Arsenal punished struggling Southampton with two first-half goals to move back into the top four of the Premier League. The Gunners led when Alexandre Lacazette reacted quickest to turn in Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s shot, with the Saints’ claims for offside proving futile. And they doubled their lead shortly after when Mkhitaryan drilled a shot into the bottom corner. Arsenal should have scored more in a dominant first half, but ultimately it mattered little as those goals were enough to move Unai Emery’s side above Manchester United, who drew at home to Liverpool. Saints, who missed good chances through Nathan Redmond and Matt Targett before each of Arsenal’s goals, offered more resistance after the break.
But they remain in the bottom three, a point adrift of fourth-bottom Cardiff, after failing to win for a fourth successive league game. Arsenal have struggled for consistency under Emery in the second half of the season, alternating between wins and defeats in each of their 10 previous matches before Southampton’s visit. In truth, anything other than a home win against the Saints looked unlikely. However, Emery may be concerned with his side’s inability to demolish their lowly opponents. The Gunners looked potent every time they burst forward, particularly in the first half, and in the closing stages, against a Southampton side which looked fragile at the back. Lacazette was allowed the space to turn in the opener, with the visitors’ defence unorganised and too concerned about appealing for offside, for his 13th goal of the season. After Mkhitaryan doubled the lead, the France striker should have added another but somehow scooped over the bar from a few yards out.
Arsenal’s dominance was illustrated by the 11 shots which they attempted in the first half, nine of which came from inside the Saints area. After the break they failed to assert themselves in a similar fashion, until Pierre-Emerick’s Aubameyang’s introduction as a late substitute stretched the visitors again. The Gabon striker was unable to add to his 18 goals for the season, tamely side-footing at Saints keeper Angus Gunn from close range and seeing another effort blocked by Jannik Vestergaard’s sliding challenge. Ultimately, they still had enough to see off Southampton, but are likely to need to be sharper in the final third if they are to stay ahead of United and Chelsea to secure a return to the Champions League next season. That is also particularly pertinent as, despite keeping a rare clean sheet, they still needed keeper Bernd Leno to be alert to prevent Southampton finding a foothold in the game.