Unai Emery hoisted 3 points up the #Top4 flagpole as he continued to progress his mission of bringing goodness, light and Champions League football back to the true home of London football.
The game was almost too easy. We burst out of the traps much in the same way as we did midweek, this time, the fight was led by the impressive Iwobi who looked inspired. The first goal came from his cross that found Mikhi at the back post, the ensuing scuffed strike found Lacazette 6 yards out for the tapped finish.
Did I just totally forget about the superb save Leno made just prior to the goal? I did. Mustafi made a mistake allowing the Redmond in on goal, the German saving brilliantly.
The second came on 15 minutes. Lacazette’s pressure from the front put Southampton under pressure, Angus Gunn duffed his clearance, the mighty Iwobes found Mikhi at the back post again, this time, the Armenian guided a stroked pass low into the near post corner.
The second half was very much taken in second gear. There’s a fair argument to be had that we should have gone hard at Southampton considering the potential goal difference issue we might butt up against, but ultimately, the three points is what mattered.
I think we saw the impact of overexertion in the ScouserManc game, Liverpool losing Firmino and Robertson, with United breaking 3 players in the first half (Mata, Lingaard, Herrera). The draw was good news for us, it looks like Liverpool are letting the title slip and the draw pegged United back two points in the #Top4 race (Matic is also out).
All in all, the game did the job. I thought it was a bit weird to start Ramsey over Ozil considering the style of game, but both landed some game time. Those two could prove vital for the run-in. Sokratis came through the match unscathed which is also vitally important for the week ahead. Additionally, I thought Bernd Leno was excellent. He made two excellent saves that stopped the game turning into an energy sapper.
I also think Kola is underrated. He made some deft touches, he was unselfish and created two very good chances that deserved more. Some additional stats: He made the most ball recoveries, he made the most passes in the attacking 1/3, he won 2 aerial duels and his pass completion rate was 86%. I know Southampton were shite, but you can only play who is put in front of you.
Xhaka had a very good game. Given time and space, he really can pick apart a team. He ran riot yesterday. Still managed to nearly gift them a goal, but I’d almost feel cheated if he stopped doing that. Lacazette was hardworking and decisive as always. Finally, Mikhi played really well. It’s nice to have some craft out wide, he gives us much needed balance.
So: A clean sheet. Our 4th halftime lead of the season. Back into 4th. That’s the way I like my Sunday afternoons.
The other big game of the day went our way as well. Manchester City won the first trophy of the season with a hard-fought win at Wembley. You had to feel for Sarri, tactically, he proved he could be flexible. No repeat of the disaster of a few weeks ago. Watching Kepa destroy the narrative of the game was quite something. I’ve never witnessed behaviour like that. Chelsea has to do something about insubordination like that. Player power gone mad I tells ya.
Chelsea will hurt from losing out on a trophy, but ultimately, the tired legs heading into a showdown with Spurs this Wednesday is likely their bigger concern. Depressed and leggy isn’t a good combo unless your name is Unai and it’s not your team that is depressed and leggy.
Things are all playing into the hands of Arsenal. We have a better run of fixtures and if we can turn over Bournemouth and Spurs this week, it’s ours to fuck up in my opinion.
Additional good news on the stats front. Unai Emery is clocking ahead of Wenger over the past 4 seasons. This stat, courtesy of powerhouse commenter, Redtruth.
2014-15: 51 points
2015-16: 51 points
2016-17: 50 points
2017-18: 45 points
2018-19: 53 points
That’s an average of 3.75 points more than Wenger. Two of those seasons, we won Champions League football. WON. Top 4 was a trophy and still is.
Right, see you in the comments. x