Arsenal 2 (Koscielny 29, Cazorla 94 (pen)) – Southampton 1 (Cech 18 (O.G))
Man of the Match – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
A lot happened at Arsenal Football Club over the past week, since that 3-1 win over Watford at Vicerage Road. With rumours making their rounds that Arsenal had blown their chance to sign German international defender Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia, after dilly-dallying over his price, the two clubs sat down and negotiated a price. £35 million later, and Arsenal had a world class centre back in their ranks.
That wasn’t all. With the fans crying for some firepower up front, the club fulfilled their wishes, by purchasing £17 million striker Lucas Perez from Deportivo la Coruna. He may not be the Higuain or Lacazzette we all desired, but hey, he scored 17 goals and provided 8 assists, for what is, at best an average La Liga club. He definitely could do better with the likes of Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez playing behind him.
The biggest news, however was the departure of Jack Wilshere on loan to Bournemouth. A move that raises a lot of questions. Has the club lost patience with his injuries and his promise of being the next big homegrown thing to come out of the club. Press reports say it was a move Wilshere requested, in order to gain first team football and build on his fitness, so he can cement his place at Arsenal in the long run. Makes sense, to some extent, considering Eddie Howe likes his teams playing free flowing football, and he will be away from the usual scrutiny he gets every week with Arsenal.
Coming to the match itself, the manager started both his new signings. Rob Holding made way for Shkodran Mustafi at the back, while Lucas Perez started up front, with Alexis on the bench, the manager keeping an eye on the big Champions League opener vs Paris Saint Germain. Elsewhere, Francis Coquelin returned to the starting lineup, with Granit Xhaka making way.
It was Southampton, who started brighter, with Jay Rodriguez heading just over the post. Arsenal were guilty of giving the ball away far too often. Mesut Ozil, still finding his feet this season, found himself unmarked in front of goal, before losing his footing. Nacho Monreal then fouled just outside the penalty box, in the 16th minute. Serbian international Dusan Tadic’s freekick struck the underside of the post, with Petr Cech completely beaten. It bounced off the back of the stopper and rolled over the line, as the visitors took a 1-0 lead.
A free-kick from Santi Cazorla was header over by Theo Walcott, before the Spaniard was booked for dissent. Dutch international Virgil van Dijk then had to clear the ball to safety from a Monreal effort. Seconds later, the Gunners were level, when from the resulting corner, Laurent Koscielny, celebrating his birthday, pulled off an overhead kick. Ridiculous stuff from a central defender. The goal changed the momentum into Arsenal’s hands, as the home side opened up. Cazorla played in a couple of wonderful cross field balls, before an Ozil effort from a Bellerin cross was blocked. Then, former Saint Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw his shot deflecting just over, as the first half came to a end at 1-1.
The wily Shane Long came on for Southampton in place of Jay Rodriguez, at half time. Arsenal had the first chance of the second half, as Ozil failed to control a Walcott pass inside the box. Lucas, who had had a quiet debut till that point, saw his shot blocked by Ryan Bertrand, having been set up by Ozil. Santi Cazorla had to be alert to break a dangerous Southampton counter, before Bellerin’s effort went just wide, as Arsenal probed Southampton in search of a second goal.
On 62 minutes, the manager bought on Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez in place of Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Shane Long then had a great chance to put the visitors ahead, but he squandered his chance, with only Cech left to beat. The dynamics up front seemed to have changed since the introduction of Giroud and Alexis. First, the Chilean saw his shot go just over the bar, from an Ozil layoff. Then, he combined with Giroud, only to see his effort being blocked this time round. At the other end, Shane Long could only head over from a free-kick.
On 75 minutes, Alex Iwobi came on for Theo Walcott. A mistake from van Dijk allowed Alexis to set up Cazorla, but the Spaniard by the slippery pitch at the Emirates, something even Giroud fell prey to. An effort from Monreal was deflected wide, as both sides looked to score the elusive winner. Shane Long missed another guilt edged chance at the other end, moments later.
A free-kick from Santi Cazorla floated in, but Giroud couldn’t make much of it, under close scrutiny from Southampton’s towering defensive pair of Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk. In the dying moments, when it seemed like points would be shared, a Cazorla cross caused chaos in Southampton’s area. First, Koscielny was bought down and Giroud was fouled, the referee awarding a penalty for the latter incident.
It seemed like Koscielny would need some treatment, and he was momentarily taken off the pitch. Southampton tried to ward off Cazorla’s concentration, as he stepped up to take the spot kick. It didn’t matter though, as the ball found the back of the net, in the 94th minute.
It was too little, too late for the visitors to score an equalising goal at this point in the match. A much needed 3 points, as Arsenal now travel to Paris for a daunting game against the all conquering PSG.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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