The FA Cup holders crashed out at the fifth round stage going down to a Gabriel own goal at Southampton.
In a game of poor quality from both players and officials, Gabriel turned a Kyle Walker-Peters cross into his own net half. way through the first half for what would be the only goal of the game.
The visitors improved in the second half, especially with the additions of Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey, but couldn’t find a way through Fraser Forster, whose quick thinking denied Eddie Nketiah a goal with the best save of the game.
However Arsenal might well feel aggrieved that their cup run was brought more to a halt by the officials than their official opposition – with Peter Bankes and his VAR team called into question, albeit that the hosts were good value for their victory and deserved the win on the day.
The visitors were forced into a late change, as Aubameyang dropped off the bench to deal with what the club called a family issue, to be replaced by whichever of the reserve goalkeepers wasn’t originally called up.
The half started in inauspicious fashion as the hosts attempted to put pressure on the cup holders – from a first minute ‘foul’ given against Gabriel until the sixth minute, after Ward-Prowse had hit the crossbar direct from a corner.
Gabriel Martinelli missed the best chance of the half for Arsenal when a quick free-kick routine from Willian found his fellow Brazillian with time and space in front of the Saints’ goal but the youngster rushed his finish and barely made contact with the ball.
The hosts took the lead after the ball was given away on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area by Mohamed Elneny, and Gabriel diverted a low cross from Walker-Peters into his own net under the diving Bernd Leno. It was the first goal Arsenal had conceded since Boxing Day, but Southampton looked good value for their lead.
Much of the focus at half time was on the referee – Peter Bankes – who was accused by both sides of having a poor game. At one point in the first half, a Saints player shouted “You’re just waiting for the scream [to decide which way to give a free kick or throw in]”, a charge which felt warranted.
The second half started with more poor play from the visitors, sloppily giving away another free-kick and then allowing Ings to crash an effort off the post which almost went in via the back of Leno’s head, though the flag was eventually raised.
From then on – it was mostly Arsenal’s pressure, with a reflex save from Forster denying Nketiah a goal, and the young English striker was denied several more times, including one clearance off the line.
Then came the moment of real controversy, as the ball clearly struck the arm of a Southampton defender, denying the newly added Saka a header at goal, but even with VAR, it wasn’t given.
The hosts had resorted to the more physical side in the second half – with poor challenges going mostly unpunished, or with a free kick at best and through time management managed to eek out the time until the board went up to show three minutes of added time.
Nketiah had one final chance to level for the cup holders but his shot skewed wide, and Southampton progress to play Wolves in the next round of the FA Cup.
Man of the match: Peter Bankes. The best player for both teams as his poor officiating denied us all what would have been a better game otherwise.
Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand, Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Walcott, Ings (Long 85′), Adams (N’lundulu 78′)
Subs: Lewis, Ramsay, Valery, Vokins, Chauke, Jankewitz, Watts
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin (Lacazette 72′), Holding, Gabriel, Cedric, Elneny (Partey 58′), Xhaka, Pepe, Willian, Martinelli (Saka 58′), Nketiah
Subs: Runarsson, Ryan, Chambers, Luiz, Maitland-Niles, Willock