03/12/2014: Arsenal 1-0 Saints
Saints were cruelly beaten by a late Alexis Sanchez goal at Arsenal. Ronald Koeman's men performed much better than they have done in recent weeks and probably deserved a point on the balance of play.
The first 15 minutes were fairly congested. Saints battled hard and pressed well. The visitors were very compact, with Graziano Pelle dropping deep to receive the ball. It was Arsenal who had the first major chance, however. Danny Welbeck finished poorly, having latched on to Santi Cazorla's pass. On 14 Pelle squandered a great opportunity, firing over having combined well with Steven Davis. Saints did well to stifle their opponents, and also edged the possession stakes. That said, Chamberlain did manage to get a decent shot away on 25.
The away side attacked with slightly more purpose towards the last 10 minutes of the first half. Victor Wanyama brilliantly won the ball back before feeding Pelle on the counter. The Italian saw his deflected shot land straight into the arms of the keeper. Fraser Forster made a brilliant one handed save from a Welbeck header just before half-time.
Saints continued to enjoy a good share of the ball during the first 15 minutes of the second half. Shane Long shot over from Wanyama's pass. Arsenal only really came to life following the introduction of Olivier Giroud on 65. The French striker made an immediate impact, shooting across goal on 68. Welbeck had another chance soon after, as Arsenal really turned up the heat.
Saints occasionally looked threatening on the break. Sadio Mane had a shot blocked following yet another counter on 78. Arsenal attempted to play their way through with some quick intricate play, but their opponents were extremely well organised and remained calm at the back throughout. Saints looked to be well on their way to earning a valuable point until Toby Alderweireld limped off with an injury with minutes to spare. Saints had defended admirably all evening, and continued to do so for a few more minutes. Forster made another superb stop from a Giroud header. The pressure eventually told however, with Arsenal making the extra man count on 88. Aaron Ramsey resisted the challenge of a couple of players before playing the ball across the box for Alexis Sanchez to tap in. Saints had nothing left to give in stoppage time. Lukas Podolski shot across goal in the dying seconds as the Gunners pushed for a second.
Very cruel on Saints. The late goal is hard to take, but Koeman can take plenty of positives from the performance. Were it not for Alderweireld's late injury Saints probably would have held out. The team certainly weren't overawed like they were in spells against Manchester City. Saints played as a real unit, worked hard and remained organised throughout. Injuries in midfield are very concerning, but on this evidence Koeman's side look capable of pulling off that elusive win over one of the 'big teams'.
Forster: 9. Didn't deserve to be on the losing side. Made a number of saves he had no right to make
Clyne: 7. Showed his class in the final third on a couple of occasions and did his bit in defence as you would expect
Fonte: 7. Pretty solid on the whole
Alderweireld: 8. Another composed display. Made some good tackles at the back early on and distributed the ball well
Bertrand: 7. Positive going forward and steady at the back
Cork: 6. Started the game strongly before limping off
Wanyama: 8. Broke up Arsenal's attacking play and also helped to create a number of chances at the other end with some clever through balls
Davis: 7. Linked up well with Pelle and also put in some good defensive work
Long: 7. Excellent pressing. Made some great runs too
Tadic: 6. Worked hard and some decent passing
Pelle: 6. Started the game well. Worked hard and made some good runs, just missing that finishing touch. Saw a lot less of the ball towards the end of the game with Arsenal on the attack
Yoshida: 7. A very assured display at the back. Didn't do a lot wrong
Mane: 6. Spent most of the time on the back-foot with Saints defending deep during the last 25 minutes
Mayuka: Deployed on the right in place of Long. Didn't really get involved in the game
Arsenal - Sanchez (88)
Attendance: 60,025 (Official figure, clearly signficantly fewer actually in the ground)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Arsenal: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Giroud 65), Cazorla, Sanchez, Welbeck (Podolski 81)
Subs not used: Macey, Gibbs, Bellerin, Rosicky, Sanogo
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Cork (Yoshida 29), Wanyama, S Davis, Long (Mayuka 81), Tadic (Mane 62), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Gardos, Targett, Reed