The refereeing in the Southampton vs Arsenal match on Boxing Day was woeful -- of that there is no doubt. But Arsene Wenger's decision to blame the officials did not mask the fact that this was an English Premier League game the Gunners failed to show up in. Once that first goal went in – and what a goal it was – there only looked like being one winner.
It is a big pity too, because Arsenal were in prime form, having just beaten Manchester City and shown signs of being able to overcome the big injury list that would cripple any squad.
However, on Boxing Day, Arsenal had one of those Premier League nights they have fairly often, with the players, be that in defence, midfield or attack failing to come to the party.
Wenger, though, insisted the first three Southampton goals in the 4-0 drubbing should not have counted. The Arsenal manager argued there was an offside just before a brilliant long-range Cuco Martina strike, while a foul to in the buildup to the second goal and a wrong corner decision for the third completed Arsenal's misery.
"I think Southampton made the game very physical and we lost many challenges and that explains why we lost the game," Wenger said. "That is 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 second goal was a foul and the third goal was a goal kick.
"If you are a bit under level and on top of that you have the first three goals against you with decision-making, it is even more difficult.
"We hope in the next game we have decisions like that for us."
What did win Southampton the game was the physicality, particularly that of Shane Long, who had a Diego Costa-like performance. Had it been the Chelsea striker who did what Long did in this match – the trip to take Koscielny out of the picture before scoring the second goal, while being on a yellow card, was as blatant as they come -- a lot more would have been written about the Irishman's performance, and not in the kindest of manners, but what cannot also be denied was that Laurent Koscielny, so good usually, failed the physical test, and the rest of his Arsenal players followed.
Wenger's men need to play better, because for large swathes of this match it looked like being the version of the they-don't-like-it-up-em Arsenal again. The next game is at home against Bournemouth, on Monday, and while Eddie Howe's team are not quite as physical, Arsenal will need a much, much better performance if they are to stay in that second place, at the very least.