Five Thoughts: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal

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1. Only 5 thoughts today because I have somewhere to be and there were only a few talking points out of what was frankly a dreadful game of football on the whole.

Of course, the most important thought out of this is that three points are three points, no matter how you get them. Southampton away has been a horror show for us in seasons past, so to go in there and nick the points, no matter how dull the way we went about it (two moments of absolute quality aside), is a massive result and gives us serious momentum into what may be our most unlikely top-four charge yet.

But, let's not be over-harsh here. Other than one brief passage in the first half, there was never a point where it looked like Saints were going to score. Shkrodan Mustafi came back in with Laurent Koscielny injured, and our back three didn't miss a beat.

The problems for us were, as so often this season, going the other way. Southampton aren't Sunderland at the back or anything, but in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and with Fraser Forster enduring an off-season, you'd like for us to put them under more pressure. But, the first half was an unwatchable dirge and much of the second half wasn't better,

2. For me, a large part of that was the presence of Kieran Gibbs at left wingback. I know that sounds odd, but let's think this through for a second. Who are our biggest offensive threats? Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, of course. With Alexis out wide on the left, it stands to reason that there's going to be a large degree of interaction in this system between him and whoever is in that LWB slot. Nacho Monreal is slightly better there but still not a world-beater, and he's needed in the center with our injury situation and Gabriel's talent situation anyway.

Gibbs, though. He's probably going to be OK at Everton or Bournemouth or wherever he goes next, but the dude is just emphatically not good enough for this formation, or even for a club of what should be our standards. He can't cross, he can't unlock defenses with a pass, he can't beat a man. Someone who's only skill is "decent defensively" and a degree of pace that I'd even argue isn't there anymore is not someone who is good enough to play with someone like Alexis.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is almost the same thing in reverse, but his offensive capabilities make him a worthwhile option in the position for all but the biggest games (where his lack of defensive nous kills us dead). So, of course, he does his hamstring and Hector Bellerin had to come in. The Spaniard has been in a revolting run of form lately, but today he did all right, I thought. Nothing too outstanding and nothing too terrible. If we get him back in form though, it could be a net benefit - as a complete wingback, Bellerin does have a higher ceiling than AOC does.

Still, it's weird to say it out loud, but several new wingbacks should be on the shopping list this summer, especially if we stick with this formation.

3. Quick sidebar: That kit that we had to wear today was an atrocity. It looked like our guys should have been repaving a highway or something. Godawful.

OK, OK, that's not a real thought, so how about this? Petr Cech saved our asses today. Again.

I'm going to keep harping on this because, man, it is so satisfying to be this right about something, especially when the whole world is screaming about the opposite.

When it was still 0-0, the home side had two chances in a minute or two where this game could have gotten seriously away for us. A mix-up in our end, a missed tackle by Mustafi, and Manolo Gabbiadini was in alone on Cech. The angle was a little tight, but you still see goals scored from there all the time. Cech came out well to cut the angle further, but the real brilliance in what he did was how he left his trailing leg flat along the ground. Most goals from that situation are scored *through* the keeper, because the nutmeg is the hardest thing for a keeper to defend when their legs are moving, which of course you have to do when you're rushing out. Cech got the leg down though, and the rebound was kind.

Soon after, a careless pass by Monreal gifted possession to Nathan Redmond outside of our penalty area, and given time and space he decided to lump one at goal. It had pace and it swerved wickedly on its way in, but Cech's footwork was excellent and it allowed him to claw it over the bar. That's the kind of save that is easily ten times more difficult than it looked, and our custodian did brilliantly to save that.

Pro tip for next season: If you want to assess a goalkeeper's performance, ask a goalkeeper. I realize that sounds smug but it's such a specialized position, and there's so much misinformation and bullshit out there about it.

4. Now, let's talk about those goals for a second. As I alluded to before, two absolute moments of quality. Alexis' goal kind of reminded me of Ozil's magical strike against Ludogorets earlier this season. Xhaka was in acres in the center of the park, and he sent a quick pass up to Ozil. The German maestro took one touch and shifted it to Alexis, who still had all to do. His turn was out of this world, sending Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida careening the other way like Wile E. Coyote in a roadrunner cartoon. Then, just for fun, he cut it back the way he came, which straight up dropped Yoshida flat on his ass. Highest comedy. From there, it was a simple matter of slotting the ball past Forster, which he did with aplomb.

Safe to say, I enjoyed that one.

The second was a different sort of goal, but beautiful in its simplicity. Alexis lofted a chipped ball over the Saints defense. Aaron Ramsey was there on the back post to head it across the face of goal, where the substitute Olivier Giroud was on hand to smash a header into the net. Yoshida, who had a bit of a mare it must be said, wasn't in the same postal code as our HFB when the header came back across. How you lose the 9 foot tall magazine model standing a foot away from your goalkeeper is one of those outfield player things that I'll never understand.

5. The central theme of the day is a reversal of some recent unfortunate runs. St. Mary's, so long a source of misery for us, has been conquered with all three points coming back with us. The last 6 Premier League away game for us read: W1 L5 GF 5 GA 15. Of course, just this past weekend, the drought against Jose Mourinho was finally ended.

We're going to have to hope that the trend continues, because our annual trip to the Potteries is next. That's right, Stoke away.

There's no reason to believe that we can't do it, though. This Stoke side are nothing special, struggling for goals and any kind of identity or ethos. NLD aside, we're playing well recently. We can do this,

If we do, I'll spend a lot more time talking about the top four chase and whether it can realistically happen. Until then, only Stoke matters. Let's get this done.

Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez, baby! Alexis Sanchez, woooooah!