By Josh James at Emirates Stadium

Summary

Arsenal lost more ground at the top of the table after finding Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster in excellent form at Emirates Stadium.

Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were all kept at bay by the England man, while James Ward-Prowse also cleared an Alexis Sanchez shot off the line.

Despite piling on the pressure in the second half, Arsenal could not force a winner, making it four league games without victory.

On a night when the other title contenders all won, it was a damaging result for the Gunners.

Setting the scene

After taking two points from the last available nine, the Gunners were hoping Saturday's FA Cup win would be the springboard to an upturn in league form.

Arsène Wenger made seven changes to the side which beat Burnley at the weekend, reverting to a similar line up which had been on duty for the last league game - the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Per Mertescaker was available again after suspension, but Gabriel started alongside captain Laurent Koscielny, while Alexis Sanchez replaced Theo Walcott for his first league start since November.

Francis Coquelin was back on the bench after starting against Burnley three days earlier.

Southampton, by contrast, had the weekend off, and hadn’t played since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford 10 days ago. That was Southampton's third successive win - all without conceding.

On the date when they celebrate Groundhog Day in America, Arsenal were keen to ensure there was no repeat of the last meeting with the Saints - a 4-0 defeat on the south coast on Boxing Day.

First half

It had been a while since Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Alexis had all been in the same starting XI, but the trio linked up well early on.

The first real chance fell to Ozil, whose delightful first touch cushioned a long pass from Alexis, but his low finish was straight at Forster.

In truth though the opening 20 minutes was mainly a case of the two teams tentatively sounding each other out, with neither side able to stamp their authority on the game.

Arsenal's best route through seemed to be from wide areas, and one testing cross from the right almost brought the opener.

Giroud headed the ball on and Ozil seemed destined to score after ghosting in behind the visiting defence, only to be denied by a point-blank Forster save.

Aside from a couple of half-hearted appeals for penalties, there was little other action of note in the Southampton box, while at the other end Oriol Romeu curled a long-distance shot over the bar.

As the half-time whistle approached, Ozil was again in the thick of the action. Joel Campbell tricked his way into the box and cut the ball back for the German, but he was unable to get a shot away and the danger was cleared.

Second half

Forster was proving a difficult man to beat, and he pulled off another fine save after the restart. A quick break from Aaron Ramsey and Giroud looked to have fizzled out on the edge of the box, but Ramsey managed to force the ball through to the striker, whose right-footed effort seemed bound for the top corner, before Forster's intervention.

Ozil saw his dangerous cutback from the byline elude everyone after combining well with Alexis.

The game was starting to open up.

Sadio Mane seized on a loose ball before tamely shooting at Petr Cech, while Giroud's header was collected low down by Forster.

Walcott was introduced against his old team and he had a great chance to break the deadlock.

After some more Ozil magic on the left flank, he burst into the box and the ball eventually landed at the feet of an unmarked Walcott. However after steadying himself he could only shoot at Forster's feet.

The keeper then smothered Alexis's header before Koscielny nodded a great chance just over from close range.

The Gunners were piling on the pressure, and then went closer still. Alexis smashed goalwards, finally beating Forster, only to see Ward-Prowse block the shot on the line.

Arsenal kept pressing. Alexis and Ozil exchanged passes in the area, setting up a chance for the former, but the resilient Southampton defence cleared their lines once again.

As the fourth official signaled six minutes stoppage time, Ramsey tried his luck from 20 yards, but it lacked venom.

It was not to be Arsenal's night.

Arsenal

33
Cech
18
Monreal
6
Koscielny (C)
24
Bellerin
5
Gabriel Yellow Card
11
Ozil
8
Ramsey
7
Campbell 62
20
Flamini 85
7
Alexis
12
Giroud

Substitutes

3
Gibbs
13
Ospina
34
Coquelin 85 Yellow Card
15
Oxlade-Chamberlain
21
Chambers
4
Mertesacker
14
Walcott 62

Southampton

1
Forster
6
Fonte (C)
21
Bertrand
2
Alves Soares Yellow Card
17
van Dijk
12
Wanyama
14
Romeu Vidal
16
Ward-Prowse 82
11
Tadic 69
19
Mane 86
7
Long

Substitutes

15
Martina
20
Jimenez Lopez 82
3
Yoshida
4
Clasie
22
Stekelenburg
33
Targett 86
19
Pelle 69
Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
2 Feb 2016