In a match delayed because of problems on the London tube, Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc will have been wishing that he could have taken a swift trip underground after a calamitous error gifted Arsenal the crucial opening goal at the Emirates Stadium.
In a meeting between the first- and third-placed sides before kickoff, Boruc’s ludicrous dallying on the ball allowed Olivier Giroud to steal in and score to put his side in front midway through the first half. The French striker then finally sealed the points for Arsenal by converting a penalty four minutes from time to extend Arsenal’s lead in the Premier League to four points.
Despite Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey hitting the post early on, it was largely a professional rather than spectacular performance from Arsene Wenger’s side. Still, Arsenal, who welcomed back Theo Walcott off the bench, always appeared to have an element of control over proceedings and when they did step up their tempo in the final third they looked threatening to an altered Southampton back line.
The statistically best defense in the Premier League entering the contest were weakened before kickoff, with illness ruling out influential center-back Dejan Lovren. Manager Mauricio Pochettino was forced into another reshuffle too when Luke Shaw went off at half time with an injury that he struggled with for most of the opening period.
Shaw’s movement appeared compromised since the knock and that aided Arsenal in posing a constant threat down the right side. Even before Shaw’s injury, Wilshere had gone desperately close to putting his side in front. After breaking toward the byline down the right of the box, he produced a delightful chip from a near-impossible angle that looped over Boruc but came back off the inside of the post before the keeper bundled it away from goal.
Another sublime effort from one of Arsenal’s young midfielders produced the same outcome minutes later. With Shaw slow to get out to Ozil, the German put in a low cross that was behind Ramsey, but the on-form Welshman did wonderfully to flick the ball toward goal and was unlucky to see Boruc’s right-hand post again come to the rescue.
There would be no such reprieve for Boruc in the 22nd minute. The Poland keeper, already beaten by a ridiculous goal this season against Stoke, had plenty of time when the ball came back to him in his own area. But, after three times feinting his clearance and making an all-mighty mess of his control, Giroud poked the ball off him and put it into the empty net for one of the simplest and most ridiculous goals of his career.
Southampton, whose high-pressing desires had previously been negated by Arsenal’s pressure, at least responded well to going behind and grabbed a foothold in the contest. Just past the half-hour mark Adam Lallana test Wojciech Szczesny for the first time in the contest. The man who made his England debut during the recent international break again worked Arsenal’s goalkeeper in the second half too following a nice move, but his effort was straight at Szczesny.
Again, though, for all they have impressed this season, Southampton showed that they still struggle when the impetus is on them to break the opposition down. And after the visitors had a good spell of possession without posing any great threat at the start of the second half, Arsenal stepped up their game once more.
Victor Wanyama was lucky to escape giving away a penalty for a trip on Santi Cazorla, but Southampton would later be justly punished. Jose Fonte needlessly and blatantly pulled the shirt of Per Mertesacker from a corner and referee Mark Clattenburg rightly pointed to the spot. Giroud made no mistake to fire home his seventh Premier League goal of the season and ensure Arsenal responded positively from their defeat to Manchester United last time out.