Arsenal 2 – 0 Southampton
All the drama came elsewhere on what was generally a good day for Arsenal. The first half performance against Southampton stands comparison with the best of Unai Emery’s reign. It was a touch disappointing to go in only 2 – 0 ahead at the interval when we could quite easily have doubled that.
The benefit of an early goal was once again felt and as with Thursday night, there was an element of good fortune about it. Not in a defender turning the ball into his own net kind of way; simply your centre-forward getting a touch on the ball six yards out, unmarked and right in front of the goalkeeper. Things evened up later when Lacazette skied a shot which was, if anything, easier to score.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan added the second, his first goal since we lost 3 – 2 at St Mary’s back in December. To be honest, seeing how poor Southampton were yesterday makes that defeat all the more baffling. They are a side in grave danger of relegation and playing like it.
However, the second half offered them hope. Bernd Leno put up a good argument for Man of the Match, not because he was the best performer in the match, simply that he made crucial saves in the second forty-five minutes, and in the first as well.
Which makes the match seem a bit harum-scarum after the interval and that’s not entirely true. Southampton began the second half more purposefully while we were content to exploit spaces. Because we didn’t score, a jaundice tinges the performance when the reality is we could again have doubled the score.
The platform for victory was the midfield pairing of Xhaka and Torreira while the inclusion of
A Beautiful Day
Which leaves questions for Unai Emery. The passing game which serves us well surfaced as we moved the ball quickly and (largely) accurately. It followed on from Thursday night and two clean sheets in a row offer some substance to the formation’s employment.
Tempering that is the standard of opposition. I’m not sure that Saturday permits us to play with this freedom; at Wembley, there will naturally be some caution. The question is whether Emery’s natural conservatism mixes with that to the detriment of the team.
Before then, we play Bournemouth with Unai suggesting there will be rotation in the team. Iwobi picked up a knock but the extent of the injury is not yet known. Unlike Lichtsteiner who he expects to be fit and similarly Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who didn’t feature yesterday.
Defensively, Mustafi didn’t have a Mustafi-moment which may cause some optimism that he can be cured of his brain-farts; you’re more optimistic than I if you think that will happen.
Crucially for the weekend, Koscielny showed no ill-effects of the injury suffered on Thursday which offers an optimistic outlook. Expect to see him or Sokratis play against Bournemouth but not both; surely they are saved for the weekend?
It proved to be a good day for Arsenal. United were held by Liverpool which sent us back into the top four. To be honest, we could do with them dropping points again to give us some security for the weekend but it will be what it is going to be.
As for Chelsea, you wonder how much damage was done by the Kepa incident. It was stupidity on the player and coach’s behalfs but sums up the mess they are in. Another defeat will knock them out of the running for the top four places, surely?
I don’t know, it’s just funny watching another club implode in front of our eyes. As it is, three points and the sun is shining. What more can you ask for? A pint for lunch, you say? Don’t mind if I do.