However much they may try, there is no escaping the memory of George Graham for the Highbury club. It is not just because of a bulging trophy cabinet or cheeky fly-overs by the disgraced manager's book publishers. For all the new-found flair, reminders of Graham's influence remain right there before their eyes on the pitch, as surely as if a statue in his honour had been erected in the centre circle.
The Arsenal defence was so well drilled down the years by Graham that, when the captain, Tony Adams, was sent off with 35 minutes remaining, their survival was never an issue. Similarly, it is not often an opposing manager opens his press conference by discussing the virtues of the other side when his own team have just been frustrated. Dave Merrington, the Southampton manager, was full of admiration for what he considered a "rock- solid" performance by the Arsenal defence.
Foundations on which to mount a genuine championship challenge? Not as long as they struggle to cover for the absence of either Ian Wright or Dennis Bergkamp. A fortnight ago at Tottenham they were left wanting by Wright's suspension. With Bergkamp injured last week and away on international duty with the Netherlands this week, John Hartson had been given an extended run and the chance to justify his worth as Britain's most expensive teenager at pounds 2.5m. At the moment his former club, Luton, would appear to have had the better of the deal.
The relative ease with which the 10 men earned their point said as much about Southampton's lack of invention as Arsenal's discipline. For that, the Saints could partly blame Martin Keown. Matt Le Tissier has not scored in eight games now against the Gunners, the last six of which can be explained by Keown's suffocating presence. "We don't think he likes that," Bruce Rioch, Arsenal's manager, said.
What must have been particularly disconcerting for Merrington was that when Adams was dismissed for a blatant professional foul on Neil Shipperley and Keown dropped into the back four, Le Tissier was still unable to make any impact.
Since hitting a hat-trick on the opening day of the season, Le Tissier has scored only one Premiership goal. His form has gone into limbo along with his England career and, if one did not know better, one would suggest that the two are connected. But then, if he had any real ambition, he would have left Southampton long ago.
Southampton (4-4-1-1): Beasant; Dodd, Hall, Monkou, Benali (Watson, 85); Heaney (Oakley, 69), Venison, Magilton, Charlton; Le Tissier; Shipperley. Substitute not used: Maddison.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, Adams, Winterburn; Keown, Platt, Jensen, Merson; Wright, Hartson (Clarke, 59). Substitutes not used: Linighan, Dickov.
Referee: P Danson (Leicester).
Sending-off: Arsenal: Adams.
Bookings: Arsenal: Winterburn, Merson, Keown, Bould. Southampton: Le Tissier.
Man of the match: Merson.
Attendance: 15,238.Reuse content