Arsenal Home Drew 1 – 1
With what sounds like a long-term injury to Walker-Peters, allied to those of Bella-Kotchap and Livramento, and with Maitland-Niles unavailable against his parent club, Arsenal, Ralph was more or less forced to play all of Lyanco, Salisu and Caleta-Car. In response, Perraud seemed to have a more advanced role, as did Arihbo, to accommodate a return for Stuart Armstrong that forced Adams onto the bench. Saints fans are quite comfortable with the strategy of allowing a mega-bucks club to come at us so there was no panic as we endured a busy start by the Gunners, but things do become awkward should we fall behind. This happened just after ten minutes when Xhaka met White’s cross with a very positive finish. The defensive unit had to dig in to keep the league leaders at bay while there was little threat at the other end until a flurry of five successive Southampton corners around the half hour mark. We forced nine corners in all, and, despite plenty of big targets for JW-P to aim for, none looked like being converted, but what this particular first half passage did was to give everyone a breather, and also instil a spot of self-belief. When some unfortunate bounces of the ball favoured Arsenal, Jesus looked sure to double the lead after an hour but Elyounoussi chased back and got a crucial touch to divert the ball for a corner. Within five minutes Elyounoussi was in critical action again, playing a prominent part in a break out of defence that ended with a subtle pass for Stuart Armstrong to run on to and finish neatly. There were 25 minutes remaining and the unlikely figure of Theo Walcott featured for most of them, with some decent effect, it has to be admitted. Edozie had seemed a more obvious choice and he came on to cause a few problems as Ralph claimed “we had them on the ropes.” I’m not so sure, and there was a scare when Elyounoussi just did enough to force Tierney to take the ball out of play before crossing for Ødegaard to fire into the net. Another worry came when referee Jones, who had a good game, making decisions based on action rather than reputation, ran towards the dreaded VAR screen, but it was just to administer a caution to a member of the opposition coaching staff as the visitors rather surprisingly began to run out of ideas. The final whistle was greeted with a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and torrential rain, as if the natural order of things had been disturbed by an unexpected Southampton point.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
22. Mohammed Salisu, who has been featuring quite a lot.
24. Mohamed Elyounoussi, who has played all of the last 3 x 90 minutes and made some important contributions in this game.
37. Lyanco Vojnovic. Just as Caleta-Car was the best player at Bournemouth, so was Lyanco the star man against Arsenal. As the Bournemouth decision showed, that doesn’t mean you have to vote for him!