Per Mertesacker is targeted as the weak point in the Arsenal back five, the Gunners are physically below par and other things we learned from Southampton 4 Arsenal 0

By Editor Wayne Veysey

Mertesacker is Arsenal’s weakest link

The Lauent Koscielny-Per Mertesacker partnership has been the bedrock of Arsenal’s title challenge this season but this was a forgettable match for one of the Premier League’s more reliable centre-back duos. Southampton had clearly decided to target Mertesacker’s lack of pace and the excellent Shane Long had great success running in behind the giant German. Time and again, Mertesacker turned with all the speed of an oil tanker while the zippy forward raced in behind him to latch on to direct passes. It was a simple strategy but an effective one. Long tormented the visitors’ defence. Mertesacker often comes unstuck against the most mobile forwards and, it is in assignments such as these that highly promising Brazilian defender Gabriel would appear to be a better option.

Arsenal pay price for lack of intensity

One of the truisms of the Premier League is that any team can win (apart from Aston Villa), and any team can pay the price if they are five or 10 per cent below their physical optimum. Southampton convincingly brushed their high-flying opponents aside, partly because they more energetic and intense. The home side had scored just two goals in their previous five matches but overwhelmed the visitors with their desire as they threw themselves into tackles and refused to allow Arsene Wenger’s team time on the ball.

Sadio Mane

Mane is one of the Premier League main men

Sadio Mane got a standing ovation when he was substituted after 80 minutes. It was the least he deserved. The best player on the pitch headed off it with the acclaim of the crowd ringing in his ears after once again showing an elite Premier League defence a clean pair of heels. Mane did not score tonight but he was the driving force behind the win. His mobility, pace and technique make him a formidable asset for Southampton and one of the more lethal forwards in the Premier League. It is little wonder he is getting covetous looks from the elite clubs.

Wanyama is the real deal

Arsenal’s central midfield duo of Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini were eaten up and spat up by the beefy Kenyan. Victor Wanyama ensured the home side won the midfield battle hands down by winning the 50-50s and refusing to allow the Gunners time to establish their passing patterns. He was comfortably the best midfielder in the park and might have added a few pounds to his transfer market value with this truly outstanding display.

Think tank: Wenger knows Arsenal could suffer during the busy festive period

Think tank: Wenger knows Arsenal could suffer during the busy festive period

Arsenal could suffer against Bournemouth on Monday

Wenger once again selected an unchanged team and, by the time Long ran in behind Mertesacker and Koscielny for what appeared like the upteenth time, the visitors were running on empty. Indeed, they had all but given up at 2-0. That does not quite substantiate Wenger’s theory that a large squad causes more problems than it solves. The problem is there are so few options for the manager to strengthen his team. Of the players on the bench today, only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offered a genuine alternative to any of the starting X1. Arsenal could suffer again on Monday when they host Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium.