Goals from Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock saw us claim a much-needed victory over Southampton on Thursday night.
But what did we learn from our Premier League encounter at St Mary's? Read on to find out...
HOLDING THE FORT
Our last trip to the south coast was one that Mikel Arteta wanted to "delete from the hard drive", but this recording won't be so hard to watch - least of all for Rob Holding. He contributed a towering performance at the back to earn us a very welcome clean sheet to add to three precious points. Holding has been given his chance alongside Mustafi in the wake of an injury to Pablo Mari, and his numbers stacked up very well at St Mary's. The centre back won all of his aerial duels, completed more passes and made more clearances than any teammate, and won key headers at key moments to keep Southampton at bay.
Emi Martinez might not get the gloves for as long as we first thought after promising news about Bernd Leno’s prognosis. But he will take some shifting from the side on the evidence of Thursday. Emi was assured and confident between the posts and made a critical intervention with just over 10 minutes left that kept us on course for victory. Shane Long - often a thorn in our side - burst into the box and leathered a left-footed effort towards the far corner. An equaliser would have given Southampton all the momentum, but Emi sprang to his left to keep the shot out with a strong wrist - and then scrambled to reach the loose ball ahead of a Saints striker. A vital moment in the match.
This game was also notable for a strong performance from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Nketiah led the attack impressively but Auba offered gallant support from the left. Ever eager to run in behind, on this occasion his bursts were picked out and could - and should - have brought Auba a goal or two. He raced onto one lofted pass and tried to curl the ball into the top corner from close range, only to see his shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce away. Auba found himself in a similar position in the second half but, instead of being selfish, he looked up and tried to play in Nketiah. Auba put in a shift off the ball too. One tremendous block kept Southampton pinned in their own half in the first half, and he consistently helped Saka lock down our left flank when the home side came forward.
SAKA SHINES AGAIN
Bukayo Saka was one of our standout performers before the lockdown and he's picked up where he left off. This was another demonstration of his credentials at both ends of the pitch - not to mention his ability to follow instructions to the letter. Saka stayed very deep when we didn't have the ball, picking up Yan Valery as he took up advanced positions down Southampton's right. That allowed Tierney to tuck inside, effectively as a third centre back, making us more compact in defence. But when we had possession Saka was high up the pitch, often leading the attack on the left flank and consistently offering support for Aubameyang and Nketiah. One minute Saka was shepherding the ball calmly out of play, the next he was running at the Saints defence. Impressive, again.
IT WAS ALL YELLOW
An all yellow kit at Southampton means something to Arsenal fans of a certain vintage. It was September 28, 1991 when we first saw it, when Ian Wright famously smashed in a hat-trick on his league debut for us. That made it four goals in two appearances since Wrighty’s record £2.5million move from Crystal Palace. Our attacking options that day were quite something - Rocastle, Limpar, Merson and Smith started alongside Wright, while Campbell was on the bench. Three decades on the venue has changed - Southampton are at St Mary's not The Dell - and the pace and creativity now comes from Aubameyang, Pepe and Saka. Wrighty's poacher role was filled on Thursday by Nketiah - and they certainly share the same hunger for goals.
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