Wednesday’s 1-0 win was a key victory for Arsenal, not just because it brought them closer to the top 4 and it was the second in a row after a string of unimpressive results but because, arguably, they deserved it.
The Gunners controlled the match, enjoying a 59/41 advantage in possession, a 19/4 edge in attempts on goal and a 9/4 advantage in corners. But more than that, they dictated the play. Yes, Southampton had a few chances and, at times, looked dangerous down the right side but in the end it was Arsenal who determined the outcome.
Three quick takes on the Gunners…
Arsenal Like It Late
They may have endured some disappointing results and may not be dominating matches like they’d prefer but Arsenal are proving themselves fighters who love to snatch points late. Wednesday marked the sixth time this Premier League season – against Crystal Palace, Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham, Hull City and Southampton – where the Gunners have scored in the final twenty minutes of a match to either split the points or win.
Quite a telling stat, especially when so many fans are asking for Wenger’s head. Yes, the manager should have brought in a central defender and holding midfielder last summer but he clearly has the backing of the squad as they play for him until the dying moments. Moreover, Wenger still makes those late changes that alter the match. Which brings us to our second point…
Olivier Giroud Is A Gamechanger Off The Bench
Wenger seems to have settled on Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez as his preferred strike pairing — one tall, one short, both blessed with speed that Olivier Giroud simply doesn’t have. On Wednesday, Giroud’s substitution changed the game for Arsenal and the fact that the Frenchman came in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed a real stroke of intent by Wenger to win the match.
Upon entering the game Giroud immediately freed himself up, nearly scoring on a left-footed blast that Fraser Forster did well to keep in front of him. One minute later and Giroud showed his skill and keen passing ability, linking up with Sanchez and back-heeling Welbeck through on goal. With Forster looking superhuman, one wondered what it would take to find the back of the net and in the end that answer was Giroud, battling hard in the trenches, missing a volley but freeing up space for Aaron Ramsey to find Sanchez on the cross. It was yeoman’s work for Giroud, who is anything but just a big body. But make no mistake about it, on Wednesday he was a complete game-changer.
Emiliano Martinez Coming Along Nicely
No, he won’t be replacing Wojciech Szczesny as the starting goalkeeper but Emiliano Martinez has impressed recently. After making several key saves to protect a 2-1 win away at Anderlecht in October, he kept a clean sheet in the 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund last Wednesday, a second in the 1-0 victory over West Brom last Saturday and a third in today’s victory over Southampton. With a calm, composed demeanor, Martinez has put himself in a good position to be called on in future instances of peril. In time Szczesny will return as the top keeper and Ospina will likely remain the backup but don’t be surprised if in the near future Martinez gets loaned out to a decent side.