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20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League

Southampton 1-3 Arsenal: Premier League – 26/01/2021

St. Mary’s Stadium hasn’t exactly been the happiest of hunting grounds for Arsenal over the years. Whether it be the 2-0 defeat that spelled the end of Wojciech Szczęsny’s time at the club or the humiliating 4-0 demolition they endured a few seasons back or even this weekend’s 1-0 FA Cup loss, Arsenal fans had a right to enter Tuesday night’s match a little apprehensively.

In light of the unceremonious loss on Saturday, Arsenal’s main priority until the Europa League resumes in February, is the Premier League, which saw a return of all the big names, with the exception of Kieran Tierney, who was left out as a precaution and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was out of the side for family reasons.

The game started well enough for Arsenal in the opening two minutes. The team created an early chance, which Alexandre Lacazette saw his rather tame effort saved by the onrushing Alex McCarthy. However, no brighter had they started, than Arsenal saw themselves a goal down.

Alexandre Lacazette’s early effort is kept out by Alex McCarthy.

Poor marking on a James Ward-Prowse corner saw Stuart Armstrong lash home the volley on the edge of the box and give the home side the lead.

It is perhaps a testament to how much the Premier League means to Arsenal at the moment that the team did not drop their heads and soon enough, their perseverance was rewarded. An exquisite through-ball from Granit Xhaka allowed the often-maligned Nicolas Pépé the room to take a touch and comfortably roll the ball into the far corner to bring the visitors level.

Arsenal continued to dominate and created a wealth of chances, with free-flowing attacking movement and passing. Once again, Arsenal found themselves with the space to create as Lacazette exploited Southampton’s abnormally high line to release Bukayo Saka, while McCarthy ran out to block his path, Saka expected it and diverted the ball around him and finished with his weaker right foot into the open net to give Arsenal the lead.

Half-time was a welcome affair for Southampton, but a dissruption for Arsenal, who were playing some of their best football of the season so far and it came as no surprise that Arsenal grabbed a third towards the end of the second-half.

Former Saint Cédric Soares, filling in at left-back, played arguably one of the passes of the season as his cross-field ball was inch-perfect to the feet of Bukayo Saka, who’s first-time cross was met at the far-post by Alexandre Lacazette to settle the tie for Arsenal.

The final whistle blew on a tremendous away performance from Arsenal and one that begins to right some of the wrongs from earlier in the season. From nearly two months without a win or a goal from open-play to 16 out of a potential 18 points.

Bukayo Saka celebrates giving Arsenal the lead with captain Héctor Bellerín.

The performance of Cédric Soares is the main talking point at the moment for Arsenal fans. It was yet another impressive performance from the Portuguese full-back. Though the signing was questioned at the time, Cédric has since adapted to life in N5 well and his performance on both the offensive and defensive side were impeccable and led to a number of opportunities for Arsenal throughout the match.

The continued rise of Bukayo Saka must also be noted. Saka’s performance was one of a seasoned veteran, not a young man in his first full season with the team. Saka was tricky to track, too quick to catch and a handful for the Southampton defence, linking up particularly well with Lacazette.

Though Arsenal fans will no doubt have some concerns over the injury status of both Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey, both players’ performances were other areas that showed improvement in this Arsenal side. Partey and Xhaka are starting to form a formidable midfield pivot, whilst Smith Rowe is looking every bit the part as Arsenal’s creative midfielder, even with the loan signing of Martin Ødegaard.

Next up for Arsenal, is the title-challengers Manchester United and Mikel Arteta will be hoping for a showing similar to the team’s 0-1 win at Old Trafford in November.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
  2.) Héctor Bellerín (c)
16.) Rob Holding
23.) David Luiz
17.) Cédric Soares
34.) Granit Xhaka
18.) Thomas Partey (Elneny 78’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé (Willock 92’)
  7.) Bukayo Saka
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Willian 72’)
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
21.) Calum Chambers
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny
28.) Joe Willock
12.) Willian
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Southampton team:
  1.) Alex McCarthy
18.) Yan Valery
35.) Jan Bednarek
  5.) Jack Stephens
29.) Jake Vokins (Redmond 66’)
32.) Theo Walcott (N’Lundulu 74’)
27.) Ibrahima Diallo
  8.) James Ward-Prowse
17.) Stuart Armstrong
  9.) Danny Ings (Watts 74’)
10.) Che Adams

Southampton subs:
44.) Fraser Forster
31.) Kayne Ramsay
47.) Will Ferry
65.) Caleb Watts
72.) Kgaogelo Chauke
64.) Alex Jankewitz
11.) Nathan Redmond
  7.) Shane Long
40.) Dan N’Lundulu

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