Walcott strikes as Saints earn a point

By SFC Media time Wed 16 Dec Arsenal v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | Theo Walcott
Wed 16 Dec 6PM
Premier League
Aubameyang [52']
Walcott [18']
Ceballos (44') Magalhães (58')
yellow card
Bednarek (26') Bertrand (33') Ings (83')
Magalhães (62')
red card
Referee: Paul Tierney | Venue: Emirates Stadium | Attendance: 0

Southampton extended their latest unbeaten run to three matches, as they followed up their wins over Brighton and Sheffield United with a point away to Arsenal.

Theo Walcott netted on his return to Emirates Stadium to give Saints a lead at the break, only for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s effort shortly after half-time to rescue a 1-1 draw for the hosts, who ended the night with ten men following Gabriel Magalhães’s sending off just after the hour mark.

At half-time, Saints had been on course to once again go top of the table temporarily, with Leicester heading for defeat against Everton, but they still ended the game in third, jumping ahead of the Foxes by virtue of goals scored.

With no fresh injury concerns to contend with, it was no surprise Ralph Hasenhüttl opted for the same XI that had comprehensively dealt with Sheffield United three days earlier.

For Arsenal, it was a different story, as Mikel Arteta made four changes from the team that was beaten 1-0 at Emirates Stadium by Burnley at the weekend, as he looked to spark an improved performance from his players in the hope of avoiding a fifth consecutive home defeat in the Premier League.

There was little evidence in the early stages that he was getting the response he hoped for, though, with an uneventful opening 15 minutes passing before Saints sliced through their opponents with a slick move to break the deadlock.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Theo Walcott of Southampton opens the scoring during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at Emirates Stadium on December 16, 2020 in London, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Theo Walcott lifts the ball over Bernd Leno to put Saints ahead (Photo: Matt Watson)

Jannik Vestergaard’s pass into Ché Adams on the halfway line started it, with the striker taking advantage of a kind ricochet off an opponent, swiping the ball away, turning and playing a perfectly-weighted ball down the inside-right for the run of Walcott.

Had there been any Arsenal fans in the stadium to watch, the sight of Walcott sprinting clear would no doubt have evoked familiar memories. However, on this occasion he was doing so in the away team’s colours, and as Bernd Leno advanced off his line towards him, Walcott produced the most accomplished of finishes, delicately lifting the ball over the Arsenal keeper and into the back of the net.

A big Saints penalty appeal for handball against Bukayo Saka was then turned down shortly after, as Hasenhüttl’s side pushed to quickly make it 2-0.

But they still had to be alert to the ever-present threat posed by Arsenal’s speed in attack, and they were indebted to a timely sliding block from Vestergaard on 28 minutes, as he put himself in the way of Nicolas Pépé’s low shot from just inside the area, after Aubameyang had picked him out with a clever cutback from the left.

If there was one downside for Saints as the game entered the final ten minutes of the first half, it was that they were contending with bookings to two of their defenders, with Jan Bednarek and Ryan Bertrand cautioned in quick succession for fouls on Eddie Nketiah and Pépé respectively.

For the first real time in the game, the visitors then had to withstand a spell of pressure from the hosts, as Dani Ceballos saw a penalty claim waved away after going to ground under the attention of Bednarek, before Saka got to the byline on 38 minutes and drilled in a low cross which deflected off the Polish defender at close range, with Alex McCarthy reacting well to turn the ball behind.

The Saints keeper was again in action four minutes later, getting behind a low Pépé shot, as he hit a first-time effort from a Ceballos pass straight down the middle.

20201216 Arsenal v Southampton
Ralph Hasenhütttl issues orders to his side from the touchline (Photo: Matt Watson)

Walcott then did likewise back at the other end in the final minute before the break, as he received a pass from Stuart Armstrong in space on the left side of the area, crying out in frustration that he did not do better with the opportunity, but there was certainly nothing to be disappointed about as referee Paul Tierney signalled for the interval shortly after Danny Ings curled a shot over from distance, with Saints enjoying a well-deserved one-goal advantage.

It didn’t last long into the second half, though, as Arsenal equalised on 52 minutes.

The move was a smart one, as Saka showed great feet down the left to find space among a couple of Saints players, before squaring to Nketiah just outside the area, and his first-time flick put in Aubameyang, who took a touch and curled into the far bottom corner.

Still, Saints didn’t seem especially fazed by the setback, with Adams turning and sending a stinging shot from 20 yards towards goal in the 57th minute, only for it to be a little too close to Leno, who got his hands up in time to save.

Saints were then handed a significant advantage with just under 30 minutes remaining, as Arsenal saw Gabriel sent off for two quick-fire yellow cards, the second of which saw him pull down Walcott as he spun away from him just beyond the halfway line.

20201216 Arsenal v Southampton
Paul Tierney sends off Gabriel Magalhães (Photo: Matt Watson)

Hasenhüttl then sent on Nathan Redmond and Moussa Djenepo in place of Armstrong and Walcott, proceeding with the double change he had been planning before the sending off, while Arteta responded with a defensive change, bringing on David Luiz for Nketiah before quickly then swapping Ceballos for Joseph Willock.

As he did against Sheffield United, when he rounded off the 3-0 win with a late goal, Redmond almost had another instant impact here, running in behind in the 70th minute to latch onto a sensational Oriol Romeu chip, only for his first-time half-volley as the ball dropped to hit the angle of post and crossbar and go behind.

James Ward-Prowse was next to have a sight of the Arsenal goal, but his low effort on 78 minutes from a Djenepo cutback was blocked by Rob Holding.

Saints very much had Arsenal’s backs against the wall as the game drifted into the final ten minutes, but, with the hosts defending deep, space was not necessarily easy to come by in the final third.

A rare foray forward from Arsenal in the 83rd minute did result in a booking for Ings, as he tripped Willock, before former Saints defender Cédric was introduced for the hosts, in place of Pépé, for the closing stages.

20201216 Arsenal v Southampton
Nathan Redmond looks on after a late opportunity (Photo: Matt Watson)

He was quickly given trouble by Redmond, who cut past him in the area and curled a shot just wide of the near top corner with four minutes left on the clock.

Time was running out for Saints to earn what would have been a first Premier League victory at Emirates Stadium, with appeals for a foul in the area on Djenepo by Holding waved away, before Ings saw a header deflected wide.

Into added time we went, and it was Arsenal who almost stole the game, as Holding saw a header from a Saka free-kick come back off the bar, but there was ultimately to be no dramatic finish for either side, as the spoils were shared.

Saints’ attentions will now turn to Saturday, when they welcome Manchester City to St Mary’s for their final game before Christmas.


Head to Head Stats

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Bernd Leno (GK)
Kieran Tierney
Rob Holding
Gabriel Magalhães red card
Dani Ceballos yellow card
replace Joseph Willock (67′)
Mohamed Elneny
Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Bukayo Saka
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (C) goal
Eddie Nketiah
replace David Luiz (65′)
Nicolas Pépé
replace Cédric Soares (85′)
Cédric Soares
Shkodran Mustafi
Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
Joseph Willock
David Luiz
Alexandre Lacazette


Alex McCarthy (GK)
Ryan Bertrand yellow card
Jannik Vestergaard
Jan Bednarek yellow card
Kyle Walker-Peters
Theo Walcott goal
replace Moussa Djenepo (63′)
Oriol Romeu
Stuart Armstrong
replace Nathan Redmond (63′)
James Ward-Prowse (C)
Danny Ings yellow card
Che Adams
Fraser Forster
Mohammed Salisu
Ibrahima Diallo
Nathan Redmond
Jack Stephens
Moussa Djenepo
Daniel N'Lundulu
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