It’s a short month on the calendar, but with seven games crammed in, it promises to test the squad. Iwobi and Kessie are back from Gabon, but Kessie is knackered. I also forgot to mention in the last post that one of my tactical tweaks was to change mentality from standard to counter, which should mesh better with the reduced amount of pressing, sucking teams in and providing more space in midfield. Theoretically.
Arsenal 4-1 West Ham (Alexis, Ozil 2, Belotti/Kouyate)
We were really good (Nordtveit’s first half red card didn’t hurt…), and Ozil gets his first player of the match award of the season.
Southampton away is next and we rest a few players to try and keep them fresh.
The first ten minutes is hectic, end to end stuff, and we’re fortunate that it culminates in a sweetly struck Alexis Sanchez free kick for the lead. The next 30 minutes are terrible for us. Southampton are dominating, and eventually their incessant attack grabs a fully deserved equalizer, Nathan Redmond heading in as David Ospina flaps ineffectively at a cross. Somehow, we immediately go up the other end and score, Welbeck clinically finishing a Walcott cross. It’s 2-1 at the half, but I’m not fooled – they’re destroying us.
I attempt another tactical half time innovation. Gabriel comes on for the invisible Ozil. Xhaka moves to defensive midfield and Michael Keane becomes an unlikely ball winning midfielder.
We’re slightly better, but still second best. Redmond grabs a second leveller, tapping in after Steven Davis hits the post from range on 66 minutes. Finally, they let up, seemingly content with a draw. As are we. And yet…
Southampton 2-3 Arsenal
In the last minute, Danny Welbeck scores a beauty, turning Terence Kongolo and smacking the ball into the top corner from 18 yards. We didn’t even deserve to draw. We had three shots on target, and scored them all. I’m not used to being on this side of a travesty!
[FA Cup] Arsenal 2-0 Brighton (Giroud 2)
Middlesborough 1-2 Arsenal (Mertesacker (o.g.)/Belotti 2)
[CL] Sporting Lisbon 2-1 Arsenal (Martins, Campbell/Giroud)
Karma’s a bitch. That’s what we get for ripping off Southampton. We should comfortably win. It takes 59 minutes to finally score and then as soon as we do, the team switches off. And the cherry on top is our own player Joel Campbell bagging the winner. For which I get lambasted in the media, even though Wenger loaned him out and I couldn’t recall him. Our three month unbeaten run is over.
[FA Cup] Arsenal 3-0 Bristol City (Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Kessie)
Arsenal 1-1 Leicester (Keane/Morgan)
25 shots to 7. I’ll say no more on the subject.
February has thrown up a few concerns. Alexis’ form has dipped again, both goalkeepers have committed a couple of clangers, but more of a problem is our sudden profligacy in front of goal. Boro, Lisbon and Leicester could have conceivably finished with us scoring five or six, but we seem to have lost our cutting edge somewhat.
Still, we’re top, and I remembered the screenshot for a change.
West Brom win the league cup against Newcastle, and we’ve got an away draw in the FA Cup against Swansea or Man City. Next up is Spurs away and our Champions League second leg. No rest for the wicked.