Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hopes a draw with Southampton will prove the start of his side’s recovery after they ended a three-match losing run in the Premier League despite going down to 10 men.
Theo Walcott opened the scoring for the in-form Saints on his return to his former club with a delightful dink over onrushing goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished smartly after the break to level as Arsenal ended a run of 797 minutes in the Premier League without a goal from open play.
However, the Gunners’ ill-discipline cost them once again as Gabriel was sent off after being booked twice in four minutes.
Substitute Nathan Redmond struck the crossbar soon after as Southampton pressed for a winner that would have moved them briefly top of the league.
The visitors could not make their pressure pay and almost conceded at the other end late on when Rob Holding’s header also rattled the woodwork.
The draw lifts Southampton above Leicester City into third, while Arteta’s side remain 15th in what is Arsenal’s worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1974-75 season.
“We showed some resilience and character to hang in there for so long against a really dangerous team,” said Arteta.
“We came back after conceding the goal and showed how much we wanted it.”
Asked if the manner of the fightback could start a recovery, Arteta added: “I agree, yes, because if you lose that game at the end it would have been really difficult to take.”
Indiscipline costs Arsenal once more
Arteta has said his side cannot hide and “have to take the bullets” amid their worst start to a season for 46 years – what he did not want was another red card.
The hosts were starting to build some momentum after Aubameyang combined with Eddie Nketiah to finish coolly following smart footwork from Bukayo Saka.
But within 10 minutes they were down to 10 men, as Gabriel picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Walcott – Arsenal’s seventh sending-off in the Premier League since Arteta took charge in December last year.
It was also a third red card in five matches for Arsenal and Arteta said afterwards he wanted to change Gabriel after his first booking, but did not have the time.
The Gunners have not won in the competition since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford six weeks ago.
But, having named Arsenal’s youngest starting XI in the league since September 2012, Arteta will have been encouraged by the resilience shown by his team following Gabriel’s dismissal.
This was the Spaniard’s 50th fixture in charge of the north London club, and he has won more games in cup matches (14) than in the Premier League (13).
His side’s finish to 2020 does not let up with games against Everton and Chelsea in the league, and Manchester City in the EFL Cup, in the next 10 days, before a trip to Brighton.
Walcott returns to haunt old club
Walcott scored 108 goals in 397 appearances in the 12 years he spent at Arsenal after joining from Southampton in 2006, with only Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud having netted more than his 38 top-flight goals at Emirates Stadium.
With his career threatening to stagnate at Everton, the 31-year-old is back at his boyhood club on loan this term and flourishing in a Southampton side brimming with confidence.
The visitors dominated possession early on in north London and Walcott’s deft finish after 18 minutes came as they continued to stretch the Arsenal backline.
“We were fantastic, did everything we wanted to do in the game,” said Walcott. “We just wanted to concentrate on our strengths, we know how good we are as a unit – we have so much trust and are so honest with each other.”
Walcott’s goal came from Che Adams’ smart pass and the Southampton forward was a handful for the Arsenal backline throughout.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said afterwards he was happy with a point but there must be a tinge of frustration his side could not take all three.
‘We shot ourselves in the foot’
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, speaking to Match of the Day: “We didn’t have time to think, we adjusted two or three things to try and win the game. The boys came out like we did three days ago [against Burnley], we scored a really good goal, on top in the game, and again we shoot ourselves in the foot.
“Aubameyang needed that confidence boost, he is very critical with himself; hopefully he can move and be more optimistic in the future.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: “We have shown what we have learned in the past and that is to play our game, it was a good performance, not all the time, but we get more and more confident playing in possession.
“They tried more risks after half-time, pressed a little bit earlier and automatically you get a little bit under pressure. This is a team that is normally above us in the table.
“It was good to see we can still be competitive. Teams have respect for what we are doing and how we are playing. I am OK with a point.”
Saints continue impressive form – the stats
- Arsenal have just 14 points from 13 Premier League games this season, their lowest tally at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1974-75 (9pts – adjusting for 3pts for a win).
- The Gunners have picked up just one win in their last nine Premier League games (W1 D2 L6).
- Southampton have only lost one of their last 11 matches in the Premier League (W7 D3 L1), going unbeaten in each of their last six on the road.
- Arsenal have conceded in 10+ consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since February 2002 (11 games).
- Since Mike Arteta’s first Premier League game in charge (26 December, 2019), Arsenal have been shown seven red cards, four more than any other team in the competition in this period.
Arsenal travel to Goodison Park to face Everton on Saturday (17:30 GMT), while Southampton host Manchester City earlier that day (15:00).