REUTERS - A new year is born but Arsenal still frustrate their fans after summing up the season by beating Europa League combatants Newcastle United 7-3 at the weekend and then needing an own goal to draw 1-1 at lowly Southampton.
Saturday’s English Premier League classic featured a hat-trick from Theo Walcott and prompted comparisons with Arsenal great Thierry Henry but his return to former club Southampton on Tuesday was far less spectacular and proved he is still a work in progress up front.
Walcott’s cross was deflected in by Guilherme do Prado but the England winger also had a goal rightly ruled out for offside and showed a renewed tendency to shoot too early when there was precious little space.
Many of his team mates had a worse game with the defence and especially full back Bacary Sagna all at sea for Gaston Ramirez’s opener.
Southampton’s record signing almost grabbed a winner when the Uruguayan’s strike was chalked off for a minor push as the 17th-placed hosts went for broke and Arsenal struggled to fashion any clear-cut chances.
“We were not very good offensively, we didn’t create enough. We lacked sharpness and desire to get into the box,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports before being asked why they had been so lacklustre.
“I don’t know. Did we underestimate Southampton? I hope not. The chances we created were not enough.”
Thierry Henry, the club’s record goal-scorer, has been training with Arsenal in the Major League Soccer off-season but Wenger seemed to rule out any prospect of signing the New York Red Bulls striker on loan.
“At the moment we are not on that case,” said the manager.
Tuesday’s draw, against a team they beat 6-1 at home in September, snapped fifth-placed Arsenal’s four-game league winning streak.
The good run had looked to have banished Arsenal’s memories of a painful early December when they lost 2-0 at home to Swansea City and were knocked out of the Capital One (League) Cup on penalties by fourth tier Bradford City.
Southampton’s third straight draw edged the promoted side out of the relegation zone.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to get the three points. It just shows how far we have come,” boss Nigel Adkins said.
“All round we had some really good performances yet again, they’re a really good bunch of lads.” (Writing by Mark Meadows; editing by Tony Jimenez)