Southampton travelled to the Emirates Stadium on Friday, as Rubén Sellés’ side prepared for a tough fixture against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. The Gunners would need three points to maintain any reasonable hopes of beating Manchester City to the title, as the two sides still have to play each other before the season concludes next month. A win for Southampton would see the Saints move off the bottom of the Premier League table for the first time since their 1-0 win over Leicester City at the start of March.
ARS: Ramsdale; Zinchenko, Gabriel, Holding, White; Vieira, Partey, Ødegaard; Martinelli, Jesus, Saka
SOU: Bazunu; Perraud, Bella-Kotchap, Bednarek, Walker-Peters; Armstrong, Lavia, Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi; Alcaraz, Walcott
Southampton silenced the Emirates after just 27 seconds, as Carlos Alcaraz fired the Saints into an early lead following an error from Aaron Ramsdale. The ‘keeper looked to pick out a pass between Alcaraz and Theo Walcott, but instead played the ball into the feet of the goalscorer who made no mistake in finding the top-left corner! The Gunners are making a habit of conceding early, as they did so after just nine seconds against Bournemouth earlier this season.
Arsenal looked to bring themselves level immediately, with Gabriel Martinelli finding space on the left – but the Brazilian wasn’t able to make anything meaningful of the chance, as his cross was parried away by Gavin Bazunu. Oleksandr Zinchenko stepped up to slam the ball home from the edge of the box, but his strike was sent well over the crossbar.
It was the visitors that found the game’s second goal though, doubling their lead after just fourteen minutes. Carlos Alcaraz did well to capitalise on Martin Ødegaard’s mistake, playing in Theo Walcott – and the ex-Arsenal man fired past Aaron Ramsdale to put his side comfortably ahead.
Their two-goal advantage didn’t last all too long though, as Gabriel Martinelli reduced Arsenal’s deficit in the 20th minute. Bukayo Saka did well to break free on the right flank, whipping a cross towards the Brazilian in the centre of the box – and he slotted it past Bazunu first-time to bring the Gunners back into the game.
The Saints looked the more comfortable of the two sides though, as Mohamed Elyounoussi forced Ramsdale into action. The winger latched onto Romain Perraud’s cross towards the back post, and the ‘keeper failed to make a convincing save – allowing Alcaraz another chance, but Ramsdale was able to turn that over the crossbar.
Gabriel Martinelli surged forward soon after, but the goalscorer’s cross into the box was sent well over the horizontal by Ødegaard. Another chance would come for the Gunners, courtesy of Fabio Vieira – though his first attempt was mis-hit and the second was placed well wide of the post.
The Gunners looked to bring themselves level in stoppage time, as Fabio Vieira’s cross was headed over the horizontal by Rob Holding at the back post. Gabriel Jesus also had a chance, though Gavin Bazunu did well to block the Brazilian’s strike just a minute before Ben White’s header was cleared off the line by Alcaraz! The first-half action didn’t end there either, as a trio of Arsenal players looked to turn the ball home following a goalmouth scramble – none were able to do so though, and Mikel Arteta’s side trailed at the break.
Arsenal emerged from the interval, knowing that they simply needed a win to keep the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the table. The Gunners were camped comfortably in Southampton’s half, but resolute defending from the visitors made it hard for them to actually do anything with that possession – and the introduction of Lyanco for Alvarez would only make that more difficult.
The fourth goal of the game came from Southampton though, as they restored their two-goal lead in the 66th minute – with Duje Ćaleta-Car heading home following a corner! James Ward-Prowse’s delivery found Armel Bella-Kotchap, who nodded the ball on towards the Croatian who turned it past Ramsdale! The Saints were in well and truly in heaven at the Emirates!
Gabriel Jesus should have reduced the Saints’ advantage three minutes later, but the Brazilian wasted the chance and planted it over the crossbar following an inch-perfect cross from Martinelli on the left flank. Arsenal had been their own worst enemy in this game – and that’s not to take away the credit from Southampton, who had delivered their game plan to perfection.
The last fifteen minutes or so would provide a few opportunities for the Gunners to clinch a result, but Lyanco proved his worth as he made a super block to deny Leandro Trossard inside the area. Bukayo Saka looked to recycle the chance, though Eddie Nketiah was in the way of the winger’s strike and prevented it from reaching the back of the net!
Saka weaved his way through the Southampton defence on the right wing before curling a shot towards goal – though Bazunu was able to make the save! The ‘keeper wasn’t able to do the same when Martin Ødegaard’s strike headed towards the bottom-left corner following a great assist from Ben White – and the Gunners had given themselves a real chance with two minutes of the second half left to play!
The drama wasn’t over there though, as Bukayo Saka levelled the scores in the 90th minute! Reiss Nelson’s strike was parried away by Bazunu, and Saka was there to fire it past the ex-Portsmouth ‘keeper to send the Emirates into euphoria!
Eight minutes of added time gave the Gunners a real chance of picking up all three points – and they should have done so as Leandro Trossard had Bazunu beaten, but the Belgian’s brilliant strike struck the crossbar before bouncing over! Bukayo Saka looked to tee up Gabriel Jesus a minute or two later, but the Brazilian went down under pressure inside the box. No penalty was given, and the ball ultimately fell to Reiss Nelson – though his shot was sent inches wide following a deflection!
The Gunners felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the 99th minute as Gabriel Jesus was hauled to the ground inside the box, but the referee waved away their appeals and the VAR agreed with his on-field decision. Mikel Arteta’s side looked dead and buried after fifteen minutes, and showed incredible determination to claw back a point – but that’s less than ideal for their title fight against Manchester City. Southampton remain bottom of the Premier League, reducing the gap to Leicester to just one point.