Arsenal’s 22-match unbeaten run came to a screeching halt with a 3-2 loss at Southampton on Sunday.
The hosts took full advantage of the Gunners’ makeshift defence to give new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl a first Premier League victory. All three Southampton goals came from crosses into the box, with Danny Ings heading in the first two and Charlie Austin netting the winner in the 85th minute.
Arsenal managed to level the match twice through two Henrikh Mkhitaryan goals but couldn’t find a third equaliser as they fell to a first loss since their defeat at Chelsea in the second game of the season.
The only good news for Arsenal in this game was seeing Mkhitaryan find his scoring touch again. The Armenia midfielder has struggled mightily in the final third in recent months but netted Arsenal’s first goal with a well-taken header and then got a slice of luck with a deflected shot for the second. Arsenal badly need Mkhitaryan to find his best form again, especially with Mesut Ozil’s place in the team in doubt and Alex Iwobi struggling to make an impact. He showed signs at St. Mary’s that he’s on the right path.
Seeing the unbeaten streak end is painful enough, but Arsenal also lost vital ground to top-four rivals Chelsea and Tottenham while seeing more defenders limp off with injuries. And then there was the performance itself. Arsenal came out surprisingly flat and failed to match Southampton’s intensity and desire in the first half. Then they left themselves exposed to another counter-attack while pushing for a late winner. This was a massive step backward for Unai Emery’s rebuilding project.
Manager rating out of 10
4 — Emery had very limited options in defence and wisely went with a back three to start the game, before more injuries forced his hand again as he changed formation after the break. But he has to take responsibility for Arsenal’s continued failure to play well in the first half. This habit of waiting until half-time to make adjustments and start to play more aggressively has to end. If the Gunners can’t start firing on all cylinders from kick-off they’ll never find a way to finish in the top four.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 5 — Fantastic one-handed save to deny Southampton a third goal but then made a big mistake for the winner itself as he failed to intercept Shane Long’s cross.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 4 — Played his first Premier League game since April and looked rusty as he was at least partly at fault for all three goals. Was out of position on the three crosses and simply looked a step too slow at times.
DF Stephan Licthsteiner, 5 — Formed part of the back three before shifting to right-back, but was part of the collective failure on Southampton’s crosses. Limped off with a knee problem in the second half.
DF Granit Xhaka, 5 — Asked to fill in as an emergency defender and looked like a liability every time he was put under pressure. Made some good long passes up the field but also gave the ball away needlessly in dangerous areas.
MF Hector Bellerin, 6 — Had to come off at half-time with an injury, adding to Arsenal’s defensive problems. Had played relatively well until then, but still needs to improve the accuracy of his crosses.
MF Lucas Torreira, 6 — Solid in midfield as always and is quickly becoming the team’s most-fouled player. But didn’t quite reach the levels fans have become used to from the Uruguayan.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, 6 — Lovely ball over the top to set up Aubameyang for an early chance and showed great composure on the ball throughout. Seems to be getting more comfortable with the pace and physicality of the Premier League.
MF Nacho Monreal, 7 — Great cross to set up Arsenal’s first goal and brought a sense of stability to an otherwise shaky defence.
MF Alex Iwobi, 4 — Showed a good burst of speed to help create Arsenal’s first goal, but his chronic wastefulness in the final third is becoming a liability. Would be such a dangerous player if he could become a regular scorer, but showed more examples of wayward finishing here.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 7 — Finally rewarded for his hard work with two goals, even if the second came with a slice of luck. Nearly set up Aubameyang for a goal as well with a nifty one-touch…
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