01/01/2013: Saints 1-1 Arsenal

Saints climbed out of the drop zone following a spirited 1-1 draw with Arsenal. Nigel Adkins' men were tactically superb throughout, creating chances and limiting Arsenal at the other end. Adkins made three changes to the starting line-up, with Artur Boruc replacing Kelvin Davis in goal. Jack Cork was moved to right-back, with Maya Yoshida placed into the centre alongside Jose Fonte. Steven Davis took Cork's place in midfield, with Gaston Ramirez starting in the hole in place of Jay Rodriguez.

Arsenal had Saints on the back foot during the first 10 minutes, but couldn't find a way past a very well organised unit. Adkins had clearly learned from the mistakes made during the 6-1 defeat at Ashburton Grove earlier in the season. Arsenal exploited the space down the wings on that occasion, but were unable to do the same this time around, with Jason Puncheon and Guly tucking in very deep to help the full-backs. Everyone else did their bit too, tracking back to deny Arsenal precious little space in and around the penalty area. Boruc nearly undid all that good-work when he spilled a couple of simple catches early on. The Pole struggled with the wet surface at first, but would improve.

Saints weathered the early storm, and began to ask Arsenal questions. The hosts looked to hit the Gunners on the counter. Ramirez was particularly impressive bursting forward and finding gaps. For all the good football that was played however, there were precious few chances created by either side. Saints did take a deserved lead on 34 minutes. The home side's constant pressing helped them steal possession just outside the penalty area. Morgan Schneiderlin played in Rickie Lambert, who was beaten to the ball by Bacary Sagna. Fortunately for Saints, Sagna made a mess of his clearance, with the ball rolling along the box to Jason Puncheon. Puncheon cut it back to Ramirez, who completed a low finish past Wojeich Szczesny. Saints looked comfortable after the goal, but then conceded on 41, completely against the run of play. Theo Walcott whipped in a free-kick on the left hand-side, with Guly getting a toe on the ball before it flew into the back of the net. It was a very unfortunate goal to give away.

Saints continued to apply the pressure during the second half, without creating too many openings. Szczesny tipped Guly's strike just past the post. Jason Puncheon then fired into the side netting, following good work from Davis. On 71 minutes Saints had a goal incorrectly disallowed. Ramirez was deemed to have fouled Laurent Koscielny before turning his body in the box and finishing past Szczesny. Saints tired a bit during the last 15 minutes, with Arsenal coming into the game a bit more. Jay Rodriguez, James Ward-Prowse and Steve De Ridder were brought on in an effort to inject a bit of freshness to the contest. The Gunners had a few half chances from distance, but never seriously tested Boruc. After the final whistle, Walcott and Alex Chamberlain made sure to clap all four sides of the ground, with Saints fans returning the favour. It was a touch of class from the two players who learned their trade at Southampton.

A great effort from Adkins' troops, who have come a long way since the previous clash back in September. Saints defended brilliantly throughout, and also looked dangerous going forward. Every single outfield player did their job superbly and should be immensely proud of their efforts. If it wasn't for that one bad bit of refereeing we would have most likely picked up all three points. The decision to move Cork to right-back - when he has been so influential in midfield -- raised a few eyebrows pre-match, but fortunately it proved to be the right call. Davis stepped up his game in the middle, while Cork barely put a foot wrong defensively. Saints' constant pressing meant the likes of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott barely got a sniff. If we can keep up that level of intensity throughout the rest of the season then we should start to convert some of these draws into wins.

Attendance: 31,743 (3,141 Arsenal fans)

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. Looked incredibly shaky early on. Struggled with the wet surface, and distribution poor. None of the errors proved costly however, and he did look pretty comfortable in the second half. Didn't have many saves to make

Cork: 8. Timing impeccable throughout.

Fonte: 8. Didn't do a lot wrong, very solid at the back

Yoshida: 8. Quite possibly his best Saints performance to date. Defensive work sound, and good distribution.

Shaw: 8. Kept Oxlade-Chamberlain quiet throughout, and also made some good bursting runs up the wing

Davis: 8. Filled in for Cork superbly, sweeping up everything in front of the back four. Very intelligent movement on and off the ball, also contributed going forward

Schneiderlin: 8. Had Santi Cazorla in his pocket for most of the game. Superb all over the pitch, surely it's only a matter of time before France come calling?

Puncheon: 7. Drifted out of the game at times, but worked hard throughout. Had a role in the goal

Ramirez: 8. Always looked like he could make something happen. Looked much more comfortable in the middle. Growing into the English style of play more and more with each passing game.

Guly: 7. A bit unfortunate with the own goal. Spent most of the first half defending, but used the ball a lot better after the break

Lambert: 7. Dropping throughout to help his teammates. Passing very good.


Rodriguez: 6. Put himself about and looked useful

Ward-Prowse: Added a bit of energy. Good to see him back involved in first team action

De Ridder: Looked fairly useful, with some decent forward runs