The Warmdown: Arsenal fire three past Southampton
Gabriel Magalhaes of Arsenal celebrates with Granit Xhaka and teammates after scoring their side's third goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at Emirates Stadium on December 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Arsenal brushed aside a depleted Southampton side this afternoon, putting their recent poor form behind them with a 3-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

The hosts were without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who according to reports, missed training on Friday due to a delay in coming home from a personal matter abroad. 

Missing training is something that Gunners fans have learned is one of Mikel Arteta's "non-negotiables", meaning that the Gabonese forward was omitted from the squad for the Southampton match at the very least. 

Some fans may regard this as somewhat harsh treatment, but it is clear to see that Arteta believes that there are certain standards that need to be upheld at such a club as Arsenal. 

While The Saints had a number of injury concerns, on top of suspensions to Oriol Romeu and Mohammed Salisu, the Gunners were unchanged from their defeat to Everton on Monday evening.

  • A much-improved performance

The north London side started the game in a similar vein to that which we saw at Goodison Park, with a number of stray passes and mistakes in midfield unnecessarily putting pressure on their back line in the opening stages of the game. 

But as they settled into the first half, opportunities started to present themselves - with the Gunners capitalising on what was a simply sumptuous counter attacking move in the 21st minute of the tie. 

In typical Arteta style, the ball was passed around the back as the hosts looked for an opportunity to pounce on any positional error from Southampton.

When the chance arose, the ball moved quickly from goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, through Benjamin White, Thomas Partey, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Martin Odegaard, into Bukayo Saka on the right hand side, who was given the freedom to drive forward into the penalty area.

Saka waited for his moment to slide the ball across the 18-yard box for an advancing Alexandre Lacazette to fire the ball into the top right corner past Willy Caballero in the Saints net. 

While frustration can be borne from losing the ball in dangerous areas while trying to play out from the back, the benefits of Arteta's chosen system were shown in this move, in all their glory. 

The goal turned what was a timid looking home side into the dominant force on the day, proof that football games can be won or lost in these fleeting moments. 

And with the floodgates now opened, it wasn't long until Arsenal found their lead doubled through Odegaard. Left-back Kieran Tierney needed three attempts to knock the ball into the six yard box, but third time proved the charm, as he found the Norweigan unmarked, for him to neatly nod the ball past Caballero to put the hosts 2-0 up in the 27th minute. 

The attacking midfielder has now scored in three consecutive games for the north London outfit, despite their recent run of unimpressive performances.

In past seasons, a lack of goals from midfield had been a concern in the Arsenal camp, but with Odegaard and Emile Smith-Rowe now both firing from all cylinders, there will not be as much doubt in the goalscoring prowess of the present players who occupy those vital positions. 

(Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)
(Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

From this point forward, the chances for the visitors were few and far between, and even when they did manage to break the Arsenal defence, Ramsdale was once again in indomitable form as the final line of resistance, pulling out solid stops whenever he was called upon. 

The England international also impressed once again through his distribution of the ball, notably firing Gabriel Martinelli through on goal with an inch-perfect volleyed pass from his area - earning the Emirates' applause, even though the Brazilian forward couldn't quite fire in a third.

Arsenal did find their third goal in the second-half, as Martinelli whipped in a corner from the left flank, straight onto the head of centre-back Gabriel who headed in his second PL goal of the campaign. 

Martinelli looked as sharp as ever on the left-hand side of Arsenal's attack, with his long spell out with a knee injury, he is now starting to recapture some of the fine form we saw prior to his time on the sidelines. The Brazilian has now accumulated three goal contributions in his last four appearances. 

Both Saka and Martinelli were unlucky not to have added a goal each, as they cut in from their respective wings, firing shots against the far post in a period of sustained pressure from the Gunners.

The game was far beyond Southampton in the second period, who looked as if they were simply waiting for the final whistle to blow. 

  • Looking forward

This win for The Arsenal was an important one to say the least, having under-performed for the last few weeks, it was a great way to shake off their recent form as they head into the busy Christmas schedule. 

Next up for the Gunners is high-flying West Ham United, a team who are looking more formidable with every week that passes. The home advantage could prove to be an important factor for Arteta's men, as the Hammers look as difficult to break down as their league form would suggest. 

Just three days after is a trip to Leeds, in what is always a tough game at Elland Road. Despite their recent poor run of results, the Gunners must not underestimate what Marcelo Bielsa's side are capable of when they click into gear. 

It will be a difficult few weeks over the festive period, but if the Gunners bring their 'A-game', there is a fantastic opportunity to keep the pressure on the top four, as they aim to qualify for Champions League football next season.