Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Southampton 2-2 Arsenal: Call for the Cavalry

I'm not going to dwell much on this match, because it held little significance in hindsight anyways. It was somewhat typical of this Arsenal side this season - scoring in the very few chances that they had. My predictions of a narrow win would have held true had we not been so uncharacteristically distracted in defence, especially while conceding the second goal. However, I'm defiant in saying that yesterday we saw clear signs of potential champions in our Arsenal side, particularly in the second half.

There are certain instances in the game that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Professionally responding and turning the game on its head in four blistering minutes was an example of that. Keeping an impressive Southampton at arms length after being reduced to 10 men is another.

Let's face it - we were completely dominated and were second best in everything for the entirety of the first half. We deserved to go in the break trailing, even though we had a presentable chance in Laurent Koscielny's saved shot.

However, that shouldn't cover the fact that we witnessed a massive response to come from behind from Arsenal, going into the second half. It's no coincidence that we've seen better second halves than first in this team - witness the games against against Marseille (2-1 away), Swansea, Dortmund, Newcastle, and many more. Whether it's Wenger, Steve Bould or leaders like Mertesacker and Flamini giving motivational team talks in the break - who knows? -, but whoever does it is having a damn good effect on the team.

Wenger knows how to make a solid attacking side, I'll give him credit for that. While he's completely incompetent in teaching his team how to defend (shame, seeing he was a center back), he has Steve Bould to sort that out for him now. (Speaking of which, was our disorganized defence a sign that Wenger's interfering with Bould's training again?)

Look, Wenger just needs to focus on replicating the Bergkamp-Pires-Henry and the Cesc-Nasri-Robin deadly attacking trios, to see his team have a realistic shot at success. While players like Ozil and Santi Cazorla can make really good replacements for Fabregas and Nasri (Ozil had a much needed good game yesterday), Olivier Giroud can barely be compared to a player like Thierry or Robin, even though he scored a fantastic 14th of the season.

Another sickening blow - aside from Theo Walcott's injury is - that Aaron Ramsey will miss another month of football due to aggravating his calf injury. Forgive me when I say that this is a blessing in disguise, but it seems that Wenger's hand is forced on the transfer market owing to Rambo's injury. In the aftermath of this injury (and the match), Arsene Wenger said:

"I have nothing to tell you tonight, maybe I hope we have something to tell you because we lost a few players now."

Many people would take that as a hint that he's ready to spend (about fucking finally), and I think I'm one of them. The injury to Ramsey might just be one too many for him, adding to Theo's lengthy lay-off and Lukas Podolski's constant exclusion from the team (I treat that like an injury as well now).

I had said that I wanted players like Santi, Giroud and Ozil to step up, score and provide goals, and I'm glad to see them do that. However, it may or may not be enough for a team challenging for the title, I'm afraid. A striker might just tip the scales in our balance come May. (Did I use that phrase right?)

I've already urged the manager to buy a striker and/or a center back in the previous blog, not to mention in the entirety of January. I'm not going to press on that further, considering I have a deadline day blog to use to emphasize that fact. All I can say is that I'm certain that no signings will be confirmed other than on deadline day for Arsenal (IF we buy), so don't get your hopes up on that.

UPDATE: As I write this, Sky Sports are reporting from their as-ever reliable sources that Arsenal have sent a delegation to Germany to negotiate Julian Draxler's transfer. While the report clearly suggests that no fee has been agreed between the two, it is impossible to now deny the fact that we ARE interested in him and that we do want to purchase him in the next three days.

There is also stuff on Twitter suggesting that Holtby is currently in Germany, in the final stages with Schalke over his transfer over there. It seems like Schalke are already preparing for life after Draxler, very much reminiscent of Ozil to Arsenal and Bale to Real Madrid. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that if Holtby does move to Schalke which would pave the way for Draxler at Arsenal, I'll be supporting them with full vigour ahead of their match against Manchester City tonight.

I still believe that if we do buy, the player will be bought and unveiled on 31st January, even if it's Julian Draxler. I reckon that it's not only the Ramsey injury, but also the toothlessness up front that goaded the manager into action, which is a good thing. We might also look back at the Southampton draw as a positive because it forced Wenger to think, just like how some Gooners had viewed the 8-2 as a positive. (How else did Mertesacker and Arteta come here?)

The coming three days can drag tortuously and slowly, even though it may only seem like 72 hours now. There is every chance that even I can get carried away by half-confirmed reports, vacantly praying that they may be true. I therefore urge everyone reading this post to adjust your sights instead of believing fairy tails, and not get taken into news reports that you want to happen.

My advice? Only for the coming days, unsubscribe from Arsenal fan made Facebook pages, and don't believe any reports unless they're from Sky Sports or from the club's official website. On Twitter, make it a point to only follow and believe reliable journalists, and don't get your hopes up until you see the player in question in an Arsenal jersey (even on the Draxler thing, ESPECIALLY on the Draxler thing).

As an Arsenal supporter, the key to a good deadline day is low expectations. There is a guarantee that over the days we're going to get acquainted to fake quotes and fee agreement 'reports', which would understandably excite a lot. Let me warn you beforehand, you may be in for a massive disappointment if you fall in that predictable trap of hope. Be wary.

Even though I still expect an officially quiet deadline day from Arsenal, that still won't satisfy my demands of wanting to see a striker (a center back is a bonus) in the team by 1st February. Chelsea and Manchester City face off on the 3rd of February, which means that one of them is guaranteed to drop points. If we do get a striker, I'm sure it will rejuvenate the team and make up for the draw against Southampton, which in hindsight means little.

It's not the deadline day to the transfer window, but the deadline day to Arsenal's season that is approaching. Please realize that Arsene, and act swiftly for the good of Arsenal Football Club.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )