One wonders why Arsenal fans seem to set on staying away from their Premier League fixtures: these matches at the Emirates seem to guarantee entertainment, Sunday’s 3-2 win over Southampton the latest.
Supporters who did attend witnessed five goals, two red cards and a host of chances at both ends. In the end, a brace from Danny Welbeck and another goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was enough.
With the news that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be out with a few weeks with knee ligament damage, it was a big boost to see Welbeck and Alex Iwobi turn in their best performances in some time. Both players are strong candidates to replace the Armenian for the second leg of the Europa League tie against CSKA Moscow.
Arsene Wenger will be pleased he was able to heavily rotate his team, yet still come away with a positive result.
Arsenal may have a comfortable 4-1 lead against CSKA, but the defending Wenger saw on Sunday will not fill him with confidence. Shkodran Mustafi was particularly poor, especially for Southampton’s opening goal.
This game will also be remembered for a disastrous cameo from Jack Wilshere, who came on to give the ball away repeatedly and prompt the late melee which brought about both red cards.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Given these league fixtures don’t have a particularly big bearing on Arsenal’s season, it’s difficult to assess their manager too accurately. However, he does deserve some credit for picking an XI that afforded rest to key players yet was strong enough to secure the three points.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 7 — Mustafi might have attempted to blame Cech for Southampton’s opener, but in truth the goalkeeper was badly let down by his centre-half. As the game wore on, Cech was called upon to make a number of saves to prevent Southampton from taking an unlikely point.
DF Hector Bellerin, 6 — Arsenal’s lack of alternative right-backs was exposed again as the Spaniard was forced to start this match. He looked to be playing within himself, and missed the likes of Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil to combine with on the right flank.
DF Calum Chambers, 5 — Wenger seems determined to give Chambers every opportunity to prove himself as good enough for Arsenal. However, as a rule he is unconvincing. It’s difficult to decipher precisely why Wenger rates Chambers above the more composed Rob Holding.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 5 — The erratic centre-half has a nasty habit of blaming others for his own mistakes, and so it was after Southampton’s messy opener. Arsenal may have spent £35 million on bringing him to London, but perhaps they should be preparing to cut their losses this summer.
DF Sead Kolasinac, 6 — The burly Bosnian frequently struggles defensively, but can sometimes look good going forward. This was one of the games in which he failed to excel at either end of the pitch. Right now, he looks a long way short of challenging Nacho Monreal for a first-team place.
MF Granit Xhaka, 6 — Saw one goal-bound effort brilliantly tipped away by Alex McCarthy. Other than that, he had a relatively quiet afternoon. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day is that he wasn’t involved in the late scrap that saw his midfield partner sent off.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 — Enjoyed a typically steady game until he saw red for pushing an opponent. It looked like a harsh decision — Elneny is hardly the type of player to be unnecessarily aggressive.
MF Alex Iwobi, 8 — Arsenal’s academy product will be very pleased with his afternoon’s work. He was heavily involved in both of the Gunners’ first two goals, and it was his hanging cross that created the winner for Welbeck.
FW Reiss Nelson, 6 — The bright young hope of the Arsenal squad made his first Premier League start, but struggled to influence the game. With Southampton packing the defence, he was not often able to find space in the final third. Perhaps he should study Ozil, who has a remarkable capacity to escape his markers and receive the ball in dangerous areas.
FW Danny Welbeck, 8 — His touch is frequently criticised, but it was a sumptuous flick that set up the equaliser for Aubameyang. He then scored Arsenal’s second, albeit via a hefty deflection. However, Welbeck being Welbeck, his performance was somewhat marred by an extraordinary late miss. In fairness to him, he recovered from that to nod home the winner.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 — Six goals in his first seven Premier League games is exactly the sort of return Arsenal would have hoped for from their record signing. It’s just a shame he’s playing in relatively inconsequential matches.
MF Jack Wilshere, 5 — Replaced Nelson but was poor. When Wilshere plays badly, he tends to lash out — in this case literally. Right now, he does not look deserving of a new Arsenal deal.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, N/R — Came on for Aubameyang but did not really get into the game.
DF Rob Holding, N/R — Introduced for Bellerin and made one crucial late block.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC’s Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.