The Premier League's ninety-two remaining games, spread across nine rounds of games are set to play out beginning June 17th 2020, with Project Restart's health and safety conditions meaning the remaining games of the season will be played out behind closed doors. We will be providing match reports from these behind closed doors competitive encounters as the league campaign nears its end-game. All aboard.
Match Report (GW31): Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal, rocked by recent away defeats at Man City and Brighton, made another trip to the south coast (no, not to crowd on the beaches in Bournemouth on what is an incredible hot and humid day) to take on a Southampton side who started the lockdown-era of football with Danny Ings running the show in a 3-0 win at Norwich.
Southampton dominated possession in the opening 5 minutes, though it was Arsenal who had the first chance of note, with Kieran Tierney playing a long-ball down the left-hand channel for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to chase. Auba darted away from Jack Stephens and to the six-yard line, though smashed his eventual shot against the underside of the bar and out for a goal kick. A little less power in the shot and Arsenal would be ahead, for sure.
Caught off guard as we were watching Southampton pass around the back was possibly the biggest goalkeeping error you'll see all season, when Alex McCarthy was outside of his penalty area with the ball at his feet. McCarthy looked to play a simple pass to left-back Ryan Bertrand but was robbed of the ball by Eddie Nketiah, who sped past the shot stopper to tap home Arsenal's opening goal into an empty net.
Arsenal probed until half-time, though due to the heat and the lack of intensity there wasn't a lot to shout about, with the first chance in the second falling to James Ward-Prowse, who blazed over from range after good build up play with Ryan Bertrand down the left wing. Shortly after in the 54th minute, Emi Martinez launched a delicious long ball down the field, with Aubameyang collecting well. Arsenal's number 14 was unable to cut back for Nketiah, with Stephens blocking well.
The 72-minute mark should have seen the equalising goal for Southampton when a whipped ball was flicked on and controlled well by Nathan Redmond at the far-post. Redmond set well but fizzed his shot into the side netting, a nearly moment that kept The Gunners a goal up leading into the final 15 minutes of the game.
A slow burner provide some spice and some later for Arsenalwhen Jack Stephens saw red in the 84th minute for bringing down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just outside of the penlty area. Right after, a short free-kick was laid into substitute Alexandre Lacazette who fired in a stinging shot that was palmed by McCarthy right into the path of Joe Willock to easily slot home to double the lead and kill the contest off.
Man of the Match: Rob Holding (ARS)
The basis of Arsenal's victory came from good defensive discipline throughout the 90 minutes. Arteta's side held their shaper brilliantly with Rob Holding in particular proving to be composed all evening. Holding's range of passing had Ings, Redmond and Obafemi running more than they should have in sweltering conditions and unlike Mustafi, showed signs of leadership that is much needed in a team void of it. From here, we'd like to see Holding stay fit and get a run in the team alongside a competent partner in in the middle of Arsenal's defence.
SOU 0-2 ARS Insight and Analysis:
For historical context, Thursday 25th June 2020 was a hot day. 30+ degrees across England didn't help this sluggish encounter, though given the heat that was understandable.
Southampton, who have been poor at home all season, lacked concentration in key moments that ultimately cost them the game. McCarthy giving the ball away could have been avoided, and Stephens bringing down Aubameyang, could have also been avoided if small lapses were corrected. Hasenhuttl made his substitutions far too late in the second-half and laboured - Arsenal essentially made them work hard in the heat and his side wilted, with Redmond's chance in the second-half the only real threat to note.
Arsenal were comfortable and played with confidence all evening and were defensively disciplined to deny Danny Ings in particular. Arteta has been good at bringing out the best in Bukayo Saka, Willock scored from the bench and some good young players were on show for The Gunners. It's a good turnaround after the dramatic loss against Brighton.
This looked like a top side beating a side struggling for their Premier League safety, which should be music to Arsenal fans after a couple of dreadful losses.
Venue: St. Marys' Stadium
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl
GK: A. McCarthy
DEF: J. Valery (Walker-Peters 45')
DEF: J. Stephens
DEF: J. Bednarek
DEF: R. Bertrand
MID: S. Armstrong
MID: J. Ward-Prowse
MID: P. Højbjerg (Vestergaard 90+1')
MID: N. Redmond
FOR: D. Ings (Romeu 90+1)
FOR: M. Obafemi (Long 45')
Vestergaard, Long, Adams, Romeu, Walker-Peters, Smallbone, Gunn, Vokins, Tella
Manager: Mikel Arteta
GK: E. Martínez
DEF: H. Bellerín
DEF: S. Mustafi
DEF: R. Holding
DEF: K. Tierney (Kolasinac 70')
MID: D. Ceballos (Maitland-Niles 80')
MID: B. Saka
FOR: N. Pépé (Willock 64')
FOR: E. Nketiah (Lacazette 80')
FOR: P-E. Aubameyang
Papastathopoulos, Lacazette, Özil, Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Willock, Kolasinac, Macey, Smith
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