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Three things we learned from Southampton – Arsenal

Three things we learned from Southampton – Arsenal image
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Southampton – Arsenal: Arsenal is unbeaten in six Premier League outings after coming back to beat Southampton 3-1 at St. Mary’s on Tuesday.

Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette set each other up for goals after Granit Xhaka assisted Nicolas Pepe’s eighth-minute equalizer for Mikel Arteta’s Gunners.

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Arsenal has five wins and a draw in its last six, surging up to eighth place, five back of the top four after 20 matches.

Saints have one fewer point than Arsenal in one fewer match. Stuart Armstrong scored off a terrific early set piece for the hosts, who are 11th on the table.

STREAM SOUTHAMPTON – ARSENAL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Three things we learned from Southampton – Arsenal

1. What a difference a month makes: Arsenal played well but lost 2-1 at Everton on Dec. 19 to extend a league winless run to seven matches. The Gunners have not lost since, and have a 14-2 combined score line in wins over Chelsea, Brighton, West Brom, Newcastle, and Saints plus a scoreless draw with Palace. Now the Gunners can move to the brink of the top four if they can beat visiting and red-hot Manchester United. The Gunners beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford on Nov. 1.

2. Lacazette change flipped the switch: Arteta deployed Lacazette at center forward against Chelsea on Boxing Day, the French forward’s first PL start in a couple of weeks and just his third since Arsenal returned from the mid-November international break. He scored against Chelsea and Brighton, then bagged two against West Brom before scoring and assisting on Tuesday. Bukayo Saka has chemistry with the 29-year-old Lacazette, who is proving that — shock of all shocks — he’s a more consistent finisher than young Eddie Nketiah. Allowing the 21-year-old to find his form and footing behind Lacazette should pay dividends, but where would the Gunners be if Arteta trusted the veteran all along?

3. Partey, Smith-Rowe injuries darken win: There are reasons to believe that both Smith-Rowe’s 72nd-minute removal for Willian and Thomas Partey’s 78th-minute exit for Mohamed Elneny are both precautionary but the midfield is arguably Arsenal’s thinnest position if it wants to make a push for serious table footing.

Man of the Match: Granit Xhaka

You could give this to Saka, but the young winger only needed 36 touches. His electric moments were great but Xhaka ran the show on a day no one else in the center of the park was humming for Arsenal.

Southampton – Arsenal recap

Armstrong had Saints ahead in the third minute off a James Ward-Prowse feed, but the early good vibes lasted all of five minutes.

Pepe left little doubt of Xhaka’s eighth-minute set-up, and Saka took a classy lay-off from Lacazette to make it 2-1 heading into the break.

Lacazette dove in a 42nd-minute bid to win a penalty but couldn’t fool anyone.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Lacazette got his deserved goal in the 73rd as Willian held possession with a dribble and laid off for ex-Saints man Cedric Soares.

Cedric hit a superb cross to Saka, whose pass through the 18 was turned home by Lacazette’s left foot for 3-1.

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