Mikel Arteta got a response from Arsenal as they bounced back from successive Premier League defeats with a somewhat improved performance and 2-0 win at Southampton on Thursday.
The Gunners suffered back-to-back losses to Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion following the season’s resumption, but they resembled a more focused and resilient unit as they scrapped to a win, unspectacular though it was.
Matteo Guendouzi, fortunate to avoid a retrospective sanction for grabbing Neal Maupay by the throat last Saturday, was the most significant casualty of the Brighton defeat as he was dropped from the squad, but the Frenchman’s absence seemed to have no negative impact on Arsenal.
A promising first half saw Eddie Nketiah pounce on an Alex McCarthy error to give Arsenal the lead, and they managed to hold firm under pressure in the second period.
Jack Stephens’ late red card helped their cause, with Joe Willock netting his first Premier League goal soon afterwards to wrap up the three points and boost their Europa League qualification hopes.
For all the doom and gloom surrounding Arsenal in recent weeks, they enjoyed a bright start at St. Mary’s. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tested McCarthy and also hit the crossbar either side of Nketiah having a goal disallowed for offside during the early exchanges.
But Nketiah did score legally in the 20th minute, closing down McCarthy and blocking his attempted pass before tapping into an empty net.
Saints began the second half on the front foot but almost found themselves 2-0 down in the 54th minute. Aubameyang raced on to Emiliano Martinez’s drop-kick and attempted to square across goal for Nketiah, only for Jan Bednarek to divert it just past the post.
Shane Long was denied by Martinez before Arsenal eventually made sure of the victory late on.
Stephens tripped Aubameyang as the last man to earn a straight red, and from the resulting free-kick Willock turned in from close range after Alexandre Lacazette’s effort fell kindly for him.