Arsenal took three points today against Southampton in ways that feel slightly dirty, as Santi Cazorla converted a late late penalty kick to give the Gunners a 2-1 victory at the Emirates.
The potential for the match to be a bit shaky emerged before the start, even, as Arsene Wenger picked the infamous Coqzorla midfield, preferring Francis Coquelin to the upgrade that he spent £34 million on in the summer, Granit Xhaka. This would pay whatever the opposite of dividends are (I think it’s integrals, or variables, or minuses), as Francis Coquelin tried to play number 8 or 10 or striker for most of the match, wandering up with the forwards, covered, leaving a hole on Southampton counters.
That’s the last we’ll speak of that.
Southampton controlled play for the opening 20 minutes, their midfield asserting itself. Nathan Redmond cut inside 18 minutes in and appeared to have taken a dive, but the referee awarded a free kick from the D. Dusan Tadic stepped up and curled an effort that Petr Cech got a finger to (he probably should have done a little better), knocking the ball onto the post, straight down, off his own back, and in, for an own goal.
The Saints continued to play well after their opener, but Arsenal found a little leakage, and from a set piece 29 minutes on, the ball ballooned up in the box, and birthday boy Laurent Koscielny decided on an audacious course of action, overhead kicking an unstoppable effort past Fraser Forster from 12 yards:
With the scores now level, Arsenal began to assert themselves, and pushed for a goal either side of halftime much harder. 60 minutes in, changes arrived as Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez took over for Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott; Shane Long came on for the Saints as well, and his impact was immediate. 67 minutes in, he missed the first of his two big chances, while at the other end, Arsenal contrived to miss a number of quasi-sitters. The match opened up, neither side able to find a winner, until chaos enveloped the land in injury time.
Long brought down a ball over the top in the corner and appeared to collapse under no pressure from Nacho Monreal, and as Arsenal raced back up the pitch, replays showed that he had actually been caught on the heel very subtly; Arsenal played on at the other end, and as a cross fizzed in, Koscielny took a boot to the face. While he lay supine in the Southampton goal mouth, Arsenal kept going, and Giroud won an [arguably soft] penalty off of Jose Fonte. The Emirates rejoiced while trainers saw to Koscielny, and Cazorla stepped up to bang home the eventual winner, two minutes of slightly nervy football to follow.
Three points, but not super convincing; questions remain, but for another day.