For match photos, scroll to PHOTOSTREAM above left, for stats click on match stats tab. Manager reaction to follow
Arsenal got back on track with a 2-0 win as Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc’s error helped them to extend their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League at Emirates Stadium.
After their defeat by Manchester United before the international break, Arsene Wenger's Barclays Premier League leaders started brightly against their high-flying opponents, with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey both hitting a post. They led midway through the first half when Olivier Giroud capitalised on an error from Boruc, dispossessing the Poland goalkeeper to complete a simple finish.
An impressive collective response was typical of a Southampton side who remain third in the table but Giroud completed his brace and made it 10 goals for the season from the penalty spot after Jose Fonte pulled back Per Mertesacker at an 85th-minute corner.
Southampton were dealt a blow ahead of kick-off, which was delayed by 15 minutes due to disruption on the Piccadilly line, with news that centre-back Dejan Lovren was ruled out due to illness. Jos Hooiveld came in for his first Barclays Premier League appearance of the season. Theo Walcott returned to the Arsenal bench following two months out with an abdominal injury, while Mertesacker was back at the heart of defence following his midweek goalscoring heroics for Germany at Wembley.
Wilshere replaced the suspended Mathieu Flamini in midfield and almost opened the scoring after 10 minutes when his deft, lofted effort bounced back off a post into Boruc's grateful arms. The same upright was tested via Ramsey's audacious backheel from Mesut Ozil's cross but Boruc's post could not save him after an error in the 22nd minute. Upon receiving a routine backpass from Nathaniel Clyne, he loitered before an attempt to turn Giroud resulted in the France striker stroking the ball into an unguarded net.
Southampton forced Wojciech Szczesny into his first save of the match after 32 minutes when Mikel Arteta miscued a clearance and Adam Lallana's speculative left-footer was pushed over. The Arsenal goalkeeper then reacted superbly to thwart Jay Rodriguez's snap-shot.
Luke Shaw struggled through much of the first half with a leg problem and was replaced by Steven Davis, with James Ward-Prowse reverting to right-back and Clyne filling Southampton's vacant left-back slot. The reshuffle did not interrupt the visitors' momentum as they resumed brightly and Lallana thudded a drive into Szczesny's chest, before the England midfielder made way for Pablo Daniel Osvaldo in the 52nd minute.
Having laboured under Southampton's trademark high press, Arsenal responded impressively and Ozil cleverly engineered space in the area to test Boruc at his near post. Osvaldo called Szczesny into action at the end of a driving 74th minute run and his attacking colleague saw an effort deflected wide.
Walcott was afforded a rapturous reception on his introduction and might have given Arsenal breathing space when he fired wide on the break before Giroud ensured a four-point lead at the summit with his composed spot-kick.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "I'm very happy because we were against a good team and they showed why they made good results before.
"We couldn't take our chances but we took advantage of their mistakes. It's a very good win against a difficult team. They stopped us well from playing.
"When you see Southampton play today we know why they won at Liverpool and drew against Manchester United. They are a good team and if they had won today they would have been level with us at the top of the league, so that shows you how good they are."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "I'm clearly unhappy with the result and the way we lost as well, but this is football – these things happen.
"We competed well, though, in Arsenal's ground, the league leaders. We competed until the last minute and that's the positive. We tried our best.
"It's not really necessary to analyse what happened, we all saw it on the pitch. We want to support our keeper in spite of this mistake – these things can happen in football and we need to work hard to make sure they don't happen again."
|08 Feb 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|20 Apr 2014||v Hull (A)|
|28 Jan 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|04 Dec 2013||v Hull (H)|
|29 Dec 2013||v Newcastle (A)|
|26 Dec 2013||v West Ham (A)|