Arsenal beat Southampton 3-2 at the Emirates in their 32nd game of the Premier League season, courtesy of one goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a brace from Danny Welbeck to overrule goals from Shane Long and Charlie Austin for the Saints.
Welbeck and Iwobi
This duo can be fairly considered as a pair of squad players, the manager’s tools for when his preferred options are unavailable or need rest. With the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette fully fit and firing, they are hardly likely to get a look-in.
If Arsene Wenger ends up leaving the club this summer, it is reasonable to assume that anyone who might replace him will rebuild the squad to fit his own designs, and players with a part-time role are likely to get under scrutiny first. Therefore, these players need to take any opportunity they get to make themselves useful.
This time, both Iwobi and Welbeck delivered big-time. Welbeck did miss a sitter in an otherwise excellent performance, but that can sometimes happen even to the best attackers in the world. What great players do in that situation, is make the miss irrelevant with a goal or two, and Welbeck did just that, quite apart from the sublime assist for Aubameyang’s nifty equalizer. As for Iwobi, it’s a long time since we last saw such a good performance from the young Nigerian, and if he gets a bit of consistency in him, he might have a bright future with the Gunners yet. After all, he’s only 21.
Wenger spoke about Nelson as a future Premier League star, and now he has given the 18-year-old his first start for Arsenal. His performance cannot be called anything more than a decent one, but that is quite good enough for a player’s full debut. It is very encouraging to see such a young lad get a start in the league and not look out of place at all.
The German international made a mistake for the opener, one that is hard to understand or accept from a player of considerable experience and status. He completely fell asleep as that ball came in and allowed Long to go past him like he wasn’t even there, and divert it into the net. There was nothing Cech could do to prevent the goal, but Mustafi still found that he should give the goalkeeper an angry look with his arms lifted. The reaction he got was more than justified.
As is the case with strikers, a defender will also make an occasional mistake, and there’s no point in crucifying Mustafi for this, especially given that the game was won in the end. But he needs to accept responsibility, in his own eyes first, and make sure he never switches off like that again.
The red cards
Southampton’s Jack Stephens completely deserved his marching orders from referee Andre Marriner, there can be no argument about that. Wilshere’s foul on him was extremely cheeky, but there was no call to throw him on the ground for it. The frustration obviously got the better of the Saint’s defender in that moment.
The red card shown to Mohamed Elneny was perhaps a bit harsh, but there’s no hiding the fact that what Elneny was doing there was extremely unwise. It’s one thing to resort to time-wasting, but it has to be done a bit more subtly than that.
By now, it has become painfully obvious that the points won mean very little for Arsenal’s position in the Premier League table. However, to keep this string of positive results going is very important for the team’s morale as the season draws to its end. Winning the Europa League is now imperative, as it’s the only way for the Gunners to appear in the Champions League next season.
It will not be easy in Moscow on Thursday, but this result, coupled with the advantage gained in the first leg, will hold Wenger’s men in good stead to progress to the semifinals.
They can be backed at 10/11 to beat CSKA in Moscow.