Result: Southampton 1 – 0 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 16 April 2022
Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tavares; Lokonga, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
Subs: Leno, Holding, Ogungbo, Swanson, Elneny, Azeez, Smith Rowe, Hutchinson, Pepe
Arsenal put in another mediocre performance and registered a third loss on a row away to Southampton. The only goal was scored by Bednarek at the tail end of the first half.
Arsenal did have rare chances on goal, with Saka’s first half effort looking like a sure bet, but Foster was always available to deny their efforts throughout the 90 minutes.
After over-complicating his line-up in the last game, Arteta’s lineup focused on playing his players in their most natural positions.
Tavares had an opportunity to play himself back into form at left back while Xhaka returned to the centre of the park alongside Sambi. Lacazette, who looked out of form, did not make the squad and was replaced by Nketiah.
The rest of the team remained unchanged from the last game.
After being thrashed in their last game, Southampton looked to keep things tight and conservative – sitting back to ensure they didn’t concede early.
Arsenal took advantage of this by playing higher up the pitch with a fleet-footed Nketiah flanked by Saka and Martinelli on the left and right respectively.
The Gunners controlled the game within the first 25 minutes but lacked cutting edge as they too were reeling from a confidence sapping loss. Our young and speedy forwards were patiently probing with dribbles and exchanges with their midfield as Southampton piled on the numbers at the back to avoid another drubbing.
There were moments of positivity from the Arsenal. Martinelli had a decent shot on goal from outside the box saved but it was mostly both teams trying to find their rhythm.
One that should have put the home side to the sword was when Nketiah stole the ball on a break. It was 3v3 as he passed to Martinelli on the right. Martinelli fizzed in a low pass to Saka who was waiting in the centre of the box. Saka shot right in the middle at chest level that an onrushing Foster parried with strong hands. While the save looked excellent, Saka should have put that out of sight by passing the ball into the bottom corner instead.
Most of the rest of the first half was a tepid affair but Southampton were racking up their corners towards the end. Unfortunately, the home side took advantage of the corners they were given. After a clearance, Southampton regained possession and lobbed the ball in for Elyounoussi to cross in. Bednarek tapped in from close range. 1-0 Southampton
Arsenal started the match the same way they ended – plenty of possession with hardly any chances created. It was not helped by Cedric making crosses into the box for his teammates but there was not a target adept at attacking those crosses.
He made way for Smith Rowe on the 59th minute. The team went to 3 at the back with Xhaka an advanced left centre back and Tavares pushing up the left wing.
The tactical change allowed the Gunners to up the pressure and move an extra player up the pitch to dominate possession 80-20 by the 60th minute.
Chances came at a premium as the home side sat very deep and denied space. And when Smith Rowe and Xhaka did manage to pull off a strike, Forster was there to deny Arsenal.
It was a slog to the end and while Arsenal didn’t deserve to lose, their tepid performance didn’t deserve the full 3 points either. A consolation was that Spurs lost their corresponding game but Arsenal have to improve their performances in this last stretch of the season to ensure they meet their objective of finishing in a European place.