Gunners gifted goals to extend their lead at the top

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points after a 2-0 win over Southampton at the Emirates on Saturday.

The visitors arrived with the most parsimonious defence in the league, having conceded just five times all season, so it was somewhat ironic that they were masters of their own downfall, gifting the Gunners both goals.

For the first, goalkeeper Artur Boruc inexplicably decided to eschew the chance to clear, choosing instead to try and dribble the ball past Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman won that battle with ease and had an open goal to poke the ball into in the 22nd minute.

- Horncastle: Boruc's bad month continues

Arsenal's clinching goal came late in the second half when Jose Fonte was spotted trying to remove Per Mertesacker's shirt from a Gunners corner. Giroud was the man to take advantage and he fired home from the penalty spot to seal the game for Arsene Wenger's men.

Mistakes aside, Southampton fans might also wonder at an odd substitution by Mauricio Pochettino that seemed to change the dynamic of the game in the second half. The Saints were enjoying a good spell of pressure, and clever play had set up a chance for Adam Lallana, which Wojciech Szczesny saved.

However, moments later, Lallana was taken off and replaced by Dani Osvaldo. The Argentine has struggled since his move from Roma, and his impact on Southampton on Saturday was entirely negative. After the change, they lost momentum, allowed Arsenal back into the game.

Olivier Giroud robs Artur Boruc to score for Arsenal against Southampton.GettyImagesOlivier Giroud robs Artur Boruc to score for Arsenal against Southampton.

Despite Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey hitting the post early in the first half, it wasn't a game of many chances. Southampton defended stubbornly and with the kind of discipline that has them flying high in the table, but when they did have a sight of the goal, they found Szczesny in excellent form again.

In comparison to his Polish compatriot in the other goal, he was faultless, making a number of good saves and dominating his area from the visitors' consistently excellent set-piece deliveries.

It was also another game in which Arsenal failed to really click as an attacking force. Giroud's two goals were backed up by another excellent, physical performance, winning headers and holding up the ball extremely well. However, both Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla were quiet again.

Some of that is because of how solid Southampton are as a defensive unit, but it's not unreasonable to expect a little bit more from players of that quality. With Marseille coming up in midweek, Wenger will be hoping for a bit of improvement from them, because when it does happen, Arsenal will benefit greatly.

Still, those are small complaints on a day when they beat a good side to go further clear at the top of the table. A good day for the Gunners and an excellent start to what is going to be a very hectic and demanding period.


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