Arsenal brushed off the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to secure a comfortable 3-0 victory over Southampton at Emirates Stadium.
Before the game, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta revealed his captain had been dropped from the squad for a ‘disciplinary breach’, but after a poor start to the game it was Arsenal’s stand-in captain on the day, Alexandre Lacazette, who gave the Gunners the lead in the 21st minute.
Aubameyang dropped over ‘disciplinary breach’
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was dropped for disciplinary reasons for the clash with Southampton.
Alexandre Lacazette captained an unchanged side, with Aubameyang not even among the substitutes as Emile Smith Rowe – still short of full fitness – returned on the bench.
In a pre-match interview shared on the club’s Twitter feed, manager Mikel Arteta said of Aubameyang’s absence: “Unfortunately (it is) due to a disciplinary breach. We’ve been very consistent, no negotiables, and he’s not involved today.”
Asked if it could be a longer-term ban, he added: “It starts today. It’s not an easy situation, a situation we want, to have our club captain in that situation.”
The hosts doubled their advantage six minutes later when Martin Odegaard scored his third goal in as many Premier League matches before Gabriel Magalhaes, who was denied a goal by VAR moments earlier, capped a good afternoon on the field for Arsenal.
Victory sees Arsenal put back-to-back defeats to Manchester United and Everton behind them to move up to fifth ahead of an important clash with West Ham at the Emirates on Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Southampton, who are without a win in five league matches, stay 16th.
How Arsenal got back to winnings ways…
Arsenal made a sluggish start and they needed Aaron Ramsdale in the early stages as Southampton threatened the opener.
The Gunners’ attempts to play out from the back weren’t working as the visitors continually won possession high up the field. Nathan Tella’s weak effort was easily saved by Ramsdale before Stuart Armstrong saw a strike from outside the penalty area deflected over the crossbar.
Southampton have started brilliantly, really dominated the game.
Ramsdale needed to be alert to keep out another Armstrong shot before Arsenal sprang into life.
The Gunners eventually got one of their attempts to play out from the back right to devastating effect. Stand-in skipper Lacazette swept home Bukayo Saka’s low cross to finish an impressive counter-attack from the home side.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (8), Tomiyasu (7), White (6), Gabriel (8), Tierney (7), Partey (7), Xhaka (6), Saka (7), Odegaard (7), Martinelli (8), Lacazette (7).
Subs: Holding (6), Lokonga (n/a), Pepe (n/a).
Southampton: Caballero (5), Livramento (6), Bednarek (5), Stephens (6), Walker-Peters (6), Redmond (6), Ward-Prowse (7), Diallo (6), Tella (7), Broja (6), Armstrong (6).
Subs: Elyounoussi (6), Lyanco (6).
Man of the match: Aaron Ramsdale.
The lead was quickly doubled when Odegaard continued his fine form in front of goal, nodding home after Kieran Tierney had looped a header back into the danger area.
Southampton now appeared vulnerable whenever Arsenal pressed forward and the home side had chances to add to their lead before the break, particularly when Lacazette was halted by Kyle Walker-Peters’ last-ditch tackle.
Southampton team news
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl made five changes to the team that started in last weekend’s draw with Brighton including a debut for goalkeeper Willy Caballero, 40, who joined Saints last week after Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster were ruled out.
Caballero, who was on the bench when Chelsea won the Champions League in May, was making his first Premier League appearance in 15 months.
The third goal eventually came in the 62nd minute when Gabriel headed home from Gabriel Martinelli’s corner, three minutes after the Gunners defender had an effort ruled out for offside.
Martinelli and Saka both hit the woodwork and Willy Caballero saved well from Takehiro Tomiyasu as Arsenal threatened to overwhelm the visitors, while Ramsdale continued his fine form with smart stops to deny Nathan Redmond and Tella and keep his clean sheet intact.
Questions remain over Aubameyang’s absence
Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew:
After the game, Mikel Arteta was playing a better forward defence than some of the England batsmen against Australia in the Ashes.
Question after question came from journalists wanting to get more information on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence after Arteta had revealed his captain had been dropped over a ‘disciplinary breach’.
But Arteta refused to give anything away.
Arteta said: “He had a disciplinary breach, that applies to everybody. That’s a non-negotiable and when that happens, he’s out of the team. Whatever happens in the dressing room, I cannot share. I am sorry. I’m telling you the reason, I cannot lie, it was that, this is where I stand. From my side, I will never [say what the breach was.]”
However, there are plenty of questions that remain unanswered as the speculation mounts as to Aubameyang’s future at Arsenal after his latest disciplinary breach at the club.
Will the Arsenal skipper be available for that game? Is he still the Arsenal captain? Is there a problem between Arteta and Aubameyang?
When asked if Aubameyang’s absence was for one game and whether he’ll be back for West Ham, Arteta gave a hint he would be back in the squad with a nod, but when asked about the captaincy, the Spaniard reiterated: “Let’s talk about the game, thank you so much.”
There will be more questions to come for Arteta regarding his captain, starting with his pre-match press conference early next week before the game against the Hammers, and Arteta may have to come up with the answers if he wants to avoid any further distractions in the build-up to what is a huge game for the Gunners in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
What the managers said…
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “I’m very pleased. After a difficult period, we had two defeats where I don’t think we deserved to lose the games, but we did.
“We started the game a little bit nervy, you could tell that we were carrying that feeling still, but we finished strong.”
On the first goal: “It was [a ‘piece of art’] – that’s our identity, the way we want to play, it’s not possible to score all the goals like that. But that’s the direction we want to take.
“I am very happy. It’s a contribution from the whole game, what is required in every moment and then the execution and that’s what we’ve been lacking a little bit, because the intention is there, it’s just doing it more consistently.
“You could see that the team wanted to keep attacking, hit the post twice, a goal disallowed.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl: “I think the signs before the game weren’t the best with players out with injuries. We tried in the beginning to be brave and play well. We concede in the first 15 minutes with their first chance. You could see the quality they had.
“We tried to score in the second half. But you can see the confidence they had after a second goal and a third goal. Overall, there was nothing to get for us today.
“I think the first goal was an easy goal how we conceded it. The other two were from headers. In the end, it was absolutely a deserved win for Arsenal. We have to pick up the points somewhere else.”
Man of the match – Aaron Ramsdale
In a 3-0 win, the goalkeeper may be a strange choice for man of the match, but Aaron Ramsdale continued his fine form this season for the Gunners with a number of fine stops in what were tricky conditions in north London.
The rain poured down for most of the game and in greasy conditions the England goalkeeper didn’t put a foot wrong.
A number of his saves came at crucial times, especially in the opening 20 minutes when Arsenal were struggling to contain Southampton.
Later in the game, Ramsdale made some more spectacular saves as he secured an eighth clean sheet in 12 Premier League matches.
Ramsdale impresses again
Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew at Emirates Stadium:
“Ramsdale is quickly becoming a cult hero at the Emirates. His name was ringing around the stadium a number of times after another fine display from the England goalkeeper.
“A 3-0 win may sound comfortable for the Gunners, but Ramsdale certainly played his part in what have been tricky conditions for a goalkeeper.
“He made a number of fine saves and his handling in the wet conditions was excellent. He also showed his skills with the ball at his feet again, especially with his fine pass to release Martinelli late in the first half.”
Opta stats: Arsenal extend long unbeaten run against Southampton
- Arsenal are unbeaten across their last 27 home matches against Southampton in the top-flight, their joint-longest such run against any opponent (also against Manchester City between 1976 and 2012, and 27 against Fulham – ongoing).
- Southampton have never won in 23 Premier League away games against Arsenal (D7 L16) – it’s the most one side has faced another on the road without ever winning in the competition’s history.
- Martin Odegaard has scored in each of his last three Premier League appearances for Arsenal (seven shots), having scored only twice in his first 25 appearances for the club in the competition (21 shots).
- Bukayo Saka has assisted 22 goals in all competitions for Arsenal since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, four more than any other player for the club.
- At 40 years and 74 days old, Willy Caballero became the oldest player to feature for Southampton in a Premier League match, surpassing Kelvin Davis (39). Caballero is the 17th player to feature in a Premier League game after their 40th birthday, and the first South American to do so.
Arsenal now host West Ham at 8pm on Wednesday, while Southampton are at Crystal Palace at 7.30pm the same night. Watch free highlights from both games shortly after full time on Sky Sports.com, the Sky Sports App and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.