Result: Arsenal 2 – 0 Southampton
Competition: Premier League
Date: 24th Feb 2019
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Lichsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Lacazette
Subs: Cech, Koscielny, Monreal, Guendouzi, Suarez, Ozil, Aubameyang
Arsenal secured their second clean sheet in a row with a 2-0 win over Southampton at home. Goals by Lacazette and Mkhitaryan in a dominant first half were enough to seal the win.
The result puts Arsenal into fourth place as Manchester United drew with Liverpool in the league.
Leveraging off the positive performance against BATE Borisov, Emery stuck with a back four formation. Sokratis takes Koscielny’s place in defence and Ramsey displaced Ozil in the number 10 role.
Southampton’s plan to claim a draw was clear with five in midfield and no natural forwards occupying the two front berths. Nathan Redmond led the line for the visitors and broke a very casual offside trap in the fifth minute, going one on one with Leno but the German keeper managed to save his defence’s blushes with a save.
Arsenal countered swiftly. Iwobi crossed from the left to an onrushing Torreira. It looked like the midfielder was impeded but the referee waved play on despite protestations from the Arsenal players. It was Mkhitaryan who received the cross and his wayward volley found its way to Lacazette who instinctively flicked the ball into the direction of the goal. 1-0 Arsenal.
Xhaka almost doubled the lead a couple of minutes later with a rasping drive from afar but it skimmed just above the cross bar. It was Mkhitaryan who got his team’s second in the 16th minute as Southampton made a hash of their attempts to pass the ball out from the back. Lacazette harried Stephens who hastily returned the ball to his goalkeeper. It was poorly cleared into the path of Iwobi whose cross reached Mkhitaryan from a slightly fortunate deflection. The Armenian sidefooted the ball calmly to make it 2-0.
Arsenal continued running rings around the Saints with intricate passes and overlapping runs for the next 10 minutes – a rather refreshing sight after weeks of ponderous play. Iwobi’s close control and probing dribbles were especially great to watch.
It should have been three up on the 40th minute when Lacazette missed a glorious chance from the six yard box. The move started when Lichsteiner evaded his defender to send a teasing cross into the box. It was cleared into the path of Kolasinac in the box who passes it to the Frenchman who skied the ball under pressure. Kolasinac assisted him teammate again moments later in similar fashion but Lacazette’s shot was well saved this time.
Arsenal went into half time full of confidence after a dominant display but Southampton had different ideas as they brought on Charlie Austin and Obafemi to claw back the deficit.
The change in tact by Southampton saw the visitors up the pressure on the Arsenal defence with dangerous crosses into the box. The pressure got to Xhaka in the 51st minute, whose poor clearance gifted Ward-Prowse a golden chance to strike from distance, missing only by inches.
Koscielny replaced Lichsteiner in the 55th minute as the Swiss full back seemed to be in some discomfort. Mustafi moved to right back to accommodate the captain. Five minutes later, it was Ramsey who got substituted to warm applause as Ozil came on for the Welshman.
The game failed to fall into any form of rhythm by both teams and Emery brought on Aubameyang for Iwobi on the 75th minute – the latter looked to have overstretched his calf when harrying the opponent. However, it was Southampton who sparked to life with Ward-Prowse striking a goal bound shot that was well blocked by Kolasinac.
Aubameyang took advantage of tired legs in the 84th minute when put clear towards goal by a deft Ozil touch. Streaking down the left wing, he cut back for a waiting Lacazette but his low cross was deflected into the path of Angus Gunn who saved expertly. Aubameyang had another attempt saved a minute later as Arsenal sought to end the half strongly.
Leno’s acrobatic save from another Ward-Prowse volley outside the box late in the game sealed the result for Arsenal as they racked up a very welcome two clean sheets in as many games.