Gunners' Christmas crumble: 4 tactical observations from Southampton 4-0 Arsenal

Saints blast away the visitors from North London, if benefiting from several refereeing decisions...

Arsenal went into the game unchanged in formation and personnel for the fourth game in a row. However, they met stubborn opposition in the Saints, in desperate need of a win less they get dragged into battles at the bottom of the league, and without a victory in their last six matches.

Things started well for the hosts, after a goal of the season contender from Cuco Martina making his first start of the season. And a typically pesky prformance from Shane Long meant that the Gunners' momentum was checked following their last victory over Manchester City.

1. Mesut Ozil restricted by Wanyama

A dominant display from Southampton's midfield two helped the Saints to stop Arsenal creating. Victor Wanyama was the most effecive leading the way in both tackles and ball recoveries as he swept up in front of the defence. Such was the Kenyan's form, assisted by Jordy Clasie and later Oriol Romeu, that the Saints defence was hardly stretched by Arsenal's attackers, limiting the opposition to four shots on target all game. Wanyama has been linked with the Gunners, and tonight's showing will have only impressed Arsene Wenger further.

2. Pressing high? Not today

Arsenal are renowned for high-tempo play and intense pressing, but they were unable to win the ball high up the pitch against the Saints. In fact, only once did they win the ball in the second half as the home side were able to advance up the pitch unimpeded. Perhaps the Gunners' attackers felt jaded, or perhaps it was the nous of the home side's defensive players, either way, Arsenal did not push forward enough.

3. Little penetration from the wings

With Mesut Ozil restricted by constant harassment from the likes of Clasie, Wanyama and Ryan Bertand, the onus was on Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell and Aaron Ramsey to create chances if not finish them. Unfortunately for the North Londoners, none of their side could rise to the occasion, while Giroud and Ozil were effectively muzzled by Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for the last half an hour but his effect was also minimal, despite playing against his former club.

4. Defence occupied by Long

The Waspish Shane Long put in a typically pest-like shift up front, occupying both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Two goals were good reward for his industrious work, although his first strike could have been chalked off as it involved a trip on Koscielny, and raises questions about both how the Gunners' central defence counters pace (Mertesacker made few interceptions and tackles today), and whether another defensive midfielder is needed. Victor Wanyama could be worth a look.

Match facts

  • Arsenal have lost 2 successive league meetings with Southampton for the first time since April 1988.
  • Prior to Southampton’s 2 league wins against Arsenal in 2015, Saints had won just 2 of their last 26 league meetings with the Gunners (W2 D9 L15).
  • Cuco Martina was the first player from Curaçao to score a Premier League goal - 93 different nationalities have now scored in the competition.
  • Arsenal have conceded 5 Premier League goals from outside the box in 2015/16 so far; 2 more than in the whole of 2014/15 (3).
  • Sadio Mane has 6 assists in 18 Premier League appearances this season; twice as many as he had in 30 Premier League games last season (3).
  • Shane Long has scored 5 and assisted 2 more goals in his last 7 Premier League starts for Southampton.
  • This was Arsenal’s heaviest Premier League defeat since a 0-6 away reverse at Chelsea in March 2014.

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