By Josh James at St Mary's Stadium
Alexis marked his 100th Premier League appearance with a fantastic goal, and Olivier Giroud added a late second, as we kept up the pressure in the race for the top four. After a tight first-half light on clear cut chances, the Gunners' patience paid off after the break. Mesut Ozil fed Alexis in the box, and the forward twisted away from two Southampton defenders, shifting the ball onto his left foot and tucking it past Fraser Forster. It was the Chilean's 20th league goal of the season - he is only the fifth Arsenal player to manage the feat in the Premier League era. Any nerves were settled in the final 10 minutes when Giroud nodded in from close range after being set up by Aaron Ramsey. The win moved us up to fifth in the league, and still in the hunt for a 20th consecutive Champions League qualification.
KOSCIELNY MISSES OUT
Keen to maintain the momentum from Sunday's win over Manchester United, the manager made just one change to the starting XI, and that was enforced. Laurent Koscielny's calf injury prevented him from making the trip to the south coast, so Shkodran Mustafi replaced him in the back three. The rest of the squad was unchanged, meaning Danny Welbeck - who scored twice in the FA Cup win here in January - retained his place up front.
SOAKING UP EARLY PRESSURE
Like the dazzling south coast sunshine, Southampton started brightly, with Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond looking dangerous on the flanks.
Steven Davis smashed a speculative effort well over the bar from 30 yards, but gradually we grew into the game. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, excelling in his wing back role, worked his way into the box before teeing up Aaron Ramsey, but his snatched shot flew wide of the near post. On the other wing Kieran Gibbs burst into the box to latch onto an Alexis throughball, and although he beat the offside trap, he couldn't quite take the ball in his stride and the chance was gone.
We were starting to edge the possession stats, stringing together some nice passing moves and looking to get men forward in attack at every opportunity. Our flow was momentarily disrupted though when Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off with an injury, to be replaced by Bellerin. Mustafi was penalized for a meaty challenge just outside the area in a central position, even if it looked like the German had won the ball cleanly. Manolo Gabbiadini struck the free-kick well, but it curled wide of the post. The hosts were looking dangerous, especially when Redmond smashed an effort towards the top corner, which Petr Cech did superbly to palm away for a corner. The Gunners needed to get into the opposition half to relieve some pressure, and that's exactly what they did when Alexis launched a rapid counter-attack. He released Danny Welbeck, who was sprinting at the outnumbered Saints defence, only to be hauled back by James Ward-Prowse. The fact that there were a couple of covering defenders probably saved the midfielder from a red card for a cynical foul. Just on the stroke of half-time Welbeck had a great chance to open the scoring. Bellerin sent in a dangerous cross, but the England man failed to make contact with his header.
The second half opened in much the same vein as the first period. Both sides were looking dangerous going forward, but the killer final ball remained elusive Ramsey prodded a close range shot wide from a Bellerin pass, but by and large we were struggling to make Fraser Forster work in the home goal. That was until a moment of brilliance from Alexis. Arsenal remained patient in the build up again, Ozil maneuvering the ball nicely into the box with a quick pass to feed the Chilean. Rather than shooting first time, he took a touch, composed himself, sold a dummy to floor two Southampton defenders and slotted home comfortably past Forster. He made it look so easy.
Southampton redoubled their attacking intents after falling behind. Gabbiadini just failed to make contact with a glancing header while substitute Sofiane Boufal wildly slashed a shot wide after dancing past three defenders on the edge of the area. But Arsenal weren't content to defend the one-goal advantage, and kept pouring men forward. We got our reward in the final 10 minutes when Ramsey headed Alexis's deep ball back across goal, and Giroud had a simple header in from close-range. It was the cushion we desperately needed, as Southampton had refused to buckle after going behind. The points were safe - next stop, Stoke on Saturday evening.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
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