(67), Kurtulus(45), Sneijder, Dzemali, Telles, Pandev(69), Yilmaz.
Subs: Bolat, Bulut(67), Camdal, Bangna(67), Altintop(45), Adin, Balta.

My man of the match: Danny Welbeck.

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi.
Attendance: 59,803.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Arsenal come from behind to draw in North London derby

Arsenal's far from convincing start to the season continued at home yesterday as they had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with Spurs. It was a hotly contested North London derby which both sides could've won had they taken their chances. It was perhaps the most equal derby between the two in recent times but Tottenham will no doubt be more happier with the point than Arsenal. With Chelsea next week, winning this weekend would've given us a real platform to go forward. Especially with a Champions League game in the week too. In terms of the line-up, Sanchez weirdly dropped to the bench whilst Wilshere came back in from Villa in place of Cazorla.
Oxlade-Chamberlain rescued Arsenal by scoring the vital equaliser
Not beating a rival always throws up a fair amount of frustration amongst a fan base which is why I'll try and keep my moanings to a minimum this week. Many things could be found wrong with the way in which we drew to Spurs on Saturday evening. Those who watched the game will know too well of what went wrong. First things first, it felt like a loss, which immediately brings us into a depressed mood, especially when we've failed to beat our rivals at home. Four draws in our previous five Premier League games have led to a few becoming quite worried.

The continued draws have been because of numerous reasons, and I'm not trying to berate Wenger here because we are actually still unbeaten in the League. However, in order for us to kick on and start winning more games you feel as though the tactics have to be changed. The way we set up against Villa with the 4-2-3-1 formation worked perfectly and as a result we came out of the game with our most convincing performance this season. Therefore it was a bit bizarre to then turn our attentions back to the dreaded 4-1-4-1 formation that has very rarely worked this season, as proved against Spurs yesterday.

It meant that Mesut Ozil, despite his outstanding display with Danny Welbeck last week, was shunted back out wide in order to accommodate Wilshere in the middle. Playing with the four across the middle as we have done so often this season means the edge of the area gets very crowded and we have little space to work our creativity. Compare that to the Villa game, where we had a lot more time and space on the ball as a result of playing 4-2-3-1. I see it as an incredibly weird manoeuvre tactically from Wenger.

It goes without saying though that we did create our fair share of chances against Spurs and that was a positive. Most of them were restricted to being from outside the box but we did test Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal more often that not it seemed. Ramsey's and Arteta's injuries were massive blows but it did allow Ozil to play more centrally in the second half and that enhanced our performance massively.

The way in which we conceded was very much a negative. Mertesacker played the ball into Flamini who was muscled off the ball by Eriksen and then Lamela played in Chadli who fired home. It was further evidence of our need for a defensive midfielder, something that should without a doubt have been addressed in the transfer market. Wenger has said something about Diaby been tried in that role and it would be a role I'd love to see the Frenchman adapt too. It's just about keeping him fit now but I'd definitely start him against Chelsea next weekend.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was been pretty isolated on the right hand side throughout the game despite linking up well with Chambers. However, it was the Ox who popped up with the vital equaliser with about fifteen minutes left to play. Welbeck made a hash of Cazorla's ball into the box which allowed Chamberlain to follow up and smash the ball into the roof of the net for his first goal since February.

From an Arsenal point of view, our better performers came in the shape of Ozil, Koscielny, Gibbs and Chambers. The defence looked fairly comfortable throughout the game and Kieran Gibbs put in a brilliant display defensively and also did well going forward. The same goes for Calum Chambers who has adapted to life at Arsenal fantastically. He was very assured and confident for his first North London derby and seems to thrive under pressure. Before Wilshere went off he also had a very good game and his drive forward was something we lacked when he was substituted. It was precautionary after he had gone down with an ankle injury in the first half.

From what I've just said then, it is clear that we drew based on our tactics. There were enough good individual performances from the players which was encouraging. Especially when you consider many of our players have gone missing in the bigger games in recent times.

We don't necessarily have a solid platform to build on as of yet which could be a problem against Chelsea. Galatasaray will be a challenge in itself and then we'll look to go the Bridge and avenge for the thrashing we received last season!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta(28), Ramsey(44), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere(62), Ozil, Welbeck.
Subs: Ospina, Coquelin, Flamini(28), Rosicky, Cazorla(44), Sanchez(62), Podolski. 

Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose(83), Capoue, Mason, Lamela, Chadli(80), Eriksen(62), Adebayor.
Subs: Vorm, Fazio, Dier(83), Bentaleb(80), Lennon(62), Townsend, Soldado. 

My man of the match: Kieran Gibbs.

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Attendance: 59,900  

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Arsenal knocked out after disappointing performance

Arsenal suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Southampton on Tuesday night as the Gunners exited the League Cup in the third round. Sanchez's free-kick wasn't enough as a Tadic penalty and a thunderbolt from Clyne meant Arsenal failed to reach the fourth round for the first time in twelve years. It wasn't necessarily a poor performance but we struggled to create chances which ultimately led to our downfall. Wenger ringed the changes as expected, as Ospina made his debut whilst Bellerin, Isaac Hayden and Coquelin started at the back. Diaby played for the first time since May whilst Joel Campbell, Podolski and Rosicky all came into the team.
Although Arsenal conceded two, U21 captain Isaac Hayden looked assured at the back
Despite the defeat on Tuesday, a lot was discovered from the game, both in a positive light and in a more negative way. The first thing of note was the performance of Alexis Sanchez. He was different class to everyone else on the pitch and that was summed up by his goal. It was a beautiful free-kick that was sent over the wall and right into the top corner. The Chilean now has four in his last four games for the Gunners.

What was a little less encouraging was that we hardly created any chances all night and that was shown by the fact our goal came from a set-piece which is a rarity in itself. Podolski was tasked with playing upfront and he told us what most Arsenal fans already knew, that he can't play centrally. His work rate was poor, he didn't make many runs in behind and when he did get a chance he failed to stick it away. It was a lazy performance and the situation that he got himself in when in front of goal was encouraging but he wasn't his usual clinical self. The fact we only scored one was backed up our by our lack of penetration going forward. Sanchez didn't stop running all night whilst Campbell showed glimpses of his potential but overall it was a pretty average performance from the Costa Rican.

It was an average night for most of the side as many of the fringe players failed to step up and show why they warrant a starting place. I've already mentioned Podolski and Campbell but another player who didn't have the best of nights was Tomas Rosicky. His work ethic was still good but his ball retention wasn't what we expect from him and our midfield play overall was quite sloppy.

A big positive from the game was that Abou Diaby managed over an hour on his return to the team after missing all of 2013/14 but the final game against Norwich. He added a much needed presence in midfield that we haven't had and he has all the credentials to perhaps become our defensive midfielder. He's usually more of a box to box type player but with work, and staying clear of injuries, he could become a fantastic player in that role for us. After all, he can't be much worse than what Flamini and Arteta have been lately. He's a force in midfield and can carry the ball brilliantly with his strength. Something that not many of our midfielders have the ability to do.

Despite conceding two, the defence actually had a pretty solid game. We were sloppy to concede a penalty whilst Clyne's strike from outside the box was virtually impossible to keep out. A few claimed Ospina was at fault for the goal but at the rate the ball was traveling it would have been some stop to prevent it from going in. Bellerin again looked a little vulnerable defensively, as he did against Dortmund. As for Isaac Hayden, he did nothing to warrant any criticism. He put in a very solid shift, looked confident and assured on the ball and was very strong physically. After his performance against Southampton he may well be promoted into being our fourth choice centre-back considering the lack of options we have in defence right now.

Not a lot of the players involved in this game will be come the weekend though. The likes of Chambers, Sanchez and Wilshere all definitely will be as Arsenal welcome Spurs to the Emirates on Saturday evening for the North London derby!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin(85), Chambers, Hayden, Coquelin, Diaby(66), Wilshere, Campbell(71), Rosicky, Sanchez, Podolski.
Subs: Martinez, Mertesacker, Ajayi, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain(71), Cazorla(66), Akpom(85).

Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Targett(83), Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Davis, Tadic, Mane(71), Pelle.
Subs: Davis, Bertrand(83), Cork, Reed, McCarthy, Long(71), Mayuka.

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Keith Stroud.
Attendance: 59,621.