Shit, it’s back. Just when you had thought you had seen the back of such an abomination, it rears its ugly head again. And I am just not talking about Arsenal’s recent penchant to concede early goals as a result of playing the most comical defending. I would also include the playing of three at the back amongst the things we should never see close to the Arsenal.
That particular formation, although it has been becoming more popular in recent years, is not exactly a new one. Also, like every other formation is not infallible and can be easily countered. If you deploy a high press against a team playing three at the back, and can force them into mistakes when they play out from the back, you will find yourself with very presentable changes.
This was clearly seen during the Manchester United match at the Emirates last week, where again and again, the visitors forced our three centre backs into mistakes as they pressed them high. Now, is it asking too much for the brain trust at the club to have noticed this and found ways to prevent that in the next match?
The inclusion of Per Mertesacker in the starting lineup also begged some questions. Even with Shkodran Mustafi still injured, it was fully expected that the manager would would play with only two centre backs, possibly Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal in the centre back rather than include the club captain.
The German did not have a good game in the slightest and was primarily responsible for the first goal. With only six minutes gone, and pressed by the Southampton players, his clearance was weak and fell to the home team, who slalomed through the space he vacated and Charlie Austin did the rest. Mertesacker’s torment did not end there. Throughout the first half, he was pressed and harried in possession and caught out several times when not in. A better team would have punished him and the defence severely
It was a struggle for the Arsenal team to create any worthwhile chance against a Southampton team that were content to defend deep. And when those chances eventually came, the Arsenal players fluffed their lines. Lacazette and Ramsey could only fire weak shots at the keeper when they both found space in the box. The Welshman did force a good save from the Southampton keeper but that was the only time the Arsenal team ever looked like scoring in that half.
It was more of the same in the second half. Even when Per was taken off for Danny Welbeck, which necessitated a switch in formation, the home team still defended and resisted stoutly. So much that when the late equaliser from the head of the substitute, Olivier Giroud came about, its felt like an injustice. The home team were far and above the better team and deserved all the points.
He might have the assist for the equaliser but Alexis Sanchez had one of his usual atrocious games for Arsenal. He lost possession 32 times, almost beating his record for the most times possession was lost by a Premier League player in one single game. The record still stands at 34 times, which he only set in the last game against Manchester United. When one of your creative outlets loses the ball that number of times, you know your team is going to struggle.
It was another unhappy away trip for the Arsenal this season; it might not be a total loss but it was definitely cheap points lost.