Lacazette rescues woeful Gunners
Alexandre Lacazette rescued a point for Arsenal with virtually the last kick of the game against Southampton at the Emirates this afternoon.
Saints looked to have recorded their first league win on Gunners’ soil since November 1987 when James Ward-Prowse put them 2-1 up at the second attempt after initially seeing his penalty saved by Berndt Leno.
Earlier Danny Ings’ sixth league goal of the season had put the Saints in front early in the first half, before Lacazette scored the Gunners’ first equaliser.
And the Frenchman’s strike deep into added time rescued a point for Arsenal, who have not won in the league since October 6.
The visitors, who had taken seven of their eight points leading into this game on the road, were well worth the points, and will consider themselves harshly done by.
They could have taken the lead in the very first minute. Tierney was caught in possession by Stuart Armstrong 25 yards out, who lashed a low shot inches wide of the left post.
And just seven minutes later Saints were deservedly ahead. Calum Chambers gave away a silly foul in the right-back position and, while he remonstrated with referee Stuart Attwell, Ryan Bertrand got up and poked a quick free-kick into Ings, who scored his sixth league goal of the season, via Leno's left post.
In a home game against the second-bottom Premier League side, Unai Emery started with eight defensive minded players, if you include the wing backs Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin, and the holding midfielders Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guiendouzi.
The Gunners were crying out for creativity, but there was nothing to link those eight with the three isolated up front, and the Saints benefited from the space left in what should have been Arsenal’s midfield.
In contrast Southampton, without a win since September 14, looked confident, the combination of
Bertrand and Nathan Redmond down their left causing particular problems.
All this with £72m record Gunners signing Nicolas Pepe warming the bench.
Redmond, then Ings again, had good chances to double the visitors’ advantage – the latter firing over when well placed in the box.
Kieran Tierney’s crosses from the left appeared Arsenal’s most dangerous – in fact only – threat to the Saints’ goal. And so it proved on 18 minutes, the Scot’s cross found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, playing his first game as Arsenal captain in the wake of Xhaka gate, The striker’s shot was blocked but the rebound fell kindly for Lacazette, who made it 1-1.
Saints came back strongly and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s shot from the right side of the box flashed wide left on the half hour, while at the other end David Luiz should have done better with a header wide of goal from a free-kick.
Emery switched to 4-3-3 at half-time, replacing Chambers with Pepe, and he almost had an immediate impact. Played through on goal, slightly to the left, the Ivorian attempted to square the ball when a shot was the obvious choice.
The change appeared to spark the Gunners into some sort of life. Aubameyang saw a shot well saved by Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal, then Pepe acrobatically volleyed against the bar via the Emirates turf.
But Saints weathered the short storm and were the beneficiaries of another sloppy error of judgement at the back from the Gunners. Tierney pulled at Danny Ings’ shirt as the striker looked to latch on to a through ball in the box, and although Leno saved Ward-Prowse’s spot kick, he could only parry it back into the taker’s path for 2-1.
The visitors could have taken the lead minutes earlier, Sokratis caught in possession in the box by Cedric Soares who, presented with the easiest of side balls to Michael Obafemi to score, over hit his pass.
Then immediately after the goal Stuart Armstrong shot just wide.
And with just three minutes left, substitute Joe Willock cleared off the line when Redmond was through on goal all alone.
But just when it appeared the points were heading back to the south coast, Lacazette rescued Emery – for now - again following a left wing cross, this time from substitute Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin (Martinelli, 83), Tierney, Sokratis, Lacazette, Ozil, Torreira (Nelson, 83), Aubameyang, Chambers (Pepe, h/t), Luiz, Guendouzi