Belfast Telegraph

United defeat to blame for Arsenal's slow start at Saints, says Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal defenders were suffering a hangover from the defeat to Manchester United as they started sluggishly at Southampton on Sunday.

Charlie Austin fired the hosts ahead in just the third minute, capitalising on a lackadaisical start from the Gunners back line.

Skipper Per Mertesacker returned to the starting line-up with Shkodran Mustafi injured and the German gifted possession to Austin, who exchanged passes with Dusan Tadic to give Saints the lead.

Arsenal rallied late on to earn a point as substitute Olivier Giroud headed home with two minutes remaining, but a point leaves Wenger's men outside the top four heading into the midweek fixtures.

Wenger conceded after the game that the 3-1 loss to United last weekend was still on the minds of his players when the game at St Mary's got under way.

"I felt that the Manchester United game played a bit of a part in the head of our defenders," he said.

"It was a bit in their head and they were a bit apprehensive to start well again and that's why it is sometimes not good to talk about the problem because you create a bigger one.

"I'm not happy with the point because I wanted three, but if you cannot win it, don't lose it and we kept going.

"We were relentless, after a difficult start we were caught cold and overall it was a windy, rainy afternoon against a team who played well and were quick on the counter-attack."

Wenger was also unhappy with what he perceived as time-wasting from Southampton as they looked to see the game out in the latter stages - specifically when his side were prevented from taking a quick free-kick in the last minute.

"I must say I am very frustrated as in the second half there was a lot of time-wasting," he added.

"Especially on the final ball on the counter-attack, it is very frustrating to give the advantage to the guy who had the foul because we were not only called back.

"We were three against one but we played it quick and the referee called the ball back without any reason and that was a huge advantage for Southampton in the final minute."

Saints would have moved into the top half of the table if they could have held on for the win but, despite being disappointed with the late equaliser, manager Mauricio Pellegrino was happy with the performance.

"It's part of the game, we know that a team with quality like Arsenal, in one action they can create problems but we played a good game," he told BT Sport.

"We have to draw our positive conclusion. We create chances and we compete really well and we have to be happy with this.

"We are obviously disappointed because we conceded at the end, we were really close to winning the game, but the most important thing for us is our game."

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