Saints 2-0 Arsenal
Saints faced Arsenal in their third game in seven days, with one more to come at the weekend, and not surprisingly Clyne hadn’t had time to recover from injury. That rather forced the issue as far as the defensive formation was concerned, but the pack was shuffled to accommodate the returning Bertrand while Yoshida made way for Gardos, with Alderweireld moving to full back – presumably we were concerned at the Gunners’ pace down the flanks. Also back was Ward-Prowse, with Schneiderlin suspended, but we couldn’t complain as the absence of Giroud for similar reasons, added to Welbeck’s injury, led to the visitors concentrating more than ever on their intricate but not often incisive approach work.
Thus it was that Saints carved out the first clear opening despite being behind on possession: Pellè should have done better than find the outside of the post with his header. Forster was soon brought into action, though, and saved particularly well from Cazorla before his opposite number made his first critical mistake of the afternoon. It came on 34 minutes when Sczcesny, the man keeping Boruc out of the Poland team, chased out of his goal as Mané escaped on the right hand edge of the box. The keeper realised he wasn’t going to have any positive effect out there but that allowed Mané to chip the ball goalwards with enough bend to take it past Mertesacker on the line – like a Jimmy Anderson outswinger.
Mané soon went down injured (a result of goal celebrations?) and was eventually replaced, not by Long but Reed. This was an inspired move as Saints began to look more solid and might have increased their lead had Ward-Prowse been more decisive with a finish.
After the break, Arsenal had their best chance and it took a brilliant save from Forster to deny first Sanchez and also Coquelin by holding onto the ball. It was a turning point as Saints went downfield and Davis sent over an inviting cross that only fell between Debuchy and Sczcesny; happily the two of them managed to make a complete mess of things and the loose ball fell to Tadić who stabbed it home.
Chambers, playing in midfield, was replaced and Saints made good use of the extra space, but spurned opportunities to make the game safe – Pellè hit the post for a second time and then saw Debuchy head off the line following another Sczcesny error. There was a big scare when Gardos brought down Sanchez on the edge of the box, but the Romanian ‘escaped’ with just a yellow card while Sanchez himself could only find the roof of the net from a position from which he had scored easily in the Capital One Cup meeting.
LSSC Man of the Match: Fraser Forster, just as he had been a month ago at The Emirates.