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Arsenal now 8th following 1-3 victory at saints

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Arsenal have now won five out of six in the Premier League, leapfrogging Saints to move into top half; Saints took the lead early on through Stuart Armstrong

Arsenal’s Premier League resurgence continued as they beat Southampton 3-1 at St Mary’s to move eighth in the Premier League.

Goals from Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette gave the Gunners their fifth win in six league games, meaning they leapfrog Saints and move into the top half for the first time since mid-November.

Saka got Arsenal’s second just before the break, rounding Alex McCarthy after Lacazette’s threaded ball (39), and Saka turned provider for Lacazette in the second half for a well-constructed third (72).

After looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone in December, Arsenal are now only five points off the top four, while Saints are a point behind in 11th.

Player ratings

Southampton: McCarthy (5), Valery (6), Stephens (5), Bednarek (5), Vokins (5), Armstrong (6), Diallo (5), Ward-Prowse (6), Walcott (4), Adams (4), Ings (5)

Subs: Redmond (5), N’Lundulu (5), Watts (5)

Arsenal: Leno (7), Bellerin (6), Holding (7), Luiz (7), Cedric (8), Partey (7), Xhaka (8), Smith Rowe (7), Saka (8), Pepe (7), Lacazette (8)

Subs: Willian (5), Elneny (5), Willock (NA)

Man of the match: Bukayo Saka

How Arsenal fought back to sink Saints

Barely a month after Arsenal were dubbed a crisis club, losing five out of seven in the league, Mikel Arteta’s side have fought themselves into European contention by taking 16 points out of a possible 22.

This victory felt the most defining of late, showing a fighting spirit, and performances from the likes of Pepe, Xhaka and Lacazette in particular, that had been missing earlier in the campaign.

In a frantic first half, Arsenal should have been ahead within a minute as Xhaka played Lacazette through on goal, but the Frenchman was denied by McCarthy, who rushed out to deny him one-on-one.

Just under three minutes later, Southampton opened the scoring; Ward-Prowse’s corner to the edge of the box met the on-running Armstrong, and his first-time effort flew past Bernd Leno. Straight off the training ground, but Arsenal’s marking left a lot to be desired.

But the Gunners did level four minutes later through Pepe, who many thought did well to keep his place in the XI after Saturday’s performance. Threaded through by Xhaka, Pepe then slotted under McCarthy from the left of the box with his left foot.

Arsenal began to find rhythm – Cedric Soares volleyed inches wide after good work from Saka – and it was the brilliant Saka who put the visitors ahead before the break. Capitalising on Southampton’s high line, Lacazette played Saka through, and as McCarthy darted off his line, the youngster showed quick feet to round him and turn into the empty net from just inside the box.

Saints’ press worked wonders on Saturday, and though they attempted similar on Tuesday night, Arsenal’s own press was succeeding. After Xhaka had won the ball high, Cedric’s ball found Emile Smith Rowe in the box, but after nipping the ball over McCarthy, the effort was weak enough for Jack Stephens to clear up inside the six-yard box.

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Bukayo Saka celebrates his goal

Team news

Saints made just the two forced changes from the 1-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend, with Valery and Vokins coming in at full-back to replace Walker-Peters and Bertrand.

Arsenal, though, made five changes from Saturday – Nketiah, Martinelli, Pepe, Elneny and Gabriel came out, replaced by Luiz, Smith Rowe, Partey, Saka and Lacazette. Kieran Tierney didn’t make the squad, so Cedric kept his place at left back.

Smith Rowe was then subbed off with what looked like a muscle injury, but Arsenal made sure of the points with a well-worked third. Cedric, who was superb against his former club, found Saka with a fine crossfield ball, and Saka’s first-time ball across the face of goal was met by Lacazette under the crossbar to simply tap home.

That goal took the fizz out of Southampton – who have scored just three goals in seven games – as Arsenal held on for an impressive victory, as Arteta’s side begin to level out after a disastrous start to the campaign.

Arteta: That was for Aubameyang

Mikel Arteta and some of Arsenal’s players dedicated the victory to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who remains unavailable due to “personal family reasons”.

“I love how they support each other and protect each other. Auba is having a difficult time, we’re all behind him and this win is for him.”

What the managers said…

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl: “We have 29 points, we knew such situations could come for us, if we have injuries it certainly hurts us more than the top teams.

“Everyone can look for themselves how much it affected the result today, we conceded two easy goals in the first half. The effort was good in the first half, the quality wasn’t good enough today to be competitive against this team.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “I don’t want to look at the table, I want to look at ourselves and how can we get better, the reason why we are performing better and winning more football matches and get that consistency that we’ve been lacking. Improve in many areas that we have to get better at it and see where we get by doing that.”

Mikel Arteta says an upturn in results has lifted morale in the Arsenal squad after they extended their unbeaten Premier League run to six games with victory at Southampton.

On Bukayo Saka: “He’s really humble, really respectful and at the same time has that character to demand the ball, to make decisions that are not very usual for his age. We need that leadership and he’s gaining that with his attitude and his performances.”

Opta stats

Only Man City have won more points (18) and conceded fewer goals (1) than Arsenal in the Premier League since Boxing Day (16 points and two goals conceded for the Gunners during this period).

Only Alexandre Lacazette (12) has been involved in more goals for Arsenal in all competitions this season than Nicolas Pepe (9 – 6 goals, 3 assists).

Alexandre Lacazette is the first Arsenal player to reach 10 goals in all competitions this season, whilst he has now hit double figures for goals in all four seasons since joining the Gunners.

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