Arsenal need to bounce back against Southampton by RJ
It is difficult for me to hide my disappointment after yet another defeat against Chelsea who seemingly have our number. For a team that have put themselves in a wonderful position to challenge for the Premier League, it was yet another performance that makes me wonder if Arsenal really have the mentality to go the distance. The game presented a wonderful opportunity for Arsenal to make a real statement of intent and dominate a game we were predicted to win on Coral against a side that have spent the majority of the season in turmoil. Despite being on top for 70 minutes after Diego Costa’s goal and the decisive red card for Per Mertesacker that really left us in the lurch, I never felt there was the cutting edge and spark in our attacking forays to make the all-important breakthrough. It extends our winless run against the Blues to nine league matches which will probably provide the critics with more ammunition to suggest that Arsenal do not deliver against the big teams when it matters, but it is how we respond to adversity that will define our season.
Good teams have the resilience and drive to bounce back from defeat, and while I do not doubt that Arsenal have the quality to do so in our next game against Southampton, it is these sort of games that may prove just how much we want it. 1987 was the last time that the Saints took three points away from Arsenal in our own back yard, but three straight victories, including the recent 1-0 victory at Old Trafford against a beleaguered Manchester United, is evidence, if needed, that Ronald Koeman’s side should not be taken lightly. They pose a significant danger at this stage of the season when every point is crucial, especially when you consider that January was generally a poor month for Arsenal. Two points from a possible nine for the Gunners may actually make the visitors good value for what some would consider another shock result on the road, but questions of “are they the betting flavour of the month though?” and “will Southampton continue their march up the table next month?” can be instantly put to bed on February 2nd if we deliver the sort of performance that I, and every other Arsenal fan, know that the team are capable of when everything comes together.
Twelve years without a league title is too long for a team with the quality we have possessed ever since 2004, but we have seen Arsenal implode before during the business stage of the campaign. Being in a great position does not guarantee that we will finish the season as champions, especially with Leicester opening a three-point gap at the summit. The Chelsea defeat has once again raised question marks over Arsenal’s mentality in big games when they are expected to dominate and control; we have to stand up and be counted for, not blame officials, injuries or other players for our own downfall. Some may say that Arsene Wenger does not have it in him anymore to deliver success at Arsenal, but I believe we should not jump to conclusions and think that we do not have the stomach for it when there are still fifteen games to play.
We should not forget that Southampton turned us over on Boxing Day with a humiliating 4-0 defeat that really brought us back down to earth after the Manchester City victory that created a four-point gap between the two title contenders. That advantage has quickly disappeared through our inability to hold onto the lead at Liverpool, and failing to end the hoodoo Chelsea hold over us. I do not believe it is all doom and gloom, but we need to see a big reaction against Southampton in order to stay firmly in the title race.