ARSENAL FRUSTRATED IN SOUTHAMPTON SLIP-UP
Arsenal were held to a draw at Southampton despite taking an early lead on Sunday afternoon.
This is what we made of it.
Decisions prove costly for Arsenal
Arsenal can perhaps fairly point to quite a lot going against them here. Referee Robert Jones is unlikely to make Mikel Arteta’s Christmas card list – with both those men contributing to the draw.
The performance from the man in the middle brought great frustration from the visitors as they fell to their first draw since January.
Duje Ćaleta-Car was given free reign throughout to nullify Gabriel Jesus (often by illegal means), while Lyanco was at his irritating best and perhaps got away with a little too much (more on him to come) due to some generous officiating.
There was also the curious call to book Bukayo Saka for simulation when he hadn’t dived, while no penalty check was made on a potential Ćaleta-Car foul on Jesus in the area.
But those weren’t the only decisions to frustrate the Gunners as their own coach was guilty of some which proved costly – worst of all starting Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back over Kieran Tierney.
As soon as the Scot was introduced, he was a constant threat out wide and produced two good chances including a goal which was correctly disallowed. Had he been in from the start, things may have been different.
The Xhaka rebirth is real
There may be no greater redemption story in the Premier League this season than that of former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka.
He has benefited from his new, more advanced role this season greatly and has established himself as one of the key names in this revolution in north London.
For the second time in as many games, he popped up unmarked in the centre of the penalty area to net a right footed volley – although this one was much more impressive in its execution than his strike against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday.
That took him to three league goals this season which saw him equal his tally for the last three seasons combined!
There are almost echoes of Aaron Ramsey at his best in an Arsenal jersey to the way in which he is finding space and goals. Long may the rebirth arc continue.
Saints embrace cult hero
We said there was more to come on Lyanco who cemented his reputation as a club cult hero and all-round s***house with this performance.
The reaction of both sets of fans to his performance confirmed just how much he had been at the centre of things, with the Gunners faithful furious and Southampton support singing his praises.
From rash tackles, head-to-head altercations (he was perhaps lucky not to see red for that incident with Eddie Nketiah) and a few flailing arms thrown, he shirked away from nothing. To put it mildly.
It was the kind of defending that endeared him to fans of Torino in Italy and he’s repeating it on the south coast. After all, how many defenders are daring to attempt bicycle kicks on the edge of the area?
Things aren’t always pretty with him but they are undoubtedly entertaining and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He should be a regular starter in this side.