It’s now been 15 months since Unai Emery led the team in a competitive game for the first time, and at this point it feels safe to say that things haven’t improved at all since then. In fact, it could be argued that they’re looking even bleaker than in the last days of Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign.
The defence has been the most criticized section of the squad and rightly so, but Arsenal at least still had that familiar attacking swagger when the legendary Frenchman departed. They’re still scoring goals, but at the moment it feels that even in that area a lot of things have to come together for the ball to find its way into the opposition net.
As for the rest of the team – it’s been plain disaster recently. Not only that the defence looks just as shaky as it had before, but now the midfield seems completely unable to dominate games, and that, perhaps more than anything else, clearly depicts exactly how far backwards Arsenal have gone since those days when they used to simply play their opponents into submission.
For those that saw only the result of the Southampton game on Saturday, it looked grim enough, but for those that actually saw the game, it was probably pure torture. With only 39% possession, the Saints looked the better team for most of the game, taking a total of 17 shots, six on target, compared to Arsenal’s seven, five of which went into the frame of the goal. But lets get in a little deeper, leaving the stats aside.
The actions of Calum Chambers, who has been one of the better defenders in the team this season, in the eighth minute were the definition of naive. A naive foul on Nathan Redmond, and then, as Ryan Bertrand puts the ball down on the ground to take the free-kick, he looks away, throws the referee a glance, and then trots back like the Southampton players were supposed to wait for him kindly to retake his position in the back line. A moment of complete madness from the former Saint.
But while even the best teams have been known to switch off like that in individual situations (one needs look no further than how Barcelona conceded the fourth goal at Anfield in the Champions League semi-final), what followed was even more worrying. Before Lacazette latched onto Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s blocked shot in the 18th minute and equalized, Southampton could have easily gone further up.
Danny Ings could have scored again in the 14th minute, but pure luck saved the Gunners that time as his completely unobstructed effort from the edge of the box went wide of the target. Three minutes later, Bertrand went on the underlap on the left flank, escaping the attention of Bellerin and created a problem for David Luiz in the buildup to James Ward-Prowse’s low drive from 20 yards.
It would be a long and painful work to list all the moments when Arsenal caused trouble for themselves in this game. It’s sufficient to say that they overall did not deserve the point they got, and that at home against a team second from the bottom of the Premier League table.
It’s easy to agree with Unai Emery when he said after the game that this performance was not an acceptable one, but the thing is, we haven’t seen an acceptable performance from his team for a long while now, and there’s an overwhelming feeling that if there isn’t a drastic change in the way Arsenal play and very soon, his time at the club will be cut short.