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Koscielny continues to set the tone for Arsenal

arsenal versus southampton premier league match report

Match Review: Arsenal 2 Southampton 1 - Premier League 10.09.16

Usually a winner in injury time conjures up images of euphoria and elation. Saturday, however, felt more like just a huge sigh of relief, after 90 minutes of gruelling and alarmingly poor football. Winning the game on a dubious penalty after a pretty uninspiring performance, it really felt like we'd just got away with it rather than pulled off a sensational win. But a win is a win and I'm certainly not going to complain about it, I'm sure we'll play much better at times and not get the points.

Somewhat surprisingly, Arsène Wenger handed debuts to Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez, as they replaced Holding and Alexis respectively. There was one other change from the win over Watford as Coquelin replaced Xhaka, perhaps with PSG in mind this week.

Arsenal really didn't play that well in either half. Our shape looked weak and our passing was less than incisive. Despite our poor play though, I think we could feel slightly hard done by to go behind. The freekick awarded on the edge of the area was very soft and probably shouldn't have been given and when Tadic stepped up to take it, Cech made a brilliant effort to touch it onto the bar, only for it to hit him on the back and trickle in. Two direct freekicks scored in two games at the Emirates this season, our luck really isn't the best.

If we were disappointed about the goal we conceded, it was made up for by the goal we scored in reply. Laurent Koscielny really seems to be setting the tone for the Arsenal team this season, to the extent that he's now banging in overhead kicks from corners. Lucas was the man to head the ball on and secure a debut assist, but it was all about the stunning finish from Koscielny, which gave Forster no chance.

It was a good thing that we scored that goal from a corner, as nothing we we tried from open play worked. There were problems at the other end too, as Shane Long missed two glorious opportunities to put Southampton back in front. The second chance in particular was almost an open goal and I have no idea how he didn't score. By the time injury time came around, it looked like we'd grateful to finish with a draw. Until, of course, Fonte and Giroud tangled in the area.

Watching it in the stadium I immediately thought it looked a very soft penalty and I was surprised that the referee gave it given the timing of it. On closer inspection though, Fonte had a hefty grip of Giroud's shirt and although he didn't really pull him down completely, he stopped Giroud from being able to control the ball. I don't think it would have been given last season, but with the new focus on stopping players holding and pulling shirts, you can see why it was given. Cazorla was the man to take it and despite a long delay for an injury to Koscielny, he calmly stroked it down the middle and into the net.

On balance, with the fact that Southampton's goal shouldn't have happened and the amount of time Forster wasted on goal kicks, I don't think we can really call it an underserved victory, more that we were a little fortunate to come through it. Hopefully the effect of the international break and a few rotations were to blame for our malaise, as we absolutely cannot afford to play in the same way against PSG.

Another positive is that both Pérez and Mustafi got to get their first minutes in an Arsenal shirt and start on the road to full match fitness. Both of them were starting their first league games of the season and will need game time to get up to the speed of the Premier League. Lucas was fairly anonymous in the first half, but looked a bit more comfortable in the second and showed that he’s adept at one touch interplay around the box, which is good to see, as we often lose that when Giroud is not in the team.

Mustafi had a pretty solid debut and looks a strong, aggressive defender. He showed a lot of energy and some excellent passing ability and didn’t look out of place in the Arsenal back line. The one worry I did have was that he seemed very keen to come charging out of the back four and attack the ball. Whilst that can be a good attribute, especially with Koscielny’s pace to cover in behind, he did end up stranded at times and he’ll need to be more selective in future, because mistakes cost big in the Premier League.

It'll be a testing couple of weeks too, as the trip to PSG is followed by two more away games at Hull and Nottingham Forest, before Chelsea visit the Emirates. Hopefully we don't see Saturday's Arsenal for any of those games...

arsenal defender koscielny celebrates overhead bicycle kick goal against southampton in premier league


Arsenal (4-2-3-1)

Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal (Y), Coquelin, Cazorla (Y), Chamberlain (Alexis 62’), Özil, Walcott (Iwobi 75’), Lucas (Giroud 62’)
Ospina, Holding, Alexis, Xhaka, Giroud, Elneny, Iwobi

Southampton (4-5-1)

Forster (Y), Cedric, Fonte (Y), Van Dijk (Y), Bertrand (Y), Clasie (Højberg 64’ (Y)), Romeu, Davis, Tadic (Ward-Prowse 80’), Rodriguez (Long 45’), Redmond
McCarthy, Long, Yoshida, Austin, Højberg, Targett, Ward-Prowse

Player Ratings

Cech - 7/10 - Not at fault for their goal and made some important saves later on
Bellerin - 7/10 - Still not at his best, but solid
Koscielny - 9/10 - What a man. Best in defence and scoring screamers up front
Mustafi - 7/10 - An encouraging debut, if a little keen to impress
Monreal - 7/10 - Didn’t give much away and great going forward as always
Coquelin - 8/10 - He was everywhere, put in some huge tackles all over the pitch
Cazorla - 8/10 - Balls of steel to step up and take that penalty, solid game too
Chamberlain - 5/10 - Contributed very little and looked lost out there
Özil - 6/10 - One of his poorer performances I’ve seen, looked well off the pace
Walcott - 6/10 - Very quiet, he wasn’t bad, just didn’t seem to get into the game at all
Lucas - 6/10 - A quiet first outing, but contributed an assist and looked better in the second half
Giroud - 7/10 - Hopefully he’ll start against PSG, we need all the attributes he brings
Alexis - 7/10 - Looked lively and almost scored an excellent solo goal
Iwobi - 6/10 - Didn’t have a lot of time to impress, but it’s great that he’s back

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Tags: Koscielny, Emirates Stadium, Match Review, Match Report, Arsenal vs Southampton

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