Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Danny Welbeck spare Arsenal defence's blushes
LONDON -- Three points on Arsenal 3-2 Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.
1. Welbeck settles dramatic match
The Premier League may not be Arsenal's biggest priority at the moment, but they can still offer up a bit of drama and excitement.
Danny Welbeck headed home a late winner to decide a see-saw battle against struggling Southampton with his second goal of the game, continuing a recent revival for the England forward. It was Arsenal's sixth straight win in all competitions, but with the Gunners languishing in sixth place, it's a result that may have a much bigger impact on Southampton's season.
Charlie Austin thought he had boosted the visitors' hopes of avoiding relegation when he came off the bench to equalise in the 73rd minute, but a second-string Arsenal side proved they had enough to respond.
The game ended on a fractious note, with Mohamed Elneny and Jack Stephens both sent off after a late scuffle.
It all provided a dramatic finish to a game that had largely felt like a prelude to Thursday's trip to CSKA Moscow, with Arsene Wenger clearly keeping an eye on the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal.
In fact, Arsenal looked like they were doing everything they could to hand Southampton a relegation lifeline, as Wenger rested most of his big hitters and Shkodran Mustafi then gifted Shane Long an early goal after a laughable mix-up with goalkeeper Petr Cech.
But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Welbeck orchestrated a first-half comeback with well-taken goals to offer some evidence that Arsenal's players haven't given up on the league just yet.
Despite holding a 4-1 lead against CSKA Moscow, Wenger left Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette on the bench while Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny weren't in the squad at all.
The result was an attack with less playmaking ability but a lot more pace, and they always looked a lot more dangerous on quick counters than when trying to orchestrate the normal slow build-up moves.
Their defensive problems remained, though, with Southampton's opener coming after another comical mistake.
Mustafi looked well positioned to cover a low cross from Cedric Soares but apparently expected Cech to come off his line to collect the ball and allowed Long to slip past him for an easy finish. It left the Emirates crowd -- again only about two-thirds full -- groaning in despair while Cech and Mustafi yelled at each other.
But even a second-string side proved too strong for this Southampton team, while Arsenal will travel to Moscow with a squad both high on momentum and well rested.
2. Aubameyang strikes as attack bails out defence
Aubameyang's goals won't do much to salvage this sorry league campaign for Arsenal, but at least they offer a bit of hope for the future -- as well as bailing out the deficiencies in defence.
The former Borussia Dortmund striker has six goals in seven league games since his January arrival, and Gunners fans can only wonder how different things may have turned out had he joined last summer. Aubameyang is the type of clinical finisher Arsenal have lacked up front for many years, and has proved much quicker at adapting to the English game than fellow striker Lacazette.
He offered further proof of that here as he put away the only chance his teammates created for him in the first half, pouncing on a clever backheel flick from Welbeck to poke the ball past Alex McCarthy.
Arsenal have found a top-class goalscorer too late to make a difference -- Aubameyang is cup tied in the Europa League -- but he could help them put up more of a challenge next season.
Welbeck showed he can't be completely dismissed as an attacking option either, though, having scored four goals in his last three starts after a brace against AC Milan as well. His winning goal was just reward for his perseverance after a shocking open-goal miss from close range minutes before.
And with Lacazette coming off the bench for Aubameyang in the second half, it was a reminder that Arsenal look strong going forward. Of course, they'll need all that firepower to make up for their issues at the back.
3. Time running out for Southampton
Mark Hughes must have smiled when he saw Arsenal's starting lineup before the game. And he must have grinned even wider when Long made a mockery of Mustafi and Cech's failure to communicate.
But in the end, Southampton left the Emirates ruing an opportunity to earn at least one unexpected point. It wasn't for a want of trying, though. The Saints came out with a clear game plan and nearly punished Arsenal twice early on with long balls over the top that Calum Chambers struggled to deal with.
Hector Bellerin even had to clear an early effort from Long off the line, and Elneny headed another effort off the line in the second half when the visitors pushed for an equaliser at 2-1.
They had a bit of bad luck as well, as Long thought he had made it 2-2 but had his effort ruled out for offside.
It was a valiant effort from the Saints, who showed signs of improvement under Hughes, but they remain three points from safety and have their own defensive problems to sort out.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.