Match report: Own goal gifts lethargic Arsenal a point against Southampton

Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

St. Mary's

Modern-day 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 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 Christmas 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.

There were five survivors from the Southampton team that started that match. Only one, Jose Fonte, was a defender, though his partner at centre-half Maya Yoshida made his English debut as a shell-shocked substitute in that match. 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 very 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. This was Walcott’s first intervention of note. The match had been billed as the first return of him and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the club that nurtured them. When Gareth Bale, another former Saint, came back with Spurs in October he scored in their victory and Saints fans naturally feared a repeat. But though there were signs of Walcott’s recent tutelage by Thierry Henry in the way he lurked behind the back four, several yards offside, as Henry used to, he was given no opportunities to run at or beyond the defence. After an hour he was switched to the wing, Podolski hauled off and Olivier Giroud introduced.

By then Saints had gone close to regaining the lead. After Guly had drawn an athletic save from Szczesny the resultant corner rebounded goalwards off Sagna’s knee only to be gathered, just, by Szczesny. Though Walcott, receiving the ball somewhat fortuitously, tested Boruc’s handling with a 20-yard shot midway through the half Arsenal lacked threat. Their passing was sloppy and had no zip.

While Adkins brought on Jay Rodriguez and James Ward-Prowse, Wenger added Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey to the mix. Gervinho scored twice against Southampton in the 6-1 win but that was when his confidence was high and it looked as if he was finally blossoming. He is a shadow of that player now and provoked jeers as he lost possession and was then left on his backside as he tried to recover it.

Szczesny made a couple of regulation saves as Southampton strove to capitalise on Arsenal’s wan performance. Puncheon tricked his way past a pair of defenders but shot straight at the keeper. In the 90th minute Arsenal belatedly released Gibbs on the overlap, but Yoshida cleared his cross and Arsenal’s hopes of a winning start to the year disappeared.

No loan deal for Henry, says Wenger

Arsenal's record goalscorer, Thierry Henry, will not be returning to the club on loan this month, Arsène Wenger confirmed yesterday.

The 35-year-old, who scored 228 goals in 337 games for the Gunners and now plies his trade with New York Red Bulls in the US, returned to the Emirates on a short-term loan this time last year and had been lined up for a similar move this January.

"I think he goes away somewhere," Wenger said. "He is not ready, he has just come back from holiday anyway. At the moment we are not on that case."

Asked for clarification, he said: "No [it's not happening]." However, Wenger said he would be "active" in the transfer market. "We want to strengthen the squad if we find the right players."

As for tonight's draw, Wenger added: "Our game lacked purpose, penetration, speed; all the qualities we have usually.

"It is two points lost but we did not deserve more when you look at our performance. We did not create a lot. We have big games coming up and need to analyse why."

Reflecting on the contrast between this game and the reverse fixture in September, when Arsenal won 6-1, the Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins, said: "We got a hiding there. This shows how far we have come. There is a growing maturity about the players. Tactically we were bang on today."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor