02/02/2016: Arsenal 0-0 Saints
Saints kept their unbeaten run intact with an impressive draw at Arsenal. Ronald Koeman's side were brilliantly organised defensively, although Fraser Forster was required to bail the rest of his team out on several occasions. Offensively the quality wasn't quite there, but overall it was a good performance.
Koeman switched back to a 4-3-3, but the approach remained fairly similar. Saints played it safe defensively, but did enjoy some good spells of possession in Arsenal's half during the opening stages of the game. James Ward-Prowse's 2nd minute free-kick almost caught out Petr Cech. On 12 Forster made a save with his feet after Mesut Ozil had found himself in space down the left. Sadio Mane then shot straight at Cech at the other end.
Arsenal began to see more of the ball about midway through the first-half, but didn't show enough intensity or inventiveness to break down the wall of green shirts. Only Mane and Shane Long remained forward when Arsenal had the ball. Saints had a few minor openings on the counter. Dusan Tadic shot straight at Cech after some good skill outside the area on 30. Oriol Romeu then scooped the ball just over. Saints' best chance came on 41 when Mane appeared to be through on goal, but the Senegalese forward could only touch the ball wide under pressure. Just before half-time Ozil had a shot blocked following a goal-mouth scramble.
Arsenal upped the ante at the start of the 2nd half. Forster brilliantly tipped the ball over on 48 after Long had been caught in possession on the counter. On 55 Mane shot tamely at Cech from outside the box, when he might have been better off taking the ball further forward. Two minutes later Tadic shot aimlessly wide.
Saints were attempting to get the ball out wide and stretch Arsenal on the counter, to little success. On 60 Romeu had a shot blocked after the referee had played advantage for a foul on Tadic. Saints then squandered a great opportunity on the counter, when Romeu failed to find either Mane or Long, who were both sprinting towards goal.
Forster made a relatively simple claim from Alexis Sanchez on 65, but he was properly tested just a couple of minutes later. He made a brilliant double save after Theo Walcott had found himself in acres of space on the right of the box. On 68 Laurent Koscielny powered a header just over the bar. Saints looked to be tiring slightly during the last 15 minutes, offering very little going forward. Arsenal weren't exactly full of ideas either, but the momentum was still with them. Forster tipped over Ramsey's 80th minute header. Ramsey was denied once again in stoppage time. Saints cranked out the time wasting tactics at the end to claim a well earned point.
Another satisfying result. Saints matched Arsenal for much of the match in terms of general play. The Gunners showed a bit more quality going forward, but couldn't quite find a way through, due to the brilliance of Forster. It's probably not an exaggeration to say we would have lost that game about 4-0 had Maarten Stekelenburg still been in goal. Forster didn't have much to do in his previous three outings, but on this occasion he really showed his quality. Another pleasing thing was the way Saints defended as a team. We were so well set up, that even when individual mistakes were made, we weren't getting punished for them because we always had others covering. Going forward it didn't really click, but you can't have everything. Things are looking a lot brighter than they were this time last month.
Forster: 9. Made a string of stunning saves and ultra-commanding
Cedric: 7. One of his better defensive performances. Made a few good runs forward. Distribution occasionally a bit wayward
Fonte: 7. Another assured showing. Threw his body in the way of danger and comfortable on the ball
van Dijk: 7. Complimented Fonte well. Made a few runs out from the back, but generally kept it simple
Bertrand: 7. Fairly cautious going forward, but sound at the back
Wanyama: 8. Absolutely dominated the midfield. Won the ball back with his strong tackling countless times
Romeu: 8. Defensively disciplined and confident on the ball
Ward-Prowse: 7. Set piece delivery not quite at the usual high standard, but still energetic and defensively sound
Tadic: 6. Produced a few nice bits of skill, but no real cutting edge
Mane: 6. Decent movement, but seems to be lacking confidence somewhat. Reluctant to take on his man at times
Long: 6. Ran the channels, but not a lot of the stuff he tried came off
Pelle: 5. Didn't really get into the game
Juanmi: Late pressing helped Saints see out the draw
Targett: Decent cameo. Drew a couple of fouls and helped run the clock down
Referee: Lee Mason
Arsenal line-up: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini (Coquelin 85), Ramsey, Campbell (Walcott 62), Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud
Subs not used: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Saints line-up: Forster, Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Romeu, Ward-Prowse (Juanmi 82), Tadic (Pelle 69), Mane (Targett 86), Long
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Martina, Yoshida, Clasie