By Richard Clarke at St Mary’s
Arsenal began 2013 with a hard-fought draw at Southampton on New Year’s Day.
The goals came in the first half. Gaston Ramirez fired the home side in front just past the half-hour after Arsenal failed to clear their lines.
However the visitors were level seven minutes later when Theo Walcott’s curling free-kick was touched into his own net by Guly Do Prado.
Southampton pressed well after the break but Arsenal came on strong as we reached the closing stages.
Both sides will claim they might have got more from this game, but they will know they might have got less.
The point sees Arsenal stay fifth.
Before kick-off, Wenger retained the same side that had beaten Newcastle so handsomely at the weekend.
Southampton were in the dropzone but they had become hard to beat in recent weeks.
Nigel Adkins’ side were back in the top flight after seven years away. Just two years ago today they had gone second in League One with a 4-0 home win over Exeter.
How times had changed.
It was all Arsenal at the start. In the opening minutes, Santi Cazorla’s deflected shot drifted just past the far post with Artur Boruc scrambling.
The keeper then fumbled Walcott’s corner and was fortunate an Arsenal player was not lurking at the far post.
Boruc’s problems continued when he spilled a regulation cross from Bacary Sagna.
Arsenal were insistent and in control. They survived a decent penalty appeal when Thomas Vermaelen appeared to clip Maya Yoshida. However, after that, Wilshere set up Podolski on the left of the area only for the German to see his shot blocked.
However gradually Arsenal went off the boil. It was partly of their making though, to be fair, Southampton also rolled up their sleeves.
And, in the 34th minute, the home side found themselves ahead.
The move started when Podolski’s errant ball put Thomas Vermaelen in trouble. He failed to clear and Rickie Lambert tried to set up Jason Puncheon. Again Arsenal attempted to relieve the pressure but they did not make a good enough job of it. The ball eventually fell at the feet of Ramirez just inside the area and he beat Wojciech Szczesny with a low shot.
For a side with the best defensive record away from home in the Premier League, it was a disappointing goal to concede.
Still, to give Arsenal credit, they responded well to going behind.
Suddenly the vigour of the opening minutes returned, however the equaliser was as scrappy as Southampton’s goal.
Puncheon fouled Mikel Arteta on the left and Walcott’s inquisitive free-kick was turned in at the near post by the outstretched leg of Do Prado. It was a poor error by the Brazilian however he might have been influenced by the run of Koscielny just over his shoulder.
Arsenal claimed a penalty late on when the ball hit Jack Cork’s arm but, at the break, parity was a fair reflection of the game.
Southampton started the second half with gusto. Do Prado forced a flying save from Szczesny and, from the corner, the Pole made a smart stop on the line after the ball bounced back off the legs of Bacary Sagna.
Just before the hour, Wenger brought on Olivier Giroud for Podolski and Walcott dropped to the right.
Arsenal were tying to impose their game but Southampton were still a match for them.
Lambert just failed to collect after Szczesny palmed out Morgan Schneiderlin’s near-post shot. Then Puncheon fired into the sidenetting.
With 20 minutes to go, a Ramirez ‘goal’ was rightly chalked off for a push on Koscielny.
After that, Wenger to decided to make a bold double substitution – Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho came on for Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It helped Arsenal get a foothold in the game once more. They started to sustain a little more in attack. Arteta’s powerful effort whistled just wide and Gervinho darted inside before finding the sidenetting.
With three minutes left, Giroud’s headed high into the air when he should have hit the target but Puncheon then forced a strong save from Szczesny.
As we entered injury time, Arsenal were asking all the questions.
However, unfortunately, Southampton always found an answer.
A fair result.
- Vermaelen (C)
- Cazorla 74
- Podolski 58
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 74
- Ramsey 74
- Giroud 58
- Gervinho 74
- Fonte (C)
- Prado 83
- Schneiderlin Yellow Card
- Lambert 74
- Ramirez 77 Goal!
- Rodriguez 74
- Ward-Prowse 77
- Ridder 83