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Shot-shy Arsenal get the jitters

Arsenal needed an own goal to rescue a 1-1 draw at Southampton on Tuesday after record signing Gaston Ramirez had given Southampton the lead at St Mary’s.

Victors by seven goals to three against Newcastle United at the weekend, Arsenal managed only one shot on target in 90 minutes at Southampton.

But for Guly do Prado deflecting a free-kick by the disappointing Theo Walcott into his own net before half-time, Southampton would have got the win they deserved for a more committed performance.

Following four successive wins, Arsenal were a poor shadow of the team that had won their previous four matches, while Southampton moved out of the bottom three of the Premier League with their third successive draw.

Saints brought back Artur Boruc in goal and dropped Kelvin Davis after the 3-3 draw at Stoke City but the Polish goalkeeper had an inauspicious start, allowing Jack Wilshere’s corner kick to slip through his hands then fumbling what should have been another easy catch.

With the goalkeeper in such uncertain form, Arsenal should have tested him with some early shots, but they failed to do so even though they dominated the early possession.

The hosts were struggling to deal with Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in midfield, but they battled their way back into the match with some determined tackling and were soon forcing the Arsenal defenders to kick anywhere.

First, Lukas Podolski gave possession away to Morgan Schneiderlin, who had a chance to shoot but tried to set up Rickie Lambert instead.

His pass was poor, but Bacary Sagna’s interception hit Southampton’s Jason Puncheon and rebounded for Ramirez to drive low past Wojciech Szczesny.

If that was scrappy, then Arsenal’s equaliser two minutes later was even worse. Walcott curled in a free-kick from the left that seemed to be going harmlessly to Boruc, but Guly swung a foot at the ball and deflected it into his own net.

CASILLAS VOWS TO FIGHT FOR REAL SPOT

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas admitted on Tuesday the players are unhappy after dropping 16 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona but denied any tensions in the changing room and vowed to fight to regain his spot after being unexpectedly left on the bench last month.

Asked about any tensions in the dressing room, he said: ‘The word is not tension. The situation in the league, when we have had certain defeats, is not what we want. We all want to win for ourselves and our fans.’

 Casillas said he felt fit, however, and would battle to regain his place for Sunday’s match against Real Sociedad.

‘I feel fine, really. I am training. I think I have to improve every day. I am not a machine. I, too, have to learn from my mistakes but sincerely I feel fine,’ he said.

FA CUP: ALEX FERGUSON PLANS TEAM ROTATION AFTER WIGAN DEMOLITION

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has confirmed that he will rotate his squad once again for the FA Cup third-round tie at West Ham United at the weekend. United retained their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on Tuesday. It was their fourth game in 10 days and only four players David de Gea, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick had started in each of those games. The United manager made five changes from the team that beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 on Saturday and is determined to keep his squad fresh. ‘Yes, we will make a few changes for the cup tie,’ he said. ‘The likes of Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick, we took them off as soon as we got the third goal. ‘They deserve a break and they have played in all the games. We’ll have a look at the situation. We’ve got fresh players. ‘Young Shinji (Kagawa) came in. We’ve got plenty of players to freshen it up.’ The United manager says last season’s collapse, which saw United lose an eight-point lead over the course of the final six games, means he will not take the advantage at the top of the table for granted. ‘Over the years, December has been a good month for us. This time it has put us into a seven-point lead with 17 games left,’ he said. ‘It’s not what I would say is a healthy lead, but it is a lead. It gives us something to kick on with. We just don’t want to make mistakes like we did last year.’

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