The Saints Decanonized as Arsenal go Fourth – Impressions and Player Ratings as Xhaka runs the Show

Arsenal 2-0 Southampton – Premier League Review

 

Saints decanonised and beaten at the Emirates…..

 

 

 

This was a return to a fluent Arsenal, in large part.

After the comfortable win and clean sheet in the Europa League, Southampton offered some fight, but not enough to seriously trouble us.

The starting line-up featured a return for Lacazette, with Auba on the bench. Ozil too was on the bench, and it was a 4231, with Xhaka/Torreira in the middle, and a back four featuring Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Kolasinac and Mustafi.

Iwobi and Mkhitaryan were the attacking mids, and Ramsey played in a hybrid number 10/8 role.

The first half started well for us, as Iwobi looked sharp, as did Lacazette. However, Soton had a good chance when they broke through on the left, and Leno made a great save to prevent them opening the scoring.

In a very short time though, we scored, as Iwobi crossed in and Laca managed to get a left-foot shot to make it 1-0.

We then had further chances – Iwobi, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, and Laca all missed, and Ramsey could have scored to boot.

But the second goal came pretty readily, as Iwobi crossed in again from the left, and Mkhi put in a goal from close range.

Southampton didn’t really offer much – but we were pretty solid, and even were quasi-showboating. Our passing was crisp, and Soton couldn’t handle this. We could have scored a lot more than two, and at half-time, it was a case of job done more or less. But we could have been more clinical when needed.

The second half was different somewhat. Southampton was in the relegation zone and needed the points, and they were certainly more open. They had some quick chances, which the defence managed to clear, but we too had chances and created openings. The first half was an Arsenal blitz, but the second was definitely more even.

Ozil, Aubameyang, and Koscielny came on in this period, and Auba really should have converted some efforts.

Leno however made some telling saves, and was a crucial factor in our clean sheet.

Some fans were annoyed that the team didn’t progress for more goals – but then the defence led by Sokratis and Kosicelny  managed to keep them at bay.

Overall, it was a comfortable win, and we had too much quality for Southampton. They may get relegated, but due to Manchester United’s draw at home to Liverpool, we’re currently in fourth place and thus in the hunt firmly for automatic CL qualification.

It was a good day overall, and it’s to another south coast club later this week in Bournemouth.

 

Impressions/player ratings

 

This was a good performance overall, and the keeping of a clean sheet was pretty sweet. It’s supposedly only the fifth clean sheet we’ve kept this season, which is pretty paltry compared to other sides. But then our defensive display was mixed in fairness. Southampton in parts got behind our defence, but then they didn’t have the cutting edge to break through us.

But our attacking play, especially in the first half, was very good. We should have been more clinical, but then we didn’t really take our chances. Laca missed a golden chance from a few yards, which a striker of his talent should have scored.

Moreover, I was impressed by the crispness of the passing in this phase. Laca, Iwobi, Mkhi, and Ramsey, all were on it.

And this was the best game I’ve seen from Xhaka in a while. He clearly is reveling in this new midfield balance, and his long-range passing was a critical reason for our first-half sharpness. In a way, it was a return to sexy football, and it was very pleasing to watch. Torreira also was capable here – some have said he’s declined lately though I don’t agree. It could that we’ve become accustomed to his skillset, which we haven’t seen in some time. But today, he was very active in the midfield and did well to press them and deny them space.

I attended the game, and there were some fans who were bemoaning our second half performance in my section. I can empathise with why people felt that. But then it was natural to do so. And whilst Soton had chances, we too had some shots across the box, and Auba had two opportunities to boost his Golden Boot efforts.  The second especially was a mistake a world-class forward shouldn’t have missed. He was clear in the box, but side footed it instead of using power.

Mustafi, much maligned lately of course, did well individually. Lichtsteiner too has been critiqued, but then he was good in this game. Kolasinac’s defensive woes were something Soton exploited, as they overloaded this part of the pitch. However, Koscielny came on and performed ably.

This was a pleasing win, with some scares, but we had way too much flair for Soton to cope with.

With Spurs losing to Burnley, United drawing to Liverpool, and even Chelsea losing the League Cup hilariously to Man City, it’s been a grand footballing weekend overall. Top four IS ON.

 

 

Leno – 8

Lichtsteiner – 7

Sokratis – 8

Mustafi – 7

Kolasinac – 6

Xhaka – 8

Torreira – 7

Mkhitaryan – 7

Iwobi – 7

Ramsey – 6

Lacazette – 8

Ozil – 6

Koscielny – 7

Aubameyang – 6

 

 

Man of the match

 

Sokratis

 

 

 

I like this fellow a lot. It’s like if Adams, Bould, or Keown somehow replicated themselves into a younger Greek defender. He brings a strength, presence, and toughness to our back-line. We still often concede, but his individual performances have been excellent this season.

 

 

 

 

, , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: