Built on Saints
Saints 4-0 Arsenal
26th December 2015
It was another “I was there moment” as Saints shot down the Gunners on an unforgettable night at St Mary’s.
Shane Long scored twice and José Fonte once as Ronald Koeman’s men ended a wretched run of form with a magnificent display to prevent Arsenal going top of the Premier League.
But nobody really remembers their contributions! There was only one talking point from this blistering Boxing Day bonanza – Cuco Martina’s stunning strike to start the scoring spree.
There seemed little danger as Per Mertesacker stooped to head clear Ryan Bertrand’s left-wing cross following a knockdown by Steven Davis, who may have been fractionally offside.
There was no doubt, though, about what happened next as the ball bounced to the Curaçao captain fully 30 yards out.
Almost casually, he hit it on the half-volley with the outside of his right foot. The shot looked to be going well wide of Petr Čech’s right post, but then it bent and curled and flew just between the woodwork and the keeper’s outstretched fingers.
It was a sensational strike to mark his first Premier League start in place of the injured Cédric. And it was one which Martina described as the shot of his life, a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
He was not wrong. It remains his last goal in club football!
But it was one which would be replayed countless times, mostly from the angle which showed the almost impossible swerve bringing the ball back from well outside the post and into the net.
Martina’s magical moment lit up the stadium and electrified the team, who began to play with renewed belief after taking just one point from a possible 15 in the run-up to the game.
By contrast, Arsène Wenger’s side were looking for a fifth successive win to leapfrog Leicester at the top of the table – but in truth it never looked likely once they had gone behind.
The north London side barely registered a worthwhile effort on target, with a tame shot from Theo Walcott and a weak header by Olivier Giroud proving no problem for stand-in stopper Maarten Stekelenburg. Their only other opportunity saw the unmarked Walcott nod into the side netting.
At the other end, Southampton’s pace and penetration made them a constant threat with Long tormenting the defence as he buzzed around like an angry wasp after stepping in for the injured Graziano Pellè.
He dinked a one-on-one over the bar early on but got his reward on 55 minutes when Davis threaded the ball through the centre of the defence.
Long played it wide to Sadio Mané and darted forward, clipping the heels of Laurent Koscielny in the process. With the defender taken out of the game, the Republic of Ireland international was free to tuck home the return pass from close range.
Arsenal were furious but in fairness they were lucky not to have gone behind moments earlier when Virgil van Dijk headed home a James Ward-Prowse free-kick only to be denied by an offside flag. Replays showed that Fonte was the offender rather than the Dutchman.
Fonte made amends on 68 minutes as Bertrand curled in an inswinging corner from the right. The Portuguese defender came with a run from deep, giving him the momentum to climb highest and power home a close-range header.
Dušan Tadić had a 25-yard shot parried by Čech and then Long raced through the inside-right channel only to see his shot hit the base of the far left post as Saints continued to rip the visitors apart.
Two minutes into stoppage time Long rounded off an unforgettable night as he pounced on a through ball from Tadić and fired through the legs of Čech to complete the rout which lifted Koeman’s men seven points clear of the drop zone.
It was a complete performance by Saints, who dominated in every area of the field, though Wenger offered a rather different view explaining: “The first three goals, we were really unlucky with the decision of the referee.
“The first goal was offside, the second goal was a foul and the third goal was a goal kick, so if you're a bit below par and on top of that you have the first three goals against you in the decision-making then it's even more difficult."
Koeman, though, was left beaming with delight: "You don't expect a 4-0 win against Arsenal. Of course we have a good football team, but we have struggled in recent weeks. But the second half was perfect. It was a tough night for Arsenal, we caused them a lot of problems. It was an amazing result."
Saints: Stekelenburg, Martina, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Clasie (Romeu 67), Ward-Prowse (Tadić 71), S Davis, Mané (Juanmi 81), Long. Unused subs: Gazzaniga, Yoshida, Caulker, Ramírez.
Arsenal: Čech, Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Bellerin, Ramsey, Flamini (Chambers 73), Campbell (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64), Özil, Walcott (Iwobi 78), Giroud. Unused subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Reine-Adelaide.
Referee: Jon Moss