Southampton 2 Arsenal 2
(Fonte 21, Lallana 54, Giroud 48, Cazorla 52)

Arsenal missed out on the chance to open up a four point lead at the Premiership summit as Southampton brought the Gunners winning run to a halt at St.Mary’s stadium by deservedly holding out for a point against the Premiership leaders. Jose Fonte gave the home side a half time lead in controversial circumstances. Olivier Giroud restored parity three minutes after the restart, with Santi Cazorla putting Arsenal ahead for the first time after 52 minutes. The Gunners however were unable to hold onto their lead and got caught by Adam Lallana levelling for Southampton a mere two minutes after they had fallen behind. Searching for a winner, the Gunners were dramatically reduced to ten men on 80 minutes when a two footed lunge by Mathieu Flamini on Morgan Schneiderlin completed Arsenal’s not so profitable night on the south coast.

Arsene Wenger acknowledged that Arsenal had a poor opening 45 minutes, but accepted that Southampton gave his side a thorough examination and almost passed with flying colours. The stark contrast remained between both halves however, the Gunners not firing until they were put under pressure. The home side never let Arsenal settle and already had seen teenager Sam Gallagher almost capitalise in Nacho Monreal’s defensive slip. That seemed to be the Saints’ tactic, to pressure the Arsenal left back and after 21 minutes, and from the same avenue of attack, they took the lead.

Luke Shaw sent over a deep cross. Szczesny was indecisive, and with Fonte bundling into the back of Monreal with a header, to beat the Arsenal ‘ keeper at his near post. That was not in Wenger’s script, and his sides earthly lethargy was not boding well for the Gunners on a rain sodden pitch. When they finally mustered a shot in anger, Laurent Koscileny’s shot from Mesut Özil’s corner was kept out by Artur Boruc as the half drew to a close.

Wenger must have revealed a few home truths in the interval, as three minutes after the restart, Arsenal equalised. Playing with more conviction and purpose, Arsenal attacked. Bacary Sagna recovered Monreal’s wayward cross and hit low and hard with Giroud cleverly back heeling into Boruc’s net.

That key ingredient, confidence re-emerged into the Gunners play and on 52 minutes, Arsenal went ahead. Özil passed into the path of Cazorla whose arrowed low shot fizzed past Boruc’s dive for a 2-1 lead.

That old adage of being vulnerable having just scored held true here as the Saints came marching back. The Gunners’ defence, hitherto the bedrock in recent games, was lost as Jay Rodriguez muscled his way from Shaw’s cross, Lallana competing the sweeping move to score past Szczesny.

Their football had merited that leveller, but Wenger’s side had contributed to that with their lack of focus. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Arsenal went in search of the winner and came close when Özil took Cazorla’s pass and ran past the Saints’ defence to craft a chipped shot over Boruc, but agonisingly onto the bar. Monreal then squandered a shot horribly wide yellow, with yellow shirts in the box and Szczesny had to be alert to late efforts by Shaw and Fonte.

Wenger later reflected, on a lacklustre first half by his side.

“We had some problems to get into the pace of the game. In the second half it was much better but after when we had to push on for the third goal we were down to ten men so we had a least to go home with a point.

” I don’t want to look for any excuses. We played in second gear and Southampton were in fourth. They played at a higher pace than us, they decided to stop us from playing, they did it very well but it’s difficult to maintain what they did for 90 minutes and during the season but they did it very well in the first half. ”

Arsenal are now two points clear at the top, but Manchester City and Chelsea will seek to take advantage of the Gunners dropped points, when they play on Wednesday, away at Spurs and at home to West Ham respectively.