Result: Arsenal 3 – 0 Newcastle United
Competition: Premier League
Date: 11 December 2021
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Lacazette
Subs: Okonkwo, Cedric, Holding, Tavares, Sambi, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Nketiah, Smith Rowe
A match that threatened to be another banana slip for Arsenal proved to be the scene of one of the team’s best performance of the season.
Lacazette scored the first goal against the run of play with a lovely built up goal from the back while Odegaard doubled the lead minutes later from a simple header. Gabriel rounded up a dominant second half display with a goal from a corner as Arsenal got back to winning ways.
Arsenal’s attempt to halt their two game losing run was met with a further hurdle as captain, Aubameyang, was omitted from the squad due to a “disciplinary breach”.
Lacazette took the captain’s armband and his spot as the lead forward and was supported by Odegaard, Saka and Martinelli. Despite only returning from a major injury, Xhaka made his second consecutive appearance in days alongside Partey in midfield.
Tierney kept his spot at left back alongside the regular defence of Gabriel, White, Tomiyasu and Ramsdale.
Arsenal looked eager to please the crowd from the start of the game. Lacazette and Odegaard were bright with their early exchanges but the team struggled to string passes through the Southampton press.
That over-eagerness was personified in Gabriel who earned a yellow on the second minute for a reckless tackle and, just minutes later, was responsible for an errant pass out from the back straight to an opponent deep in our half.
Southampton however were energetic. They cut out Arsenal’s passing lanes and penned the home side back for the first 20 minutes. The highlight of it was enterprising run through the Arsenal defence by Armstrong whose low strike was saved well by Ramsdale.
The longer the game went, the more nervous Arsenal became in possession, especially when the defenders were insistent on passing out from the back amidst the intense Southampton press.
However, all that intricate passing came to fruition on the 21st minute. The team passed through the right side of the pitch with Saka driving the ball from the right wing into the penalty box. The youngster centred the ball for Lacazette who calmly slotted in from several yards to the relief of the home crowd. 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal have been meek after they’ve gone ahead in recent games but the Gunners looked to have learnt their lesson and turned the screw on Southampton.
Tierney had a couple of chances to cross from the left side of the penalty box with Southampton laxed in their defending. He eventually looped the ball towards the centre and Odegaard leaped and headed the ball in unchallenged. A gift from a very static Saints defence. 2-0 Arsenal
Arsenal had to hold strong against Southampton’s spirited attacks but the away side’s defence was very poor and they panicked every time Arsenal countered. With slightly better finishing, Lacazette and Saka could have added to the tally as the first half ended with Arsenal in a comfortable lead.
Not too bad considering that Partey has been anonymous and Xhaka looked rusty on the ball within that first 45 minutes.
Southampton pushed harder to get back into the game but Arsenal were more confident in containing threats, winning the ball and setting up the counter attack.
A player who fed on this confidene was Gabriel who shook off his rocky first half start. Imperious in the tackles and almost impossible to contain when attacking set pieces, he had a goal ruled out for offside from a corner kick on the 57th minute.
That was a warning sign for Southampton as he made no mistake with his second attempt. Arsenal were now up 3-0
Arsenal were playing with a swagger we have not seen in ages. They were not keen to rest and passed through towards Southampton’s goal with confidence. Saka and Martinelli were unlucky with their attempts, hitting the upright with long range strikes that should have been the cherry on the cake.
The Gunners need only be on cruise control for the rest of the game as Sambi, Holding and Pepe got a run out to close the game.
A very welcome result and performance for Arteta that took the attention away from the Aubameyang omission and hopefully, the start of another 10-game unbeaten run. One can hope.