By Walter Broeckx
Southampton had a great start of the season. And if my memory is still a bit what it was I remember that was also the case last season. Wenger pointing out that they lost a lot of players but kept the core of their team in midfield being important to keeping the shape of the team. Arsenal who had to play their 3rd game in 7 days had a must win game. Certainly when you look at the results of the day before when all the teams around Arsenal won or picked up points. So big pressure on Arsenal.
Arsenal started with Martinez in goal. Chambers – PerKos and Monreal at left back. Gibbs seemed to have recovered and was sitting on the bench.
In midfield we had Flamini, Ramsey and Cazorla. Up front Giroud was given a rest and Oxlade-Chamberlain played against the team where he got his first years in football and was partnered with Alexis and Welbeck. The first scare almost in the opening minutes when Monreal got his ankle clipped and looked injured but the Spanish left back could continue.
A very close start of the match. Come to think of it…it was a very close match between two teams who didn’t give much away. But a first chance came when Alexis released Welbeck. Welbeck took it with his left foot and it went wide to the goal. Maybe his right foot would have been better but his footing didn’t made that possible. On the other side Pelle fired over after a one-two just outside the penalty area.
For the rest of the first half the best chances came in favour of Arsenal. A low cross from the Ox, a backheel from Welbeck that went wide. Pelle had a shot from distance that took a deflection but Martinez held it nicely and gave the photographs a nice picture book save picture. And to round the first half we got an excellent chance after a Cazorla free kick that was headed towards goal but the Southampton keeper made a great reaction save.
The second half started like the first half was the whole time. Both teams trying to play quick football with high pressure all over the pitch from Southampton that made it difficult for Arsenal. So lots of lost ball between the two teams. Koscielny showing what a great defender he is with an important block when Southampton could have had a shot on goal. And what about Martinez? The young Argentinian goalkeeper was calm, confident and never looked in trouble. Not bad to have him as a third choice goalkeeper.
After some hard work Wenger found it time to bring in some fresh blood. So Giroud came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain. And with his first effort he almost broke deadlock but Foster could push it out. And a minute later Foster again blocked a goal bound effort from Welbeck. Arsenal now well on top of Southampton but we had to be careful for the break as they looked dangerous at times but the whole team showed a great work ethic and defended in numbers when it was needed.
With some 10 minutes to go Wenger brought on Podolski for Welbeck. Meanwhile Alderweireld injured himself when trying to shoot from distance and Southamtpon having used their subs had to continue with 10 man. But back to Podolski as Lukas was in the mood today. And when he is in the mood he can make things happening. Podolski was lively and threatened a few times but the ball wouldn’t fall his way to produce a great shot. So let us try it with a cross must have crossed his mind.
And with a great cross some 4 minutes from time he found Giroud. And Giroud produced a great looping header. We at home and I think all the Arsenal supporters were already jumping from their seats to celebrate a goal…..and then suddenly Foster came with an amazing save and clawed the ball out of the goal. This was the moment when you say: OK, it isn’t going to happen today.
But because of our hard work and given the chances we made for ourselves we deserved more than a point. And in the last minute of normal time we got what we deserved. Giroud tried to make create an opening but a Southampton defender blatantly handled the ball with his. Sure this was a penalty. But for once the PGMO ref making a mess of the rules worked in our benefit. Because after the handball the ball fell for Ramsey who cut it back in front of goal and Alexis was on hand to push it over the line.
1-0 to the Arsenal and the crowd sang our good old song.
We made no mistake in defending the lead. In fact we had two other great chances to double the score. Ramsey couldn’t get past the keeper after being played in by Giroud but he lost his balance a bit and couldn’t convert it. And then finally Podolski with a low shot that just went wide.
Alexis was fouled just outside the penalty area in the final minute and Southampton couldn’t get near our goal since we took the lead.
A very important win. Another 3rd consecutive clean sheet. Koscielny and Per giving Southampton almost no chance at all to score. Great work ethic from the whole team against a good Southampton who showed that it is no coincidence they are in 3rd place. And yet they could not produce much chances. Martinez with also his 3rd clean sheet in a row.
A hard fought team win with Alexis on the end of the hard work from all players out there. They never gave up and that is the attitude one wants to see.
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