Arsenal 2 Southampton 2: Gunners off the boil

Last updated : 07 November 2004 By Brian Dawes

Henry gets the first goal
Cygan fresh from his superb display against Citeh replaced Sol and so Arsene Wenger was only able to make ten changes to a winning team. Many felt that we should and probably would slaughter the Saints in the next ninety minutes but it was not to be.

The early sparing didn’t last all that long and Arsenal seemed to take control after only about five minutes, but there was something missing. The boys in red and white were very much in a turn up and it will happen because we’re Arsenal sort of mood. Henry was firing sporadically, Edu and Vieira were out of sorts, Reyes and Ljungberg were in and out and with Saints getting men we were always looking for a killer ball that didn’t happen. The main reason it didn’t happen appeared to be that we were not working hard enough for it.

The ‘North Bank’ ‘Clock End’ chants were almost symptomatic of an expectancy that wasn’t born out on the field of play. The crowd too were also seemingly going through the motions rather than giving it the full welly. Henry had a good chance from a header when Dennis fired it in from a wide free kick on our right but the Clockenders were disappointed to see the ball fire past the post when it could so easily have been on target. Reyes and Henry set things alight briefly but the cross in from Titi was half saved then hacked clear. There were a whole load of nearly but not quite balls, as when Lauren almost found Dennis down the middle. Great skills by Reyes but he couldn’t quite find Dennis.

Telfer took out Reyes following a clever turn and earned a yellow. Referee Messias wasn’t playing the Riley card, seemingly. ‘Stand up for the Champions’. A rare Saints attack saw Nilsson, from the right, fire in a shot that cannoned off the far post with Lehmann beaten. This should have been a wake up call. Vieira won good ball against Higginbottom and a tidy move involving Freddie, Thierry and Dennis followed but Southampton were getting men back. It should be said that the Saints only looked dangerous from set pieces and were happy to lob in any number of long throws. Arsenals moves were always one pass short of excellent and the final ball wasn’t happening.

A vain attempt to lift the tempo came with an ‘Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal’ chant but following two consecutive poor decisions this changed to ‘Are you Riley in disguise?’ However things looked up when Dennis was upended in the box after a touch of the old razzle-dazzle. It was a stupid challenge. So Henry stepped up and fired the penalty straight at the post. A rare penalty miss from Thierry and the Gooners were quick to chant his name. Dennis then went close with a low bobbling shot that went past the post. A Henry break saw another poor cross with Dennis in space. Lauren also had low shot from outside the box that ricocheted away for a corner. We don’t look dangerous at corners though and once again we weren’t. Without the aerial threat of Gilberto and Campbell high balls in seem a somewhat pointless exercise.

It was onside... look!
Cole put Henry in who cut and fired a shot towards the far post that was very well saved by Niemi. Freddie to Henry with yet another almost ball. Two successive fouls by Telfer on Edu and Henry saw him riding his luck. Dexter Blackstock did little other than foul a succession of Arsenal players and was very late on Vieira but the ref was ball watching. Nilsson drove forward for a late corner and that was it. A very forgettable first half. Arsenal maybe had one eye on the upcoming European game on Tuesday but for my money we didn’t work hard enough, we seemingly just expected it to happen through superior skill, vastly superior skill.

Arsenal pressed forward right from the off as they attacked the North Bank in the second half. We won an early corner but Blackstock had a good turn and shot at the other end that also won a corner. A typical Arsenal free kick from wide right had a queue of blue shirts looking to clear but nothing in the way of attacking Arsenal men looking to nick in with a header. Kenton was booked for fouling Cole, we’ve all seen worse not carded, probably about six of them last week by Neville, both of them since you ask. There was a brilliant ball from Henry to Reyes who just couldn’t quite control it, yet another almost but not quite ball. There was no threat from the Saints merely a question as to when we’d hit the right gear and score. Pat who put numerous passes astray all game started to motor. Blackstock hauled Toure down with an arm around his neck and then fouled again almost immediately. Not so much as a word from Messias, whose use of the advantage ‘rule’ was non-existent. Frustration was creeping in, on and off the pitch.

The home crowd upped the volume but at the same time Reyes went down injured and stayed down. It looked like a badly damaged wrist so I can only guess he was trodden on following the foul. Saints fans were moaning like the prats they so obviously are and Reyes was unable to return. Rob replaced Jose. Pat on Telfer for his first foul that I recall got a yellow card, no big name hunting there then, much. Svensson shot from extreme range from the free kick but it was extreme crap. Fabregas replaced Edu, it’s asking a lot for a seventeen to turn a game but we all know he’s capable of doing it. Blackstock played for a penalty but all they got was the opportunity for yet another tedious long throw. I believe it was Dennis who played the killer ball through to Thierry which he controlled beautifully and stuck away majestically. 1-0 Arsenal and it seemed like game over. The Saints went apeshit claiming offside but I had a very good view and whoever was standing at left back was a good two yards behind his fellow defenders, a cardinal sin in the book of GG. Someone berated the lino enough to get a yellow card, Ormerod I think.

Jose in the wars again
A brilliant chase by Freddie from a Bergkamp ball to win a corner. A fabulous pick out by Fabregas to find Vieira who shot wide. Henry won a free kick for backing in, such is the quality of Premiership refs. 36 was replaced by McCann, this invalidates my complaint about other Clubs programmes not giving full details on teams as there was no Saints 36 in my Arsenal programme, who was in fact Ormerod. So do I get a £3 refund Arsenal? Brilliant run by Henry down the left, he might have shot but crossed for Pires who dummied it so Freddie could have a shot, but it was saved from close range. The game should have been cut and dried at this point. Arsenal won a corner through Bergkamp and Saints won one as well. The difference being that ours was the usual waste of time and theirs was headed home by Delap. 1-1 and it was the only way they were going to score. So why the feck did we let them? Yet again this was schoolboy defensive play in the air.

Ten minutes to go. Another Henry cross saw Rob have two stabs at scoring, the second was a weak toe poke saved on the line by Niemi. Van Persie replaced Freddie with seven minutes to go, a strange decision given that Freddie had been very lively and effective. A soft free kick was awarded against Cesc wide on their right. We’ve just conceded a headed goal, Van Persie is a tall lad and a good header of the ball, so where was he? Outside the penalty area! A good in-swinging cross, another header and another fecking goal to the Saints. 1-2 Southampton. A good header by Delap, again, but he shouldn’t have been allowed near it. Wenger is a great man but we are in dire need of George Graham or Don Howe for a spot of defensive awareness from high balls. It’s high time this was sorted out Mr. Wenger.

Delap was replaced by Prutton, purely to waste time I’m sure. A late tackle on Dennis by McCann saw McCann go in the book. Lehmann asked Wenger if he could go forward but Le Boss declined the request. The free kick was headed clear and Rob couldn’t do much with it when it came out to him. It was all up the one end and in added time the ball fell to a tall slim dark haired Dutch kid on our right. With Lehmann ordered to remain in his own penalty area there were what seemed like twenty one bodies theirs. These included a mass of red and white shirts looking for the cross, but Robin had other ideas as moved it away from his man making a little space and working it always with and onto his left peg. Then, from what looked like an outlandish angle, he unleashed a howitzer of a shot that went high into the roof of the net. A stunning goal, a life-saver and what a week for our new boy! 2-2 and no more than we deserved. We nearly sneaked a late, late winner when Henry won a free kick that should have been played on as an advantage. The free kick was flicked on by a Van Persie with a glancing header but held by Niemi.

So we’ve now gone one Premiership game unbeaten, but only just.