Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal came from behind to win at home to Southampton. Sunday’s meeting at the Emirates was a fantastic five-goal thriller and ended with both sides down to 10 men.
The visitors took the lead through Shane Long in the 17th minute, beating Shkodran Mustafi to Cedric Soares’ cross, brilliantly steering his effort past Petr Cech. He’d scored just one goal in the league all season before Sunday’s game.
Arsenal took 10 minutes to respond, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalising inside of half an hour with a close-range goal after fine work from Welbeck, who then turned goalscorer in the 38th minute to put the Gunners ahead for the first time.
Southampton brought on Charlie Austin after the break, and the Saints’ top scorer took little time getting in on the act. He finished Soares’ cut-back in the 73rd minute to set up a tense finale at the Emirates Stadium, but Arsenal regained the lead through Welbeck in the 81st minute to settle the game.
There was more drama to come, however, as Southampton defender Jack Stephens was sent off for violent conduct. He reacted angrily to Jack Wilshere tugging his shirt and was dismissed in injury time.
Referee Andre Marriner evened up the score minutes later, sending off Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny for a similar offence. The game petered out after that and the Gunners celebrated a hard-fought three points.
Arsene Wenger took a risk pre-game, naming a makeshift starting XI for the visit of Southampton with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League clash with CSKA Moscow.
Reiss Nelson was given a first Premier League start and was joined by Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck in an attacking-midfield trio behind Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. Sead Kolasinac was also awarded a rare start.
Wenger was able to rest Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Nacho Monreal, while boosting the match fitness of Alexandre Lacazette who recently returned from injury and is expected to start up front in place of the ineligible Aubameyang.
The gamble paid off as Arsenal got the win over Southampton to maintain their fine form in recent weeks. The Gunners have now won their last six in all competitions after losing away to Brighton & Hove Albion on March 4.
They currently sit sixth in the Premier League table with 54 points from 32 games, 13-shy of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Their best hopes of attaining Champions League football for next season is by winning the Europa League. Wenger’s team selection against Southampton showed which competition he’s finally taking more seriously.
Arsenal travel to the VEB Arena to face CSKA Moscow in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final clash, boasting a 4-1 aggregate lead. The Gunners are having a strong end to the season and hope to finish the campaign by lifting some silverware.