Wenger rues Gunners' lack of sharpness
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger admitted that his title-chasing team were punished for a lack of sharpness after they crashed to a damaging 4-0 defeat at Southampton on Boxing Day.
Having beaten Premier League title rivals Manchester City 2-1 on their previous outing, Arsenal were looking for a victory that would have sent them to the top of the table.
Instead, they slumped to their heaviest league defeat since March 2014 courtesy of a jaw-dropping Cuco Martina strike, a second-half Shane Long brace and a Jose Fonte header at St Mary's.
Per Mertesacker looked slow as Long danced or barged past him on occasions and to a neutral, it appeared that Laurent Koscielny was simply outmuscled, first by Long and then Fonte for the second and third goals.
"We lost too many challenges today. They were sharper than us," Wenger told BT Sport.
"I think we were unlucky as well. Their first shot on goal went into the top corner from the right-back (Martina), the second goal came after a foul on Koscielny.
"It's a disappointing result but I have to say well done to Southampton. The referee let a lot go but when you're not dominant in challenges, that is the price you have to pay."
The result kept Arsenal in second place in the table - two points below Leicester City, who lost 0-1 to Liverpool, and a point above Manchester City, who crushed Sunderland 4-1 - ahead of today's home game with Bournemouth.
"The title is down to consistency to fight in every single game and produce a performance," Wenger said. "Today was a very physical game and we didn't play well enough."
However, he also believed referee Jon Moss incorrectly allowed Southampton's first three goals.
"Southampton made the game very physical... But we were unlucky with the decisions of the referee. The first goal was offside, the second a foul and the third was a goal kick," said Wenger. "If you're a bit below par and, on top of that, three goals go against you in the decisions, it's very difficult."
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, whose side had not won in their five previous league games, said that his players had produced a "perfect performance".
He added: "We showed fantastic belief in everybody and showed how good we are today if we play at our level."
He also dismissed Wenger's criticism of the referee, saying: "If you lose 4-0, it's not about the referee. It's not my way to analyse a game."
The Saints will meet West Ham today.