Arsenal Away Drew 2 – 2
Ralph’s selection policy always adds extra spice to the pre-match tension, but few logging on an hour before taking on Arsenal expected a line-up that not only omitted Romeu but also included Obafemi alongside Ings and Redmond. It seemed that the extra forward’s main role was to run around purposefully to ensure the home side’s back line, and Luiz in particular, couldn’t pass the ball around at will, and there’s no doubt that this was successful. The Gunners’ defenders may not commit as many errors as Saints, but they are prone to them, and also enjoy the easy life. They demonstrated this more than once in a confident Southampton opening, and after just eight minutes a whole bunch of them were guilty of not paying attention when the returning Bertrand played a quickly taken free kick into the path of Ings who fired in off the near post. The trouble with reverting to four at the back to accommodate more creative players is that it exposes our big area of weakness and just ten minutes after taking the lead, Tierney sent in a decent but routine cross that somehow reached the feet of an unmarked Aubameyang – well done to Bertrand for blocking the shot, but shouldn’t he have been closer to the striker? Just our luck that the loose ball fell for Lacazette to score. Having heard his side booed off at the break, Unai Emery introduced Pepe for ex-Saint Chambers at half time, leaving his side vulnerable to attacks by the visiting front three and immediately Obafemi forced Torreira into a clearance that made Leno work to keep the ball out of his own net, and within 20 more minutes Sokratis took too many liberties in his own area and was robbed by Soares who somehow failed to deliver a simple pass to Obafemi in front of goal. In between McCarthy’s heel had denied Aubameyang while Pepe managed to bounce a shot up onto the bar, so plenty of action, if goal-less. Then Obafemi found Ings running into space but, with progress halted by Tierney’s challenge from behind, after some delay VAR confirmed referee Attwell’s decision of penalty. Surely Ward-Prowse would continue his 100% record from the spot? Well not quite as Leno saved a poorly placed kick, but JWP kept his head to net the rebound. Southampton’s final quarter substitutions confirmed their positive approach with Long, Djenepo and Boufal coming on for Ings, Obafemi and Armstrong, and it would have looked inspired had Djenepo remembered what the nets are for. His first opportunity was set up by Redmond who may well have scored himself, but the end result was a spectacular clearance off the line by Willock, and then in added time he had an arguably better chance created by Boufal, but still no goal. Seven extra minutes had been announced which was no surprise given VAR’s involvement, a couple of injuries and, let’s face it, some procrastination by Southampton, but even that was running out when another sub, Martinelli, crossed almost out of McCarthy’s reach, but the keeper got a touch that only sent the ball into the path of Lacazette who scored his second: certainly not the first late disappointment in this part of North London.
LSSC Man of the Match: Alex McCarthy, on peer group advice. Had we been able to examine the second equaliser in greater detail, we may have come to a different decision, but maybe the keeper just got unlucky with his slight touch going to exactly the wrong place.