A season that has promised so much to Arsenal is unfolding quickly and starting to take on rather worrying shape. Mikel Arteta walked through the tunnel with a face like thunder after battling his way through a third successive defeat – and fourth in five matches – which threatens to seriously hamper their quest for a Champions League return.
Rejuvenated Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster kept Arsenal at bay, making superb saves in each half, but it was another toothless performance from Arteta’s side and, if he wasn’t already worried of the way his side are spiraling he will surely be worried now, especially as they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday ahead of games against Manchester United and West Ham.
For Southampton it was something of a restorative mission, the kind of afternoon that has cleaned up the Palace after five defeats in the previous six, including that humiliating demolition here last week. Forster was the only Southampton player to emerge from their 6-0 loss to Chelsea with any credit and the 34-year-old, who was recalled to the England squad after a five-year hiatus last month, continued where it left off here. , somehow deflecting Bukayo Saka’s attempt to convert Gabriel Martinelli’s cross.
With 73 minutes on the clock, he salvaged a scuffed shot from substitute Emile Smith Rowe to safety as Arsenal pushed to equalize, with every outfield player camping in Southampton’s half. Forster’s performance was all the more remarkable when an ankle complaint forced him to pull out of practice on Friday. Arsenal had 23 shots, six of them on target, but Jan Bednarek’s calm finish on the edge of the interval was the only effort that wavered the net.
The agonizing part for Arsenal is that they failed to capitalize on Tottenham’s error at home to Brighton and instead fell to sixth place, after Manchester United overcame Norwich late on. Asked about the size of a missed opportunity, Arteta replied: “Huge. Because as someone who doesn’t know the result and watches the game, you know what they would tell you: that Arsenal have won. the game. And we didn’t. But it’s very disappointing and it’s hard to explain in words.
“It’s sport. That’s what makes it different from others. In basketball you have 25 shots and the opponent has one, you win 10 times out of 10. They are really down because they don’t can’t find the right answer, other than the best we can do around the box, to win the game.
Arteta, all in black, was dressed appropriately for the funereal vibe of the full-time away dressing room. Eddie Nketiah, who was leading the line in the absence of ailing Alexandre Lacazette, collapsed to the ground at the final whistle. Arsenal struggled to penetrate Southampton, whose manager Ralph Hasenhüttl decided to switch to a five-man defense after conceding 19 goals in their previous six matches. Both Yan Valery and Lyanco faltered but Southampton, impeccably protected by Forster, defended vigorously as Martin Ødegaard rattled the side netting and Granit Xhaka aimed late.
“We knew it was time to show a reaction and that we could play a little differently,” Hasenhüttl said. “We wanted to minimize the mistakes we have made in recent weeks. We had to change things. Due to the history of the last games, it was necessary.
Bednarek’s goal was lousy from Arsenal’s perspective. When Ramsdale cleared a corner from James Ward-Prowse, Southampton appeared a rather innocuous opponent. But Romain Perraud managed to recycle possession, hanging a ball over his head more in hope than anything and Mohamed Elyounoussi raced to the goal line, where he clipped the ball for Bednarek passes the side foot past the goalkeeper. Gabriel summed up Arsenal’s frustrations, kicking the ball against the bar as Southampton ran away in celebration.
Before the visiting fans had a chance to digest Nicolas Pépé’s arrival 20 minutes from time, this match had turned into an exercise in attack against defense but Arsenal could not clear their way. a path.
“The players we have, they haven’t made it to this league,” Arteta said. “When you have world-class players who have done it in the league for 10 years, you’re probably not sitting here with that. The result is what we need to be at the end where we need to be. If we’re not able to do it, so we’re not going to be there. It’s as simple as that.”