Southampton climbed out of the relegation zone with a 1–1 draw against visiting Arsenal at St. Mary’s Stadium in the late New Year’s Day kickoff.
The Saints were the better side and deserved the win. The Gunners were coming in on a four-game winning streak and had just struck Newcastle for seven goals, but their effort was lacking and they didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half.
Arsenal had trounced Southampton 6–1 earlier in the campaign, but they can thank the near-side linesman for calling a foul on Gaston Ramirez prior to him scoring what would have been the winning goal in today’s match.
It was a third straight draw for Southampton, who last competed in the Premier League in the 2004–2005 season. After the busy festive season in which they played 4 games in 11 days, the Premier League newcomers have 18 points after 20 games.
For Arsenal, they failed to keep pace with surging Tottenham, who beat Reading 3–1 earlier in the day. The Gunners do have a match in hand since they didn’t play on Boxing Day, but they have to see the draw as two points dropped despite their lack of enterprise.
The match kicked off with an early spell of Arsenal pressure in which Southampton keeper Artur Boruc looked shaky as he failed to properly catch a couple of balls.
But the Saints established control of the midfield and a comedy of errors in the Arsenal midfield and defense gave the hosts the lead in the 35th minute.
Lukas Podolski, coming off a terrific performance against Newcastle in that 7–3 mauling, dribbled toward his own 18-yard box and then gave the ball away. Fullback Bacary Sagna, who had a match to forget, then weakly cleared the ball across his area.
Ramirez was on hand to lash home the loose ball and the Saints had a deserved lead.
But just six minutes later, Theo Walcott took a free kick and put it in a dangerous area. Guilherme Do Prado stuck out his right foot and poked it past Boruc, who was rooted to his spot.
The Gunners were level and retook the initiative toward the end of the first half.
In the second half, the Saints reestablished their superiority in midfield as Arsenal continued to be flat. Sagna nearly scored an own goal off a Southampton corner kick.
Arsenal brought on Olivier Giroud, Gervinho, and Aaron Ramsey for Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Santi Cazorla, but nothing changed for the Gunners.
In the end, it was another disappointing performance for Arsenal coming off a big win. It’s a trend that can’t sit well with manager Arsene Wenger who will surely remember his side stumbling 1–0 to Norwich after besting West Ham 3–1 and then putting forth a dour performance in a scoreless draw with Aston Villa after trouncing Spurs 5–2.
Manchester United have now recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season after blanking Wigan 4–0. Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez each scored twice. The Dutchman now has 16 Premier League goals to lead all scorers.
Manchester City kept pace with United after a 3–0 win at home against Stoke City. The Potters came in to the match with the best defensive record in the Premier League, but have now conceded three goals in two straight games.
United lead City by seven points after the festive season’s glut of matches.
On Wednesday, Chelsea has the chance to retake third place in the table when they face last-place QPR at Stamford Bridge. Everton can knock Arsenal into sixth place if they can beat Newcastle at St. James’ Park.