Mauricio Pochettino hailed the character and togetherness of his side after they held Premier League leaders Arsenal to a thrilling 2-2 draw at St Mary’s.

Saints dominated the Gunners in a brilliant first half and took a deserved lead through Jose Fonte, playing his first game since the Dani Osvaldo incident that has seen the Italian suspended for two weeks.

Arsenal hit back with two goals in the space of four minutes early in the second half but Saints responded with Adam Lallana equalising.

After a troubled time away from the field the performance and the result was yet another show of unity from Pochettino’s men.

The delighted manager said: “My speech never changes – we are a team and that’s the most important thing, that we behave and that we perform as a team.

“The main point as well is that there is nobody above the team.

“The most important thing is that the team is the prime focus.”

He added: “I thought the team was outstanding.

“I thought we had a sensational first half, we did really well, we were playing total football.

“In the second half we didn’t start so well, we conceded two quick goals that allowed a great team such as Arsenal to get back into the game.

“I would also highlight we were able to get back into the game after we conceded those two goals.

“The team showed amazing character and competitive spirit and I think in the end we deserved a bit more from this game – we actually deserved to win this game.”

Much of the focus was of course on Fonte.

His return to the side could barely have been spectacular, scoring the goal and forcing Wojciech Szczesny into a fantastic late save to prevent Saints from bagging a winner.

Pochettino was asked whether Fonte’s goal was especially pleasing after recent events but again was keen to talk about the unity in the squad, a sure sign his swift and decisive action on Osvaldo has kept the dressing room behind him after what could have been a very divisive issue.

“I’m happy for all the players that score,” he said.

“I’m happy for all the players in an individual sense when they perform well as they always do.

“We have a great group here, we have a great team here and there are sensational players and also sensational people.

“We are really pleased with the group we have here because it’s working really well.”