Olivier Giroud saved Arsenal’s blushes with an 88th-minute equaliser as the Gunners escaped Southampton with a scarcely-deserved 1-1 draw.
The France international’s brilliant header ended the Saints’ stubborn resistance after Charlie Austin had pounced on a Per Mertesacker only three minutes into the St Mary’s clash.
Arsene Wenger made just one change to the side that had performed so encouragingly in the 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United, club captain Mertesacker replacing the injured Shkodran Mustafi.
But the rearranged back three did not stop a repeat of the clumsy individual errors that handed their opponents an early lead. Mertesacker cleared the ball straight to Austin, who burst beyond the Arsenal defence as the German slipped; Monreal couldn’t catch the Southampton stiker, who clipped a superb finish over Cech.
Super sub Olivier Giroud earns a dramatic point for the Gunners#SOUARS pic.twitter.com/ksnAhiuCTk — Premier League (@premierleague) December 10, 2017
Southampton could have had more in a calamitous opening 10 minutes, and but for an erroneous offside call from the linesman Austin would likely have doubled the lead.
As the half wore on Arsenal’s attacking play improved, a thrilling counter-attack flying from one penalty area to the other only for a superb recovering tackle from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to deny Alexandre Lacazette.
Aaron Ramsey went closer than any other player to getting the second, his powerful low shot improbably kept out by the diving Fraser Forster, while they ought to have had a penalty on the stroke of half-time when Lacazette was felled by Maya Yoshida.
But Arsenal continued to invite pressure at the other end, where a fizzing James Ward-Prowse free-kick caused panic in the Gunners area.
Southampton dropped deeper and deeper in the second half but, Mesut Ozil aside, Arsenal lacked the invention to break them down.
A flurry of chances came Southampton’s way after the hour, Ward-Prowse’s shot cracking back off the bar and Ryan Bertrand spurning a one-on-one chance after being played through by Tadic.
Wenger ditched the back three, throwing on Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Giroud as for the third week in a row his side desperately chased a late goal.
Unlike against United last week, the pressure told as Sanchez’s right-footed cross was flicked beyond the diving Forster by Giroud’s head.