The season that promised Arsenal so much is quickly unraveling and starting to take a somewhat ominous shape. Mikel Arteta walked into the tunnel with a face like thunder after working his way through a third straight defeat – and fourth in five games – that threatens to derail their quest to return to the Champions League in earnest.
Rejuvenated Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster kept Arsenal in turmoil, making great saves in every half, but this was another toothless performance by Arteta, and if he wasn’t already worried about the way his side are swinging, he will certainly be now, especially considering They will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday before the matches against Manchester United and West Ham.
For Southampton, it was a restorative job, the kind of afternoon that cleared the palate after five defeats in six previous defeats, including that humiliating demolition here last week. Forster was the only Southampton player to come off a 6-0 strike against Chelsea by any credit, and the 34-year-old, who was called up to the England squad after a five-year hiatus last month, continued where he left off here. , in some way transformed Bukayo Saka’s attempt to transform Gabriel Martinelli’s center.
With 73 minutes on the clock, substitute Emile Smith-Roe’s underhanded shot blasted him to safety while Arsenal pushed to equalise, every player on the pitch camped inside the Southampton half. Forster was in great shape with an ankle complaint causing him to withdraw from Friday’s training. Arsenal had 23 shots, six of them on target, but Jan Bednarek’s calm touch on the edge of the half was the only attempt that slammed into the net.
The painful part for Arsenal is that they failed to capitalize on Tottenham’s stumble at home to Brighton and instead slipped to sixth place, after Manchester United beat Norwich of late. Asked how much the chance was missed, Arteta replied: “Huge. Because as someone who doesn’t know the result and watches the match, you know what he’s going to say to you: Arsenal win the match. And we didn’t. But it’s very frustrating and hard to put into words.”
“This is a sport. That’s what makes it different from any other country. In basketball, you have 25 shots and the opponent has one, you win 10 out of 10. They are really frustrated because they can’t find the right answer, no matter what we can do better about The penalty area, to win the match.”
Arteta, who is all black, wore funeral attire appropriate to the mood in the distant dressing room the entire time. Eddie Nketia, who led the line in the absence of Alexandre Lacazette, fell to the ground as the final whistle blew. Arsenal struggled to break through to Southampton, whose manager Ralph Hasenhuttl decided to switch to a five-man defense after conceding 19 goals in their previous six games. Jan Valery and Leanko wobbled but Southampton, protected by Forster, defended aggressively while Martin Odegaard netted the side nets and Granit Xhaka fired home late.
“We knew it was time to show a reaction and that we could play a little differently,” Hasenhüttl said. “We wanted to reduce the mistakes we made in the past weeks. We had to change things. Because of the history of the last matches there was a need.”
Bednarik’s goal was ugly from Arsenal’s perspective. When Ramsdale sent a corner kick to James Ward-Prowse, Southampton looked like a harmless opponent. But Romain Peraud managed to re-use the ball, putting a ball over his head with more hope than anything else, and Mohamed El Younoussi rushed towards the sideline, cutting the ball to Bednarek to overtake the goalkeeper. Gabriel summed up Arsenal’s frustrations, tapping the ball across the crossbar as Southampton ran to celebrate.
Before the visiting fans had a chance to absorb Nicolas Pepe’s arrival 20 minutes early to play, this match turned into an attack-versus-defense drill but Arsenal were unable to work their way up.
“The players that we have, they haven’t done that in this league,” Arteta said. “When you have world-class players who have done it in the league for 10 years, you probably aren’t sitting here with that. The result is what we ultimately need to be where we need to be. If we can’t do that, we won’t be there. It’s simple. In this way.”