Danny Welbeck scored a brace as a much changed Arsenal side came from behind to beat 17th placed Southampton 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League encounter.
Danny Welbeck scored a brace as a much-changed Arsenal side came from behind to beat 17th placed Southampton 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League encounter.
The win moves Arsenal into within two points of fifth-placed Chelsea, and leaves Southampton three points adrift of safety in the third and final relegation spot.
Despite having the majority of early possession, Arsenal was unable to find a way through the bank of five Southampton defenders in the opening exchanges of the game.
Southampton was having some success on the counter-attack, and the first chance of the game came when Dusan Tadic sprung on a misjudged header at the back by Arsenal. The Serbian raced into the box, and played the ball to James Ward-Prowse who saw his goalbound effort blocked.
The 17th placed team was looking the more dangerous in front of goal, and in the 17th minute, Cedric Soares played a ball into the box from the right, Shane Long was more alert than Mustafi and produced a clever finish past Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal to give Southampton a precious lead.
With the smaller than usual Emirates crowd becoming frustrating, Arsenal was trying to find a way back into the game but was met by an organized Saints defense.
But, the reply came in the 29th minute when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his sixth goal in seven games when he managed to stab the ball past McCarthy to draw the Gunners level, after great work from Welbeck.
Arsenal was now pushing for a second goal and was having more joy in getting in behind the defensive line of Southampton.
Calum Chambers attempted an overhead kick after the ball was recycled from a corner, but it was easily saved by Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy.
Danny Welbeck got himself on the scoresheet himself in the 38th minute. The English striker cut inside a Southampton defender and his shot from the edge of the box was deflected off Maya Yoshida and past McCarthy to give Arsenal the lead.
The end of the first half saw Arsenal put more pressure on Southampton's defense in an attempt to increase its lead, but two corners led to nothing, and the teams went in for halftime with Arsenal holding a narrow advantage.
Aubameyang and Xhaka forced two good saves from McCarthy early in the second half.
In the early exchanges of the second half, Southampton would have had McCarthy to thank for keeping them in the game, when he was forced into good saves from Aubameyang and Xhaka, before he pushed away an Iwobi shot. Southampton had its best spell of the game from about the hour mark and was pushing hard for an equalizer.
Long, who was a constant thorn in Arsenal's side, got up well to meet a Tadic cross, and forced Cech to push the ball out for a corner down to his right-hand side. Just a minute later, Long was denied by the linesman's flag after putting the ball in the net, a diverting a long shot past Cech.
Charlie Austin had scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Arsenal before today and he replaced Maya Yoshida in the 73rd minute
And the striker wouldn't have long to wait to continue his record against the Gunners, as he turned Cedric's second assist of the game into the back of the net. Cedric exchanged a one-two with Hoedt on the edge of the area, before playing it across the face of goal to give it to Austin on a plate to tap in to make it 2-2.
Southampton breathed a sigh of relief when Iwobi's deep cross was headed back from the byline by substitute Wilshere. Welbeck met it five yards from goal, but he somehow managed to blaze it over the bar.
But Welbeck made up for the miss 10 minutes from time, when he rose above the Southampton defenders to meet another deep cross from Iwobi. His downward header beating McCarthy at his near post.
Southampton was pushing for another equalizer but was unable to create another clear-cut opportunity.
It got worse for the Saints in added time when Jack Stephens was shown a straight red card for his reaction to a challenge from Wilshere, an incident in which Mohamed Elneny also saw red for Arsenal.