There was lot at stake for Arteta, given the weakened team he fielded on Saturday.
In an interview at the end of the game, the Spaniard expressed anger in his voice, saying he couldn’t play his young players all the time – that it was not physically possible, implying that it wasn’t a tactical decision to play a weakened side.
Smith Rowe was back, Aubameyang and Tierney were out. Pepe got a league start with five changes from Saturday in all.
Both Southampton backs from the weekend were out with Valery and Vokins coming in. Alex McCarthy was back.
Arsenal looked a different team with more energy and tactical awareness, pressing high, making it hard for Southampton to get out of their defensive third. Much like they did to the weakened London team at the weekend.
But Southampton are a team of good habits and tactical discipline and although there were several key players out, at times, they gave as good as they got.
Lacazette was sent through in the first minute – but he’s not a natural striker and he missed, trying to slot the ball through McCarthy’s legs.
Valery sent a good cross to Ings and his header hit Holding on the jaw.
Ward Prowse sent an out swinging corner to Armstrong with Pepe looking like he was ball watching and the Scotsman it hard and home.
But soon the high and energetic pressing from the away side brought dividends as Saka and Partey linked up to find Xhaka who sent a through ball to Pepe who controlled it with his left setting it up for a curling shot into the corner of the net.
Cedric attempted an audacious volley which went wide from a Southampton clearance.
Walcott had a chance when he spun and shot, with Cedric out of position – but accuracy was never one of Theo’s strong points. Ward Prowse bent it in and Ings flicked it on – into Leno’s arms. Vokins sent in a cross – and Adams beat Luiz -but Leno saved. Then Valery cut in an unleashed a shot – wide. And Armstrong bent one wide soon after.
Some of Pepe’s passes gave fellow players little chance. They used to call them hospital passes. I’m not sure whether he knows what his feet are going to do when he has the ball.
Lacazette cut through on the right – but his final ball was off. But then the Frenchman found his accuracy sending a through ball to Saka who beat McCarthy to hit it into the net at an awkward position.
In the second, the same pattern ensued. Walcott shot hard – but straight at Leno.
Bellerin came in from the right and Pepe took it off the head of Lacazette.
Cedric sent a crossfield pass to Saka who cut in and shot instead of finding Lacazette free in the area.
Ings slalomed through the Arsenal defence but couldn’t beat Leno.
Cedric, who had a good match at his old club, hit another beautiful crossfield ball to Saka who sent a difficult but precise pass on the half volley across the area for Lacazette to touch home.
Luiz had one of his moments, before the end, letting Adams in on goal – but Holding was switched on and cleared.
Saka said: “It was much better. As soon as Alex gets the ball I’m running in behind. We are happy to get the three points. The boss makes everything clear for me and lets me express myself.”
Mikel Arteta said: “We were good from the start and reacted to conceding. Good on the ball. Good in build-up play and our pressing was excellent. And we defended well 3-1 up.
“Pepe was really good. He created moments and scored a goal.
“Saka has been very consistent in different positions. Had a strong performance today.
“It is tough to win here. Teams struggle against them. We showed a lot of intelligence. The message is to be humble and train good.
On taking Smith Rowe off, the Spaniard said beforehand that he decided some players were only going to play some part of the game.
“I’m not going to do that with the young players. They can’t play all 50 games.”
Southampton: 1McCarthy, 18Valery, 35Bednarek, 5Stephens, 29 Vokins (Substituted for Redmond at 67), 32Walcott (Substituted for N’Lundulu at 74), 27Diallo, 8Ward-Prowse, 17Armstrong, 10Adams, 9Ings (Substituted for Watts at 74, Booked at 90)
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín (Booked at 19), 16Holding, 23David Luiz, 17Cédric Soares, 18Partey (Substituted for Elneny at 78), 34Xhaka, 7Saka, 32Smith Rowe (Substituted for Willian at 72), 19Pépé (Booked at 70. Substituted for Willock at 90+2), 9Lacazette.