I was amused by Mark Lawrenson’s recent comment on Arsenal’s revival. He stated on Football Focus in his famous lugubrious tones, that the Gunners form is a bit like when you are feeling ill and take some antibiotics – you think you are cured but actually, you are still not right.’
He has a point and as an Arsenal fan I already knew that, but it was somehow comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in my opinion. Lawro was making his comments as he looked forward to the Southampton game. The clash had Arsenal’s opposition within touching distance of safety and that would make it interesting on the day with both Ozil and Mkhitaryan missing.
Mark Hughes was the latest to be given the task of keeping the Saints in the elite league and the gap is such that they may just survive. With Arsenal concentrating on the Europa league and making seven changes, there was always a risk that the Saints would cause an upset.
So it turned out when after 17 minutes, Shane Long made the most of Mustafi’s senior moment. The German switched off thinking that Cech would collect, Cech thought Mustafi would clear, both did neither and Long accepted the gift with an awkward finish.
There were as many gaps in Arsenal’s defence as there were empty seats at the Emirates and huge pockets of space appeared between the red and white shirts, at times, the size of buses. Then on other occasions, the Gunners defenders were almost sharing shadows, they were unusually close and this would help Southampton to eventually equalise through Charlie Austin.
Aubameyang equalised for Arsenal and then Welbeck nudged the Gunners in front, with a well-struck shot that had more than a hint of deflection about it. It was a day when Welbeck and Iwobi put on a show, for me it’s overdue but Welbeck, in particular, did extremely well. I’m on record as stating that Welbeck is not an accomplished striker and although he got the two key goals that won the match, he missed an absolute sitter from about three yards out.
Quite how he failed to score is a mystery but Welbeck’s problem has always been that he possesses two left feet and he lacks the ability to make crucial decisions. Having said that, two goals and an assist is a good days work by anyone’s standards and Welbeck will be knocking on England’s door at this rate.
Arsenal could have added to the scoresheet with efforts from Aubameyang, Xhaka and Iwobi, whilst Long could have had a couple in reply. He was the most industrious of the Saints players and even had a goal disallowed for an obvious offside. It’s a pity that not everyone in the Southampton side were as equally driven and determined.
Hughes made a masterstroke substitution with the introduction of Charlie Austin, who simply walked through a clogged Arsenal defence to ram home a goal and it was no more than they deserved.
Welbeck killed off the game with an opportunist header and those that did bother to attend could breathe easily once more. Then in the last minutes of the match, both teams became immersed in a face pushing epidemic, which resulted in Stephens and Elneny being justifiably sent off. Wilshere was fortunate not to join them both after he virtually unpicked the stitches of his opponent’s shirt in an attempt to run off with it.
The end of the game reminded us all that Southampton will find it desperately hard to escape the drop and Arsenal’s defence are in constant disarray. Wenger will be relieved as he attempts to chase down Chelsea but he knows that only major surgery on that back line in the summer, will improve their chances of competing in all competitions.
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