Recap: Arsenal’s stuttering form continued as they were held to a goalless draw by Southampton at the Emirates Stadium to throw their Premier League title chances into further jeopardy. Just as Arsene Wenger’s side were showing signs of being able to take a wide open Premier League title race by the scruff of the neck, they have faulted badly.
Now winless in four Premier League matches, the last three without even scoring a goal, Arsenal have slipped to fourth in the table, behind local rivals Tottenham on goal difference, and five points adrift of leaders Leicester City. And they have dropped exactly five points against Southampton in just over a month, having been humbled 4-0 at St Mary’s on Boxing Day.
On Tuesday they could point to the frustration of being repeatedly denied by an inspired performance of Fraser Forster. Particularly in the second half, the Southampton goalkeeper made a string of fine saves to keep Arsenal’s forwards at bay and make it four clean sheets on the bounce for the England international since he returned from injury.
But this was far from a vintage Arsenal display. Their usual passing rhythm was missing throughout, with the absence of the injured Santi Cazorla felt particularly strongly. Yet the quality of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil meant that when Arsenal did get into the final third, which they did more frequently in the second half, they were able to cause the visitors problems. The breakthrough refused to come, though, as Forster delivered a major to Arsenal’s hopes of ending a 12-year title drought.
Fulltime! Arsenal 0-0 Southampton
A smattering of boos ring out as the final whistle blows. Arsenal couldn’t find a way through Southampton and Fraser Forster, and it’s now four games without a win in the Premier League and three games without scoring a goal. They now drop to fourth place in the Premier League.
90 mins: Six minutes of injury time for Arsenal to find a winner.
89 mins: The frustration is telling on Arsenal now, and Gabriel has brought down the newly arrived Targett to earn a yellow card.
86 mins: And Southampton look to close things down by bringing on Matt Targett for Mane.
85 mins: Arsenal denied again by Forster! Again it’s Sanchez, after combining with Ozil, who sees an effort blocked by the Southampton stopper from close range. Arsenal bring on Francis Coquelin in place of Mathieu Flamini for the closing minutes.
83 mins: Fonte is back out on the pitch, but Arsenal’s momentum has very much been stalled by that injury. Less than eight minutes now to find what could be a vital winner. Meanwhile, Southampton make their second change, bringing on Spanish forward Juanmi in place of Ward-Prowse.
80 mins: Another save from Forster but a more comfortable one this time as he tips over Giroud’s header.
75 mins: A worry for Southampton as key center-back Jose Fonte receives lengthy treatment to a sizable cut to his head. Arsenal are getting frustrated at how long the treatment is taking.
71 mins: Graziano Pelle has come on to replace Tadic, presumably pushing Long out to the flank. Arsenal’s pressure is continuing, though, and this time it’s Ward-Prowse who clears off the line from Sanchez. Will it be one of those nights for Arsenal?
68 mins: Forster, who hasn’t conceded a goal in almost four games now since returning from injury, is putting in a superb display tonight. Three times in a matter of seconds he denies Arsenal, first twice from Walcott, who really should have been different from his initial opportunity, and then from Sanchez.
64 mins: Walcott makes his first contribution, picking out Sanchez with a cross, but he was always going to struggle to seriously threaten the goal from his position. Forster again handles the effort comfortably.
62 mins: Arsenal make their first substitution, and it’s a predictable one. Theo Walcott comes on against the club he left a decade ago, replacing Joel Campbell.
0 mins: If the Arsenal fans weren’t tense enough already, Leicester have just taken the lead against Liverpool. As things stand, Leicester would be five points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.
56 mins: Giroud gets his head to a corner but Forster is able to hold onto it fairly comfortably.
55 mins: Arsenal’s passing from deep continues to be a major problem. It’s now gifted a chance to Southampton, with Gabriel’s ball out of the back going straight to Mane, who should have done better than to shoot straight at Cech. The tension is starting to be audible from the Emirates crowd as their team stares at a fourth straight game without a win.
52 mins: Arsenal have stepped up their intensity at the start of the second half, and they’re putting Southampton under real pressure. The breakthrough continues to elude them, however. This time Ozil’s fine cutback going to waste as nobody in red took a gamble at the near post.
48 mins: Forster pulls out another fine save. Giroud, found by Ramsey in the box, curls a first-time toward the top corner but Forster extends his large frame and tips the ball to safety.
46 mins: Theo Walcott is tapping his feet anxiously on the bench. If the scoreline stays the same surely it can’t be too long before Wenger looks in his direction.
Second Half Kick Off! Arsenal get the match back underway, looking for three points to close the gap at the top of the Premier League.
Halftime! Arsenal 0-0 Southampton
Both sides have had clear chances, with Ozil denied one-on-one by a fine save from Forster and Mane shooting wide when through on goal for Southampton. Arsenal look the more threatening in the final third, especially when Sanchez gets on the ball, but it’s not been a great display from the home side in the opening 45 minutes. There’s a lack of control from Arsenal that Southampton could exploit if they stay solid at the back and take their chances on the break.
45 mins: Arsenal work the ball well down the right to get Campbell in behind, but Southampton are able to get a body in the way to block an effort from Ozil on the turn. That may be the last chance before halftime.
43 mins: Sanchez supplies another fine pass, this time looking for Olivier Giroud. But Jose Fonte gets in the way over the striker’s attempted flick header.
41 mins: A real scare for Arsenal and another example of their lack of cohesion right now. After Arsenal’s defense tried to push out, a header put Sadio Mane through on goal. But under pressure from Gabriel, the Senegal forward shot wide of Cech’s left-hand post.
39 mins: There’s no doubt that the player Arsenal are missing most in this match is Santi Cazorla. Arsenal have quality in the final third, but there are lacking someone who can put their foot on the ball and start dictating play from deeper. It’s all a bit frantic and bitty at the moment.
32 mins: Oriol Romeu, who has been very effective so far in breaking up Arsenal’s attacks, curls a shot over the crossbar of his former Chelsea teammate Cech.
30 mins: Cech is tested for the first time from open play, but it was a very comfortable save. Dusan Tadic was found in space on the edge of the box, yet dallied on the ball and in the end curled a shot tamely into the hands of the Arsenal goalkeeper. At the other end, Forster has been provided similar catching practice as Bellerin wasted a promising attack with a poor cross.
26 mins: Arsenal again look dangerous when their two stars get involved. Again it’s Sanchez feeding Ozil through, but he is well forced wide by the Southampton defense.
21 mins: Huge chance for Arsenal goes begging. Olivier Giroud headed on Hector Bellerin’s cross, and Ozil looked certain to volley in from inside the six-yard box, but Forster spread himself superbly to deny the Germany international at point-blank range.
18 mins: Arsenal enjoy their best spell of pressure so far, yet, while they do look dangerous going forward, there’s still a lack of control being exhibited from the home side as well as some sloppy passing. Campbell has been especially wasteful.
15 mins: Arsene Wenger must be concerned by how much space Southampton are getting on the ball in the early stages. Only a lack of precision in the final third is costing Southampton a chance to test Cech.
12 mins: Arsenal have just sprung to life with a moment of magic from their two world-class attackers. Alexis Sanchez played a gorgeous ball over the top and Mesut Ozil took it down majestically but couldn’t beat Fraser Forster with his low shot.
11 mins: An opening for Southampton on the break, with the visitors exploiting a massive hole in Arsenal’s midfield. A poor touch from Shane Long meant the move broke down, but it’s been a good start for Southampton.
6 mins: Arsenal have just started to get their passing rhythm going, and their best move early on broke down with Joel Campbell’s header toward Olivier Giroud being cut out.
3 mins: Lots of empty seats visible at the Emirates, with fans still filing in to their seats in the early stages. And those that haven’t yet made it in missed a James Ward-Prowse free-kick that swung all the way through and forced Petr Cech to be on alert to palm it wide of his post.
Kickoff! Southampton get the match underway at the Emirates.
2:12 p.m. EST: The lineups are in for both teams. Arsenal start with Gabriel alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of defense, with Per Mertesacker on the bench. Also among the substitutes at the start will be Francis Coquelin, following his return from injury against Burnley on Saturday. Joining him are three Southampton youth products, Theo Walccot, Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers. As for the current Southampton side, Charlie Austin is prevented from making his full debut after suffering a slight knock. Graziano Pellè is only among the substitutes.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 2, 2016
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC)
Preview: After three games without a win, Arsenal will be desperately seeking to get their Premier League title challenge back on track with the visit of Southampton to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday. Arsene Wenger’s side go into the match in third place, three points behind leaders Leicester City, following a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in their last Premier League outing before an FA Cup victory over Burnley on Saturday.
In what is a wide open title race, Arsenal would appear to have their best chance yet of ending their 12-year wait for a championship. Yet doubts continue to hang over the team and their ability to produce the consistency and tough performances required to get over the line. As well as against Chelsea, those question marks grew louder when Arsenal suffered an ignominious 4-0 defeat to Southampton just over a month ago.
Making that result, Arsenal’s largest Premier League defeat of the season, even more stunning, was the fact that it came in the midst of a torrid run for Southampton in which they only gained only one other point in seven matches. That dismal form was a major concern for Southampton and manager Ronald Koeman, who had previously been heralded since taking over in the summer of 2014.
But their performances have picked up in recent weeks, winning three games in a row, all without conceding a goal. Their most recent victory came at Manchester United when new signing Charlie Austin enjoyed a dream debut by coming off the bench to score the only goal. With Graziano Pellè still a fitness doubt, the former Queens Park Rangers striker could now make his first start for his new club on Tuesday.
Arsenal’s sole signing during the January transfer window, Mohamed Elneny, made his bow in their weekend FA Cup fourth-round victory. The match also saw the return from injury of fellow midfielder Francis Coquelin, and he could now make his first Premier League appearance since November. However, Tomas Rosicky, who had his first outing of the season in the 2-1 win over Burnley, has suffered a fresh injury and is now set to be out for several weeks. Danny Welbeck remains short of match fitness.
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