Southampton 0-2 Arsenal: Nketiah, Willock decisive as Arteta gets response
Mikel Arteta received a response from Arsenal when they got back on their feet after a Premier League loss with slightly improved performance and a 2-0 win in Southampton on Thursday.
The Gunners suffered two defeats against Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion after resuming the season, but resembled a more concentrated and resilient unit when they slipped to victory, although this was unspectacular.
Matteo Guendouzi, lucky enough to avoid a retroactive sanction for grabbing Neal Maupay by the neck last Saturday, was the main victim of the defeat in Brighton when he left the squad, but the Frenchman's absence seemed no negative To have an impact on Arsenal.
In a promising first half, Eddie Nketiah pounced on Alex McCarthy's mistake to give Arsenal the lead, and in the second half they managed to stay under pressure.
Jack Stephens' late red card helped, and Joe Willock scored his first Premier League goal shortly thereafter to collect the three points and boost hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.
Despite the fate and darkness surrounding Arsenal in the past few weeks, they had a good start in St. Mary's. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tested McCarthy and hit the crossbar on either side of Nketiah, with one goal being sidelined during the early exchange.
But Nketiah scored legally in the 20th minute, closing McCarthy and blocking his attempted pass before knocking on an empty net.
The Saints started the second half on the forefoot, but were almost 2-0 behind in the 54th minute. Aubameyang raced to Emiliano Martinez's drop kick and tried to get Nketiah over the goal, only that Jan Bednarek distracted it shortly after the post.
Shane Long was rejected by Martinez before Arsenal won late.
Stephens stumbled across Aubameyang as the last man to earn a straight red, and after the free kick, Willock came from close range after he had kindly liked Alexandre Lacazette's attempt.
What does that mean? Gunner see things to boost European hopes
Prior to that game, Arsenal had lost 10 points in their 12 Premier League games under Arteta, more than under Unai Emery and Freddie Ljungberg combined. Given the pattern of much of the second half of the year, few would have supported it to resist this trend.
They may not have progressed against a better team, but they have managed to see victory and have come back two points ahead of Tottenham, who is currently in the last qualification position for the Europa League.
Martinez reliably between the posts
After Bernd Leno was injured, Martinez finally got his chance in the arsenal and he certainly didn't look out of place here. Although he was by no means incredible, he made some clever saves and his distribution was good, especially when he published Aubameyang in the beginning of the second half.
McCarthy does little to help the saints
Clear chances were not very common for the Gunners - even their opener essentially came from nowhere. McCarthy was too loose when it was closed by Nketiah, who capitalized and opened the scoring. Soon after, he seemed to be tempted by fate, but got away with it on that occasion.
Important Opta facts
- Arsenal only recorded their third away win in the season's Premier League (W3 D8 L5), with all three wins under different coaches (Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta).
- Arteta has won as many games in 18 games as Arsenal boss in all competitions (W9 D5 L4) as Emery and Ljungberg in 26 games this season (W9 D11 L6).
- Eddie Nketiah has scored six goals in eleven starts in all competitions this season for Arsenal (4) and Leeds United (2).
- No team has made more mistakes this season that resulted in goals in the Premier League than Southampton (10).
- Joe Willock scored his first goal in the Premier League for Arsenal on his 26th appearance in the competition and with his 13th shot.
Arsenal will meet Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday before returning to the Premier League at home in Norwich City the following Wednesday. The Saints meet Watford on Vicarage Road in the League in three days.
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