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Good, Bad and the Ugly: Arsenal v Southampton

It wasn’t pretty. Oh lordy, it wasn’t pretty.

Arsenal v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Three points is three points, the old adage goes; no one remembers how you got them at the end of the season unless they were impressive. A home victory against Southampton is, well, what is expected of a top four team in the Premier League so, likely, by the end of the year any hand-wringing we are currently doing will be long forgotten.

But for now, let’s also say this: it was an ugly game. Internationals, new players, still early season all had a part to play but it remained ugly. It is said you need to win ugly to win anything but, frankly, I’m struggling to remember when Arsenal won pretty.

The Good

Koscielny’s Goal. FINALLY, Arsenal have a world class striker who can bicycle kick the ball into the back of the net. What a ... sorry? I’m being told Laurent Koscielny plays centerback. Wwwwwow. That was a beauty. Just try teaching that to Walcott.

Mustafi’s Debut. While his partner might claim the headlines, Shkodran Mustafi had himself a solid first game. There were struggles but, overall, he performed exactly as expected. As his partnership with Koscielny (and others) grows, Mustafi looks to be worth every penny they paid for him. Arsenal, at least, have a defense worth talking about.

Did I mention the three points? Yes? OK. Cool.

The Bad.

Lucas Perez’s debut. OK, this is harsh (I’ll get to it) but... there really isn’t much to say. He didn’t get on the ball much, wasn’t found and seemed at odds with the attack. While not all his fault, it wasn’t a positive. Wenger completely did the correct thing starting Perez but he’s going to need time to adjust. He’ll likely get more time as a sub over the next few weeks before we know that he is the preferred starter, something I’m not sure he’ll ever be. Still, I will reiterate: it can’t truly be placed at his feet because...

The attack. This was not a good game for Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain. Rotation is a good thing and, with international duty, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud clearly required a rest. Arguably, Ozil did, too, as he looked jaded/tired/frustrated, depending on your point of view. While the ball found Mesut, it rarely did Walcott or the Ox (unless from Monreal) and both did little with it. I mean, really:

It didn’t work in the least and is very distressing. It was only Southampton and for a long while, Arsenal made it easy for the visitors.

The Ugly

Southampton’s Goal. It was a dangerous free kick to give up. Still, Petr Cech should be questioned for his positioning. Would a step further back served him better in dealing with a rather reachable free kick? He appeared to get a finger to it, only to cause the bad bounce of it coming off the bar, into his back and into the net. It is one of those moments that happen fast enough to try and offer it up to rotten luck. But it was ugly and, whether or not he is blameless, Cech likely wants that one back.

The Finishing of Shane Long. No, that’s not a book of Irish Poetry, it’s a simple fact: Shane Long should have buried Arsenal. Coming on, he had more than a fair share of clean chances and missed them in the way that haunts you. If he were our player, we’d be howling for blood. Arsenal were lucky.

Francis Coquelin. I know there’s a sense we are harsh on Coquelin... but.. honestly, I’m running out of ways to sugar coat this. Francis Coquelin isn’t a bad footballer; he’s just out of his depth. He’s not a player who belongs as a starter on a team that has aspirations for titles. He’s a fifth choice CM getting preferred over all four players better than him, not including Jack Wilshere who had to leave to find playing time. He’s a ball chaser playing in a side that demands movement and creativity. I can’t say these things are beyond him but nothing I’ve seen suggests he’s about to offer anything in the way of providing openings for attack (which means getting open for passes) or improved distribution. He drags down players beside him, such as Santi Cazorla who put in a very good shift despite having to carry the load.

Today, he did his usual, out of position, ball watching until an opponent had it near him routine and somehow he’ll come away with people saying nice things about him. He does this:

That’s our second choice DM?

Certainly, if he was in the squad to merely let Granit Xhaka rest up after internationals for PSG, I can accept it save for one small fact: Mohamed Elneny is just hanging around, not getting starts. Whatever the reason is, Coquelin is not the calibre of player Arsenal needs save for in emergency which, right now, Arsenal are not in. I don’t get it.