28/01/2014: Saints 2-2 Arsenal

Saints were well worthy of a point, having more than matched Arsenal in a pulsating end-to-end clash. The home side dominated the first half, and then did well to recover after going down 2-1 early in the second. Saints probably just about edged it on the balance of play, but can still be relatively satisfied with a point.

Mauricio Pochettino's men completely controlled the first half. It's difficult to recall a time when Arsenal were afforded less time on the ball. The visitors sat back and allowed Saints to play through midfield. The Gunners backline was reasonably solid, but far from unbreachable. Saints played with a high tempo throughout, attempting to beat Arsenal's offside trap with a succession of high-balls over the top. Arsene Wenger's side also had to contend with a series of difficult set pieces.

Sam Gallagher had the first major chance, firing wide having been caught unaware following a Luke Shaw cross. Moments later Gallagher tested Szczesny with a smart shot inside the area. Saints continued to pen Arsenal back into their own half, passing the ball about with pace and precision. The home side were relentless in their pressing, and were deservedly ahead on 21. Luke Shaw's deep cross made its way to the back post for Jose Fonte, who headed down past Szczesny.

Saints continued to push Arsenal following the goal. A clever set-piece didn't quite come off for Adam Lallana. There was nearly a lucky break when an Arsenal clearance bounced off the back of Steven Davis and across goal for Gallagher, who fired wide from close range. The same player had another shot blocked moments later, following a good interchange between himself, Davis and Lallana. Arsenal did improve slightly at the end of the first half, with Artur Boruc saving well from Laurent Koscielny following a corner.

Arsenal responded well to a poor first half, netting an equaliser on 48. Bacary Sagna beat Rodriguez to the ball on the right of the penalty area, before sliding in for Olivier Giroud, who flicked past Boruc. The momentum swung towards the visitors, who tested Boruc from a corner just after the goal. The Gunners were ahead on 52, hitting Saints on the counter. Santi Cazorla finished Mesut Ozil's pass from just outside the area with the outside of his boot.

Saints responded excellently to that setback, equalising instantly. Rodriguez got the better of Sagna on the left, before cutting back for Lallana, who finished past Szczesny. The tempo barely dropped all evening, with both sides taking it in turns to power forward. Ozil tormented Saints with a series of fine individual runs. The hosts struggled to get near the German international, who hit the bar with a deflected effort. Rodriguez was close to getting on the end of a long through ball before the onrushing Szczesny cleared the danger. The Gunners then had Mathieu Flamini sent off for a dreadful two-footed challenge on Schneiderlin.

Although it wasn't immediately obvious Arsenal were a man light, Saints did just about edge the final 10 minutes. A Calum Chambers long ball was nervously tipped away by Szczesny. Luke Shaw's deflected cross looked like it was dipping in before Arsenal's keeper got a touch on the ball. From the resulting corner Szczesny needed to be alert once again, with Fonte hooking towards goal. Saints looked the more likely during stoppage time, but couldn't quite find a winner.

Pochettino could hardly have asked for more from his team. Saints made Arsenal look anything but a top of the table side, particularly during the first-half. It was a real team performance, with everyone pulling their weight. That there were so many youngsters in the side just further underlines the potential within the ranks. Gallagher is the latest addition to the first team setup. He did miss a couple of chances, but should be commended for having the bravery and intelligence to be in the right positions. With a little bit more polish he could be a proper player for us. Saints have a good run of fixtures coming up, and if we continue to play at that level, there's no reason we can't match, or even eclipse our early season form.

Attendance: 31,284 (3,243 Arsenal fans)

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. Possibly could have done slightly better for at least one of the goals, but did make a couple of very good save

Chambers: 8. A very strong performance. Didn't looked fazed at all, contributing at both ends of the pitch

Fonte: 7. A goal for the man of the moment and a solid defensive display too

Yoshida: 7. Did make a few mistakes, but generally made up for them. Good timing and well positioned for the most part

Shaw: 8. Competed very well down the left in a fascinating battle with Sagna. Crosses and runs always looked dangerous

Cork: 8. Intelligent, great reading of the game. Always in the right place

Davis: 8. Offered a defensive shield, and always showing for the ball

Schneiderlin: 8. Used the ball very well, as well as offering a real physical presence in the centre of the park

Lallana: 8. Looked dangerous all evening, capping things off with a goal

Rodriguez: 7. Worked hard, even if not all of the stuff he tried in the first half really came off. Could have prevented the first Arsenal goal, but did brilliantly for the equaliser

Gallagher: 7. A solid first start. Was tiring a bit just prior to being substituted, but did very well in the first half. Held the ball up well and always got into the right positions


Ward-Prowse: 6. Great set piece delivery

Guly: Didn't really do much, having been sent on late