The three best and worst performers from Arsenal's victory over Southampton
Despite a performance that was far from fluent, Arsenal squeezed past Southampton with a 2-1 victory courtesy of Santi Cazorla’s late penalty. The home side’s performance was reminiscent of too many of their displays at the Emirates last season; they struggled to play through the middle third of the pitch and were forced into too many errors as the Saints pressed them effectively. Dusan Tadic’s free kick rebounded off the back of Petr Cech to give the visitors, but Laurent Koscielny’s bicycle kick and Cazorla’s penalty gave the Gunners a precious victory. We looked at the three best and worst performers from yesterday’s hard fought encounter in north London.
Three Best Performers
Koscielny has been a great source of comfort for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans since his return to action at Leicester City last month, and turned in another commanding performance yesterday. Having guided young defender Rob Holding through tricky away games at the King Power as well as Watford, the Frenchman had a new partner yesterday in the form of Shkodran Mustafi. The German international looks to be a front-foot, aggressive defender in the mould of Koscielny himself. The former Lorient defender has struggled to form partnerships with these types of player in the past, such as Thomas Vermaelen and Gabriel.
What is intriguing about Koscielny currently is that, at 31 years of age, he seems to developing into more of a zonal defender who reads the game rather than always relying on his abundant pace. If he can continue on this path, he and Mustafi could form a complementary partnership. Aside from his fine defensive work, he scored a spectacular equaliser that made him Arsenal’s highest scoring defender in the Premier League era with a total of 16.
The Serbian attacking midfielder looks revitalised under new manager Claude Puel, after falling out with previous boss Ronald Koeman. Tadic was given a free role behind Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez, and was at the heart of everything good Southampton produced going forward. He was involved in smart combination play that led to the free kick which brought about Southampton’s goal. Moreover, it was his backheel that put Shane Long clean through on goal and the Irishman really should have won the game for the visitors. Tadic can be a slightly ephemeral talent who flatters to deceive, but he was at his inventive best yesterday.
Davis was quietly impressive in an energetic and tight midfield three for Southampton yesterday, and continues to be one of the most underrated midfielders in the top flight. The Ulsterman has great energy, but his technical quality is undervalued; he had a pass completion rate of 91% yesterday. Davis is also capable of getting into the box and scoring goals as well, just as he did at White Hart Lane at the back end of last season. The Saints pressed Arsenal very well in the game’s early stages, and stopped the Gunners from playing through the middle third of the pitch in the way that they like. Davis, Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu formed a three-man wall, that blocked Arsenal’s lines of pass through to Mesut Ozil.