Lazy, Classless Arsenal Losing Sight of Top 4 Finish

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Gaston Ramirez (L) #10 of Southampton turns away to celebrate after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier league match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Lazy Arsenal will never learn. Those who enjoy chiding writers for what they perceive as "knee-jerk" journalism, prepare your most cutting barbs, because here it comes.

Arsenal just produced a lazy, clueless performance that left them fortunate to escape with a draw away to Southampton. How did the Saints collect this point, you may ask? They showed a bit of energy. That's it—just some running; nothing more.

The sad reality is, that is all it takes to make this Arsenal squad appear ordinary. Just put in a bit of running; doesn't even have to be much. Just press, although not necessarily with any intensity.

Do these simple things, and the Gunners will be reduced to a sluggish mass of indecision and indifference. It happened against Swansea City, Bradford City and countless other times this season.

If Arsene Wenger watched this performance and doesn't believe he must recruit in January, his optimism can never be slayed. Arsenal need a composed, active striker and an intelligent midfield schemer.

That's before even assessing the defense. That particular subject could occupy a trilogy of novels. So let's try and keep things relatively short, if not at all sweet.

Starting at the back, Wenger simply cannot play Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen together. It is a terrible partnership, damn the stats.

Koscielny has become a protected species among some Arsenal fans because he delivered one excellent showing against Barcelona. He is also had a good, but not great, first half to last season.

So it may rile some to assert that the ex-Lorient defender is not a Premier League player. He is clumsy positionally and wasteful in possession.

One thing Kosicleny can be credited for, however, is effort. The same cannot be said for Bacary Sagna.

Arsenal's longtime right-back needs to decide if he is indeed going to pursue a career as a traffic conductor. Spending 90 minutes throwing your arms up in the air and scowling isn't doing Arsenal any favours, so go and put it to use in another walk of life.

Instead, Sagna will probably remain at the club, continuing to snipe about the transfer policy and collecting a huge wage. Nice work if you can get it.

Being wasteful in possession wasn't a folly reserved just for those at the back. Step forward, Jack Wilshere. The England youth is treasured by many associated with Arsenal, and often with good reason.

However, worrying traits have lately began to appear in his game. Beginning against Wigan, Wilshere's form has dipped, culminating today in his worst performance for the club.

Off the pace and devoid of ideas, Wilshere would have been more use as a ball boy, Except he would have misplaced most of his throws.

Long injury layoff or not, Wilshere is playing a key role in the team. He needs to demonstrate that he has the courage and technical verve to add extra creativity to Arsenal's play.

Usually, that burden falls on Santi Cazorla, who himself endured a game to forget. At one point, the commentator indicated that Southampton players were getting "in and around" Cazorla.

Is that all it takes? Seriously, is a measure of pressing all that's needed to inspire a tepid performance from Arsenal's most important player? If so, then the Gunners may as well mail in the rest of the season.

Perhaps more balance in midfield might help. Playing Mikel Arteta as a deep-lying defensive presence requires him to make tackles he is ill-equipped to make.

Many times, Arteta and others embarrassingly bounced off Southampton players. That'll be the determination and grit the Saints were showing. 

Well, so what? If Arsenal can't stand up to some dogged resilience, then all hope is lost.

Of course, neither the defense or midfield were aided by a listless attack. Take centre stage, Theo Walcott. You seem to like it there anyway.

There is very little point in playing Walcott as a central striker if he isn't going to move. If he is content to simply stand still and occupy the gap between two big defenders, then Walcott is beyond useless to the Arsenal cause.

Walcott must buzz around, making runs and varying his movement. It shouldn't be too difficult for him to remember this, considering he was doing it two days ago against Newcastle United.

Therein lies the problem. Now that he has bagged a hat trick as a striker, Walcott has arrived in the position. So he clearly doesn't to put in consistent effort, and shame on those who might think he would.

If Arsenal aren't careful, that space between two central defenders will become another touchline for Walcott. In other words, a place where he can stand and simply allow a game to pass him by. Wenger, pay this man £100,000 per week at your peril.

Nothing like a healthy vent, is there? Before anyone rushes to heap praise on Southampton in only semi-patronising tones, or writes this off as "just one game," consider Arsenal's position.

They are currently four points off the top four. However, that gap could stretch to five, and the Gunners could find themselves sixth by the close of play tomorrow.

More worrying is that this doesn't look like a team capable of putting enough wins together to bridge the gap. Tottenham Hotspur are currently a better squad. They are winning tricky-looking away games.

Does anyone really expect Arsenal to do the same? Remember, today's performance came after a big win, following a rest on Boxing Day.

Those things should build momentum, not result in an almost inevitable letdown. Aside from Spurs, Chelsea are gaining momentum of their own, and Everton just won't go away.

If Arsenal can't acquire or force the class needed to separate themselves against mediocre opposition, the top four will remain out of reach.


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