Arsenal cruised to a 2-0 win over disjointed Southampton thanks to first-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan at The Emirates on Sunday, taking them back into the top four in the Premier League.
The hosts took the lead after six minutes in bizarre circumstances, Lacazette neatly back-heeling home a pass from Mkhitaryan while the rest of the Arsenal team were still appealing for a penalty after Lucas Torreira took a tumble.
Arsenal doubled the lead 10 minutes later when Southampton keeper Angus Gunn, making his second Premier League appearance, cleared the ball straight into the path of Alex Iwobi.
The Nigeria midfielder bolted forward and passed across goal to the unmarked Mkhitaryan, who thumped a low shot into the corner of the net.
“The second goal was a horrible mistake where we don’t have to take such a risk,” a rather downcast Saints manager Ralph Hassenhuettl told reporters.
The win took Arsenal up to fourth spot on 53 points, one point ahead of Manchester United who were held to a 0-0 draw by Liverpool at Old Trafford. Southampton remain a point below the safety zone with 24 from 27 matches.
Lacazette should arguably have had a first-half hat-trick half but he was unable to take advantage of any of the numerous opportunities that came his way after his early strike.
First the Frenchman had a glancing header from a Granit Xhaka corner saved, then he blasted over the bar from inside the six-yard box and seconds later he spun away from his marker but his shot hit Gunn’s outstretched leg.
Southampton, by contrast, looked a shadow of the team that won the reverse fixture at St Mary’s in December, registering only three shots in the opening half to the Gunners’ 11.
Their best chance of the game had come seconds before Lacazette’s opener when Nathan Redmond was through on goal only to fire straight at keeper Bernd Leno.
“(Southampton) have very fast players like Redmond, and they created good chances. I think Leno played well and helped us a lot,” Arsenal boss Unai Emery told reporters.
Southampton brought on Charlie Austin in the second half to see if he could maintain his record of scoring against Arsenal every time he has faced them in the league, but the Saints were unable to get back into the game.
The visitors brought on Michael Obafemi, who had only just returned from injury, but within 20 minutes he came off with a knock to his ankle.
The Gunners stretched their unbeaten home league record to 13 games since they lost to Manchester City in their opener on Aug. 12.
While they have now won their last seven league matches in a row at The Emirates, their away performances have been patchy.
“At home we are feeling strong, but away we need to be more consistent,” Emery said.