Profligate Arsenal Lose Further Ground on Title Race

Forster was on hand to make another save as the England keeper kept title-chasing Arsenal at bay

Arsenal 0 Southampton 0

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

The players knew what was expected of them – the return of two points from a possible nine was not good enough for a Championship contending side so anything less than three points would be regarded as a big disappointment, bearing in mind that fellow title hopefuls, Leicester and Manchester City, had games of their own with the potential to win them of course.

Arsene Wenger brought back his trusted XI with a couple of eyebrows raised when Mathieu Flamini started ahead of Francis Coquelin. Theo Walcott deserved his place on the bench as Alexis Sanchez returned to the fray following his match winning exploits against Burnley. The visitors were prepared to sit back and hit the Gunners on the break, which also preempted the manager to deploy Gabriel Paulista ahead of Per Mertesacker.

Arsenal probed and pressed the Southampton rearguard with the first clear cut chance of the game arriving when Alexis lofted a sumptuous ball to Mesut Ozil, whose first touch was Dennis Bergkamp-esque but he didn’t have the finish to match. A straight shot at Fraser Forster that offered no threat whatsoever. Ozil showed some alertness again to react first to a Giroud flick but his shot was fired straight at Forster yet again. This paved the way for what would be the story of the night – woeful finishing from the Gunners.

With Ozil missing a couple, it was Giroud’s turn to get in line with a right-footed effort that was saved by Forster. The Saints had a couple of half chances but they were easy pickings for Petr Cech. In the second half, the Gunners continued to barrage the Southampton defense with little or no progress and it was turning out to be ‘one of those nights’. Alexis showed great technique to bring the ball under control and managed to fire a shot that left Forster rooted to the spot but a defender was on the line to clear the ball to safety.

Wenger took out Joel Campbell and brought on Theo Walcott in his bid to get something out of the game. Within minutes of his introduction, Walcott was sent through on goal he fired a pathetic tame shot that was parried by Forster. The Englishman had a second bite of the cherry but the Southampton shot stopper was on hand to make another save.

News of Leicester leading Liverpool didn’t help and with Tottenham tearing Norwich apart, Arsenal had dropped to rather familiar surroundings – fourth place. Even with six minutes of stoppage time, the Gunners didn’t have enough in the tank to get that all-important goal and the sound of the ref’s whistle brought an air of frustration, as the Gunners had amassed three points from a possible 12 – definitely not good enough for a title challenging side. In the same period where the Gunners have managed just three from 12, Leicester has gained 10 points, Tottenham nine points and Manchester City with eight.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Arsenal can still catch up with the leading pack but they need to start winning games and quickly! There’s a lot of time to go back to the drawing board between now and Sunday’s clash with Bournemouth.

Just expect the usual ‘you need to stay positive’ kinda crap articles on the official site.

Sayonara.

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Southampton Preview + Debuchy Joins Girondins Bordeaux

After enduring a stuttering start to the new year in the Premier League, Arsenal will hope to return to winning ways in the competition. Two points from a possible nine was a poor return for Arsene Wegner’s side but the smell of revenge would be in the air when Southampton visit the Emirates tonight. The last time both sides met, the Gunners were on the wrong end of some thrashing as Ronald Koeman’s side finished the game with four unreplied goals at St. Mary’s.

With the Gunners recording a victory over Burnley in the FA Cup last week, the players will be hoping to gather momentum to start a streak of victories that would be needed to win the Premier League, even though they face stiff opposition from Manchester City and Leicester, that have clashes against Sunderland and Liverpool respectively.

The Gunners will have to be weary about the aerial threat Southampton will pose as the club has scored a league-high 10 headed goals in the Premier League so far in 2015/16 and they have also fired in the most crosses from open play in the league this season (436). When both sides met earlier the season, Southampton converted two headed chances from Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte but one was ruled out while the other went in.

Arsenal Team News

Wenger made nine changes from the team that lost to Chelsea, so he’s set to welcome back his key players for what will prove to be an all-important game for the Gunners.

Alexis Sanchez and Francis Coquelin got some first team football action, and the Chilean can be proud of his output over the weekend. Sadly, the Gunners will be without Tomas Rosicky, that has picked up another injury. The manager gave some favorable news about Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck but they are not still available for selection.

Arsenal Injury / Suspension News

Jack Wilshere (ankle), Danny Welbeck (knee), Santi Cazorla (knee), Tomas Rosicky (thigh)

Arsenal Predicted Lineup

Arsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation

Southampton Team News

The Saints were not in action over the weekend following their third round defeat to Crystal Palace so Koeman has a very fresh squad to select from as they were given breathers over the weekend. The Saint’s boss was delighted that his new signing, Charlie Austin, was able to score on his debut and he would be hoping for more of the same. Austin banged in 18 goals in the Premier League for QPR before they suffered the ignominy of relegation but the R’s cashed in on the forward when he signalled his intentions of not signing a new deal.

Since the return of injured goalie, Fraser Forster, to the side, the Saints have found some defensive stability and the goalie will want to continue his run of clean sheets that currently stands at three. The last time Forster featured at the Emiratesm he had a Man of the Match performances with a string of saves that kept the Gunners at bay till the death.

 

Southampton Injury / Suspension News

Florin Gardos (knee), Steven Davis (knock), Graziano Pelle (knee), Jay Rodriguez (foot)

Southampton Predicted Lineup

Southampton football formation

Team Form

Arsenal

  • Last Five Games: W D D L W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley
  • Leading Goalscorer: Olivier Giroud (18)

Southampton

  • Last Five Games: L L W W W
  • Last Result: Manchester United 0-1 Southampton
  • Leading Goalscorer: Graziano Pelle (9)

Gooner Daily predicts a 3 – 0 win.

Elsewhere, the Gunners will be without experienced full back, Mathieu Debuchy, that has moved to Girondins Bordeaux  on loanin his quest for regular first team football ahead of Euro 2016. Debuchy has been on the fringes since his return from injury and he has featured just seven times this season. Debuchy has been given the No. 24 jersey with first choice right back, Milan Gajic, wearing the No. 2 jersey.

With Gajic currently injured, Debuchy would slot directly into the team and I expect the fullback to even retain his place when Gajic returns. In their last 4-0 win over Rennes, Bordeaux manager, Willy Sagnol, had to field a defensive midfielder, Andre Biyogo Poko, as an auxiliary right back, so in Debuchy, he has a full back that can offer something to the team.

Currently, Bacary Sagna and Christophe Jallet are currently above Debuchy in the French national team pecking order, so he has five months to impress head coach, Didier Deschamps, ahead of the forthcoming European Championships that will be hosted in France.

I don’t see the fullback returning to North London though, with Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers and Carl Jenkinson challenging for a first team berth. Bordeaux are currently seven in Ligue 1, so they stand a chance of qualifying to the Europa League with PSG, Monaco and the season’s surprise package, Angers currently on the Champions League positions.

I wish Debuchy all the best at Bordeaux.

Sayonara.

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Rosicky Out for Six Weeks + FA Cup Fifth Round Draws

Tomas Rosicky Injury: Updates on Arsenal Midfielder's Thigh and Return

This weekend saw FA Cup duties resume for the teams that were still in the fourth round. Most Premier League teams had routine results with Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, Everton, Watford, Bournemouth and Chelsea getting victories over their lower division opposition. West Brom were surprisingly held at home by Peterborough, which ensures that the lower league side has earned a replay. In the all-Premier League encounters, Crystal Palace edged past Stoke while Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho was the star as he bagged a hat-trick in the Citizen’s win over Aston Villa.

The fifth round fixtures are out with the tasty draw of the round being the Chelsea vs Manchester City clash. There are two other Premier League clashes with Bournemouth hosting Everton and a London derby between Tottenham and Crystal Palace. Arsenal host Hull (again!), Watford welcomes Leeds United to town while Manchester United visit Shrewsbury Town.

The games will take place on February 19, 2016, so Arsenal’s Premier League fixture against Everton could be rescheduled.

When the Gunners hosted Burnley on Saturday, some players made their comebacks from injury with Alexis Sanchez and Francis Coquelin making their impact on the game with the Chilean scoring a goal and providing an assist while Le Coq played 90 minutes and worked in tandem with new boy, Mohamed Elneny.

The game also marked the return to competitive action for Tomas Rosicky that came on in the 70th minute for the impressive Alex Iwobi. Rosicky had a decent game by his standards, making some neat touches and passes, and from the roar of the Emirates faithful when he entered the pitch, you could see how much the player was missed.

According to the Mirror, the legendary Czech midfield maestro has suffered a thigh injury and he’s set to miss up to six weeks of action. When you think of the fact that Rosicky has been on the sidelines since May, you can’t help but feel disappointed about the situation. Rosicky is one player that gives the team a different dynamism in midfield with his surging turns and perfectly-cushioned through balls but he also offers a goal threat as well.

In Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini. Mohamed Elneny, Mikel Arteta and to some extent, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wenger still has the personnel he can feature at central midfield but losing Rosicky is a big blow. If this initial prognosis is right, we won’t see the Czech till mid-March and this is me hoping that he would have another setback like Jack Wilshere, that’s set to be out for six more weeks.

It’s likely that Rosicky’s contract will not be extended beyond this season, and I will be hoping that he could still make an impact before the season concludes in May.

Sayonara.

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