Olivier Giroud Arsenal Boruc Southampton
Olivier Giroud gets ready to slot in Arsenal's first goal as Suthampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc looks on in horror, November 23. Reuters
Olivier Giroud gets ready to slot in Arsenal's first goal as Suthampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc looks on in horror, November 23. Reuters
Olivier Giroud gets ready to slot in Arsenal's first goal as Suthampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc looks on in horror, November 23. Reuters

Olivier Giroud - what a player he has become for Arsenal. Arguably, the pivotal, most important player in this table-topping team at the moment.

Giroud was at his hard-working, electric best yet again, scoring a brace to lead Arsenal to a 2-0 win over high-flying Southampton and extend their lead at the top of the English Premier League.

The Frenchman opened the scoring in the first half, thanks to an absolute gift from Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who seemed to think he was Johan Cruyff, before calmly slotting in a penalty late on to give Arsenal yet another three points - three points that takes them to 28 from 12 games, four ahead of Liverpool, who were held earlier by Everton to a 3-3 draw.

Theo Walcott was expectedly named on the bench by Arsene Wenger, and would come on late in the game to make his long-awaited comeback.

It was Southampton that made the quicker start, getting off the blocks and looking to take the game to the league leaders.

However, after a few minutes, Arsenal found their stride and they were soon troubling Boruc's goal with increasing regularity.

Jack Wilshere nearly carved a goal for himself out of nowhere, carving a delightful chip out of an impossible angle, with the ball looping over Boruc and hitting the post much to the away side's relief.

Arsenal were in control now and the post would come to Southampton's rescue yet again, this time denying Aaron Ramsey a goal. Mesut Ozil played a neat little cross from the right, with Ramsey, the ball a little behind him, conjuring a brilliant flick with his right foot only for the ball to trickle towards the bottom corner before deciding to hit the base of the post rather than nestle into the net.

The Gunners would get their opening goal, though, and in farcical circumstances - with Boruc deciding to gift-wrap an early Christmas present for the home side. The Saints goalkeeper seemed to suddenly think that he was at home playing on his PS3, deciding to bring out a couple of moves and pirouettes under pressure from Giroud, with the France striker, almost unable to believe what was going on, nipping in, taking the ball and calmly slotting it into an empty net in the 22nd  minute.

Southampton grew into the game after their goalkeeper's error, with newly-minted England internationals Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez coming close.

First, Lallana tested Wojciech Szczesny for the first time in the game with a stinging effort from 20 yards, before Rodriguez crafted a nice chance for himself, forcing Szczesny into a flying save to his right.

As the game went into the second half, the Saints kept looking for the equaliser with Lallana again coming close. Arsenal took their time, like in the first half, to get into their stride, and once they did, they kept coming ever closer to that let's-go-home-with-three-points second goal.

The intricate passing from the Arsenal players was in full view, but that final ball, or that final strike just kept going begging, keeping Southampton in the game.

Walcott would come on in the 70th minute for Cazorla, and looked a threat with his pace on the counter-attack, coming close with a long-ranger.

The second let's-increase-the-lead-at-the-top-goal finally came in the 86th minute, with one of Arsenal's best players this season, turning creator. Jose Fonte decided to take a chunk of Per Mertesacker's shirt rather than concentrate on actually heading the ball while defending a corner, with Mark Clattenburg correctly pointing to the spot.

Giroud stepped up, and without a shadow of a doubt smoked it into the back of the net, sending Boruc the wrong way, to seal Arsenal's 26th, 27th and 28th points of the season.

Results: Everton 3-3 Liverpool; Arsenal 2-0 Southampton; Fulham 1-2 Swansea; Hull 0-1 Crystal Palace; Newcastle 2-1 Norwich; Stoke 2-0 Sunderland; West Ham 0-3 Chelsea.

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