Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: First three Southampton goals down to ref
Arsene Wenger believes the officials have to take as much blame as Arsenal's underperforming players for the Boxing Day humbling at Southampton.
Leicester's defeat at Liverpool meant the Gunners arrived at St Mary's knowing victory would see them usurp the surprise Premier League leaders at the summit.
However, Southampton ended a run of six winless matches in some style, triumphing 4-0 on a night when the scoreline could have been worse for the visitors.
Wenger remained calm and composed after the match, though, apportioning much of the blame to referee Jon Moss and his officials.
"Well, I think Southampton made the game very physical," the Arsenal manager said. "We lost too many challenges and that explains why we lost the game. But that's one aspect, so well done to them.
"The second aspect is that on 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 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.
"On top of that, well done Southampton and I hope in the next game we have this kind of decisions for us."
Steven Davis appeared to have strayed offside in the build-up to Cuco Martina's extraordinary opener and Laurent Koscielny tripped under pressure from Long before he added Saints' second.
The Arsenal boss also felt Jose Fonte's header was borne out of an earlier poor decision, leaving just Long's stoppage-time strike without complaint.
Asked why Wenger was smiling as he bemoaned a 4-0 loss, he said: "Look, I smile, I don't smile -- what can I do about it?
"I cannot influence that but I must say they were sharper than us in the challenges and on that front we've got to look at what we can master.
"Decisions of the referee you cannot master, but our own behaviour we can and on that front I believe Southampton looked stronger in the challenges and we lost too many tonight."
Southampton counterpart Ronald Koeman found Wenger's complaints about his side's first three goals laughable.
"Only the first three? He didn't say anything about the fourth goal? That's strange," he said. "I like to analyse the game and if you lose 4-0 and you talk about the referee it's not my way to analyse a football game."
It was a cutting riposte from a manager able to celebrate after a difficult period, with last week's 2-0 home loss to Tottenham a fifth defeat in a difficult winless period.
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Koeman was furious after that loss but his emotion was one of pride after overcoming Spurs' north London rivals at St Mary's.
"I think another example that sometimes it's very difficult to explain why something happens," the Saints boss said. "Of course, we don't expect this result. We had confidence, we had belief to win the game, but so clearly in the end to win 4-0, and even to have good opportunities to score more goals.
"It was all about confidence in the team and, in my opinion, the second half the team performance was perfect in the way we defended, in how aggressive we were on the battles in midfield.
"I think the game plan was perfect because Shane Long and Sadio [Mane] create a lot of problems to the defenders of Arsenal.
"Well done to the boys. After a period without winning games you like to have a performance like tonight and it was perfect."
Martina, who had not played for Southampton since September, was a man of few words when asked about his wonder strike on BT Sport 1, saying: "Yes, it was a great goal, but... what a feeling. It's crazy to say, but it was a good shot I think. I got given my chance and I wanted to prove myself, that I could play."
Striker Long said of Martina: "He's been brilliant in training, he's been really working hard to break into the team and he deserved his chance today. I said it to him yesterday and he took it really well I thought."