Saints & Sinners
Southampton 3-2 Arsenal
A trip to the south coast loomed as Arsenal looked to continue their unbeaten run. The team news saw a patched up defence including Xhaka in a back three with Iwobi and Mkhitaryan supporting Aubameyang up front.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Lichsteiner, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang
A pretty strong bench though if needed...
Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Lacazette & Nketiah
This was the Saints first game at home under new manager 'Hasenhuttl' and a bounce was predicted in their performance. Arsenal as ever started slowly with Xhaka playing on the left side of a back three containing Lichtsteiner on the right with Koscielny covering as the pivot. This set up looked very ropey and immediately took something away from the midfield, leaving Torreira too much work, Guendouzi can be great but doesn't have that defensive mindset yet, aka Ramsey!
After a couple of bad fouls on Torreira and Koscielny which went unpunished, the home crowd started to gain confidence and it didn't take long for Arsenals' creaky back line to concede. The first real attempt at a cross was not closed down by Bellerin and as the ball was whipped in it went over Koscielny who tried to intercept with his left peg when his head might have been a better option. The ever clever Ings was there between him and Xhaka and duly headed home from close range. 1-0 to the Saints and at that point, deserved.
Arsenal were rocking and probably looking at their watches checking for half-time but were actually level 10 minutes later. The ever resourceful Monreal getting down the left and crossing for Mkhitaryan to head home into the corner. This boosted Arsenal and they looked the stronger of the teams heading into the break without really making any chances but with their control of the game.
And so it should come to nobody surprise that Arsenal went into the break 2-1 down. Another cross into the box not dealt with, Redmond given too much time by Iwobi and Guendouzi, his cross came in, Ings again between the two centre-halves to head home. A great header but asking Kolsceiny to play this role alongside a central midfielder who can't run, jump or tackle cleanly looked a clear error by Unai. As Bellerin hobbled off you could start to see the cracks in the dam!
Time for Unai to shuffle the pack! The injury to Bellerin forcing the manager to throw on Lacazette at the start of the second half.
Arsenal started the half much stronger and seemed buoyed by the extra attacker, Aubameyang missing a sitter and then on 54 mins Mkitaryan got his second to equalise. A defected shot completely wrong footing the keeper after being fed by Lacazette. 2-2 and surely now only one winner!
Iwobi was presented with a glorious chance by Aubameyang immediately and completely fluffed his lines. in my opinion if you're going to play in the front three of Arsenal in the Premier League then the very least you should expect is composure, or some sort of shot on target. The way Iwobi lent back and seems to close his eyes, hope for the best is very good reason he should be benched. With Nelson putting those kind of chances away in Germany, maybe it's time for a re-think!
That miss seemed to play on the mind as the half ebbed away and despite the possession and dominance a further injury for Lichtsteiner being replaced by Maitland Niles meant Arsenals back line now consisted of a rookie CM playing at RB, another CM playing at LB and a knackered Koscielny trying to cover over the cracks. The confidence was further dented on 73 mins when Ings was replaced by Austin, a guy who just over performs against Arsenal.
Ozil had replaced Iwobi and was asked to play out wide, and barely mustered a trot but Arsenal did look the more threatening, with Lacazette and Aubameyang both going close but no cigar. Then the predicted Colonel Steve Austin got in the act! As Arsenal bombed forward they got done on the counter, Long playing down the left hand side, floating the ball to the back post, Leno came for it, missed it, and Austin headed home. 3-2 to the Saints. Cough... that's 3 goals conceded against a team thats struggled to find the net all season! Many will blame Leno but I applaud the fact he went for it, in front of him the defence had just evaporated and he had one chance to intercept the ball and missed by 4 centimetres!
The game was up, Arsenal tired to rally but never really looked like finding the equaliser and Ozil? Well the £350,000 a week starlet just grazed in a paddock on the other side of the pitch looking skyward. 6 minutes of injury time came and went. 3-2 to the Saints, unbeaten run in the dust!
Essentially this was once injury too many and one player playing out of position too many against clever attackers and great crosses. A sticking plaster only lasts so long!
Positives: I suppose Mkitaryan getting on the score sheet.
Negatives: Injuries, Ozil, Iwobi the defence to name but a few.
Leno: Will be blamed for winner bu I think he kept Arsenal in the game at times. 6/10
Bellerin: The only fit first team defender left, and got injured. 5/10
Lichtsteiner: Another faller, looked knackered and happy to come off. 5/10
Koscielny: Looked even more knackered, but survived, still not match fit. 5/10
Monreal: Great going forward. 6/10
Xhaka: Totally out of depth trying to play CB. 3/10
Guendouzi: Needed help, but ran all day. 6/10
Torreira: Doesn't look the same player without Xhaka next to him but worked tirelessly. 7/10
Mkhitaryan: Scored twice but still feel £300K a week is a rip off. MOM: 7/10
Iwobi: Got hooked, needs to warm the bench for a bit. 4/10
Aubameyang: Fluffed his lines. 6/10
Maitland Niles: Got caught up field for winner but playing out of position. 6/10
Lacazette: Breathed new life into Arsenal attack. 7/10
Ozil: Who? Where? What?. 2/10
Next up the Spuds again in the Cowabunga Cup, heavy rotation needed.