Southampton welcomed Arsenal to Saint Mary’s for the second time in 2 days, where the hosts came out on top. Arsenal would look to make up for the weekend result with a win tonight.
Both teams sat in midtable, with Arsenal 11th after their reimburse in form – being unbeaten for 5 games in the league, conceding only 1.
Southampton on the other hand, were sitting in 10th after a slight slump in form.
The hosts were without key defenders Bertrand (suspension) among Vestergaard and Walker Peters who are both injured.
Arsenal had key players Smith Rowe & Partey back in the side but were without one of their most consistent performers this season; Kieran Tierney (calf issue) & scorer Aubameyang (personal reasons).
Southampton line-up (via @Southampton on twitter)
Arsenal line-up (via (@Arsenal on twitter)
The game started quickly as a mistake and the highline early on found Lacazette 1 on 1 with McCarthy, who couldn’t capitalise as the keeper denied him.
Despite a bright start from the gunners, they found themselves trailing in the 3rd minute, after Stuart Armstrong was left unmarked in the box from a Ward Prowse corner routine, to volley emphatically past Leno, who got a touch but it wasn’t enough.
Southampton celebrating opener (via Dailymail)
An instant response was required and was delivered. Xhaka played an inch perfect pass to Nicolas Pepe who stayed onside, adjusted his feet, and placed effectively past McCarthy in the 8th minute, great start to the game.
Pepe celebrating equaliser (via @Arsenal twitter)
Arsenal generally dominated Southampton early on, playing them at their own game of high pressing and coming close with Cedric’s volley against his former team.
Hassenhuttl’s side struggled for the first 25-minute minutes, but when they breached through, they created well, with clever linkup play from Adams and Ings and a few smart saves from Leno.
Goal scorer Armstrong posed a real threat to Bellerin, who struggled to cope with his directness.
Just before the break the visitors took the lead, with an accurate through pass, leaving Saka in behind, to charge past the keeper and slot into an empty net, for his 5th goal of the league campaign, more than any teenager this season. Incredibly impressive.
Saka celebrating goal, via (@Arsenal on twitter)
2-1 at half time was a fair reflection of the game, as Arsenal had most of the play, and created some fine openings – the final ball just wasn’t quite there as Arteta’s side looked to capitalise on the makeshift defence.
Southampton had some good chances on the break but failed to take them after their early lead.
Pepe provided young fullback Vokins a torrid time in the first half, being one of many impressive performers including Xhaka, Smith Rowe & Armstrong.
The second half started in a similar sort of way with the press very hard to deal with for Southampton.
Little of note happened for the first part of the half bar Smith Rowe rolling the ball past McCarthy following the pass from Cedric, but didn’t have the power to go in.
Southampton just like they did in the first half at parts found a way to beat the press, having a 5-10-minute spell at the hour mark where they posed a threat.
Arsenal extended their lead soon after with a perfectly executed cross field ball from Cedric, playing Saka in to lay across to Lacazette, tapping into an empty net to surely wrap up the game.
Lacazette celebrating Arsenal third (via PainInTheArsenal)
Southampton took off both star strikers Adams and Ings, as they seemed entirely deflated and beaten after the 2-goal cushion of Arsenal.
Pepe was supposed to come off for Martinelli but waited as Smith Rowe was down with cramp after consistent game time.
Pepe got booked as a result as the ref misinterpreted the situation for timewasting yet stayed on the pitch.
Partey also suffered from cramp and no risks were taken considering the team’s position in the game. Elneny and Willian were the replacements.
Nothing else of note happened, as Arsenal got all 3 points with a convincing display, making up for the weekend’s loss and continuing their away form – winning 3 away in a row for the first time for over 2 years.
Arteta prioritised the more important game (league game) and the result was telling. The difference between the 1st and 2nd squad is astounding.
Man of the match candidates:
There are many contenders for this award based off the game, I will run through them then give my MOTM.
Smith Rowe was very effective with his constant movement, ball retention and awareness vs Southampton. He has been a crucial part of the team’s turnaround, having a crazy stat of being unbeaten in all 17 he’s started (4 draws).
The hale end graduate has been a real breath of fresh air, offering a different creative dynamic, making an impact on the game on or off the ball.
Another potential contender is Cedric. He has quietly gone about his business and will be really pushing Bellerin as a starter. His passing and linkup with Pepe were a joy to watch.
The former Lille man Nicolas Pepe took his goal very well, being a constant threat for Vokins to deal with. The Ivorian has a lot of talent but often fails to execute it and nail down the basics.
Playing alongside an out and out 10 and forward-thinking players will only benefit him, as he attempts to find a consistent place in Arteta’s team.
Lacazette got a goal and assist and made up for the early miss. His passing improved as the game went on with the great assist and he generally had an influential game. He has looked far more like himself recently.
Saka found himself on the scoresheet, creating one for his teammate to round off another impressive display. He has been a revelation wherever he’s been played.
The RW position has suited him to a tee, with his unpredictability, lack of weak foot, composure, and general intelligence. The star man all season with another good game tonight.
The final candidate is Granit Xhaka. Bar the poor start to the season, he has been a revelation under Arteta, spreading the field with pinpoint accurate balls and adding defensive stability.
My MOTM – Granit Xhaka.
My MOTM for the game is Granit Xhaka. The general verdict was Saka from BT and others as expected, but I thought I’d give another consistent man credit. The Xhaka Partey pivot really works well.
He played a great pass for the goal, defended efficiently and generally had a great performance. He has turned into a very valuable and often underappreciated asset under Arteta and it’s great to see.
Xhaka vs Southampton (via ‘Arsenal on twitter)
Leno – 7
Bellerin – 5.5
Holding – 6.5
Luiz – 5
Cedric – 7.5
Partey – 7
Xhaka – 8.5
Pepe – 7.5
Smith Rowe – 7
Saka – 8
Lacazette – 7.5
What next for Arsenal?
Arsenal welcome top of the league Manchester United to the Emirates this Saturday at 5:30pm on Sky Sports. Arsenal are likely to have Tierney back fit for the game, which will be a big boost. New signing Odegaard could feature.
Man United will likely have a full squad for the game to pick from. They come to the Emirates with a formidable away record, getting 22/24 points on their travels in league games.
The gunners however have been inconsistent at home, putting Chelsea and Newcastle to the sword but losing against the likes of Leicester, Burnley, & a most recent draw to Crystal Palace.
The North London side have come on leaps and bounds recently, sitting 8th place in the table and closer to those top 4 spots.
Arteta’s men have got the better of Ole twice but are facing a very strong side. Arsenal’s record against United in recent times would suggest they’re favourites but the resounding away form of United should make for a very interesting contest. Arsenal came out 1-0 winners the last time these teams met.
Score prediction: 3-1 Arsenal.