Modern footballers tend to behave themselves on New Year's Eve so Arsenal did not even have the excuse of a hangover for a disjointed, insipid display at St Mary's yesterday which left them four points adrift of the Champions League places and raised further doubts about their chances of winning a trophy any time soon.
The Gunners scored seven goals against Newcastle on Saturday but could manage only one shot on target here, and that not until the 78th minute. Fortunately for them, Guly Do Prado had already provided an own goal to cancel out Gaston Ramirez's 34th-minute opener and at least secure them a draw.
The point was enough to lift Saints out of the bottom three but those home supporters who roared with delight at the final whistle may reflect in time that this was two points dropped rather than one gained, so abysmal were Arsenal. Since Southampton had played four games over the Christmas period to Arsenal's three, fatigue could not be the reason. Maybe complacency was after the 7-3 defeat of Newcastle and the fact that Arsenal had thrashed Saints 6-1 at the Emirates in September.
Southampton have learnt a lot about life in the top flight since that day and with one exception looked far more assured. The odd man out was Artur Boruc, surprisingly recalled by Nigel Adkins for his first match since becoming embroiled in an altercation with Saints fans on his home debut in October. The goalkeeper had missed 11 matches and he looked extremely rusty, spilling Arsenal's first two crosses. There were ironic cheers when the Pole caught the next one. "Artur has been impressive in training," said Adkins. "Experienced goalkeepers respond to mistakes and he didn't let that affect him."
The first half-hour passed with little incident, but then Saints pressed Lukas Podolski and the German attempted a rash pass back towards Laurent Koscielny. Morgan Schneiderlin stole the ball and, though Bacary Sagna cut out his intended pass to Rickie Lambert, the defender could clear only as far as Jason Puncheon, who cleverly laid the ball back to Ramirez. The Uruguayan, technically the equal of anyone on the pitch, calmly swept it through a crowd past Wojciech Szczesny.
The lead lasted just seven minutes. Mikel Arteta lured Puncheon into conceding a free-kick. Walcott whipped it in and Guly diverted the ball past Boruc as he attempted to clear. It was Southampton's third own goal for Arsenal this season after scoring two at the Emirates.