Arsenal 1 Southampton 0: Three talking points
Three talking points as Arsenal edge past Southampton
Wenger’s tactical dilemmas
Olivier Giroud’s introduction, after 65 minutes, really spurred Arsenal into life. In under half an hour he, among other things, latched on to lofted ball from Alexis Sanchez and hammered at Fraser Forster from a tight angle, played a superb flick to Danny Welbeck on the edge of the box (from which Welbeck would have scored but for a fine Forster save) and played a part in the third goal. The Frenchman returning so quickly and impressively from injury leaves Arsene Wenger with a real selection dilemma, as the Arsenal manager has a 4-2-3-1 formation stuck fairly rigidly in his mind and he has quality midfielders who cannot play even in a five-man midfield (Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski – who was subbed on – were among those not starting here). It is not impossible to play Giroud and Welbeck together – it was done away to West Brom this weekend, to moderate success – but doing so in a 4-2-3-1 probably pushes Welbeck out wide. This risks going back on the mini-renaissance Welbeck has enjoyed this season as the main frontman, rather than out wide, like he often played at Manchester United where his scoring record was far from brilliant. On the other hand, playing a straight 4-4-2 with Welbeck and Giroud up front would mean sacrificing a midfielder and, probably more importantly, Wenger’s preferred tactical system. An interesting equation for Le Professeur to solve…
Mixed blessings for the Arsenal faithful
Arsenal enjoyed 59 per cent of the possession, 19 attempts and eight shots on target (respectively, 13 and 7 more than Southampton). This will probably come as a mixed blessing for Arsenal fans. On the one hand, being on top of the game and creating chances – and keeping a third straight clean sheet – against a strong Southampton team will be relatively cheering. On the other, it’s a little worrying that only one goal was scored from 19 efforts (though admittedly Forster’s superb goalkeeping played a part in this). It’s certainly hard to imagine Chelsea and Manchester City, with Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero in red hot form, having this many shots and leaving it until the 89th minute, with the opposition unluckily one man down, to score. (This was the sixth time this season that Arsenal have won after the 85th minute.) One issue is that, apart from the obvious exception of Sanchez, the midfield has not chipped in with that many goals – strange given that Arsenal have in recent seasons seen midfielders to take up much of the goalscoring duties. This season in the league, Aaron Ramsey is the only other midfielder with more than one (2). The Emirates faithful will have to make some festive wishes their little Chilean doesn’t get injured.
Southampton heading south in the table?
As Ronald Koeman’s men face some tougher fixtures after a start to the season which has happened to see them miss most of the big boys, their prospects for staying in the top four are open to question. They were soundly beaten on Sunday by Manchester City, who cleverly had their wingers watch the buccaneering Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand very carefully. They acquitted themselves much better here – defending well and combative in midfield. However, they were lacking a little bit of class in the final third. For example, Pelle, who is struggling to regain his early-season form, blazing over in the first half and Shane Long failing to pick out Pelle, who was clean through, in the second.