The festive football fixtures have come to a close and a new calendar year has begun. We left 2012 behind in quite some style with the 7-3 spanking of Newcastle. With our Boxing Day fixture postponed we’d had a week of rest, compared to Newcastle who had battled gallantly on a heavy pitch at Old Trafford, suffering a late 4-3 defeat. I said before the game that this could be an advantage, that we could make the most of having fresher legs, and we did. The pace of the game was fast and frantic, real end-to-end stuff as they say, and in the end we made our freshness count and completely overran them, turning a 3-3 score line into a 7-3 victory.
Theo Walcott bagged himself a hat-trick, Giroud scored a brace after coming on as a substitute (and should really have had a hat-trick himself, hitting the crossbar from close range late on), Oxlade-Chamberlain got a lovely goal from the edge of the area, and Podolski was in the right place at the right time to nod home a rebound on the goal line.
Four wins from four league games since the home defeat to Swansea, exactly what the doctor had ordered. And so 2013 was seen in with renewed hope and optimism, if not expectation. First up a New Year’s Day fixture away to Southampton, who have improved as the season has gone one, but who are still a team we beat 6-1 at home and who started the game in the relegation zone. It’s a game we could and should have won on paper, but one we could and possibly should have lost on grass. I don’t know if it was just [another] bad day at the office, whether it was complacency, or whether the team had been up too late celebrating the new year, but whatever the reason we were abysmal.
We started brightly and dominated the opening ten minutes, with our passing looking quick and incisive; I was hopeful of extending our winning run. But all of a sudden Southampton found a foothold in the game and we couldn’t string three passes together, especially in the final third. Southampton took a deserved lead, albeit from more calamitous play at the back. Podolski gave it away cheaply, Sagna could only hack his clearance across our own area instead of up field, and after the ball seemed to ricochet around for a while it fell nicely for Gaston Ramirez who smashed it home past the helpless Szczesny.
Late in the first half we made a break up field and won a free kick when Arteta was fouled. The otherwise anonymous Walcott crossed it in and, luckily for us, Guly Do Prado put the ball into his own net; the third own goal Southampton have scored against us this season. Not much else happened in the second half, at either end. Szczesny made a couple of decent saves, but nothing of great difficulty, and at the other end Artur Boruc (who had looked like a Sunday league keeper in the opening minutes) remained untested. That Gervinho and Ramsey were thrown on to try to change the game shows our real lack of quality options up top when things aren’t going right for the regular starters. So a 1-1 draw and most certainly two points dropped. Afterwards an upset Arsene said:
It was a flat performance, overall. We were disappointing going forward, we didn’t create enough, when you sum up the chances we created tonight it is very little. Our game was not speedy enough with not enough purpose. Therefore at the end of the day you can even consider that it’s a lucky point.
That’s now our seventh draw of the season. I’ve always said draws are killer. On paper they look ok; the can keep an unbeaten run going. But in reality that’s an out-dated view from the days of two points for a win. It’s three points for a win now, and has been for sometime, and therefore draws are killer. Seven draws in a row will get you an unbeaten run, but only seven points. Three wins, four loses is nine points. If you can make it four wins and three loses then it’s twelve points, FIVE points better off than having seven draws and an unbeaten run. Those five points would see us sitting a point above Chelsea and level with 5pur2 (with a game in hand). When you consider that of our seven draws four of them have come against Sunderland, Fulham, Villa, and Southampton we really could, and should, have had four wins to gain those extra points. Draws are killer.
Also, as pointed out by my good friend @Tottz82, it is now ten league games without a win during transfer windows. Is it just a coincidence, or is there a deeper, more underlying reason? I think for the August windows there could be something to it. Key players sold, new signings made late, lack of confidence as a result of both, etc. But for the January windows I think it’s just a coincidence; for example this time last year we had no fit full backs which really hurt us. Either way, the remainder of this transfer window sees league games against Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool, plus possibly our re-arranged fixture with West Ham depending on both clubs results in this weekends FA Cup Third Round. There are no easy games in the run, so lets hope it is just a coincidental statistic and one which we can put to an end.
Finally, and away from football, it was my first new year celebrations in Sydney. I had a great time at a friend’s house party, which included a barbecue and Sydney Harbour views; the fireworks were spectacular. I hope you all had an enjoyable evening too, and may I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. And for The Arsenal, may I wish a trophy or two in the cabinet, starting the journey for one of those with victory against Swansea this weekend. Up The Arsenal.