A late Santiago Cazorla penalty saw Arsenal defeat Southampton 2-1 at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as Arsene Wenger got the better of his former Monaco player Claude Puel.
Last season’s runners-up had beaten Watford in fine fashion before the international break, and manager Wenger handed debuts to Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez.
Their momentum was initially slowed, though, by a Petr Cech own goal from Dusan Tadic’s free-kick.
Although Laurent Koscielny equalised shortly afterwards with a magnificent overhead kick, Arsenal struggled to break the visitors down and Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster was largely untroubled for much of the second half.
But a late twist saw Jose Fonte penalised for tangling with substitute Olivier Giroud in the penalty area, Cazorla beating Forster from the spot to snatch all three points.
From the off, it was apparent Southampton were going to take the game to their hosts, and although Arsenal escaped a couple of dangerous early crosses unscathed, Jay Rodriguez squandering the best chance with his head, they were soon behind.
Nathan Redmond skipped past Nacho Monreal, drawing a foul to earn a free-kick in a perfect position on the edge of the area. Tadic curled a good effort over the wall, Cech touching it onto the crossbar, only for the ball to bounce down and into the net off the prone goalkeeper.
The home side sought an immediate response, with Theo Walcott nodding over, and soon found it in breath-taking fashion.
With Saints defenders twice losing headers from a corner, the ball sat up nicely for Koscielny to smash a bicycle kick beyond Forster’s despairing dive.
Boosted by the equaliser, Arsenal swiftly took control of the game, with Puel’s men required to make a number of timely interceptions to prevent a second goal before half-time.
It was more of the same after the break, barring a Shane Long strike straight at Cech, and Hector Bellerin flashed a low blast wide when the hosts finally fought through Southampton’s resolute back-line.
With 66 minutes gone, Long then missed a glorious opportunity to regain the lead. Tadic’s neat back-heel played him in, but the Republic of Ireland forward dinked his finish past the far post.
Alexis Sanchez was similarly wasteful as he ought to have immediately punished Long, collecting Mesut Ozil’s pass on the turn to blaze over with Forster at full stretch.
Long, who had replaced Rodriguez at the interval, headed another opportunity over, before Virgil van Dijk’s crucial lunge, following his own error, kept Cazorla’s centre from Giroud.
Cech was required to make late saves from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Long’s rebound, before Giroud nodded wide, but the game took another twist in stoppage time when Fonte made contact with Giroud in the area.
Referee Bobby Madley pointed to the spot amid Southampton protestations, and Cazorla, after a lengthy wait for Koscielny to receive treatment, stepped up to drill the penalty into the net and clinch the points.
Key Opta stats:
– Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 22 home league games against Southampton (W16 D6).
– The Gunners have already won more Premier League penalties in 2016-17 (3) than they did in the whole of 2015-16 (2).
– Laurent Koscielny became the fifth Arsenal player to score a Premier League goal on their birthday (after Paul Merson, Robert Pires, Yossi Benayoun and Santi Cazorla).
– Saints scored their first Premier League goal at the Emirates since a 1-6 defeat in September 2012.
– Petr Cech scored his second Premier League own goal, and first since December 2009 (for Chelsea against Everton).
– Cazorla’s last seven Premier League goals for Arsenal have been via the penalty spot.
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