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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.  

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