Goals from academy graduates Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock guided Arsenal to a much-needed win on the south coast at 10-man Southampton.
An opportunistic goal from Nketiah got Arsenal up and running when he intercepted a pass from Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Mikel Arteta’s men had further chances to bag all three points but they had to wait until the latter stages to seal it with a strike from substitute Willock.
Arteta made four changes for the visit to Southampton and went for a third formation in three games. The Spaniard opted for a back three with Kieran Tierney coming into the team as a left-sided CB in front of Emi Martínez.
Granit Xhaka returned from injury to anchor the midfield while Nketiah led the attack ahead of Alexandre Lacazette.
Bukayo Saka, who is close to putting pen to paper on a new contract according to Arteta, started at wing back while Mesut Özil, who is yet to feature since the restart, was on the bench alongside youngster Matt Smith.
After a lacklustre return to action, the Gunners needed to respond positively and it was a bright start at St Mary’s.
Despite playing in an unfamiliar role Tierney was still able to showcase his passing when he picked out the run of Saka, who squared the ball to Nketiah to tap into an empty net but the offside flag saw the goal chalked off.
Minutes later, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang broke free and with just goalkeeper McCarthy to beat, the forward clipped a shot onto the crossbar.
The Gunners needed to take one of their chances to take control of the game and it came in fortunate circumstances. Southampton tried to play it out from the back but McCarthy was too casual as he looked to offload to midfield and Nketiah blocked his pass before slotting the ball home.
He could have added a second before the break when Nicolas Pépé found him with a perfectly weighted pass. All it required was a shot on target or a simple pass to Aubameyang, who was unmarked in the box, but he seemed to be caught in two minds and the ball flew harmlessly out of the play.
Martínez wasn’t really called into action. Great control from Danny Ings set up a chance for Stuart Armstrong but he couldn’t reach the ball on the slide.
The Saints upped their game after the break and piled on the pressure but Arsenal coped well, with Rob Holding excelling, before countering at pace. Aubameyang, on his 100th Arsenal appearance, found himself in acres of space following a Martínez goal kick but his pass to Nketiah was cut out.
There was a tactical reshuffle on the hour mark when Willock replaced Pépé before another injury forced Arteta into another change, replacing Tierney with Sead Kolašinac.
Ings had been kept quiet by his standards this season but when his strike partner Shane Long managed to pull away from the Arsenal defence, Martínez was there to block his stinging effort.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lacazette came on for the final 10 minutes in what was Arteta’s final chance to make changes.
The visitors lost their way in the final stages but a wayward pass from Pierre-Emile Højberg caught out Jack Stephens and the defender took down Aubameyang to deny the forward a chance on goal.
The Southampton man saw red and handed the Gunners a free kick. Lacazette had two bites of the cherry with Willock following up his second effort to seal the win in the final seconds.