In a fast-paced match between first and third in the Premier League, Arsenal overcame Southampton, 2-0, at the Emirates.
After a two month layoff due to injury, Theo Walcott returned to the Arsenal bench and came into the game in the 70th minute.
This game was between two teams with similar styles of play. Southampton enjoy playing with a high line and pressuring the ball, to try and win it back in their opponent’s half. Similarly, Arsenal also enjoy to play with a high line and pressure their opponents on the ball also. The key to this game for Arsenal was to take advantage of Southampton’s pressuring high up the pitch and to use their quick passing to exploit the spaces left open. Arsenal’s midfield did a good job of this throughout the game and created several chances through the run of play.
Olivier Giroud, coming off of a triumphant International break with France, seemed to be rejuvenated and up for this game. Before the break, he seemed a bit tired and running out of steam, and there were worries midweek if he’d be too tired to play. That clearly wasn’t the case, as he bagged a brace to help lead Arsenal to victory.
His first goal came in the 22nd minute, off of a mistake made by Southampton GK Artur Boruc. He was able to catch Boruc in possession and tapped the ball into an open net. Boruc had enough time to clear the ball and instead, he tried to shake Giroud and create space for him to play the ball.
His second goal came from the penalty spot in the 86th minute. Off the corner, Per Mertesacker had his jersey tugged by Jose Fonte as he was attacking the ball. Referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot, and Giroud was able to send Boruc the wrong way to seal the game for Arsenal.
Arsenal had several chances which could have seen them go up by more goals. Jack Wilshere had an early opportunity in the 11th minute where he tried to chip Boruc, and was unlucky as the ball hit the post. Another great opportunity came in the 18th minute after great build up play. Mesut Özil provided a low cross to Aaron Ramsey, who back heeled the ball towards goal. The ball hit the post, and that attempt on goal showed the confidence Ramsey currently has in his goal scoring abilities.
Southampton played a great first half of football as they were able to disrupt Arsenal’s passing in midfield and create a few chances for themselves. In the 2nd half, they began to fade as Arsenal were able to hold onto possession for longer spells; and impose their will on the game. Overall, Southampton played a good game and showed that they are deserving of their top four spot in the league.
At times throughout the game, Arsenal seemed unplayable, especially in midfield. The link up play between Santi Cazorla, Wilshere, and Özil were superb at times, and with the addition of Ramsey making deep runs from midfield and Giroud’s hold up play, they created a lot of problems for Southampton’s defense.
Arsenal now hold a four point lead at the top of the table due to Liverpool earning a draw against their Merseyside rivals, Everton. Next week, Arsenal go up against a side who’s in the midst of a relegation battle, Cardiff City. They earned a tough last minute draw against Manchester United, and they will be going into that game with a bit of confidence. Arsenal can’t go into that game thinking it’s already won.
As long as Arsenal retains their focus and play the football they’re known to play, that four point (or more) lead at the top of the table should remain for another week.