Arsenal picked up all three points at the home of the side with the worst home record in the league, thus ensuring they are able to play Premier League football next season.
Of course, I joke, but only just. I think. I haven’t done the maths because, I mean, why would I want to depress myself even further by looking at what could have been if we hadn’t sacked Unai Emery?
Arsenal’s win on Thursday night took us to 43 points. As we all know, 40 is the fabled ‘safety’ mark for those looking to avoid relegation. That’s where we sat before this game, but you always want to get a few more on the board just to be sure.
It was far from a fluid display but, for once, we got to watch a mistake from an opposition player, the likes of which we normally only get to see from our own. That allowed Eddie Nketiah to pounce, alert as always, to make it one-nil which is how it stood at the break.
Eddie Nketiah with more away Premier League goals this evening than Lacazette has this season.
— Lewis (@LGAmbrose) June 25, 2020
This is just fantastic https://t.co/5JpvSm0XuQ
— Daily Cannon (@DailyCannon) June 25, 2020
Going to Southampton, who have the worst home record in the league was, of course, no guarantee of anything. Arsenal love nothing more than giving a struggling team a helping hand to rebuild their confidence. In fact, when I read the stat about the Saints home record, it seemed destined to bite us in the arse, as it has so often in the past.
This time, however, kitted out in the full banana, Arsenal managed to help themselves instead.
Sometimes it’s good to be selfish.
Arsenal were more dangerous in the second half, forcing Southampton into the sort of desperate defending we’re used to seeing from our own side. But the Saints were not without threats of their own.
It wouldn’t be an Arsenal match if we didn’t pick up an obligatory injury and, with just under 70 minutes played, Kieran Tierney, who seemed to be suffering from cramp, was replaced by Sead Kolasinac. Does that signal a change to our fortunes? Probably not. Still, at least he (probably) won’t be out for six months, which is nice.
Poort Tierney. Playing in this heat is basically extreme sports for a Scottish lad.
— Ram Vaidyanathan (@zoopertrip) June 25, 2020
With just over five minutes left on the clock, Southampton were reduced to 10 men as a player was actually sent off against us in yet another change of fortune. Stephens made a genuine, but desperate, attempt to get to the ball before Aubameyang and missed taking out the man. The ref surprised us all by applying the laws of the game to the opposition and out came his red card.
From the resulting free-kick, Arsenal got a number of chances to make it two as Southampton did their best ‘Arsenal defending’ impression. It was Joe Willock who took his, doubling our lead and finally securing the points.
Despite being outdone in terms of chances and efforts, Arsenal had held on to that solitary first half goal but never really looked like making it more comfortable until the dying minutes of the game.
The importance of holding on, however, cannot be understated. On such small things, great futures can be built.
Arsenal are now ninth and ahead of Crystal Palace again. That’s the top half of the table, baby! Not only that, we now have more points than goals conceded and a positive goal difference, all things we couldn’t say before this match kicked off.
What a season.
Next up, the FA Cup and Arsenal’s fourth away game out of four since football returned.