Arsenal were denied the chance to draw level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur as Southampton prevailed at St Mary’s to hand Mikel Arteta’s side their third consecutive defeat.
Late in the first half, Jan Bednarek scored the game’s sole goal after the Gunners failed to deal effectively with a Saints corner.
With the score still 0-0, Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Bukayo Saka from close range, but the visitors struggled to create clear-cut chances until the final minutes of the second half.
After latching on to Yan Valery’s attempted clearance, Emile Smith Rowe forced another superb save from Forster before Martin Odegaard pulled a left-footed drive wide of the near post after cutting in from the right.
As Arsenal anxiously poured forward in quest of an equalizer, Forster produced yet another fantastic save to deny Granit Xhaka late on.
The Gunners are still three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who were defeated at home by Brighton earlier on Saturday, despite having a game in hand over their north London rivals.
Southampton, meanwhile, has moved up to 12th place in the Premier League after winning for the first time since February.
Forster, the Magnificent, keeps the Gunners at bay
Following poor performances against Crystal Palace and Brighton at home last weekend, Gunners supporters may have thought that this trip to St Mary’s would restart their top-four campaign.
Prior to Saturday, Saints had lost five of their previous six matches in all competitions, conceding 19 goals in the process, including a 6-0 defeat at home to Chelsea. They had also only won one of their previous 12 Premier League games with Arsenal.
Forster kept the score goalless in the first half, going down low to palm Gabriel Martinelli’s looping drive past the post before wonderfully turning Saka’s close-range effort over the bar following a Valery error.
The Gunners continued to control possession as the half progressed, but they lacked the tempo to create more chances against a resolute and defensively disciplined Southampton, who punished Arsenal with Bednarek’s fourth goal of the season with a minute remaining in the first half.
When Arsenal finally broke through the Saints’ defense late in the second half, they found Forster in brilliant form. Before getting in the way of a low Saka shot, the 34-year-old parried Smith Rowe’s goalbound effort wide.
With the game approaching 90 minutes, Forster again managed to get his fingertips on Xhaka’s looping strike, albeit the Switzerland international’s effort may have been slightly wide.
Arsenal still has a game in hand on Spurs in fourth, but with games against Chelsea, Manchester United, and West Ham coming up in the next fortnight, Arteta and his players will look back on this as a squandered opportunity.
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