Olivier Giroud was the matchwinner on Saturday afternoon for Arsenal, but for once it was two gifts by the opposition that led to the goals rather than exquisite red and white approach play.
Many people say that the sign of a good team is that you can win when you haven't played well, and though it would be a stretch to say Arsenal weren't the better team, they were certainly not at their best against Southampton.
Aside from some fantastic early play which saw Arsenal strike the post twice, the match was fairly competitive on the whole, and that Arsenal came away with the three points relatively comfortably in the end will send out a strong message to the rest of the league. Especially since they were playing a team who had taken four points from games at Anfield and Old Trafford this season.
Below we mention five points to come out of Saturday's victory
When you're on top it's surprising how many things go your way
Arsenal played with a confidence and swagger that being top of the league brings to a team. And it is unsurprising that opponents often exhibit a desperation to contain them that forces mistakes. However, Southampton for the most part dealt very well with Arsenal's attacking threat. The goals that came were from two woeful decisions from Artur Boruc and Jose Fonte, and just go to prove that when you're up you're up.
Per Mertesacker is better at performing dragbacks than Artur Boruc.
Though said with tongue somewhat in cheek, the point is clear. It's one thing for a centre back to use a dragback to outfox a forward, as Mertesacker did effectively midway through the first half, it's quite another for a goalkeeper to perform multiple dragbacks with a forward hounding him and an open goal his reward. When Boruc ignored his third opportunity to put the ball out for a throw in, it was somewhat inevitable that it would all end in tears. That this was the goal that kept the two teams apart for so long only highlighted how poor the Southampton keeper's judgement was.
Wojcech Szczesny thoroughly deserves his new long term contract
While one Pole was questionable in his goalkeeping performance, his young countryman looked dominant and confident in everything he did for Arsenal. Jack Wilshere said in the week that he thought Szczesny was the best goalkeeper in the league, and though the Arsenal keeper didn't have a great deal to do against the Saints, he displayed an assuredness beyond his years to back up his young teammate's claims.
Arsenal don't need to play with wingers to look dangerous from wide
To look at Arsenal's midfield before the game it would seem there would be a real lack of threat and purpose down the flanks. With Wilshere and Cazorla out wide, there was a lack of any genuine wingers in the team, something made even more noticeable by Theo Walcott's return to the squad. But in much of the Gunners incisive play, there was excellent penetration down the flanks by Wilshere, Cazorla and Mesut Ozil who often drifted out right. This interlinking fluidity tended to be what unlocked Southampton's hardworking midfield and defence, and interestingly has put Wilshere into more goalscoring positions since they've adapted to it.
Arsenal would struggle to find a striker better than Olivier Giroud
There was so much talk earlier in the season of finding a world class striker to lead the line for Arsenal, and as Giroud found his form this turned into talk of a player to keep him on his toes or replace him if he was injured. But such are the Frenchman's performances, it's hard to imagine a player in his mould being any better suited to this Arsenal team. Arsene Wenger has clearly stated that he wants a centre forward with real physical presence as back up, and Giroud has this alongside a real ability to get involved in the one touch attacking play that has been a hallmark of Arsenal this year. Finding someone good enough and happy to play second fiddle will be a real challenge, but it's what they would need now rather than looking specifically for a world class player
image: © Ronnie Macdonald