It would be nice to be strong enough to call the shots over team selection in every match, but against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, manager Koeman picks the side that can best cope with the opposition’s strengths: thus a vastly different formation at Ashburton Grove compared with Old Trafford, with Ward-Prowse and Romeu replacing Clasie and Targett. Austin, the late goal hero of the previous match, was also missing from the entire squad, but Southampton’s first objective was defence. They were massively indebted to an inspired display from goalkeeper Forster who had so nearly gained his side a point in the same fixture last season – he was in early action against Őzil in particular, with a save from a close range header worthy of especial note. The last man was protected by the side’s mass ranks for most of the opening half and had Mané been in better form, who knows, we might even have turned around in front. The second period, though, was dominated by Forster’s performance, and especially in the last half hour when the introduction of Walcott seemed to pose new problems. Giroud had been the most frustrated by the Saints keeper until Walcott found himself unmarked on the right after a passage of play down the other flank, but a double Forster save kept the game level. The big man needed a bit of help from his friends, of course, and Ward-Prowse was the hero with a goal-line clearance from Sánchez when Forster was finally beaten. Saints haven’t managed a league win in this part of North London since a Danny Wallace goal snatched the points at Highbury in 1987, so this was a good game to win, but substitute Pellè proved not to be a Charlie Austin for the occasion and it was a relief when Saints finally survived six minutes of added time.
LSSC Man of the Match: Fraser Forster, who made up for claiming the last three win bonuses on false pretences in matches where he had enjoyed a relatively untroubled return – this game was rather different.