Starting XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Jeff Reine-Adelaide
Arsenal squandered the chance to go top of the Premier League as Southampton secured an impressive 4-0 win at Saint Mary’s.
Cuco Martina’s stunning 25-yard strike gave the home side a deserved lead at half time, Shane Long stroked home a Sadio Mane cross on 55 minutes, Jose Fonte headed home a corner on 69 minutes before Long compounded the Gunners misery deep into stoppage time.
After Leicester’s defeat at Liverpool earlier in the day and the excitement of Monday evening’s win against Manchester City, you might have expected Arsene Wenger’s men to be in confident mood against Ronald Koeman’s out-of-form Saints.
Instead, the Gunners spent the opening 15 minutes loping around the pitch making sloppy passes that hinted at a Christmas Day spent feasting like Augustus Gloop. It set the tone for an abject half.
A chance for Monreal on 13 minutes, created by Giroud flicking on an Ozil cross, was the only noteworthy attack from the visitors before the home side, admittedly out of nothing, broke the deadlock.
Cuco Martina’s strike on 19 minutes was a beauty. Meeting a Mertesacker clearance first time he curled home from 25-yards with the outside of his right-foot. An unsighted Cech dived full length, but he didn’t stand a chance as the ball started outside the post and bent around two defenders into the bottom corner. (1-0)
Arsenal’s response? Well there wasn’t one. Every time we had possession we looked like squandering it. And we regularly did exactly that. Mertesacker and Koscielny were particularly culpable on the ball as Southampton pressed the midfield and forced the Gunners defence to make hurried passes.
A nearly anonymous Walcott switched flanks with the ineffective Campbell and did produce one run that ended with a tepid shot on 37 minutes. Two minutes later he should have scored from an Ozil corner but his half-hearted effort clipped the side netting even though he was completely unmarked.Second half
Southampton twice came close to doubling their lead in the early stages of the second half. First Bellerin did well to squeeze Ward-Prowse out of action as a cross was fed across the six-yard box. Van Dijk then had a headed goal disallowed for offside as Cech flapped at a free-kick. It was a close call, but ultimately the correct decision by the linesman.
We didn’t heed the warning and not long after the home side netted their second. In full self-destruct mode the Gunners gave the ball away deep in the Saints half and, with full-backs up the pitch, were sprung on the break by Mane and Long. The former bound down the right wing and found the Irish international at the back post, who having tripped Koscielny in the build up, was unmarked to stroke the ball home from close range. On the touchline Arsene Wenger was apoplectic with rage, whether it was with his team or the referee was tough to tell. (2-0)
Arsenal faffed around for 13 minutes then Southampton scored a third. A corner that shouldn’t have been given was whipped into the near post and Jose Fonte rose highest to bullet home a header from three-yards out. (3-0)
Wenger made changes, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers and Alex Iwobi coming on for Flamini, Campbell and Walcott, but nothing changed. Ozil, who was kept quiet all match, did nearly reduce the deficit on 79 minutes before Long hit the post as the Saints searched for a fourth in the closing stages. Deep into stoppage time Long did bag his second. Bursting through an absent Arsenal defence he smashed home low through Cech’s legs.
Pathetic. Doleful. Wretched. Ridiculous. Frustrating. Tonight’s performance was all of those things. If our last visit saw Wojciech turn to fags in the shower, you suspect crack might be in order this time. Fucking hell.