With half an eye on Saturday’s North London Derby, Arsene Wenger had to rotate his squad and the starting lineup had a different feel. New signing, David Ospina, made his first appearance in Arsenal colors and he had a very young and inexperienced defense in front of him with Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Isaac Hayden and Francis Coquelin completing the back line. The midfield had a familiar outlook with Abou Diaby making his first appearance in a long while in the holding role while Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky played ahead of him. In attack, Alexis played alongside Joel Campbell and Lukas Podolski.
Arsenal began the game well as Abou Diaby dinked a lovely ball for Alexis Sanchez but he couldn’t get the ball in his stride. On the other end, Southampton almost had the ball at the back of Arsenal’s net but David Ospina was brave enough to parry Steven Davis shot.
Arsenal grabbed the lead when Alexis Sanchez curled in a sweet free kick that gave the keeper no chance. While the Gunners were basking in his euphoria of the match opener, their complacency got the better of them as Tomas Rosicky blatantly fouled Mane in the box. Dusan Tadic fired the spot kick to the middle as Ospina dived to his right.
The goal took the wind off the Gunners sails and gave the away side some confidence. Nathaniel Clyne swung in a cross that was bound for Graziano Pelle’s head but Calum Chambers was on hand to head the ball to safety. Pelle continued to threaten the Gunners with a shot that grazed the post before going wide.
Southampton’s pressure finally paid off when Clyne latched onto a loose ball and blasted a thunderous shot that swerved past Ospina and into the net. Sadly, that proved to be the match winner.
Lukas Podolski was largely anonymous in the game but he managed to fire a shot that was parried away by Fraser Forster. Arsenal continued to probe the Southampton defense with Sanchez teeing up Wilshere but his shot was easy pickings for the goalie.
In the second half, Southampton almost gave themselves a comfortable lead as Davis fired a shot that was superbly saved by Ospina. Arsenal tried to instigate a counter attack but Wilshere’s attempted pass to Sanchez was too heavy and good chance went begging. The Gunners conceded a free kick in a dangerous area but Ospina showed good reaction to save Tadic’s shot.
Arsene Wenger brought in Santi Cazorla for Diaby in his bid to get something out of the game. Bellerin drilled an effort that was hit first time by Sanchez but the goalie was in the right position to make another good save. Wenger then brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Joel Campbell but in my honest opinion, Podolski was the man that was meant to be substituted.
Isaac Hayden managed to have a rear foray forward and he blasted a shot that was well wide off the mark. Late on the Gunners brought on Chuba Akpom but it was too little too late as Southampton held on to advance to the fourth round at Arsenal’s expense.
It was a saddening result all round but one must wonder how those youngsters must have felt bearing in mind that it was some of the experienced folk that let them down. Many might attribute Rosicky and Podolski’s poor performances to ‘rustiness’ but that’s not a good enough excuse bearing in mind that there were other players in the team that had barely had playing time as well. It was Hayden’s and Coquelin’s first games in a very long while but they gave a very good account of themselves. So did Abou Diaby.
No point crying over spilled milk, all hands will be on deck for the North London derby coming this weekend.