Belfast Telegraph

Southampton fly high and Arsene Wenger suffers a verbal volley

By Glenn Moore

Southampton's players were allowed a glass of wine on New Year's Eve, but it was Arsene Wenger who was left with a headache after this match.

This was supposed to be the day his Arsenal side reasserted the old order, putting Southampton in their place as they had West Ham on Sunday.

Instead, they were undone by a defensive performance so catastrophic that Saints' manager Ronald Koeman was left lamenting his own team's failure to score "three or four goals" from "seven, eight, nine big chances".

Two were enough. Though scored by Saido Mané and Dusan Tadic, the responsibility for both lay with Arsenal's defence, especially goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny.

For the first he went walkabout, for the second he panicked. Not that he was alone. In this injury-hit season Arsenal have rarely fielded a first-choice back four. To judge by the way the quartet performed at St Mary's that may be a blessing. As well as the two goals, Graziano Pelle hit the post twice, James Ward-Prowse spurned two fine chances and between errors, Szczesny made some good saves.

It was not all one-way traffic. With Alexis Sanchez as sublime as ever Arsenal created opportunities of their own and should have scored first. "There are regrets because it is a self-inflicted defeat," said Wenger.

"We had chances, we were in control, then we made mistakes that allowed them to win the game."

Victory meant Southampton maintained their place in the top four. Not that Koeman could be persuaded that this win meant they were heading for the Champions League.

"This result [only ] shows we can beat a big team like Arsenal," he said adding that having lost to both Manchester clubs, drawing with Chelsea on Sunday was important psychologically.

"After that, the players had the belief they could win a big game."

Wenger's miserable start to 2015 was compounded by an exchange with a fan who had wandered in front of the technical area and remonstrated with the Arsenal bench.

Southampton officials believe he may have been an Arsenal fan who was sitting in a home area, and wanted to moan at Wenger. As he was arrested, the truth should soon emerge.

"He was not aggressive at all," said Wenger, which did not seem the case from video footage.

But the fan, who was eventually dragged away by security, is the least of Wenger's headaches.

SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Alderweireld, Fonte, Gardos (Yoshida, 71 mins), Bertrand, S Davis, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Mane (Reed, 42 mins), Tadic (Long, 84 mins), Pelle 6. Subs not used: K Davis, Isgrove, McCarthy, Targett

Goals: Mane 34, Tadic 56

ARSENAL: Szczesny, Debuchy (Akpom, 83 mins), Mertesakcer, Koscielny, Gibbs, Chambers (Walcott, 60 mins), Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosick, Cazorla, Sanchez. Subs not used: Martinez, Campbell, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Monreal

Man of the match: Steve Davis

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Craig Pawson

Attendance: 31,492

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