Arsenal extended their Premier league lead over second-place Liverpool to four points and fourth-place Southampton to six points on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium with a convincing and comfortable 2-0 win over the saints. Meanwhile, up at Goodison Park, Liverpool dropped a pair of points in their 3-3 draw with Everton. Olivier Giroud scored both goals for the Gunners, one on a gift from goalkeeper Artur Boruc and the other from a late penalty.
The contest kicked off 15 minutes later than scheduled due to underground problems on the Piccadilly Line. However, Arsenal got off to a good start and had already hit the woodwork twice by the time the 17th minute of the game had rolled around. Jack Wilshere bounced a ball off of the far post on a lob after 11 minutes and Aaron Ramsey, with a cheeky back heel after being set up by Mesut Ozil rattled it after 17 minutes.
The Gunners eventually managed to open the scoring out of nowhere in the 22nd minute when Poland international keeper Boruc was stripped of the ball by Giroud in the six-yard box and he calmly deposited it into the back of the gaping net. The ball was needlessly passed back too Boruc in the first place, but when he got possession of it he tried some fancy footwork with it instead of clearing it and was embarrassingly caught in possession by the French striker.
Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny kept the Gunners ahead when he tipped a shot over the bar a few minutes later by Southampton captain and new England international Adam Lallana. The polish keeper then made another fine save five minutes before half time from Jay Rodriguez, who also recently made his England international debut alongside Lallana. This kept the score at 1-0 at the half time whistle.
When the second 45 minutes got underway Southampton had made a change by taking defender Luke Shaw off and replacing him with. Southampton tried to even things up, but didn’t really create much in the way of chances. Just after the 70 minute mark Arsenal fans were glad to see the comeback of forward Theo Walcott who had been out of the side following abdominal surgery. It was the England international’s first game since suffering the injury back on September 18. Walcott took the place of Santi Cazorla.
Tomas Rosicky also had to make an appearance before the match was over when midfielder Mikel Arteta was taken off with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Southampton put the pressure on over the closing stages of the match, but more or less threw their last-gasp chances out the window when Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker’s shirt was pulled in the 18-yard box by Jose Fonte. Giroud stepped up to the spot to seal the win and all three points with his seventh league goal of the season.
Arsenal now have 28 points after a dozen league games followed by Liverpool and Chelsea with 24 each. Southampton, who went into today’s game in third place, slip to fourth with 22 points and Everton is fifth with 21. The Gunners next contest is a European Champions League showdown with French side Marseille at the Emirates on Tuesday, November 26 at 7:45 pm.
Arsenal Player Ratings-Sat. Nov 23
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton-Premier League Match 12
Wojciech Szczesny – 7.5
Another good game and clean sheet from Szczesny, who recently signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Had a fine game overall with a few key saves.
Bacary Sagna – 7
Sagna has been playing his best football of the season lately in both ends of the pitch and this was another example of it.
Laurent Koscielny – 7
Koscielny also had a good match in the back four with some key clearances and interventions to keep Southampton at bay.
Per Mertesacker – 7
Mertesacker did his job well and his marking meant chances were few and far between for the Saints.
Kieran Gibbs – 7.5
Gibbs was probably the best of the back four today as he defended with expertise and was also a big help when attacking down the wing.
Aaron Ramsey – 6.5
A good effort by the Welshman who almost scored on a cheeky back heel early in the game. A steady if not spectacular match.
Mikel Arteta – 6
Arteta didn’t play at his peak today, but improved in the second half. He was replaced by Tomas Rosicky in the 74th minute as he appeared to hurt his ankle.
Jack Wilshere – 7
Wilshere almost put Arsenal ahead after 11 minutes, but hit the post when he lobbed the keeper from a tight angle on the right side of the pitch. He had an energetic game.
Mesut Ozil – 6
Ozil was a little bit subdued today, but still had some nice touches and passes. Overall, he didn’t make his usual impact though and was taken off after 81 minutes for Nacho Monreal.
Santi Cazorla – 6
Cazorla wasn’t at his best in this game, especially in the first half. He started to improve slightly, but was then taken off after 70 minutes and replaced by Theo Walcott.
Olivier Giroud – 8
Giroud scored both goals and worked hard. It was one of his best efforts of the campaign and he was rewarded for it. Although cynics may say he received an early Christmas present from Boruc and his second came on a penalty.
Theo Walcott – 6.5
Came on for Cazorla after 70 minutes and looked pretty good for somebody who had been out for two months.
Tomas Rosicky – 6.5
Came on after minutes for Arteta after 74 minutes and added some zip.
Nacho Monreal –6
Came on for Ozil after 81 after minutes and wasn’t out of place.