Arsenal entered the game with one eye on a possible European semi-final prospect with the second leg of their Europa league quarter finals away in Moscow on Thursday. That was shown with the weakened line up of ;chec, bellerin, chambers, mustafi, kolasinac, elneny, xhaka, welbeck, nelson, iwobi, aubameyang. The squad consisted of some experienced and some second string players with the likes of nelson and iwobi. Players like ozil and koscielny were rested and mkhitaryan wasn’t involved due to an injury he picked up in Thursdays 4-1 defeat of CSKA moscow.
Southampton’s team consisted of ;mccarthy, yoshida, stephens, hoedt, cedric, hojbjerg, romeu, bertrand, ward-prowse, tadic, long. The chosen line up from mauricio pellegrino caused a few raised eyebrows most notably starting shane long, a striker who got just a sole league goal all season for the saints, a decision that nearly paid dividends. The choice of a three at the back formation looked maybe too offensive for an away trip to a brilliant attacking arsenal side.
The opening of the game started with arsenal keeping good possession in the midfield with xhaka, elneny and co. Early on reiss nelson attempted to take on dusan tadic when he got horribly fouled by his opponent on the back of his Achilles.
southampton took the lead after a decent piece of wing play by Cedric soares to get to the by-line and pull back for Southampton’s Shane long who took the lead for the south coast side. Nevertheless the cross from cedric was a rather weak one and one which shkodran mustafi should have easily dealt with but, to much dismay of the emirates’ crowd mustafi expected petr cech to come and collect the ball being oblivious to the fact shane long was behind him and the Irish international crept in and finished neatly outside of his left boot into the bottom right corner.
Aubameyang equalised shortly after in the twenty-seventh minute via a very well worked goal involving iwobi and welbeck. A neat clip from iwobi and a confident chest through by welbeck opened up the opportunity for aubameyang to prod home and bring arsenal back into the game.
Within ten minutes arsenal had taken the league from a great solo effort from Danny welbeck. Welbeck picked up the ball on the left wing and strode forward, cut in side and fired past Alex McCarthy in the Southampton net via a deflection from Wesley hoedt.
The remainder of the second half consisted of pressure on the Southampton goal as arsenal tried to kill off the game by scoring a third. Nothing came of it and the sides entered the interval 2-1 to the arsenal.
The teams came out for the second forty-five and for the first twenty minutes southampton had all the incentive to go forward and press for a goal. In the seventy-second minute charlie austin entered the field of play and had equalised for the saints within seconds. Cedric (with his second assist of the game) drove into the penalty box after playing a one-two with dusan tadic then fired across goal for charlie austin to tap home and send the travelling fans into a frenzy.
With southampton aiming to hold on for a point arsenal aimed to throw the kitchen sink at their shakey defence.
Opportunities arose and within five minutes welbeck had an open goal chance which he squandered. Alex iwobi clipped a fine ball in towards the back post where jack wilshere met it then pulled the ball across to where welbeck was standing barely six yards from the goal to only see his effort slashed over the bar.
Not to worry though as minutes later danny welbeck put arsenal in front after alex iwobi performed an identical cross he did minutes before however, this time welbeck rose tallest and powered a header home to put the gunners ahead with less than ten minutes to go.
As the game seemed to die down after some late southampton pressure, jack stephens seemed to drag jack wilshere to the ground and consequently got sent off. At that late point in the match all possibility of a southampton comeback had dissolved after the reduction to ten men.
Only moments later arsenals mohamed elneny also got dismissed to much bemusement of the arsenal faithful, only later to find out that elneny had been involved in violent conduct himself by pushing cedric soares in the face. Little happened in the short remainder of the match and arsenal were 3-2 victors over southampton.
Click here for Arsene Wenger’s view on the result.