Southampton (2) 3 Arsenal (1) 2
St. Mary’s Stadium, Britannia Road, Southampton SO14 5FP
Sunday, 16th December 2018. Kick-off time: 1.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Bellerín, Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang; Iwobi
Substitutes: Čech, Elneny, Ramsey, Lacazette, Özil, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah
Scorers: Mkhitaryan (2)
Yellow Cards: Koscielny
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Southampton are one of those clubs that we always seem to meet in the league at around Christmas time. As I recall, one of my first matches at The Old Place was on Boxing Day 1966, when John Radford and George Armstrong had equal goalscoring rights in a spectacular 4-1 victory over Southampton. Of course, The Saints provided us with one of our most famous bandits; before all our great goalscorers in the post-war modern era, there was always The Emperor. After signing from Southampton for £6,500 (£442,000 today) in March 1934, Ted Drake scored 138 goals in 184 appearances for us, and is still the club’s fifth highest goalscorer of all time; incredibly his record of 41 goals in 42 matches back in the 1934-35 championship hat-trick season still holds. All that in a campaign that saw him score three hat-tricks and four, four-goal collections along the way as well! Unbelievably, he also holds the record for the most goals scored in a top flight game in English football, with seven goals (in eight shots) against Aston Villa in December 1935. After a period of injury, he called it a day in 1945 after winning everything in the game with us in the late thirties (including five caps for England); he then went into management where he was the first man to win a league championship medal as both a player and a manager, when he led Chelsea to their first title in 1955; Drake finished his managerial days being assistant manager at Barcelona in 1970. A true Arsenal legend, they really don’t make English footballers like Ted Drake anymore.
That was it, then. Our 22-match unbeaten run has finally come to an end today in an inglorious match at St. Mary’s that saw us crash out 2-3 to a Southampton team that may have been well-organised, but at best not the most thrilling of teams. The match itself seemed to be a yin-and-yan game with whatever appeared to happen in the Southampton end, the same came to pass in our area, too. Our defence today was disastrous with Southampton finding their way through constantly and consistently almost at will. They took the lead as early as the 20th minute with a goal that was a howling error in our defence. To be fair, we organised ourselves and grabbed an equaliser less than ten minutes later with a superb header by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, that was an extremely well-taken header. that came almost out of nowhere. For the rest of the half, we more than held our own, despite another goal scored by the home side a minute or so before the break.
On the back foot, we started the second half desperate to make a mark on the game. Another Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal levelled the score after 53 minutes but to be fair, even though we came back into the match at this point, we started to look like the side that was chasing the game. We lost the grip of the game, and it was no surprise to anyone in the stadium (and those who were watching on TV) that our defence was found wanting on several occasions; we leaked the final goal of the game with five minutes to go on the clock, but by then unfortunately, the match was running away from us, and although the final whistle was blown five minutes later, it became a game that we had difficulty containing, let alone controlling.
The problem with this match wasn’t so much as the sterling efforts by the midfield players, but how the defenders were caught out by the Saints’ strikers time and time again. This is a lesson that needs to be learned by our defenders very quickly; if not, then Mr. Emery needs to try to get some commanding defenders signed up in the January transfer window. Overall, a disappointing match from our perspective, but it is certainly one that we can learn from, and quickly, too. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.