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Toothless Arsenal rescued by Giroud at Southampton

French striker scores late header as Gunners scrape point at St Mary's

10 December, 2017 — By Richard Osley

FA Premier League
SOUTHAMPTON 1 (Austin 3)
ARSENAL 1 (Giroud 88)

ARSENAL once more revealed the lack of ruthlessness and killer instinct which has counted them out of this season’s title race as they laboured to a draw at Southampton. For virtually the whole of the second half at St Mary’s, the Gunners were camped outside their hosts’ penalty area, but they were repeatedly unable to do more than pass the ball from left to right around the edges.

The Saints, in the lead from a third minute strike from Charlie Austin, were being under the less terrifying siege you could imagine. The lack of penetration from a team spearheaded by the likes of  Mesut Oil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette would have been more embarrassing if Olivier Giroud, summoned from the bench, not deftly headed an equaliser two minutes from time.

The point hauled Arsenal above Spurs in the league table, but reducing a season’s efforts down to whether you are ahead of your local rivals or not is a base measure of success, and certainly not one which would help in player recruitment – or retention – next month. The good work of winning the north London derby and toughing out a victory at Burnley and hopes of an uptick trajectory has unravelled, despite the feelgood Europa League thumping of Bate Borisov four days ago.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: “It was a difficult game and I felt that we paid a heavy price for a slow start. We kept going. It was a game of high intensity. In the second half it was all us but they defended well. We played with many strikers. Overall, I think the spirit was great. We were relentless to the end.”

In truth, home keeper Fraser Forster will have hardly have felt he was under relentless stress. He saved a free-kick at a nice height from Sanchez and collected lots of crosses out of the air. In the first half, he did make one excellent save from Aaron Ramsey’s crisp shot, but in the main he found protection in both his defence and Arsenal’s tired attempts to thread the eye of a needle with their forward passing/

SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Yoshida, Bertrand, Stephens, van Dijk, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond (Boufal 74), Tadic, Austin (Gabbiadini 86)

Subs not used: McCarthy, Davis, Hoedt, Lemina, Pied

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Monreal, Mertesacker (Welbeck 64), Koscielny, Xhaka (Wilshere 69), Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette (Giroud 72)
Subs not used: Coquelin, Ospina, Iwobi, Maitland-Niles

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