Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Southampton 2 Arsenal 2

Arsenal’s arrival at St Mary’s last night was delayed by heavy traffic and, having been stuck in first gear for most of the match, their Premier League title challenge duly stalled.

With Mathieu Flamini deservedly shown a straight red card and Southampton producing an excellent performance, Arsène Wenger reasoned that this was ultimately a point gained but both Chelsea and Manchester City now have the opportunity to move above them on Wednesday night.

Even more significant, Arsenal are facing a potential selection crisis in central midfield at this most critical stage of the season.

Flamini will be automatically suspended for four matches, missing the fixtures against Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Manchester United and then the FA Cup tie against Liverpool that has been put back to Sunday Feb 16.

Aaron Ramsey has suffered a recurrence to his thigh injury and, although Arsenal have rejected initial fears that he will be out for up to six weeks, Wenger still acknowledged that it was a “massive blow”.

Ramsey will be assessed again on Wednesday and, with Jack Wilshere missing on Tuesday night due to an ankle injury but potentially back on Sunday, Wenger now wants to add to his squad before the closure of the transfer window on Friday.

“I hope we will have something to tell you,” he said.

Negotiations are ongoing over Germany forward Julian Draxler but, unless Schalke are willing to lower his current £37.8 million valuation, a deal remains more likely in the summer.

With a daunting fixture schedule looming in February and March, this week had represented a major opportunity for Arsenal to consolidate their lead at the top of the Premier League and, although they did rally after half-time last night, an insipid first-half performance ultimately proved costly.

For the first 40 minutes, Southampton were utterly dominant and, in front of their owner and new chairman Katharina Liebherr, they actually produced arguably their best passage of football all season.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino described it as “sensational, total football”, with Arsenal initially in the unfamiliar position of being reduced to just 30 per cent of possession.

The energy of Jack Cork, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana, Steven Davis and Jay Rodriguez was especially striking, while Serge Gnabry was repeatedly pinned back by Luke Shaw.

Southampton took a fully deserved lead in the 21st minute and it was Shaw’s excellence on the left flank that provided the spark. He showed both pace and strength in sprinting past Gnabry, with his high cross seeming to completely disorientate Wojciech Szczesny.

Jose Fonté had crept forward from centre-back and, despite Wenger’s appeal for a foul, he showed more desire in towering over Nacho Monreal to guide his header between Szczesny and the inside of the post. It could, and really should, have then been 2-0 by half-time. Davis illustrated the hunger of the Southampton players by charging down Monreal’s clearance.

The loose ball squirmed back along Arsenal’s six-yard box but Sam Gallagher, on an otherwise encouraging full debut as Southampton’s main central striker, miscued his finish wide of both Szczesny and the far post.

Wenger had lingered by the tunnel as his players left the pitch at half-time and looked utterly disgusted with the performance. It can only be safely assumed that harsh words were exchanged at half-time and, within three minutes of the restart, Southampton’s lead was wiped out.

Bacary Sagna muscled his way in front of Rodriguez down Arsenal’s right and his cross was deftly flicked past Artur Boruc by Olivier Giroud. Another four minutes later and Arsenal were suddenly 2-1 in front.

Mesut Özil had finally got into the game and his pass across the edge of the penalty area was cleverly dummied by Giroud to allow Santi Cazorla to send a slightly soft finish past Boruc.

The tide seemed to have decisively turned but Southampton were again level within seconds of the restart. Shaw’s pass allowed Rodriguez to get behind Sagna and he showed a calm head to pick a late run from Lallana, who guided his finish past Szczesny. Neither team was satisfied with a point and a flurry of chances followed. Özil went closest when his attempted shot deflected off Fonte and onto the crossbar.

Arsenal, though, found themselves reduced to 10 men for the final 11 minutes after Flamini’s reckless two-footed challenge on Schneiderlin. Wenger claimed that the sending off was “harsh”, making the unconvincing argument that his player had got the ball and that, although both feet were off the ground, “it was not a violent tackle”.

It might still have cost Arsenal, with Szczesny ultimately rescuing a point with wonderful late saves from Shaw and Fonte.

“You want the three points in every game but it is a difficult game,” said Wenger, “it is a difficult point but a fair point in a very good football game.”

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