Arsene Wenger’s wait for the one major English trophy still to elude him will go on for at least another year after Arsenal fell at their first hurdle in the Capital One Cup and Southampton moved into the fourth round with a 2-1 win at the Emirates. Nathaniel Clyne scored a memorable winner for the visitors in the first half with a scorching effort from more than 30 yards after Dusan Tadic’s penalty cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s superb early free-kick.
As has become tradition for Wenger over the years, he made a host of changes to his lineup and handed experience to several young players, as well as a debut to Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina. On this occasion, though, it is doubtful how happy he was to field such an inexperienced defense. A debut was given to Isaac Hayden, while Hector Bellerin made just his second start and Francis Coquelin operated out of position at left-back. Former Southampton youngster Calum Chambers was the only player to keep his place from the 3-0 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday. Already on a run of four straight victories, new Southampton manager Ronald Koeman made half the amount of alterations as his counterpart.
And it was team with the more familiar lineup that had the game’s first chance. From a delightful Tadic chipped through ball, Stephen Davis was sent clean through on goal, but Ospina showed impressive alertness just nine minutes into his debut to race from his goal and avert the danger. In a lively opening, five minutes later Arsenal were in front. Having been rested at the weekend, Sanchez was one of the few first-choice operators on show for the home side and he brilliantly displayed the quality that persuaded Arsenal to shell out more than £30 million to secure his arrival from Barcelona in the summer. The Chilean’s free-kick from 25 yards was perfectly curled right into the top corner of the net with Fraser Forster unmoved in the Southampton goal.
But it was a lead that lasted just six minutes. Sadio Mane, having finally received his work permit after arriving from Red Bull Salzburg on transfer deadline day, showed what he can add to this Southampton team by driving in from the left and tempting Tomas Rosicky into a rash challenge to concede a clear penalty. Tadic confidently put the ball down the middle from the spot to open his account in England.
Mane continued to give an unfamiliar Arsenal defense problems and teenager Bellerin had to use all his considerable pace to get back and stop the Senegal forward from what appeared a clear run on Ospina’s goal. There was nothing anyone in Arsenal red could do, though, to prevent Southampton’s go-ahead goal six minutes before halftime. Clyne, who competed for a starting berth with the now Arsenal man Chambers, stunned the Emirates with a sensational drive that soared past Ospina and into the roof of the net.
Arsenal had their chances to pull level, both before and after halftime. On both occasions, though, former Celtic goalkeeper Forster came out on top. Before the break he stopped well from Lukas Podolski at his near post and then stood firm when Sanchez stretched to meet Bellerin’s cross six yards out. Yet the contest rather petered out for the hosts and by the end if any team looked likely to add to the scoring it was Southampton. Indeed, Graziano Pelle should have made the victory for the visitors even more impressive but instead headed over the crossbar.