A late Olivier Giroud equaliser saved Arsenal some of the blushes at St. Mary’s this afternoon after Southampton held the lead for much of the game following a 3rd minute Charlie Austin finish.

In a week where some of Arsenal’s Premier League rivals were guaranteed to drop points due to derby matches, and with Antonio Conté’s Chelsea suffering a humiliating defeat to David Moyes West Ham United side, this game was a fantastic opportunity for Arsene Wenger’s men to gain some valuable league points. Ultimately, not all of the spoils were earned, but the Gunners can be happy to be leaving with any points at all.

After last week’s performance against Manchester United (where it could be valiantly argued that the Gunners were the better side, only denied by a frankly incredible goalkeeping performance by the talismanic David De Gea) and the 6-0 European dismantling of BATE Borisov, that this match represented a fantastic opportunity for Arsenal to build some momentum.

Coming into the match, although their league position of 13th may have went some way to suggesting otherwise, Maurico Pellegrino’s men had seen an improvement in performances in recent weeks. A 4-1 drubbing of Everton heralded the end of David Unsworth’s time as a Mersey manager and Manchester City were ran very close the following match, only for Raheem Sterling to rescue the points at the death. In their most recent game against Bournemouth, it was Arsenal’s deterrent Austin who rescued a point for the Saints.

Arsenal lined out with arguably their best available eleven, playing in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

Arsenal, in the absence of Shkodran Mustafi (thigh problem) began the game with a back three of Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny – who have a combined age of 96. In many respects, this was exploited for the first goal of the game after just 3 minutes.

A quick throw-in down the right led to a clinical 1-2 between Dusan Tadic and Austin, with Mertesacker being turned far too easily. A simple finish followed, with Austin almost doubling his tally only 1 minute later, only for Petr Cech to read his intentions and deny him.

Southampton could defend as deep as they wanted following the goal, doing a good job of shutting Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez out.

Arsenal were typically dominant in possession throughout the game, while still looking unlikely to score – if anything, it looked more likely that Pellegrino’s men would extend their advantage.

Granit Xhaka retained his place in midfield, although after another poor performance (too many passes sent astray), it would not be hard to envision his 69th minute replacement Jack Wilshire replacing him in the starting 11 next week.

It was another substitute who managed to salvage the game for us, with Olivier Giroud replacing his compatriot striker Lacazette on 72 minutes.

Following this, Oriel Romeu very nearly made it 2-0 with a 20-yard pinger finding the Arsenal bar and another opportunity going amiss for the Southampton with Nathan Redmond leaving Koscielny in his wake with a smart run, only for his dink to slide just wide of the far post – which may have been a turning point in the game, upon reflection.

It was then that Giroud came to Arsenal’s rescue – as is so often the case – glancing in Alexis Sanchez’s cross with a fine header into the far corner of the goal. It was the French striker’s seventh goal of the season, a very impressive return considering he has not yet started a league game this season. With the world cup on his mind, this may be one of Giroud’s last contributions in a red shirt, and if this is to be the case, there are worse ways to go.

Giroud’s goal matched a Premier League record for goals scored by a substitute – now at an incredible 17 goals, matching former Manchester United “Super Sub” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Arsenal came close to snatching a win at the death of the match, with Kolasinac breaking from a Southampton corner that was cleared by Cech and finding the visibly-injured Ramsey in the box, who’s flick was relatively easily handled by Forster before the final whistle blew.

After being behind for 86 minutes of the match, Arsenal can be counting their blessings that they are returning to North London with any point at all.

Another interesting statistic arising from the result is that Arsenal are now level with Manchester City for the auspicious record of points earned from losing position in the league this season – Giroud’s goal bringing Arsenal to 10 points. If character could win leagues…

A frustrated Arsene Wenger spoke of his annoyance in relation to time-wasting after the match, and how referee’s need to begin acting on it more saying “the waste of time has become a real problem in England, the referees haven’t found the answer yet”.

The result leaves Arsenal in 5th position on 29 points, equal with Liverpool (who play Merseyside neighbours this afternoon) and 3 points behind Chelsea in 3rd. The gap at the top, however, is beginning to get more and more daunting with each point lost – Manchester City currently on 43 points, with the opportunity to extend that lead further when they come up against Manchester United this afternoon.

Southampton have moved up to 10th place on 18 points and will be disappointed not to have earned more from this match-up.

Arsenal’s next Premier League match comes away to London rivals West Ham in midweek on Wednesday the 13th December – with the Hammer’s sure to be cautiously optimistic after scalping Chelsea this weekend to brighten the beginning of the David Moyes era at the club. Arsenal will need to put in a better away performance than they did today to garner anything from the match in the Olympic Stadium.