Arsenal failed to take the opportunity to close the gap between the top four as Jan Bednarek’s first-half goal and an inspired display from goalkeeper Fraser Forster gave Southampton a 1-0 win.
The Gunners knew a win would put them level on points with rivals Tottenham, who lost 1-0 at home to Brighton earlier today, but they failed to get past Forster and instead suffered their third consecutive loss.
Bednarek put Southampton ahead a minute before half-time after the Saints keeper brilliantly saved Bukayo Saka from the start.
The 34-year-old then made a string of fine saves in the second half, with Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette missing after testing positive for Covid, to hand the hosts their first win in six matches.
How Forster turned down Arsenal
Gabriel Martinelli forced Forster’s first save in the ninth minute when he cut from the right and sent a bending shot to the far corner the goalkeeper parried.
But Forster’s best save – and perhaps of the season – came from an error by Southampton in their own half. Yan Valery telegraphed his pass to Lyanco allowing Eddie Nketiah to intercept and he moved the ball towards Martinelli, who crossed for Saka but his close-range effort was marvelously fended off by Forster’s right hand.
Southampton: Ralph Hasenhüttl has made changes to both personnel and training following last week’s demolition at the hands of Chelsea.
Yan Valery entered a back three, with Kyle Walker-Peters and Romain Perraud operating as wingers.
Lyanco made his first appearance since early February joining Jan Bednarek in defence, while Armando Broja led the line after missing Chelsea’s defeat last week.
Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette was not in the squad after testing positive for Covid so Eddie Nketiah started up front.
Nuno Tavares was the second change after their loss to Brighton at left-back with Emile Smith Rowe dropping to the bench.
Nuno Tavares has returned to the Arsenal squad at left-back for the first time since being dropped at half-time against Crystal Palace earlier this month. He had a solid 70 minutes and caused two fouls in the final third for Southampton in the first half, the second allowing Cedric Soares to take the free-kick when passing into the box was the best option.
Arsenal dominated possession with Southampton unable to launch any meaningful counter-attacks in their new 3-4-3 formation, but they grabbed the opener a minute before half-time thanks to an unlikely source. Arsenal cleared James Ward-Prowse’s corner but then turned off when he was recycled into the box by Romain Perraud. Mohamed Elyounoussi returned the ball for Bednarek, who finished cold the first time as Ramsdale got his hands on it but couldn’t hold it off.
Southampton: Forster (9), Valery (7), Bednarek (8), Lyanco (7), Walker-Peters (7), Romeu (7), Ward-Prowse (7), Perraud (7), S. Armstrong (7) , Elyounoussi (7), Broja (6).
Subtitles: Livramento (n/a), Redmond (n/a), Long (n/a).
Arsenal: Ramsdale (6), White (6), Gabriel (6), Saka (6), Odegaard (6), Cedric (5), Tavares (6), Sambi Lokonga (6), Nketiah (6), Xhaka (6) , Martinelli (6).
Subtitles: Smith Rowe (6), Pepe (6),
Man of the match: Fraser Forster
Arsenal have gained just four points from falling positions this season – only Wolves (3) have taken less – and as the second half started it was clear the trend was set to continue. Perraud was denied the double by an excellent block from Ben White after pushing his way into the area.
The introduction of Emile Smith Rowe on time was essential for Arsenal, with the midfielder instantly grabbing a loose ball in the Southampton area but having his shot blocked by Martinelli.
Then Smith Rowe was brilliantly denied by Forster as the Southampton keeper collected his volley from close range before saving again from Saka, leading to Martin Odegaard firing the follow-up wide. There was still time for Forster to fend off a curling effort from Granit Xhaka late on.
Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Wednesday at 7.45pm – live Sky Sports Premier League – before Southampton travel to Burnley on Thursday at 7.45pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League.