LONDON • Arsene Wenger blamed poor finishing for the goalless draw with Southampton on Tuesday that leaves Arsenal five points off the top of the Premier League table.
Fraser Forster took the headlines for a brilliant display of goalkeeping as Southampton weathered a second-half flurry of chances, but Wenger was left feeling "maximum frustration" by his team's meekness in front of goal.
He was also angry at the performance of the referee, Lee Mason, whom he reportedly confronted in the tunnel after the final whistle, before exchanging angry words with his counterpart Ronald Koeman.
The Frenchman reportedly complained to Mason: "It's always the same with you."
Koeman, however, saw the exchange and intervened, telling Wenger: "And it's always the same with you. You had 10 chances to score and couldn't take any of them, so why have a go at them?"
Arsenal have now gone 270 minutes and taken 34 shots at goal in the Premier League without scoring. But Wenger again maintained there was simply no opportunity to add a top-class striker to his squad in the transfer window, which closed on Monday.
Arsenal have gone three league games without a goal for the first time since February 2009.
Arsenal had 10 shots on target without scoring on Tuesday, the joint most in a Premier League game this season.
The number of points the Gunners have dropped in their last four league games.
"If you know a world-class striker who could strengthen our team you should have told me before the transfer window was over," he said.
"We produced quite a good performance in the second half and created 10 good chances. The performance we wanted was there but we can't be happy with the way we finished our chances. That is what is disappointing.
"If you could not create a chance you feel concerned, but we had 70 per cent possession and 22 shots on goal. Finishing is a bit cyclical and right now it is very down."
As they had at Stoke last month, Arsenal came up against a young English goalkeeper in superb form as Forster produced a succession of fine saves and dominated his area.
Gunners midfielder Mesut Oezil squandered two close-range opportunities in the first half, while replacement Theo Walcott was held out by a spectacular double-save from Forster after the break.
Before the goalkeeper's return from a serious knee injury, the Saints had lost eight of 10 games in all competitions, conceding 19 goals. But the England international has since kept four straight clean sheets in the league and Koeman was quick to praise the 27-year-old.
"He is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and maybe one of the best in Europe," said the Dutchman, adding that Forster's performances have been "unbelievable after nine months out".
Arsenal travel to relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Sunday knowing that they have to beat former Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
A four-game winless streak in the league has seen the London side slip to fourth in the table after Tottenham Hotspur's 3-0 victory over Norwich City took Mauricio Pochettino's men ahead of the Gunners on goal difference.
"We have to catch that back and we have a difficult programme, especially away from home," Wenger told the club's website, with a home tie against leaders Leicester City and trips to Old Trafford and White Hart Lane looming.
"We need to respond quickly away from home now."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS