SOUTHAMPTON, UK: Arsenal’s Premier League title ambitions were dealt a painful blow as they were not so much beaten as humiliated 4-0 by a Shane Long-inspired Southampton on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Favorites to win the title after their 2-1 victory over Manchester City, they knew that they could go to the top of the table by beating an out-of-form Southampton after Leicester City’s defeat at Liverpool earlier in the day.
But somehow they made Southampton—short of confidence and goals and reeling from a 2-0 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur a week ago—look like the team aiming for the top.
Dutch-born Curacao defender Cuco Martina, only in the team thanks to an injury to first-choice right-back Cedric Soares, put Southampton ahead with a sensational long-range strike in the 19th minute.
Long, himself only playing because of injury to top scorer Graziano Pelle, added a second, Jose Fonte headed in the third, and Long made it 4-0 in injury time.
St. Mary’s is not a lucky ground for Arsenal, where they lost on New Year’s Day last season and have not won since December 2003.
But this was a potentially damaging result and display and Arsene Wenger’s men must now aim for six points and nothing less from home matches against Bournemouth and Newcastle United.
Yet Arsenal started well. Unchanged from the starting XI that had beaten City last Monday, the visitors could have gone ahead in the second minute, but Olivier Giroud headed the ball well over from Mesut Ozil’s corner.
Southampton looked energetic and in the mood to put recent disappointments behind them, but their early attacks foundered on the Arsenal defense.
When the visitors broke away, Aaron Ramsey’s clever disguised pass reached Nacho Monreal, whose deflected cross almost drifted over the head of Maarten Stekelenburg.
Monreal had another chance when Martina headed unconvin¬cingly out of defence and the left-back under-hit his shot straight at Stekelenburg.