Arsenal 1-0 Southampton: Five things we learnt

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Arsenal fans will no doubt be purring over the staying power of their star man Alexis Sanchez following his 89th minute winner in last night's 1-0 win over Southampton, but that's far from the only story of a rare gritty win for Arsene Wenger's side.

Sanchez left it late but eventually bagged his ninth Premier League goal of the season from close range, a feat he's managed in just 13 games to equal a club record for a new signing set by Arsenal legend Ian Wright.

Saints will feel aggrieved at finishing the match with 10 men thanks to Toby Alderweireld's late injury, with Ronald Koeman already making three substitutions and eventually paying a heavy price. Koeman and Wenger both learned something new about their sides in a tight, tense, midweek clash though, lessons they must take on board heading into the frantic festive period.

1. Wenger has to make room for Giroud

Arsenal are slowly getting the nucleus of their squad back towards full fitness after a terrible run of luck with injuries, but Olivier Giroud's unexpected return from a broken foot may be far more important than expected.

Giroud's impact from the bench last night was instant, giving Arsenal the focal point they craved in attack and forcing Southampton to retreat deep and invite a late onslaught from the home side. The French forward may well have snatched the winner himself if it weren't for some Fraser Forster heroics and linked up brilliantly with Welbeck and Sanchez.

With Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and eventually Theo Walcott all desperate to feature there's no way Wenger can keep everyone happy, but Giroud is unlike any other attacking option in Arsenal's ranks and provides the variety they've craved in recent months.

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2. Clean sheets can't mask Arsenal's full-back failings

Wenger's side managed to keep their third successive clean sheet against Saints, but Nacho Monreal and Calum Chambers still looked vulnerable at full-back throughout.

Monreal was left for dead by Shane Long on one occasion and drew the ire of Arsenal fans and his team-mate Welbeck after failing to overlap the forward during a second half break.

Kieran Gibbs needs to stay fit for those kind of swashbuckling funs to be a feature down the left-hand side, while Chambers is a superb athlete and an extremely willing runner, but lacks the pace to compete against the Premier League's most dynamic wingers effectively across 90 minutes. Mathieu Debuchy's return needs to be sooner rather than later.

3. Sanchez can't share the goal burden alone

The potent mix of pace, power, pressure and sheer will to win means comparisons between Sanchez and Luis Suarez at Liverpool last season are justified, but one goal from the Chilean superstar won't be enough to win Arsenal enough matches to earn a top-four finish guaranteed.

Sanchez has been involved in 50% of all Arsenal's Premier League goals this season, with only Manchester City star Sergio Aguero proving a more important contribution to his team.

In all competitions Sanchez has more than double the nearest Arsenal player, 14 to Danny Welbeck's six. Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey are way behind on three as the nearest challengers and that includes strikes in the Community Shield. Quite frankly that's just not good enough when you consider the attacking talent at Wenger's disposal, it's time for the supporting cast to step up.

4. Saints need January signings to stay in top-four race

Southampton's tremendous start to the season has finally been dented by back-to-back defeats and some tough luck with injuries, with their lack of quality in reserve a clear problem moving forward.

Graziano Pelle has failed to score in his last six Premier League games, while the loss of Morgan Schniederlin just when big games against City & Arsenal came calling was particularly cruel.

Koeman benefited from continuity in the early part of the season, but that settled team simply won't be able to cope under the burden of a match every three days and this week has proved it. The chase for European qualification is a squad game and Saints will need to strengthen in January, particularly with Jay Rodriguez taking his time to recover.

5. Aaron Ramsey is enduring a season to forget

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey's persistence and willingness to keep driving forward during a patchy run of form cannot be faulted, but if Wenger had Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta fit at this moment in time it's doubtful the Welsh international would be starting.

Ramsey did find Sanchez in the closing stages for the late tap-in, but that's the first time he's been involved in an Arsenal goal in their last nine Premier League games.

The 23-year-old is a victim of his own success after a tremendous start to last season but Arsenal need more from their exciting playmaker, even with Santi Cazorla finding something near his very best in recent weeks.

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Aaron Ramsey
Premier League

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