Arsenal beat Southampton to climb back into the top four
The Gunners stroll past Saints at the Emirates Stadium - as boss Unai Emery calls for 'another three important points against Bournemouth' on Wednesday
24 February, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
Emery: ‘We are taking it game by game’
ARSENAL 2 (Lacazette 6, Mkhitaryan 17)
ARSENAL moved back into the top four of the Premier League this afternoon (Sunday) with a commanding victory against struggling Southampton.
Somewhat bizarre first-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave the Gunners a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium – a result that moved them a point ahead of Manchester United in the race for Champions League football next season.
After the game manager Unai Emery paid tribute to his squad’s strength-in-depth after making six changes from the Europa League win over BATE Borisov on Thursday night. “The players worked a lot, and we decided to make some changes to bring in new players, to keep up the energy,” he said. “In the first half we played very well but we wanted to carry on in the second, but it’s not easy 90 minutes with this intensity.
“We have players who can come in, and we can be a better competitive team playing a lot of matches with players with different characteristics, but who have the character to play with the level we want.”
With all those changes in personnel, and formation, perhaps it was unsurprising that it was Southampton who started the brighter. They should have taken the lead inside five minutes when Nathan Redmond beat the offside trap and cut inside, but his shot was well-blocked by Bernd Leno.
The home side wasn’t as generous at the other end of the pitch as they took the lead less than a minute later. Alex Iwobi played a low cross into the box, and there was a sudden pause as the Arsenal players appealed for a penalty after Lucas Torreira appeared to be shoved over in the box.
Everyone was watching the referee, everyone apart from Mkhitaryan, that is. The midfielder struck a low shot that was turned in from close range by Lacazette, leading to another pause – this time by the Southampton players who were looking for an offside flag that rightfully never came.
Southampton continued to cause Arsenal problems in the early exchanges, and almost equalised through Matt Targett who tested Leno with a fierce drive, but the German goalkeeper was equal to the effort as he parried the shot away.
The Gunners doubled their lead in the 17th minute when Mkhitaryan added the finishing touches to another Iwobi cross. The Gunners should have increased their lead, with Lacazette the most guilty as he squandered a host of good chances – none more so than when he blazed high and wide from six yards.
Emery refused to get carried away by Arsenal being back in the top four as he turned his attentions to the next Premier League match. “For us this win, and the way we played, is a positive,” he added. “We are taking things game by game and on Wednesday we want another three important points against Bournemouth.”
ARSENAL: Leno, Lichtsteiner (Koscielny, 56), Sokratis, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Ramsey (Ozil, 63), Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Iwobi (Aubameyang, 75)
Substitutes not used: Cech, Monreal, Guendouzi, Suarez
SOUTHAMPTON: Gunn, Valery, Stephens (Austin, 45), Vestergaard, Bednarek, Targett, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong (Obafemi, 45), Obafemi (Elyounoussi, 65), Redmond
Substitutes not used: McCarthy, Yoshida, Bertrand, Slattery