Arsenal lost to Southampton in the Premier League and in doing so spurned a glorious chance to close in on Tottenham Hotspur in the hunt for fourth place.
With rivals Spurs losing at home to Brighton earlier in the day, Arsenal had the opportunity to reach 57 points and boast a game less on their neighbours. However, despite a promising start and a solid finish, Mikel Arteta’s men lacked urgency given the challenge ahead. Jan Bednarek scored the decisive goal against the run of play and moments before half-time when he struck from close range following clever work from Mohamed Elyounoussi.
Arsenal had already lost two good chances to break the deadlock before, with Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster making two excellent saves to deny the visitors. Forster first dove low to his right to deny Gabriel Martinelli, then high to his right to counter Bukayo Saka – who really should have done better – from close range.
Forster proved equally tough to beat in the second half, with Eddie Nketiah, Saka and Granit Xhaka all coming close.
It’s now three straight defeats for Arteta’s men and Manchester United advantage in the race for the elusive Champions League spot.
Arsenal started brilliantly and dominated possession, carving out two early scoring chances. The Gunners then enjoyed 80% possession at the start of the second half, 76% in total.
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Arsenal will blame themselves for not getting off to a good start. They were guilty of wasting good chances before they ran out of steam. They threatened late, but it was too little too late.
Manager rating out of 10
5 – Mikel Arteta started with Saka on the left and Martinelli on the right, which didn’t seem to get the best out of either player. Moreover, he persisted with Cedric from set pieces, which seemed odd considering the result every time he took one. Arteta then moved to three back as he continued the game and as Arsenal increased the pressure on the home side, they could not regain parity.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Aaron Ramsdale, 5 – The goalkeeper didn’t have much to do as Arsenal dominated possession in front of him for the first half hour. His first major contribution was removing the ball from his net; the England international got his hands on Bednarek’s effort, but couldn’t hold it off.
DF Ben White, 5 – Struggled to keep pace with Armando Broja in the opening rallies. He was also guilty of sometimes slowing play when he took the ball out of the defence, and that didn’t change when he moved forward in Arteta’s second-half reshuffle.
DF Gabriel Magalhaes, 6 – The defender was guilty of playing against the Saints forwards in line moments before they scored. However, he was one of the few Arsenal players to try to break lines with his distribution.
DF Cedric Soares, 4 – Returned to St Mary’s but only for ironic mockery. His first free-kick went straight into the side netting from a promising position, his second went over the bar. A mediocre performance.
DF Nuno Tavares, 4 – The Portuguese defender started this game better than his two previous outings but quickly went astray. He gave way to Nicolas Pepe in the second half.
MF Martin Odegaard, 5 – A disappointing afternoon from the skipper, who failed to create much of a note in the final third until a late game scuffed shot from the edge of the area.
MF Albert Sambi Lokonga, 4 – Lokonga picked up the ball from deep positions but was slow to transition the ball. He was also guilty of losing possession on numerous occasions.
MF Granite Xhaka, 5 – Was allowed to venture further in the second half and it almost paid off when his effort was saved well by Forster.
FW Bukayo Saka, 6 years old – The winger should have given Arsenal the lead when he had the goal at his mercy, but his effort – with his weaker foot – was knocked down by Forster. He came close twice in the second half but just couldn’t get the better of Forster.
FW Eddie Nketiah, 6 years old – Led the line in the absence of Alexandre Lacazette and worked tirelessly to put pressure on the Southampton defence. He had to be patient for his first effort on goal, but like his teammates he couldn’t get past Forster.
AT Gabriel Martinelli, 6 – Had Arsenal’s first game chance. He cut to the right side on his left foot and forced Forster into a low save to his right. He then set up Saka with a great pass soon after. Looked shiny all over.
Emile Smith-Rowe (Soares, 60) 6 – Brought a greater sense of urgency to Arsenal’s attack which will leave Arsenal fans wondering why he didn’t start.
Nicolas Pepe (Tavares, 70) N/A – The Frenchman looked lively in the last 20 minutes. Southampton will be thankful they didn’t start the game.