It was bound to happen sometime, right? Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten streak was unceremoniously snapped by Southampton today at St. Mary’s Park. For whatever reason, the Gunners cannot figure out how to play well at that stadium. They have won only once in their last eight trips. For those unaware, the headline refers to Southampton’s new manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl, who made his home debut today.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan matched Charlie Ings’ double, but a late goal from Charlie Austin, who has scored for Southampton in every game against the Gunners - like literally, claimed the full three points for the Saints.
Unsurprisingly, being forced into using a defense that included Stephan Lichtsteiner (a right back playing centerback), Granit Xhaka (a midfielder), and Laurent Koscielny (making his first Premier League start since April), did not work out. Hector Bellerin going off injured at halftime didn’t help things either. The good news is Arsenal only have 6 matches in the next 20 days so it’s not like the injuries on defense...oh wait. In fairness, the lineup situation today was compounded by a healthy Sokratis missing out due to yellow card accumulation. But still, the club needs players to get healthy. Fast.
The frustrating thing about today’s match is that despite the cobbled together lineup, it felt like the three points were there for the taking. Nobody played well for the Gunners, and a strong performance from one, maybe two players, probably would have been enough to drag Arsenal to a win.
Bernd Leno conceded a terrible third goal. Alex Iwobi didn’t get a near-sitter on frame. Mesut Özil didn’t have an impact. Even Lucas Torreira was pedestrian. It was just a nothing-burger of a game all around.
Arsenal now sit three points behind Chelsea for fourth in the table, five points behind third place Tottenham. The top four race is far from over, but today’s loss hurts. Those are three points that the Blues won and Spurs are likely to win. The Gunners will have to make them up elsewhere.
Arsenal are next in action on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup against Tottenham at the Emirates. They host Burnley next weekend in the Premier League.