Southampton run riot with 4-0 win over 'invisible' Arsenal
Unfortunately, Arsenal players refused to show up. In a performance filled with industry, creativity and verve, Southampton first pricked, then probed, and eventually dismantled an Arsenal team that finally showed the strains of missing Alexis Sanchez.
Despite dominating possession throughout the game, Arsenal remained defensively jittery and failed to create enough threatening chances against a Southampton team that had lost five of its last six games. The first goal by right-back Cuco Martina - a 30-yard screamer on the 19th minute - shocked the Gunners and after that the longer the game went without Arsenal equalizing, the more Southampton pushed forward.
This was a shadow of the Arsenal team that beat Manchester City in their previous game and with several key players going missing, Southampton turned the screw in the second half, scoring through Shane Long and Jose Fonte by the 70th minute to wrap up the game.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to criticize his own players, instead blaming the referee Jon Moss for Southampton's first three goals. Wenger had complained about an offside in the buildup to the first goal, a foul by Shane Long before the second and an erroneously awarded corner on the third. It did the manager no favors, but at the very least he did not turn on his own players who were the most culpable on Saturday evening.
"I must say they were sharper than us in the tackles. We can not master the referees decisions but we can master our behaviour." #SFCvAFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) December 26, 2015
When told about Wenger's criticism of the referee, Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was quick to put the record straight:
“Only the first three? He didn’t say anything about the fourth goal? If you lose 4-0 and you talk about the referee – it’s not my away of analyzing a football match. It was not about the referee tonight.”
Long scored the fourth goal in the second minute of injury time, but by then Arsenal had mentally checked out of the game. Arsenal is still in second place in the league table, two points behind leaders Leicester who also lost, albeit away to Liverpool. Wins for Manchester City and Tottenham help move them to within three and six points of Leicester respectively, while Crystal Palace moved into fifth place ahead of Manchester United.
With Leicester hosting Manchester City next, Arsenal will have another shot at going top of the league table on Monday when it hosts Bournemouth. However, in a season full of topsy-turvy results and upsets, nothing is guaranteed until May.