Southampton 1-0 Arsenal: FA Cup – 23/01/2021

The FA Cup has long been one of the staples of the Arsenal trophy cabinet. As the record winners of the competition and current holders, it is a competition that holds particular significance for the club and Arsenal fans have long become accustomed to seeing the club’s name carved into the trophy at the end of the season, with many affectionally referring to the competition as the ‘Arsenal Invitational’.

Ahead of Saturday afternoon’s kick-off, Arsenal announced a fairly makeshift team. Gabriel Magalhães has only recently returned from a bad bout of COVID-19, Héctor Bellerín was dropped in favour of the in-form Cédric Soares the previous week, Mohamed Elneny has been reduced to bench appearances in the wake of Thomas Partey’s return to the side and Willian, Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pépé have struggled for form in recent weeks ahead of the high performing front line in the league, all of which were drafted in for Saturday’s game.

Rob Holding tracks Ché Adams.

St. Mary’s Stadium has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent seasons and Saturday was no different. A painstakingly average performance from Arsenal was served by casual reminders of old issues. The defence looked very suspect, the midfield was as easy to open as an unlocked door and the attack was as toothless as ever. 

That’s not to take away from what was a very resolute and disciplined performance from Southampton, but Arsenal didn’t exactly make matters difficult for Southampton with a string of poorly thought out passes and positioning. 

It therefore came as no surprise to see Kyle Walker-Peters’ shot deflect in off of Gabriel Magalhães who looked particularly hapless on his return to the starting eleven. 

By the time Mikel Arteta looked to correct things in the second-half, the damage was long done. Arsenal looked as though they could have been there until past midnight and they still wouldn’t have scored. 

The final whistle brought an early end to Arsenal’s FA Cup defence. 

Kyle Walker-Peters’ shot canons in off of Gabriel Magalhães.

It was possibly one of the worst performances from Arsenal this season. Defensive frailities were exposed with rather rather shocking ease, with Gabriel Magalhães in particular being the main source of disruption at the back, as he struggled to contain a very hard-working Southampton forward-line. 

In midfield, Mohamed Elneny (who’s initial loss of possession led to Southampton’s only goal) was constantly caught out of position, making the midfield far too easy to overrun and leaving Granit Xhaka isolated for Southampton to pick off easily. Things noticeably picked up after the introduction of Thomas Partey.

In terms of attack, Nicolas Pépé, Willian and Eddie Nketiah did not cover themselves in glory. There was almost nothing about Pépé’s presence that seemed to inspire fear in the Southampton defence, The Ivorian winger was constantly caught out in possession and was unable to find many teammates. Nketiah looked very out of his depth and though his high pressing stance was useful, his overall performance left plenty to be desired.

Elsewhere, Willian still continues to uninspire with yet another woeful showing. Though Mikel Arteta and Edu Gaspar may have pushed hard for the signing, their faith in the former Chelsea man has not been repaid particularly well and his continued presence for 90 minutes will only serve to bewilder Arsenal fans.

So Arsenal’s FA Cup defence comes to an end, though this is by no means a good thing, especially given Arsenal’s historic connection with the competition, it does give Arsenal a chance to focus on turning around their somewhat abysmal league form and to focus on the Europa League, which restarts in February.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
  2.) Héctor Bellerín (c) (Lacazette 72’)
16.) Rob Holding
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
17.) Cédric Soares
25.) Mohamed Elneny (Partey 57’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
19.) Nicolas Pépé
12.) Willian
35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Saka 58’)
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
33.) Mat Ryan
23.) David Luiz
21.) Calum Chambers
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
18.) Thomas Partey
28.) Joe Willock
  7.) Bukayo Saka
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Southampton team:
44.) Fraser Forster
  2.) Kyle Walker-Peters
35.) Jan Bednarek
  5.) Jack Stephens
  3.) Ryan Bertrand
17.) Stuart Armstrong
  8.) James Ward-Prowse
27.) Ibrahima Diallo
32.) Theo Walcott
  9.) Danny Ings (Long 85’)
10.) Ché Adams (N’Lundulu 78’)

Southampton subs:
41.) Harry Lewis
31.) Kayne Ramsey
29.) Jake Vokins
18.) Yan Valery
64.) Alex Jankewitz
65.) Caleb Watts
72.) Kgaogelo Chauke
40.) Dan N’Lundulu
  7.) Shane Long

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