Arsenal (2) 2 Southampton (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 24th February 2019. Kick-off time: 2.05pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolašinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi; Lacazette.
Substitutes: Čech, Koscielny, Özil, Aubameyang, Monreal, Suárez, Guendouzi.
Scorers: Lacazette, Mkhitaryan
Referee: Graham Scott
Truthfully, after just seventeen minutes, this routine Sunday afternoon match against struggling Southampton was all but over, courtesy of two well-taken goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan; but in essence, this victory probably told us more about Arsenal and their self-imposed limitations more than we thought possible at this stage of the season.
Both goals came from some truly lackadaisical play from the visitors. The first goal was made possible after a sloppy effort by Nathan Redmond that saw us do what we know we can do best, which is smash-and-grab football of course. Almost immediately we broke out, and although it looked as if we were going to get a penalty awarded to us after Lucas Torreira was ham-fistedly tackled in the penalty area whilst attempting to meet an Alex Iwobi cross, Henrikh Mkhitaryan fluffed his shot, but thankfully Alexandre Lacazette was on hand to make no mistake in scoring his thirteenth goal of the season. Eleven minutes later, another Southampton error led to our final goal of the day. Some kind of schoolboy football that involved the Saints’ goalkeeper and a defender saw the ball land at the feet of young Alex Iwobi who wasted no time in getting a low cross over to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who drilled it into the back of the net.
Pressure, boys, pressure. This was now the measure of Arsenal for the rest of the half. How on earth we didn’t score any more goals after that degree of domination was nothing short of incredible. Alexandre Lacazette by rights, should have added another three goals to his tally at least, whilst Granit Xhaka somehow failed to hit the target with a superb effort just before half-time. Arsenal had eleven shots on the Southampton goal, two of which found the target; of the others, it would not have been unkind to the men from the south coast to say that by the time Graham Scott blew his whistle bringing proceedings to a halt, we should have been at least 4-0 ahead at the break.
After the natural hiatus, the visitors did change formation and it did look like they were going to get something out of thus match at various points in the second half, but thanks to a winning combination of great marking from the defence and a superb performance by Bernd Leno, we deservedly kept a clean sheet here at The Emirates today. As usual, Mr. Emery utilised all three substitutes in the second half; Laurent Koscielny for Stephan Lichtesteiner after 56 minutes, Mesut Özil in place of Aaron Ramsey on 63 minutes and with a quarter an hour remaining on the clock, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replaced Alex Iwobi up front. And still, we could have scored. Mesut Özil saw an opportunity for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to add his name to the score sheet, but unfortunately his effort was very nearly turned into the net by a Southampton defender. However, we won, kept a clean sheet, put three points on the board, and even better that all that, we are in fourth place in the Premiership table tonight.
Although there was no doubt as to who the dominant side on the day was here at The Emirates, our problem still remains that when Arsenal are leading in matches, we are just not ruthless enough. We need to be able to demolish, not just beat the opposition, and not allow them back into the game at any time during the proceedings. Every man today played their part in the win, and they all played well; it was good to see Mesut Özil in particular back and in form, with some of his passing being truly amazing. Our next opponents here are Bournemouth AFC on Wednesday evening; let’s hope that we find consistency in our play and continue this winning feeling. A top four finish is here in our hands, now. 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.