Belfast Telegraph

Wenger delight as Arsenal have a blast at Southampton

Southampton 0 - Arsenal 2

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger felt Arsenal were full value for their 2-0 win at Southampton that kept their Premier League top-four hopes alive.

Goals from Alexis Sanchez - his 20th in the Premier League this season - and substitute Olivier Giroud handed the Gunners three points that saw them leapfrog Manchester United into fifth place.

Wenger - still pondering his future at the club - was pleased his side backed up their performance in beating United on Sunday to move to within three points of fourth-placed Manchester City

"Overall it was a very convincing win," he said.

"It was a very even game in the first half but in the second half I felt we took over and created many opportunities to score."

On Sanchez's well-taken goal, Wenger added: "That's Alexis, he's a player that never gives up and is tricky to stop.

"He's very good in a small space and once he has the ball in the box he's dangerous.

"Alexis is always a slow starter in games but he gets stronger and stronger."

Giroud settled the contest with a late header and Wenger admitted the form of his frontmen has left him with a selection headache.

"It's difficult at the moment for me to choose between (Danny) Welbeck and Giroud," said Wenger.

"Both of them are playing well and both have a great team spirit.

"I'm always harsh with the one that doesn't play."

Wenger also praised the character shown by his team.

"We were focused and I felt that when we suffered we stuck together," he said.

"We have another clean sheet and I know we can go forward and score goals. The whole team was dynamic, focused and showed a convincing desire to win the game."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went off injured in the first half and Wenger said: "We don't know how bad it is. It's a tight hamstring. We'll know more in the next 48 hours."

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech said: "Every game we try to give ourselves a chance. We shot ourselves in the foot against Tottenham and we are aware we need to win all the remaining games to be in the race (for the Champions League places).

"We had a big game against United and then here, where historically we haven't done that well in the league.

"It was tough in the first half but then we found the opening and deserved to win."

Southampton boss Claude Puel was frustrated after his side failed to take their chances with the game scoreless.

"It was interesting to play at this level against a good team," said Puel.

"To have all these chances and get into so many good positions is a good thing. But after it's important to find the clinical edge.

"If we cannot score with all these situations it is difficult to win a game.

"Against the top six, often we can play good games with chances but without reward.

"It's a shame and it's harsh for my players because they showed good spirit and hard work.

"For me, we deserved a minimum a draw and maybe a win. For them, in one situation, they scored. It's difficult to accept.

"We know the top six have solutions. We have good players and young players who can improve."

Sanchez struck the opener on the hour mark at St Mary's before Giroud came off the bench to make sure of the points with a close-range header.

Under-fire Wenger has constantly reiterated his side cannot put a foot wrong in their remaining games, and they were solid enough to take home victory from the south coast.

Arsenal went into this match needing a win but also having to address woeful away form that had seen them take two points from a possible 24 on the road against current top-half teams.

They were not at their best here but in truth they did not need to be - this was nothing like the 4-0 thrashing they dished out in the corresponding fixture last term.

Southampton appear to be coasting to the season's end, with reported pressure on manager Puel likely to ramp up after another lacklustre display.

Saints looked short of ideas in attack, where out-of-sorts forward Manolo Gabbiadini again drew a blank.

The game started with nothing of the tempo and chances from Sunday's opening exchanges from Arsenal's weekend win over Manchester United.

Wenger was forced into a change as the impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain went off with a hamstring issue - Hector Bellerin on in his place.

Gabbiadini then sent a contentious free-kick wide of Cech's goal before Arsenal's skipper for the night had to be at this best to tip a Nathan Redmond drive over the bar.

It took until the hour for Sanchez to open the scoring.

The Chile forward picked up a pass inside the box from Mesut Ozil and left both Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens on the ground as he cut back inside and finished well.

The second came in the closing stages as sub Giroud made certain of the points when heading home.

SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeu, Davis, Ward-Prowse (Boufal 70), Tadic (Rodriguez 80), Redmond (Long 70), Gabbiadini.

Subs not used: Hassen, Caceres, Pied, Hojbjerg.

ARSENAL: Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Bellerin 36), Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil (Coquelin 89), Sanchez, Welbeck (Giroud 80).

Subs not used: Ospina, Gabriel, Iwobi, Walcott.

Goals: Sanchez (60), Giroud (83)

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Sanchez (Arsenal)

Referee: Jonathan Moss

 

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