No Saints required.
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton
A chance for revenge was in the air as Southampton arrived for a 2.05pm Sunday kick off, those that went missed Liverpool v Man Utd and a lot of the Carabao Cup final.
Them's the choices!
The Saints had ruined that classic wibbly wobbly unbeaten run earlier in the season with their very own bionic man, Charlie Austin, luckily for Arsenal he only made the bench. The hosts opting for another 4-4-2 but replacing Ozil with Ramsey.
Arsenal: Leno, Lichsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Lacazette
A scrappy start from both sides was brought to life in the sixth minute when a hopeful lump up field found Redmond through on goal, Mustafi trying and failing to catch the Southampton forward offside and thanks to Leno the goal didn't come. Terrible defending from Mustafi and another sloppy chance given away by the Arsenal defence, would it prove pivotal?
Well hell yeah!
Seconds later Arsenal were 1-0 up, a quick counter saw the ball fed in towards Torreira who seemed to be fouled, nothing given as the ball found it's way to Mykitaryan, his clumsy shin pass/shot ended up at Lacazette's feet for a clever tap in. Lots of cries for offside which I thought has some justification at first but it was clear from replays that the Southampton right-back had played the French international on.
This fortunate turn of events seemed to breathe new life into the Arsenal side, they started to play with more confidence, Iwobi and Kolasinac in particular looking very strong on the left, Mykitaryan was tidy and Lacazette up front was as ever, busting a gut. In midfield Torriera and Xhaka were forming a good partnership, the Swiss marshalling whilst the little Jack Russell from Uruguay did the chasing. A second goal was coming and in the 18th minute young Henrik delivered with a neat finish after Iwobi had forced a Southampton 'play out of defence' routine into an error. Great finish and a well deserved lead, 2-0 to The Arsenal!
What followed for the rest of the half was brilliant Arsenal play as they began to control the game, the only thing missing was a third goal, Lacazette being found guilty as charged, missing a couple of headers, a routine shot and then an absolute sitter in the 41st minute. After brilliant work from Lichtsteiner down the right, and a great cross, Kolasinac came in, played it to Lacazette who somehow put it over the bar from 6 yards out. It has to be seen to be believed!
HT: 2-0 and despite that feeling in the pit of the stomach of what could have been, 2-0 was enough, not even Arsenal would let in three in 45 mins.... gulp!
The halftime entertainment at Arsenal is poor, a mix of meaningless VT's of Arsenal players advertising stuff or telling fans how to exit the stadium, the odd interview with an ex player,
"god, he's got fat!", Lucky Numbers!!!! (FFS), or some cheeky young gunners putting penalties past the giant green chicken mascot. One of those VT's brought a particular smile to my face as Granit Xhaka was used to advertise the 2019 Ball Boy trials. How do we not lose the ball Granit? what particular skills do we need Granit?
"I just hope he doesn't cock up in the second half" came one cry from behind me. I just hope he's ready for it if he does!
Southampton brought on Obafemi and Austin (the nemesis) for the start of the second half and the game became immediately harder, not made any easier by Xhaka living up to his halftime billing. Under no pressure whatsoever Granit laid on a perfect ball straight to Ward-Prowse, just out side the area with a gaping whole to aim out, the young Saint put the ball just wide. Another 'Xhaka moment' to add to all the others this season.
The game became scrappier after that 'moment' and Arsenal started to dictate the play more without really making the Southampton keeper make a save. Everyone including the opposition seemed happy at 2-0 and despite efforts by Aubameyang late on with Ozil assisting the game finished with a slight whimper.
POSITIVES: A clean sheet
NEGATIVES: Still look ropey at the back, in a 4, 3 ,5 or any other combination.
Leno: When called upon did his job. 8/10
Lichsteiner: Looked better in a four which is odd. 7/10
Mustafi: Looked better at Right back when called upon. 7/10
Sokratis: A beast at times... becoming Arsenal's best defender. 8/10
Kolasinac: Great game, full of running and a threat. MOM 8/10
Torreira: Busy and solid. 8/10
Xhaka: Had another moment so gets. 6/10
Ramsey: Ran around a lot. 6/10
Mkhitaryan: One of his better games and a classy finish for the goal. 8/10
Iwobi: Ran around a lot, but looked more composed than normal. 7/10
Lacazette: Tireless work and a lovely finish for his goal. 8/10
Koscielny: Kept the Saints at bay. 7/10
Ozil: Looked lively for Ozil. 7/10
Aubameyang: Could have had two tap ins but ended up with zip. 7/10
Next up that other lot from the south coast that hate playing away from home!