Arsenal‘s defence of their FA Cup crown is over after they were dumped out of the competition in the fourth round by Southampton following a 1-0 loss at St Mary’s (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).
The Saints’ opener had a stroke of fortune about it when Kyle Walker-Peters‘ strike midway through the second half took a wicked deflection off of Gabriel and found its way under visiting goalkeeper Bernd Leno‘s right arm.
The Gunners’ lacklustre first-half performance was improved upon, but Mikel Arteta’s decision to add Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to the field in the final half-hour was in vain.
Arsenal return to St Mary’s on Tuesday to play Southampton in the Premier League.
It can be debated whether Arsenal’s improvement toward the end of the game was a result of Southampton tiring or the changes Arteta made midway through the second half. Either way, Arsenal’s urgency increased tenfold in the final quarter of the match. Besides that, a number of well-timed runs were executed, particularly from youngster Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal were left chasing the game after a drab first-half performance allowed Southampton to establish a lead at half-time. The Gunners found it hard to develop any attacking plays because of the hosts’ relentless pressing, which forced them to gift possession away. There was little team cohesion too, though this improved as the game developed.
Manager rating out of 10
Mikel Arteta, 5 — The coach made seven changes from Monday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle. He decided to drop the valuable Emile Smith Rowe and was without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the tie for personal reasons. The team had little cohesion early on, but this developed as the game grew.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 7 — Rather unfortunate to give up an excellent run of 500 minutes without conceding a goal when a cruel deflection from Walker-Peters’ strike found its way under midway through the first half. Made an excellent one-on-one save from a tight-angled Che Adams strike. Solid performance.
DF Hector Bellerin, 5 — Was reluctant to press forward, though that was perhaps testament to Southampton’s high-tempo performance. Wasn’t afraid to place himself in front of shots and made a number of crucial blocks as a consequence.
DF Rob Holding, 6 — Has been a fine player throughout the season, but wasn’t allowed to play his best game — and that’s credit to the Saints’ ruthless out-of-possession work rate. Passing was what let Holding down, too often he couldn’t pick out his target and consequently the visitors struggled to make an impression.
DF Gabriel Magalhaes, 4 — Returned to the Arsenal XI after more than a month out due to COVID-19. Struggled to keep up with the pace of the game and was sluggish in large parts, which only fueled the Saints’ philosophy to press high. Diverted a cross past his own goalkeeper to ultimately see his team eliminated.
DF Cedric Soares, 5 — Not his best performance, but can be forgiven slightly as a result of playing in an unfamiliar left-back role for Kieran Tierney. Found himself positioned too deep at times and crosses were often well over-hit. He will want to forget this return to his old club.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 — Gave possession away too cheaply at times, and Arsenal had to pay the ultimate price when conceding via Gabriel’s unfortunate own goal midway through the second half. Tempo of the visitors’ game changed following his substitution, which speaks volumes.
MF Granit Xhaka, 5 — Lacked creativity, in the first half especially. Appears to struggle in fixtures where he is placed under severe pressure, as proved to be the case today. Never settled and no doubt frustrated Arteta.
MF Nicolas Pepe, 5 — Desperate first-half performance, his involvement was minimal and he took few touches. Admittedly this wasn’t helped by the Saints’ high pressing that impacted the defenders’ ability to drive play forward. Looked sharper toward the end, though.
MF Willian, 5 — Couldn’t seem to execute his passes at the correct time, and this proved to be Arsenal’s undoing too often. Has been light on minutes this month and that looks likely to continue after a sub-standard performance against a determined Saints outfit.
MF Gabriel Martinelli, 6 — One of few bright sparks in the Arsenal squad. Had his side’s best chance in the first half when a well-timed run placed him into splendid isolation from a Willian free kick, though he scuffed the shot on his weaker left foot. Continued to make excellent runs throughout the game, before he was substituted.
FW Eddie Nketiah, 5 — Continues to be goal-shy, scoring only twice since the beginning of November. Had a shot cleared off the line amid Arsenal’s late rally, though even if that had found the back of the net it would have been ruled out for offside. Lacked support from behind.
MF Thomas Partey (for Elneny, 58), 7 — One must wonder how Arsenal would have fared if Partey had started. His midfield presence appeared to improve the performances of those around him.
DF Bukayo Saka (for Martinelli, 58), 6 — Had to adapt his game and played in two different roles despite playing for just over half an hour.
FW Alexandre Lacazette (for Bellerin, 71), N/R — His arrival on the pitch no doubt boosted Arsenal, but they weren’t able to force extra time.