Arsenal vs Southampton at what ever venue was never going to be a gimme. So, winning it even with a last minute penalty must be thoroughly satisfying. The performance wasn’t very impressive both in an attacking and defensive sense, but crucially, the result helps us stay in touch with the neighbours and the Manchester teams – indeed we reduced the gap from United.
THE MITIGATING FACTORS
International Break: Fixtures home or away after the international break, especially against teams who just sit back and defend as Southampton did all afternoon, are always tricky. It’s the kind of game that is usually decided by the odd goal, so the last thing we needed was to once again go into the break level at 1-1.
For a start, Sutton does not have as many international players as Arsenal, so they had more time together as a team in training leading up to the game and they were fresher. When teams come to Emirates to defend, you normally back us to break them down in the second half as fatigue sets in but not after international breaks.
Debutants: When you have two debutants through the spine of the team, striker and central defender especially, then you can forgive the team for not being so fluid in attack and for the goal that was conceded – even if that was no fault of Mustafi’s.
Boogey team: Arsenal vs Southampton ended goaless last season, even if you can argue that we created chances and were unlucky on the day not to get the winning goal. Nevertheless, the overall narrative of our recent meetings is that they have been superior to us over the last three seasons and across six games (1 win – 2 draws – 3 losses)
The biggest positive from this game is getting the 3 points on a day where we clearly not at our best.
No injuries: This always has to count as a positive whenever Arsenal plays such an intense game. Apart from the injury scare to Koscielny leading up to the Giroud penalty incident, there didn’t seem to be any notable injury.
Key players rested: The manager would also be happy that he was able to give his newest recruits their full debut and rest key players such as Xhaka and Alexis ahead of the Paris CL test without dropping points (but my! that was close). It’s also noteworthy that PSG played yesterday; giving them more time to recover.
Well… it’s hard to see many negatives when you have just won your first home game and achieved your first back-to-back win of the season.
Nonetheless, the fact that we needed a last gap penalty to win at home doesn’t inspire any confidence in these so-called home games, especially considering the Liverpool result.
Conceding for the third match in our first four when – apart from the Liverpool game – we’ve not really been tested is a little cause for concern. Saying that, we have had our third central defensive partnership as well, so those concerns can be tempered by that fact.
OTHER MAJOR TALKING POINTS
Perez & Mustafi: Arsenal vs Southampton at the Emirates was always billed as a park-the-bus encounter and it lived up to its billing. Hence, Perez, a premier league debutant, nor indeed any of our relatively short and skillful attackers, was never going to have much joy behind the packed Southampton defence.
Similarly, Van Dijk and Lovren are as tall a central back pairing as you would see anywhere in the EPL and you would expect them – as they did all day before Giroud’s introduction – to win everything in the air.
In the end, Perez through sheer determination provided the assist for the first goal off a flick. So, you have to mark that as a decent debut.
Mustafi on the other hand had a good game overall. There were no obvious signs he was playing with Koscielny for the first time. He also showed, in the 20th minute when he beat Redmond down the touchline and whipped in a decent cross, that he his very comfortable on the ball (a quality Wenger demands from his defenders) and would easily play right back when needed.
The icing on the cake for him, Arsenal and Wenger was the lob to Giroud that got us the penalty kick.
Koscielny, an Arsenal Legend?
What a goal! Overhead kick, from a center back, on his 31st birthday…
Koscielny has scored match winners, in the dying moments, on the last day of the season, to secure a top-4, on at least two or three occasions (Newcastle and, I think Westbrom). Not to mention his two FA cup medals, 16 goal haul as a defender, and his generally humble nature. I don’t know who a legend is if he is not one yet.
Is Koscielny already an Arsenal Legend? Share your thoughts in the comments.