Sunday witnessed Arsenal emerge 3-2 victors over Southampton at The Emirates Stadium, as Mark Hughes’s side remain 18th in the Premier League table.
Arsene Wenger’s evident ambition for the club is a trophy this year, as seven changes were made to the starting line-up following the success in their Europa League tie against CSKA Moscow, awarding 18 year old Nelson his first professional start for the Gunners.
Southampton started the brighter side as Tadic played a ball across the 18 yard box for James Ward-Prouse to strike. The young midfielder was unlucky as his effort was cleared off the line by Hector Bellerin, a smart piece of movement to stop them conceding.
A period of pressure from Southampton put Arsenal on the back foot. Soares crossed the ball in to the six yard area, which should have been an easy clearance by Mustafi or collection by Petr Cech. However, lack of communication between the two allowed for Shane Long to pounce between the statued players and prod the ball in to the back of the net in the 17th minute, the Irishman netting his second goal in 48 games.
Southampton had remained solid for the first half an hour of the game, but with a player like Aubameyang on the field there will always be a threat. The Saints were made well aware of this as in the 28th minute a lovely flick from Danny Welbeck found Aubameyang lurking in the box, to prod past McCarthy into the Southampton goal and as Arsenal’s first attempt on target – the Saints may well have felt hard done by.
The goal gave Arsenal a new lease of life in the game, as their standard fast flowing, easy to watch football was now starting to be demonstrated on the field. It did not take long for Arsenal to capitalise on their pressure as the 38th minute saw Danny Welbeck cut inside on the edge of the box and unleash a shot, which cruelly evaded McCarthy in goal, aided by a deflection from Southampton defender Maya Yoshida. This goal saw Arsenal enter in to the half time break confidently, giving Mark Hughes plenty to think about.
Southampton came extremely close to equalising with two efforts on goal coming from Shane Long, seemingly his first goal giving him confidence to try for another. One of those effort beat Petr Cech and rustled in to the back of the net, only to be flagged up for offside. Southampton needed goals and they needed them quickly. Having Charlie Austin as a substitute can really benefit a team in need of goals, and benefit it did. It took Austin just 73 seconds to come from being on the bench to putting the ball in the back of the net. A quickly taken free kick caught Arsenal napping, which allowed Cedric Soares to skip down the right hand side of the box and play the ball straight to Austin’s feet, a chance he couldn’t, and didn’t miss.
Southampton’s happiness was short lived as seven minutes later Danny Welbeck scored to make it 3-2 to Arsenal. After missing what seemed an unmissable chance from three yards out, just minutes earlier, Welbeck made no mistake heading in the cross from Iwobi. Frustrations from Southampton were personified with Jack Stephens losing his head and the final minutes of the game, and throwing Wilshere to the ground resulting in a red card for the centre-half. Elneny was also sent off for an altercation with Cedric Soares, noticed by the fourth official. Since the incident the red card has been challenged and retracted and he will no longer face suspension.Embed from Getty Images
With Arsne Wenger’s men 13 points off the pace for fourth, winning the Europa League seems the only possible way for them to reach the Champions League in the 2018/19 season. It provides an opportunity for Wenger to present young players chances to play in the Premier League, with little worry about the result.
Results for Southampton however, are not going their way. With six games remaining and three points off safety, its going to be a difficult task for Mark Hughes to avoid the drop. Especially with Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester City all to play in their final run in.
Written by Niall Henry.
20. Loughborough University student with a big passion of playing and writing for the beautiful game.