Arsenal have managed to cling on to fifth place in the Premier League table after a late Olivier Giroud goal ensured a 1-1 draw to Southampton at the St. Mary’s Stadium.
The visitors were made to chase the game from the 2nd minute, with Charlie Austin pulling the Saints ahead early, but a headed equaliser in the 88th minute from Giroud, off the bench, could snatch a point.
The Gunners welcomed back Per Mertesacker into the starting line-up, covering for his injured compatriot Shkodran Mustafi.
Arsenal’s captain was left doing most of the chasing early on when his pass out from defence came darting back in the form of a Southampton attack, with Dusan Tadic feeding Austin in behind before the Englishman could finish past Petr Čech and make it 1-0 to the hosts.
With just four minutes on the clock, Austin was staring at a brace prior to Čech’s low save, meanwhile the former Queens Park Rangers man had another bite of the cherry moments later through Nathan Redmond’s opening, offering Arsenal a fresh warning when hitting the post from an offside position.
A snap-shot into Fraser Forster’s grasp by Alexandre Lacazette promised to liven the North Londoners up, with the Frenchman later leading a 3-on-1 counter-attack on the quarter-of-an-hour mark before a lack of synergy between him and Héctor Bellerín stalled the move.
With Alexis Sanchez switching over to the right-hand side, the Chilean was able to carve out a cross for Aaron Ramsey to attack with a first-time-shot on the edge of box, pulling an important save out of Forster in the 31st minute.
The Gunners would be able to create little else in the face of an intense Southampton side, as they drifted into half-time a goal down.
Arsenal totted up the figures in possession but it was the Saints who’d threaten first in the second period, with Oriol Romeu firing from range and onto the top of the crossbar in the 61st minute.
Soon after, Southampton pressed to catch Arsène Wenger’s men out again and set Ryan Bertrand in on goal before the left back could let the visitors off the hook by dragging a shot wide.
From the bench, Wenger finally found his answer via Giroud, who glanced Sanchez’s cross into the far-post to grab an equaliser as late as the 88th minute.
The game would end level, with Arsenal now just a point ahead of 6th-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the league table.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Starting XI: Petr Čech (6) – Laurent Koscielny (5), Per Mertesacker (4), Nacho Monreal (5) – Héctor Bellerín (5), Aaron Ramsey (6), Granit Xhaka (5), Sead Kolasinac (5) – Mesut Özil (6), Alexandre Lacazette (6), Alexis Sanchez (5)
Subs: Danny Welbeck (5), Jack Wilshere (6), Olivier Giroud (6)