Southampton 2 Arsenal 0
( Mame 34, Tadic 56 )

It was not the Happy New Year Arsenal had been hoping for, but fortunately for Southampton, Wojcech Szczesny was still in the mood for the spirit of giving. The Poland keeper’s two errors proved critical to any hopes that Arsenal had of achieving a third consecutive festive fixture win and in effect put his error strewn game in wider perspective. Does Arsene Wenger now urgently need a new keeper, to add to the blatantly obvious need of a defensive midfielder and a quality central defender? The hosts were eventually worthy of the win, and by rights should’ve had a greater margin of victory, but also they should’ve been reduced to ten men when last man Florin Gados scythed down Alexis Sanchez in the second half. Later, Wenger rightly described Arsenal’s fifth Premier League loss as ” self inflicted,” and that proved to be the difference after the Gunners had dominated for large parts of the game.

“We put a lot of energy into the game and we were quite in control, but it is a self-inflicted defeat. We were ( dominant ) but we couldn’t take our chances. On top of that, we not only couldn’t take them but we gave them chances and that is too much at our level.”

Theo Walcott had his first taste of Premier League action in a year, and against the club where he first came to prominence, was unable to affect the scoreline in the half an hour he played. By then, all of the damage had been done. Saido Mame chased after a long ball and as Szczesny rushed off his line, the Senegal striker curled in from a tight angle, the flight of the ball horribly misjudged by Per Mertersacker with the ball ending up in the net.

Santi Cazorla scuffed a shot from from Tomas Rosicky’s cross from just six yards out, as Fraser Forster held. Arsenal began to get a grip on the game. Another chance went begging when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sliced his effort wide from Cazorla’s cross. The Saints had seen Graziano Pelle head wide earlier on, a chance he should’ve buried, but the let off and warning wasn’t heeded by Wenger’s side.

Desperate in defence, Arsenal couldn’t get going and Szczesny was left exposed and vulnerable. That vulnerability was thrust into the spotlight when Dusan Tadic prodded home from close in after the Arsenal ‘keeper’s feeble clearance was pounced on and punished by the Saints’ midfielder. As in the corresponding fixture in early December at the Emirates, Forster was in excellent form, and his 55th minute save from Sanchez here proved crucial as a minute later Southampton went on to double their advantage.

The defensive dithering spread to the normally solid Laurent Koscielny and his under hit pass saw Mathieu Debuchy head Pelle’s effort off the line.

Having gone behind, it was poor all around by Wenger’s men, who looked to have little in the way of a plan when chances cannot be converted in a game. The Arsenal manager has to find a January transfer window solution, as even with Mesut Özil, Mikel Arteta due to be back from injury next week and Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck also returning, Arsenal seem too far off the pace when they need to dig deep. That much was evident here.