With the ink barely dry on the loan deal contract for Martin Odegaard, he may now be employed sooner rather than later due to an injury concern regarding Emile Smith Rowe during the Southampton vs Arsenal game, the second encounter in 4 days.
At St Mary’s, the casualty and absence list seemed to increase with each passing minute, with Aubameyang (personal) and Tierney (calf) already out, it was now the turn of Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe to cause concern in a delightful and determined performance that showed that at full strength, Arsenal are far from a fading force in English football.
It’s not the best Arsenal side (yet), but this 3-1 win was a timely boost that saw Arsenal leapfrog their hosts and left them only 4 points behind Liverpool. In this unusual and crazy season, anything is possible and as the world reels from the changes thrust upon it, football too has surprised us with a collection of surreal results. The ongoing changes at the top of the Premier League and the difference that a run of three wins can make to a club’s position is astonishing and we could well be in for more drama in the coming weeks.
Arsenal know the extremes of this Premier League campaign only too well, having been close to the relegation zone but now positioned rather more comfortably in the top half of the table. Southampton had served Arteta’s men with a reminder in the FA Cup of just how fickle football can be and how quickly results can go from positive to negative.
The Gunners were up for a fight in the Southampton vs Arsenal clash and there was evidence of urgency and intention from the first whistle, but they took a while to find their rhythm. It was a tentative start but they soon started to resemble their more attractive self as the game wore on.
Arsenal fans wanted a performance to remind others that their exit from the FA Cup was a blip and they got it across the pitch. In fact, it was hard to pick a stand out performer because there were so many candidates to choose from. Cedric did himself no harm by putting in his best display in the red and white shirt and dare I say it, he ensured that Tierney wasn’t as obvious a miss in the Southampton vs Arsenal.
Arsenal looked sharp and nearly scored early on through Lacazette but Southampton drew first blood with a gift to Armstrong (3,) who was left to his own devices in front of the Arsenal goal. He managed to sidestep Pepe whose mind was elsewhere, but it’s the responsibility of his more defensively accomplished colleagues to mop up such threats. No-fault on his part.
Nicolas Pepe set Arsenal on their way to a great comeback against Southampton 👏 pic.twitter.com/hRRF6gmiwG
— Goal (@goal) January 27, 2021
Even if there had have been, Pepe would erase it from the mind with a scorching equaliser. Xhaka, who looked like he had gone up several levels thanks to the presence of Thomas Partey, started to provide a few devastating passes, with one, in particular, finding Pepe out on the left, he wiggled and jiggled and put a ferocious shot past McCarthy.
How much better did he look on the left rather than the right? There was a marked difference for me, however, he will need to deliver a series of top performances to keep Aubameyang or Martinelli from that flank. This was a superior effort by Arsenal’s most expensive player and there’s a player in there somewhere that provides a threat, even if it appears irritatingly patchy.
Once back on terms, Arsenal settled into their task, yet Southampton provided the occasional warning regarding too many bodies in an advanced position, and in all honesty, neither side looked stable at the back. If the Southampton vs Arsenal game had ended 5-5 or 3-3, I doubt that anyone would have been surprised. This was a delightfully open encounter that abandoned caution, with both sides looking for three points and it made good entertainment in these uncertain times.
The second Arsenal goal was a headliner’s dream as Xhaka passed to Laca who in turn fed Saka to pick up a beautifully executed ‘Henry’esque’ goal (39). The rate of the youngster’s progress is truly mind-blowing and within the next two seasons, this boy could be bringing in 20 goals a season.
The final nail in Southampton’s coffin came in the 72nd minute. Southampton appeared to still be licking their wounds when Cedric put through a magnificent diagonal pass to Saka, who played it to Lacazette to dispatch. At 1-2, Southampton were still in with a chance but in their eagerness to get forward, they neglected the defence and paid the price.
Arsenal fans needed this, but let’s keep one eye on the coming fixtures. It’s a solitary win that will mean nothing if United beat the Gunners at home this weekend.