Southampton fans have endured a frustrating, six-week wait to see their side victorious once more, but patience paid off as Ronald Koeman's men roared back to form with a comprehensive 4-0 success Saturday at home against Premier League title-chasing Arsenal.
The absence of top-scorer Graziano Pelle and first-choice right back Cedric Soares did little to ease the fears of the home supporters after that six-match winless run, but stand-ins Cuco Martina and Shane Long silenced their critics by both getting on the scoresheet, with Long netting twice and being denied a hat trick by the post.
It was the combination of Long and speedy Sadio Mane that proved Arsenal's undoing, and the visitors' defense never came to terms with the pair's movement and clever interplay. Victor Wanyama showed why Arsene Wenger is keen to take him to the Emirates with a superb midfield display that epitomized a Southampton performance full of endeavor.
If they can produce displays of this quality with more regularity, Southampton will soon be looking up the table, rather than nervously over their shoulders toward the bottom three.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Maarten Stekelenburg, 7 -- He was brought back into the team after recovering from a foot injury and deserved his clean sheet. He did not have to make any world-class saves but handled what little Arsenal did throw at him with a calm authority.
DF Cuco Martina, 7 -- He was pinpointed by Southampton fans as the weak link when the team sheet was released, and those fears intensified when he gave the ball away cheaply. Martina answered his critics with a stunning, long-range goal that club legend Matt Le Tissier would have been proud of.
DF Jose Fonte, 8 -- A difficult evening against a potent Arsenal lineup could have been expected, but Fonte was rarely troubled defending his own box. He popped up with a rare goal at the other end to put the gloss on a fantastic night for Ronald Koeman's men.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 8 -- He has had some worrying moments during Southampton's recent blip, but he didn't put a foot wrong up against the in-form Olivier Giroud. He marked the Frenchman out of the game and was unlucky to have a second-half header ruled out for offside.
DF Ryan Bertrand, 8 -- He was probably pleasantly surprised by the number of opportunities Arsenal gave him to maraud forward down the left-hand side, and he posed a big threat with his left-wing delivery. He defended well against Southampton old boy Theo Walcott and ensured his England teammate endured a frustrating return to his old club.
MF Jordy Clasie, 7 -- He helped Southampton shackle the threat of the league's assist leader, Mesut Ozil. This was arguably his most convincing performance since he was signed from Ronald Koeman's old club, Feyenoord, in the summer to replace Manchester United-bound Morgan Schneiderlin.
MF Victor Wanyama, 8 -- He has been out of sorts in recent weeks but returned to form with a dominant midfield display. Perhaps the opportunity to impress Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger brought out the best in the former Celtic powerhouse.
MF Steven Davis, 7 -- He was quietly effective in midfield without doing anything worthy of the headlines. Davis hardly wasted a pass and came out on top in his personal duel with Arsenal's midfield enforcer, Mathieu Flamini.
MF James Ward-Prowse, 7 -- He was preferred to Dusan Tadic in Southampton's attacking trio behind lone striker Shane Long and made the most of his opportunity with a lively and vibrant display. He passed up a couple presentable opportunities to get his name on the scoresheet.
MF Sadio Mane, 8 -- He asked plenty of questions of Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny and selflessly teed up Shane Long for Southampton's second goal after using his blistering pace to get in down the right. He looked more like the player attracting admiring glances from Manchester United after some recent disappointing displays.
FW Shane Long, 9 -- He led the line superbly in the absence of the injured Graziano Pelle. The Irishman missed a golden chance at the end of the first half when one-on-one with Petr Cech but made amends with a calmly taken second-half double. He was unlucky not to claim a hat trick.
MF Oriol Romeu, 6 -- He came on for Clasie for the final 23 minutes to help Southampton see the game out and did a solid enough job.
MF Dusan Tadic, NR -- He called off the bench with 19 minutes to go and kept Hector Bellerin on the back foot with some typically inventive runs and teasing deliveries.
FW Juanmi, NR -- It would be hard to make an impact in the nine minutes the Spaniard was on the pitch, but he did set up Long for the fourth goal with a slotted through-ball.