Arsenal slip to fourth place after Southampton stalemate
21:40 02 February 2016
Arsenal 0 Southampton 0
Arsenal lost further ground in the Premier League title race after failing to find the net for the third game in a row.
The Gunners were frustrated by a string of fine saves from Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster and slid to fourth place in the table after their scoreless draw at the Emirates.
A goal from distance – scored by full-back Cuco Martina – had started the rot when the Saints thrashed Arsenal on Boxing Day, and the pattern was almost repeated when Petr Cech scrambled an early free-kick from James Ward-Prowse around the post.
But the home side soon began to threaten as well, with Alexis Sanchez floating a pass from the halfway line to find Mesut Ozil, whose control was breathtaking as he brought it down to fire a shot at Forster.
The Saints keeper was equal to the task soon afterwards, foiling Ozil again as he latched onto Olivier Giroud’s knockdown with a close-range volley.
Southampton, who looked on top in the battle for midfield supremacy, also had chances, with Oriol Romeu’s effort grazing the roof of the net and Sadio Mane scuffing wide after taking advantage of the Gunners’ square back four.
Arsenal made the brighter start to the second half, with Forster pulling off another classy save to push Giroud’s volley behind and Sanchez and Ozil combining again to set up an inviting chance that nobody arrived to finish off.
At the other end, Mane should have done much better when Hector Bellerin’s error presented him with a run at goal, but he could only stab tamely towards Cech.
The home side sent on one of their ex-Southampton trio, Theo Walcott, and the England international almost made an immediate impact with a cross that found the head of Sanchez.
But Forster dived to smother the chance – and then denied Walcott with a smart double stop a few minutes later before clawing away yet another Sanchez header that was creeping towards the far post.
The Gunners continued to pour forward and Sanchez had another attempt cleared off the line by Ward-Prowse, while Forster came to his side’s rescue again by turning Giroud’s header over the bar.
Despite six minutes of added time, there was no way through for Arsenal, who now find themselves five points off top spot and – whisper it quietly – behind neighbours Tottenham as well.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Flamini (Coquelin 85); Campbell (Walcott 62), Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.