Arsenal v Southampton
24th February 2019
The defeat would have been worse, but for Bednarek’s heroics
IBO Reporter : channonite
This was the first of three games in a frantic seven day period and came after a trip to Tenerife for Saints to lick their wounds, after the crushing defeat by Cardiff at St.Mary's on the 9th February. Due to the proverbial unforeseen circumstances, I am now faced with three reports in a row, so needs must, with apologies, but I am going to gloss over the details of this game to a large extent.
The first thing that springs to mind for any Saints fan, is that an extended break doesn't do the team any favours. The players seem to get worse with time to think. Ralph Hasenhüttl decided that he needed to get the players away after the Cardiff débâcle and speak to each of them on a one-to-one basis, the aim being to better prepare them for the crucial run-in of fixtures. So, they decamped to Tenerife and spent several days there, training, watching videos of themselves and discussing how they could improve.
Unfortunately the first game after the break was away at The Emirates, facing a resurgent Arsenal side who still have a tendency towards inconsistency, but not on this day. The reverse fixture had been the 3-2 win for Saints in Hasenhüttl's first game as manager, so there was a feeling of revenge in the air amongst the Arsenal supporters.
The Saints team was notable for having Gunn in goal again, with McCarthy dropping to the bench. The three central defenders were Bednarek, Stephens and Vestergaard, with Valery and Targett as the wing-backs. Midfield had Højbjerg, Romeu and Ward-Prowse, with Armstrong and Redmond in front of them.
Within the first few minutes Redmond sprinted to collect a ball over the defenders and wrong foot Mustaphi, but his shot was beaten away by Leno in the Arsenal goal. Arsenal looked dangerous every time they broke forward and almost straight from Lemo's clearance they made the break through. Stephens was dispossessed rather too easily and the Southampton players were caught ball watching and complaining about an offside decision that never came. Mkhitaryan shot was deflected into the net by Lacazette and it was 1-0 with only six minutes on the clock.
Saints came back at Arsenal again and had a couple of chances which came to nothing, but lightening struck again in the 17th minute when, from a mistake by Stephens, who was dispossessed by Lacazette, with the ball finding it's way to Gunn, who under pressure now, only managed to clear as far as an Arsenal shirt. The ball was immediately crossed to Mkhitaryan, who had a simple tap in for the second goal. A hot knife through butter came to mind.
Effectively that was that. For the rest of the game Arsenal played well within themselves. It did give Saints the chance to look a little better, but that was about it. Stephens, as the main culprit involved in conceding both goals was replaced at half-time by Charlie Austin and Armstrong by Obafemi, as the manager tried to rescue something from the game. Funnily enough, with only the two central defenders of Bednarek and Vestergaard, Saints looked far more comfortable, but that might just be the effect of Arsenal backing off. There were further chances for both sides, but the game finished at 2-0 and Saints still in the bottom three.
The other significant development in the second half was to the substitute Obafemi, who pulled up with another hamstring injury and was himself replaced by Elyounoussi. It seems that the unfortunate youngster is now out for the rest of the season.
Vestergaard is turning into a halfway decent central defender
12 Lichtsteiner (Koscielny 56')
8 Ramsey (Özil 63')
17 Iwobi (Aubameyang 75')
5 Stephens (Austin 45')
17 Armstrong (Obafemi 45' (Elyounoussi 65'))
22 D Suárez
Sunday 24th February
- Lacazette 6'
- Mkhitaryan 17'
Referee: Graham Scott
- Arsenal 62%
- Southampton 38%
- Arsenal 12
- Southampton 10
Shots on Target
- Arsenal 4
- Southampton 4
- Arsenal 6
- Southampton 4
- Arsenal 7
- Southampton 14