Arsenal claimed a much needed victory over Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Thursday evening, as Alex McCarthy’s error helped the visitors on their way to a 2-0 win.
The Saints stopper was sloppy in possession midway through the first half, carelessly playing the ball against the on-rushing Eddie Nketiah, who tapped into an empty net.
The hosts tried to fight their way back into the game, but Arsenal sealed the win after Joe Willock reacted quickest to McCarthy’s late parry – a chance that stemmed from a red card handed to Southampton defender Jack Stephens.
Here’s 90min‘s breakdown of an uncharacteristically solid defensive display from the Gunners.
Key Talking Point
Following Southampton’s impressive 3-0 victory over relegation ‘certainties’ Norwich City, there was perhaps no surprise that manager Ralph Hasenhuttl opted to pick an unchanged side.
But despite the form of Danny Ings coming into the game – and the Saints’ domination in the second half – Hasenhuttl’s men were found wanting in front of goal, with substitute Shane Long and Nathan Redmond the only two players to fashion any real opportunities.
Despite losing out, the Saints are seemingly well on their way to securing their Premier League survival – something that appeared increasing unlikely after their 9-0 thrashing at the hands of Leicester back in October.
Southampton Player Ratings
Starting XI: McCarthy (4); Valery (5), Stephens (5), Bednarek (6), Bertrand (6); Redmond(7), Ward-Prowse (6), Højbjerg (5), Armstrong (7); Ings (6), Obafemi (5).
Substitutes: Walker-Peters (6), Long (7), Vestergaard (N/A), Romeu (N/A)
The Saints will be unsure what to make of their performance after a relatively positive display ended in a comfortable defeat. The main driving force behind their strong second-half performance was midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
The former Celtic midfielder was at the heart of all of Southampton’s good work going forward, continuing his fine form following his goal against Norwich on Friday.
Key Talking Point
While many Arsenal fans were no doubt concerned with the absence of goalkeeper Bernd Leno prior to kick off – following his injury against Brighton on Saturday – it was the lack of Matteo Guendouzi that caught the headlines.
The Frenchman was caught up in a tussle with Brighton’s Neal Maupay last time out, and head coach Mikel Arteta opted to punish his young star by leaving him out of his squad.
Despite the pair’s absence, Arteta’s side looked relatively comfortable – with a solid defensive display put in by an often criticised backline. That said, the Gunners were somewhat gifted the lead by McCarthy – though credit to Nketiah for closing down the England international and seizing his opportunity.
Arsenal Player Ratings
Starting XI: Martinez (7); Bellerin (4), Mustafi (6), Holding (8), Tierney (7); Xhaka (7), Ceballos (6); Saka (6), Aubameyang (7), Nketiah (7), Pepe (5).
Substitutes: Willock (7), Kolasinac (6), Lacazette (6), Maitland-Niles (6)
It’s been a tough old time for Rob Holding in the last few seasons due to injury, yet he looked really impressive on Thursday evening.
The Englishman seemed to win every header he went up for and added real grit and determination to an often limp Arsenal defence. Even with the presence of the pest that is Danny Ings, Holding remained calm and dominant throughout.
Southampton travel to Vicarage Road on Sunday to face Watford, before a tough looking fixture against Manchester City on 5 July.
As for Arsenal, they face Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon, before a return to league action on 1 July at home to Norwich City.