Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his side’s slow start in games is becoming a problem, after they scraped a draw against Southampton. Substitute Olivier Giroud glanced in a superb late header to salvage a point after the Gunners had trailed since the third minute. Charlie Austin clipped home an early opener for the home side with the away defence mere onlookers. The Southampton striker drilled a stinging shot into Petr Cech’s gloves shortly after, then hit the post from an offside position. A sharp save from Aaron Ramsey apart, Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster had little to do as the visitors struggled to carve out clear-cut chances before Giroud climbed above Virgil van Dijk to steer home Alexis Sanchez’s cross and make Arsenal’s possession finally pay.
Southampton were left to rue several wasted chances on the counter attack, with Ryan Bertrand missing a fine opportunity and Oriol Romeu’s long-range effort glancing off the bar in the second half. A draw briefly moved Arsenal level on points with fourth-placed Liverpool, but the Reds edged back a point clear with a 1-1 draw against Everton. Southampton broke into the top half of the table, until Everton’s point meant the Saints slipped back to 11th. Wenger made one change from the line-up that started with so many errors against Manchester United, but Per Mertesacker’s inclusion did not remove that flaw at St Mary’s. The German centre-back gave possession away cheaply and was made to pay as Dusan Tadic’s cute reverse ball picked out Austin, who clinically found the net. It could easily have been worse for the Gunners in the opening 10 minutes too, as the visiting defence lacked any cohesion or organisation collectively.
Individually, Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal failed to track runners or show the commitment of the Saints attackers. Just as against United, Arsenal spent plenty of time on the ball in the second half, with 70% possession after the break – but moments of real concern for the Southampton defence were rare before Giroud’s equaliser. The Frenchman’s celebration, pointing to the name on the back of his shirt, might have been a reminder to his manager that he is available from the start. He has scored four league goals in 13 substitute appearances during this campaign yet is still to make his first start.