Saints' away run ends at Arsenal

By SFC Media Sun 24 Feb Arsenal v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson
Sun 24 Feb 2.05PM
Premier League
Arsenal
2
Southampton
0
Lacazette [6'] Mkhitaryan [17']
Referee: Graham Scott | Venue: Emirates Stadium | Attendance: 59,877

Southampton’s unbeaten away run in the Premier League was halted at four games, as Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side fell to a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday afternoon.

Saints arrived at Emirates Stadium unbeaten on the road in 2019, but knowing that record was going to be put to a significant test against an Unai Emery side challenging for a top-four finish.

So it proved, as the Gunners roared into an early 2-0 lead and claimed a position from which they would not relinquish control.

Hasenhüttl made three changes for the game, notably bringing Angus Gunn back in goal, with Alex McCarthy dropping to the bench.

Matt Targett was also introduced for Ryan Bertrand at left wing-back, with the Saints boss again deploying three centre-backs, while Stuart Armstrong returned from injury in place of Shane Long, who missed out altogether.

It meant Redmond leading the line, and he nearly made full use of the position in just the sixth minute, as he raced onto a quick ball over the top from deep, putting him clear down the inside-right.

The angle meant that, as he sprinted into the area, he needed to cut back inside onto his left foot, with Shkodran Mustafi getting back to cover, but the movement opened up a glorious chance, only for Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal to save his shot from close range.

Nathan Redmond sees a big early chance at 0-0 saved by Bernd Leno

It was a pivotal moment, as the hosts immediately broke upfield and scored themselves.

The ball was worked to Alex Iwobi on the left, with his chipped cross falling to Henrikh Mkhitaryan at the back post. Mkhitaryan struck a left-footed volley back across goal, which was heading wide, but Alexandre Lacazette found himself positioned perfectly in its path and he diverted it with a flick into the back of the net.

There were protests from Saints for offside, but they fell on deaf ears.

Granit Xhaka’s dipping shot from 25 yards a few minutes later for a moment looked as though it had a chance of doubling the advantage, but it was just wide of the top corner, and, having survived that effort, Hasenhüttl’s men went back on the front foot.

In the space of a few seconds in the 14th minute they came close to equalising.

First, a Targett cross from the left picked out Redmond at the far post, and he nodded the ball cleverly back into the path of Armstrong, who sent his own header goalwards from a few yards out, only for Sead Kolašinac to make an excellent block.

As Arsenal then attempted to move the ball clear, Armstrong tracked back to win it again before playing a smart pass to Targett on the left edge of the area. He took a touch to set himself and did the right thing, sending a fizzing low shot towards the far corner, but Leno dived down to tip it away.

Again, as it had been in the opening minutes, Leno’s intervention was followed moments later by an Arsenal goal.

Under pressure, Jack Stephens was a little errant with a back-pass and, in trying to stop it going out for a corner, Gunn hit a low kick straight to Iwobi 30 yards out.

The Arsenal forward drove into the box and sent a low, square ball across, which found Mkhitaryan in space on the far side, and he side-footed home first time from about 16 yards.

Alexandre Lacazette (hidden, right) diverts in Arsenal's opener

With each side having carved out two big chances, the score could well have been very different at the midway point of the half, but, after winning the battle of fine margins, it was the home side who were well in command at that stage.

They threatened to make it 3-0 on 26 minutes, as Lacazette was again found in the area, but, as he cut inside to shoot, Jan Bednarek slid back in to make a superb block.

After a frantic first half-an-hour, the game calmed a little, although Gunn had to save well down to his right to keep out Lacazette’s glancing header from a Xhaka corner on 39 minutes.

If that was a smart effort from the Arsenal forward, the one he produced seconds later was not so impressive.

After Saints only cleared Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross to the edge of the area, Aaron Ramsey pounced on it, took a step forward and slid a brilliant ball to Lacazette, who controlled, but then somehow side-footed over from six yards.

And, when he was on target again, this time in the 42nd minute, his fierce low shot was repelled by the feet of Gunn.

The pressure was very much mounting again by this point, but Saints did at least manage to reach the interval without conceding a third that would surely have removed any doubt about the final result.

Hasenhüttl then made two changes at the break, as Stephens and Armstrong were removed, with Charlie Austin and Michael Obafemi being sent on.

Saints were gifted a chance to halve the deficit in the 52nd minute, as Xhaka made a dreadful error, attempting to play a lofted pass along the edge of his own area, only to send it straight to James Ward-Prowse. He chested it down and hit the ball on the half-volley, but it sliced agonisingly wide of the post from 18 yards.

James Ward-Prowse reacts after going close to scoring

At the other end, Arsenal were still threatening to add to their total on occasions, but Hasenhüttl’s men were able to prevent them from creating any clear-cut chances.

Saints’ hopes of getting back into it suffered a blow on 65 minutes, though, as Obafemi, who was only introduced at half-time following two months on the sidelines, picked up an injury and had to depart the field, with Mohamed Elyounoussi being sent on in his place.

As the clock ticked past 70 minutes, Saints’ hopes were slim, but nonetheless alive, and Austin tested Leno with a looping header that the Arsenal keeper had to be alive to.

With 14 minutes left, Ward-Prowse had another chance to pull the visitors back into it, but his right-footed strike from 15 yards was blocked superbly by Kolašinac.

As the game entered the final few minutes, Arsenal went in search of a third, and only an excellent Gunn save prevented substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from sending a right-footed effort into the back of the net after dancing into space just inside the area.

With two minutes left, Saints nearly breathed some hope back into the game, as Targett put a brilliant strike on a rising ball 20 yards out, only for Leno to fling himself to his right and get enough on it to tip it wide.

The result leaves Southampton third from bottom, but with a chance to potentially change that as soon as Wednesday, when 19th-placed Fulham are the visitors on a big night at St Mary’s.

Arsenal

Head to Head Stats

Southampton
  • Possession (%)
    62
    38
  • Shots
    12
    10
  • Shots on target
    4
    4
  • Corners
    6
    4
  • Passes Complete
    477
    244

Arsenal

19
Bernd Leno (GK)
5
Sokratis
12
Stephan Lichtsteiner
Laurent Koscielny (56′)
31
Sead Kolasinac
20
Shkodran Mustafi
17
Alex Iwobi
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (75′)
11
Lucas Torreira
7
Henrikh Mkhitaryan
34
Granit Xhaka
8
Aaron Ramsey (C)
Mesut Özil (63′)
9
Alexandre Lacazette
10
Mesut Özil
22
Denis Suárez
29
Matteo Guendouzi
1
Petr Cech
6
Laurent Koscielny
14
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
18
Nacho Monreal

Southampton

28
Angus Gunn (GK)
5
Jack Stephens
Charlie Austin (45′)
35
Jan Bednarek
4
Jannik Vestergaard
33
Matt Targett
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
16
James Ward-Prowse
14
Oriol Romeu
43
Yan Valery
22
Nathan Redmond
17
Stuart Armstrong
Michael Obafemi (45′) Mohamed Elyounoussi (65′)
1
Alex McCarthy
61
Michael Obafemi
10
Charlie Austin
11
Mohamed Elyounoussi
55
Callum Slattery
3
Maya Yoshida
21
Ryan Bertrand
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