Arsenal CAN defend set-pieces and four more lessons from Arsenal vs Southampton
1. Southampton did it all…apart from score
Had it not been for two careless mistakes, Mauricio Pochettino’s team would have got something out of this game. They were let down by comical goalkeeping from Artur Boruc and a silly shirt pull from Jose Fonte in the box. Otherwise, they were brilliant.
They had 10 attempts on goal to Arsenal’s eight, just about edged the possession, and completed 385 of 493 attempted passes – a completion rate of 78%. Despite this, Arsenal made 61 more passes in the attacking third, 73% of which found their target. The visitors were less productive in the final third and not as accurate – just 60% of their passes at the business end of the pitch found the feet of a team-mate.
Defensively Southampton were solid. An impressive 35 of 41 attempted tackles were successful, but there’s only one stat that matters, and they were unable to beat Wojciech Szczesny.
Saints have only rippled the net 15 times in the Premier League this season – ranking then ninth in the table for goals scored. If they’re serious about mixing it with the big boys they’re going to have to be more clinical in front of goal.
2. Wanyama needs support, Rodriguez needs the ball
Victor Wanyama isn’t one for the purists, but by ‘eck does he put himself about. The Kenyan battering-ram did a fine job of protecting Southampton’s back four, making 8 ball recoveries – bettered only by Aaron Ramsey (14) and Jay Rodriguez (9) – and winning more tackles than any other player on the pitch (9). He was also one of the top interceptors on the day, cutting off three of Arsenal’s attempted passes.
Further up the field, newly-capped England international Jay Rodriquez was also making a nuisance of himself. Combining speed, power and skill, he ploughed through challenges – registering success with 5 of his 7 attempted take-ons – the best record on the day. Every time he got the ball and charged at the Arsenal defence, danger loomed. Even when he didn’t have the ball, he was unsettling the Gunners defence, winning 4 tackles and seizing upon loose balls. The physicality of this bustling pair made a dent in Arsenal’s game plan – Saints should have made more of it.
3. Boruc can’t kick it (or dribble)
What was he thinking? The Polish keeper received a back-pass in the 22nd minute with the scores level. Instead of clearing it up-field or picking out a team-mate, he decided to showcase his dribbling skills.
Unfortunately he doesn’t have any. He got tangled up, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud dispossessed him and stroked the ball into the empty net. 1-0 to Arsenal. Suicidal.
But there’s a reason he chose to dribble rather than kick – he’s not much good at the other one either. Of his 40 kicks, only 20 went to players in a black and white (away) shirt. Time and again he miscued a kick and put his team under pressure. His compatriot Szczesny, on the other hand, found a team-mate with 17 of his 26 kicks – a success rate of 65%.
4. Arsenal can defend balls into the box. No, really...
Set-pieces and lofted balls into the box used to be a sure-fire way of scoring against Arsenal. Not any more. With a settled back four of Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs, the Gunners have the third best defensive record in the league. Only Southampton and Tottenham have shipped fewer goals.
Against the Saints, Arsenal were successful with all 34 of their attempted clearances. Of that total, 24 came with the head. They made 17 interceptions, 4 blocks and won 28 of their 32 aerial duels. Mertesacker was immense, making 7 clearances – bettered only by his central defensive partner, Koscielny.
Unsurprisingly, the German was unbeatable in the air. Five times he went up against an opponent, five times he came out on top.
5. Ozil is a right-thinking individual
Arsenal’s adventurous right back Bacary Sagna complements Ozil’s game perfectly. When the German picks up the ball on the right wing, Sagna is either there giving him an escape route from a pack of defenders or he overlaps providing an attacking option. Ozil exchanged 16 passes with the defender – Arsenal’s most prolific combination over the 90 minutes. While his link-up play with burly striker Olivier Giroud is not as frequent (they swapped passes nine times) it’s just as effective. Using his size and strength to shield the ball, the French striker backs into defenders and acts as a passing wall for Ozil. The German fires into his feet, accelerates into space, Giroud lays it off and Arsenal are in business.
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: Analyse this match