Arsenal Vs Southampton: Highlights and analysis from daft draw

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Charlie Austin of Southampton celebrates scoring the first Southampton goal with Nathan Redmond of Southampton during the Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on December 9, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Charlie Austin of Southampton celebrates scoring the first Southampton goal with Nathan Redmond of Southampton during the Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on December 9, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travelled to Southampton for the weekend’s Sunday lunchtime kick-off. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 1-1 draw.

What a sloppy and stupid loss. Arsene Wenger, despite casting doubts over its utility in the week, persisted with the three at the back system that he has implemented all season. The defensive security that it supposedly offers was nowhere to be seen. Southampton carved open Arsenal on several occasions and were unfortunate to only score one. It’s a good job that that’s all they did score. Errors, positional naivety, loose play all-round. This was a terrible performance, and it started from the very first minute.

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It took Charlie Austin just three minutes to open the scoring. Per Mertesacker passed the ball straight to Austin. Neat interplay involving Dusan Tadic and the eventual goalscorer, which left Mertesacker red-faced on the floor, scrambling to recover as Tadic spun past him, led to a neat reverse pass releasing Austin, who calmly took one touch before flicking past Petr Cech. Considering the defensive errors that were made just a week prior, it was a naively shocking start for the Gunners.

The mistakes, though, did not end there. Nacho Monreal allowed himself to be sucked in as Tadic again released Charlie Austin down the inside-right channel. Cech, this time, made the save, with the shot coming from a tighter angle, angled across the goal towards the far post. But Austin continued to be a thorn in the somewhat vulnerable Arsenal side. Hector Bellerin shockingly gave the ball away, with Austin slipped through again, only to be flagged for offside; Bellerin then allowed Ryan Bertrand to get away from him down the left flank, with Austin striking the post, who was again adjudged to be offside.

Arsenal, though, did begin to assert themselves on the match as the half progressed. Alexandre Lacazette had a spin and shot that, with a little more direction, could have troubled Fraser Forster. The Frenchman then squandered an excellent opportunity after a well-worked break, with a loose touch allowing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to track back and steal in before a shot could be taken. Aaron Ramsey also had a difficult chance, controlling the ball on his chest, pivoting and shooting, but failing to get the requisite substance on the effort.

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It was at this point that the game began to fracture. Both teams were wasteful in possession, repeatedly playing loose passes deep in their own territory. And both teams were able to create openings, if not quite clear-cut chances. Southampton had a series of corners and crosses that saw Arsenal all at sea defensively, which is not especially surprising, while Alexis Sanchez blocked Aaron Ramsey from shooting amid a panicked and frenetic scramble at the other end. Those two then combined for the closest moment to a goal for the visitors in the first half. Sanchez, this time popping up on the right flank, waited patiently for an option to arise, picking out Ramsey, who fired a first-time effort on goal which was brilliantly parried away by Fraser Forster, getting down low quickly.

As the half drew to a close, the game maintained its chaotic and uncontrolled rhythm. Petr Cech made a spectacular diving clearance with his head, Alexandre Lacazette fired over from Hector Bellerin’s pull-back, before being utterly wiped out by a sliding Maya Yoshida, which should have resulted in a penalty, and Charlie Austin was nearly released in behind the Arsenal defence on a number of occasions. This was an exciting to game to watch. But not because of the attacking quality on show. It was broken, unpredictable, and on edge. But it also saw Arsenal a goal down at the break.

Arsenal started the second half much the better team. They passed the ball around smoothly, shifting it from side-to-side with great precision and fluency. Unfortunately, though, they were lacking that cutting edge to open up a deep and disciplined Southampton defence. There were odd moments: A Sead Kolasinac bundle, a Mesut Ozil probe, an Alexis Sanchez shimmy and shake. But, for the most part, while they had full control of the game, they were unable to create any genuine opportunities. In fact, it was Southampton who came closest to scoring.

Oriol Romeu was given the time and space to shoot on the edge of the box, with Granit Xhaka, predictably, pulled out of position and Per Mertesacker dropping off, while Ryan Bertrand should have scored after being slipped through, chipping his effort over the onrushing Petr Cech, only to see it agonisingly slide past the far post, after Laurent Koscielny gave the ball away twice and looked horribly slow in trying to recover his position.

Wenger did change it up, bringing on Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud, shifting to a back-four and hoping to provide a more cutting attack in closing stages. But Southampton continued to defy them, remaining resolute and determined.

But Arsenal kept on plugging away, and, eventually, they found what they were looking for. Alexis Sanchez, who was poor all game, wasting possession, lacking any semblance of attacking purpose or drive, clipped a cute cross into the box, and Olivier Giroud, as he always does, deftly guided a lovely header into the far corner, past the stretched hand of Fraser Forster.

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For much of the game, Arsenal looked lost of ideas, even with the myriad of inventive, creative attackers that they had on the pitch. The defence will, and should, take the blame for this performance. But this was far from the potent attacking force that we have seen in recent weeks. In a word, they were blunt. They were rescued with a late Olivier Giroud goal. A draw is not what Arsenal wanted, though, and the performance, much more than the result, will be the topic of discussion this week.