In front of a packed St Mary’s stadium, Southampton lacked the quality up front to put Arsenal to the sword after dominating the majority of the game. A Jose Fonte header had given the Saints the lead, which they were more than value for in the first half. Arsenal looked a changed team after the break, with Olivier Giroud and Santi Carzola putting them in front. However Southampton hit back immediately through captain Adam Lallana. Mattieu Flamini’s late red card was the cherry on the top of a generally poor night for the Gunners, who were lucky to escape with a draw.
Roared on by a capacity crowd, Southampton came flying out of the blocks, with their slick passing and high pressing taking Arsenal by surprise. But for all their possession, they failed to create many clear cut chances until Jose Fonte Opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Luke Shaw’s inviting cross found Fonte at the back post, who had stayed up from a free kick. Fonte towered over Monreal to squeeze the ball in past Szczesny.
18 year old Sam Gallagher was given his first start for Saints in the absence of Rickie Lambert, and he looked very bright and confident. He started well, with an early snapshot being turned away by the Arsenal keeper. Unfortunately though, the overriding memory of his first start will probably be a glaring miss at 1-0. Arsenal lost possession out wide, and the ball in found Gallagher who, with the goal at his mercy, diverted the ball past the post.
Things looked to have gone from bad to worse for Arsenal, as Jay Rodriguez was played through and brought down outside the box by an onrushing Szczesny. But the linesman came to the Pole’s rescue, as he flagged Rodriguez offside.
Arsenal’s first real chance of the game came after 44 minutes, as a fantastic Artur Boruc save denied Koscielny’s point blank header from a corner.
After the break, Arsenal came out a different side, more than matching the passion and intensity that the home team had shown in the first half. Southampton, however, looked lethargic and were punished on 48 minutes, with a cross finding Bacary Sagna at the back post, and his low shot was steered in to the net by Oliver Giroud. Minutes later, Mesut Özil escaped a Jay Rodriguez challenge and set up Santi Carzola, who placed the ball in the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Southampton, who had looked comfortable in the first half, were in disarray and looked as if they could have lost by 3 or 4. But instead they hit straight back with Jay Rodriguez beating Sagna before squaring it for Adam Lallana to fire past Szczesny.
From then on the game opened up, with Saints having the majority of the play. Luke Shaw looked to have the beating of Sagna, and Szczesny had to save well for his his effort, and then again when he tipped Jose Fonte’s header away from the resulting corner. The almost anonymous Mesut Özil ran at the Saints defence, with his deflected effort bounced back off the bar.
Any hopes of an Arsenal winner were quashed late on, as Mattieu Flamini lunged in two-footed on Morgan Schniederlin. Despite winning the ball, it was a dangerous and out of control, which left Lee Mason no option but to send him off.
Despite some late Southampton pressure, both teams will probably be content with the draw.
Southampton: Boruc 6; Chambers 7, Fonte 8, Yoshida 6, Shaw 7; Cork 8, Schneiderlin 7, S.Davis 6 (Do Prado 90); Lallana 8, Rodriguez 7, Gallagher 7 (Ward Prowse 70, 6)
Unused Subs: K.Davis, Hooiveld, Clyne, Wanyama, Isgrove
Arsenal: Szczesny 6; Sagna 5, Mertesacker 5, Koscielny 5, Monreal 5; Flamini 4, Arteta 6; Carzola 7 (Gibbs 86), Özil 6, Gnabry 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 70, 6); Giroud 7 (Podolski 90)
Unused subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Bendtner
Referee: Lee Mason 6