A calamitous own goal from the unfortunate Gabriel was enough to secure a maiden FA Cup win for Southampton over current holders Arsenal.
Somewhat implausibly, this was the first time that Saints have beaten their illustrious opponents in the FA Cup, despite numerous meetings over the years, including their memorable appearance in the 2003 final in Cardiff.
Steadfast defending and relentless pressing were the keystones of a narrow victory for Southampton at St Mary’s, where Ralph Hasenhuttl signalled his intent by opting to field a near enough full-strength team. By contrast, his counterpart Mikel Arteta elected to rest several key first team players, presumably with one eye on the imminent midweek league fixture between the two sides. Arsenal lacked intensity and whilst they finished the match on the offensive, they lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
The Gunners were never comfortable in possession, with Elneny and Xhaka anonymous in the middle. On the rare occasions where they attempted to make an imprint on the game, the Southampton midfield quartet gave them so little time on the ball that the Arsenal duo’s distribution was hurried and sloppy.
Although Southampton ended the game with just 38% possession (source: Southampton website), it was telling that Arsenal were only allowed just two shots on target. For all their possession, Arsenal were wasteful, and it was only when Saka and Lacazette were introduced in the second half, that any urgency was evident. Summoning the cavalry did make the final half hour harder for the Southampton defence but aside from a smart save from Fraser Forster, there were precious few moments where the result looked in any real jeopardy.
With Wolves looming on the horizon for Southampton in the fifth round, Hasenhuttl will be pleased with the effort shown by his players. There was always an element of risk attached to fielding a strong side and whether the exertion of his players will come back to haunt Southampton on Tuesday remains to be seen. However, with Southampton looking secure in mid-table in the league, many supporters have voiced their desire to see a cup run after the apathy shown by former Southampton managers in the recent past.
Here are the three key players for Southampton against Arsenal: