Alexis Sánchez proved Arsenal’s savior once again, with an 89th minute winner to defeat an unfortunate Southampton team 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium. After toiling for much of the encounter against their impressive high-flying opponents, Arsenal, helped by the introduction of Olivier Giroud, capitalized on Southampton having to play out the remaining minutes with 10 men when Toby Alderweireld went off injured with all three substitutes having already been made. The influential Giroud was heavily involved in the scrappy only goal in the dying stages when his shot was blocked and Aaron Ramsey crossed for Sánchez to blast low past Fraser Forster.
More than anyone in Southampton’s ranks, Forster was undeserving of being on the losing side, having made several dramatic saves. But, after losing both Jack Cork and then Alderwiereld to injury, having already been without Morgan Schneiderlin, Ronald Koeman’s side were undone at the last. After beginning a tough run of fixtures with a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, Southampton bounced back in terms of their performance at the Emirates, but successive defeats means they have dropped back to the growing pack of teams closing in on a top-four berth. On the back of consecutive league wins for just the second time this season, Arsenal are now in sixth, just three points behind the third-place Saints and two behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
Encouragingly for Arsenal this was the first time they had beaten a side in the Premier League’s top half this season. The manner of it, though was far more familiar. Arsenal had their chances in the first half. Danny Welbeck, leading the line once more with the recently fit again Giroud on the bench, shot poorly wide of the near post on his left foot having been played through expertly by Sánchez early on. And at the end of the period his header from a Santi Cazorla free-kick took a touch off the head of Alderweireld, meaning Fosrter’s reactions were even more impressive as he tipped one-handed over the bar.
The best opportunity of the first 45 minutes, though, went Southampton’s way. Summer signing Graziano Pellè was central to Southampton’s blistering start to the season, but his recent barren form was in evidence at the Emirates. The Italian created his chance stylishly with a clever one-two with Steven Davis to get in behind the Arsenal defense, but then allowed his nerve to desert him at the crucial moment as he blasted high over the goal of Emiliano Martinez.
Early in the second half, Shane Long was equally wasteful went sent clear down the right on a Southampton break away before firing an ambitious effort high and wide of the target with a teammate free in the middle. Still, the greater frustration was with the Emirates crowd at their team’s inability to force concerted pressure on a Southampton defense already reshuffled by Cork’s exit and Maya Yoshida’s introduction to force Alderweireld into midfield. Indeed, there were audible boos when Giroud replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on 65 minutes.
It was, though, to prove a key switch. Arsenal now had a presence and focal point in attack that, for all of his pace and energy, Welbeck doesn’t quite offer. The France international had an immediate impact when flicking Sánchez’s incisive pass into Welbeck’s path only to see his forward colleague denied once again by Forster. Perhaps the former Celtic stopper’s best was yet to come when he again got a strong one hand to the ball, this time to repel a header from Giroud.
But, against now undermanned opponents, Arsenal’s pressure was to tell at the death. Once again it took their summer signing from Barcelona to provide the killer touch. After Giroud’s effort on the turn looked to have been blocked by the hands of Jose Fonte, Ramsey retained his focus amid the appeals for a penalty and supplied Sánchez to fire his 14th Arsenal goal.