Arsenal 1 Huddersfield Town 0: The Verdict '“ Terriers capable of defending Premier League status

LAST Christmas, Mathias '˜Zanka' Jorgensen played Santa Claus by getting the beers in for the Huddersfield Town fans who had made the long trip to Southampton.

My ball: Huddersfield Town's Laurent Depoitre and Arsenal's Hector Bellerin battle for possession.

This year Steve Mounie was the Terrier in a generous festive mood as the suspended striker joined 2,800 fans from Yorkshire in the away seats at Emirates Stadium and dished out shirts to a lucky few.

It was the last gift from anyone sporting Town colours on an afternoon when head coach David Wagner’s side produced arguably their most resolute defensive display since arriving in the Premier League.

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Mean and miserly throughout, Huddersfield restricted Arsenal to just a couple of efforts on target in a tight and tense encounter.

That the second of those should deny the visitors a point was cruel, as was its timing with just seven minutes remaining when Patrick Aubameyang’s persistence and vision paved the way for Lucas Torreira to finish with an improvised bicycle kick.

But amid the frustration of a third top-flight outing inside eight days having come and gone without Town getting their just rewards, Wagner admitted to having been hugely encouraged by his side’s efforts.

“Defensively, this was a very good performance,” the 47-year-old German told The Yorkshire Post.

“From our point of view, for them to have as few shots on target as they did shows how strong the guys were defensively.

Winner: Arsenal's Lucas Torreira scores his side's goal against Huddersfield.

“We asked a difficult task of the players, but they found the answers. The players put in a real shift and we looked very solid.

“Unfortunately, in the one situation that decided the match we were very unlucky. The rebound stayed with Arsenal and we conceded.”

Mounie, sporting a blue Terriers bobble hat, clearly enjoyed the performance of his team-mates as much as Wagner.

Just before an absorbing contest had reached the hour mark the Town striker could be seen conducting the travelling fans in a lusty rendition of the Ole, Ole, Ole chant that ends with the singing of his name.

He filmed the moment on his phone for posterity.

The Town striker was far from on his own in having his name committed to song by those same Yorkshire voices with Laurent Depoitre, Terence Kongolo and Aaron Mooy also honoured.

Such tributes were thoroughly warranted, the shift being put in by not only this trio but all those sporting the club’s luminous third kit having been just what Wagner had demanded.

In the opening 45 minutes this meant pressing Arsenal high up the pitch. Depoitre set the tone inside the first 30 seconds by closing down Shkodran Mustafi so fast that the German centre-back was harried into a mistake.

This set the tone for much of what followed in a first half that grew tetchier the longer it went on.

It also explained why Arsenal manager Unai Emery felt he had no option but to make two substitutions at the interval and switch to a 4-3-3 formation.

Wagner’s response in a coaching battle that at times was akin to a game of chess came via an order for his players to drop deeper and force their hosts into wide areas.

Both tactics worked admirably until Town were eventually undone by the type of brilliance that only big money can buy.

A deep cross from the left by Matteo Guendouzi found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang towards the back of the six-yard area.

The Gunners striker’s control was instant, but Terence Kongolo was awake to the danger and moved across quickly. Then came a slice of fortune upon which Aubameyang capitalised as the ball broke back to him.

Quick as a flash he had dinked a cross that Torreira converted in stunning fashion. The outpouring of relief was huge, Arsenal’s growing frustration having been such that just a couple of minutes earlier Guendouzi had become the third home player booked for diving by Paul Tierney following a risible attempt at conning a penalty out of the official.

That the creator and scorer cost Arsenal the thick end of £80m shows how much of a challenge the Premier League can be for clubs such as Town, who have the resources to invest merely in potential rather than proven quality.

Wagner’s men are certainly up for that challenge. What they lack right now, however, is a cutting edge.

Huddersfield had chances at the Emirates. Alex Pritchard should have done much better than scoop a shot over late in the first half after being picked out by Tommy Smith.

The club captain, later stretchered from the field with what looked to be a serious hamstring injury, also had a heavy touch when presented with a clear sight of goal just before the hour.

Smith did partly rectify his error by subsequently passing to Pritchard, who drilled a low cross that Depoitre really had to gamble on by darting to the front post.

Instead, the Belgian hung back and goalkeeper Bernd Leno cut out Pritchard’s delivery. It was the only save the £19.3 summer signing from Bayer Leverkusen had to make.

At the other end Jonas Lossl went similarly untested for long periods. He did have to be alert to turn away a piledriver from Torreira in the first half, but, otherwise, the Dane had little to do.

Which is why, as the final whistle sounded, the feeling among the travelling Town fans was more frustration than festive despite Mounie’s shirt giveaway.