Arsenal played to a disappointing 1-1 draw against Southampton at St. Mary’s Park today. The Gunners played well in the first half but seemed to run out of steam in the second. Arsenal did enough to win save for scoring a second goal, which could have come on one of several missed chances from Gabriel Jesus, including a breakaway, or from one of multiple penalty shouts that weren’t given.
I don’t want to devolve into into another debate about Arsenal’s play vs. refereeing decisions. Arsenal weren’t good in the second half. The referee was worse all game. Both can be true, but with competent refereeing, Arsenal win the match. Full stop.
The Gunners also had opportunities to score more goals and claim the points in spite of the refereeing decisions. Martin Ødegaard fired wide from a great position minutes into the match. Gabriel Jesus didn’t convert at least two fantastic chances, including a breakaway.
More generally, Arsenal weren’t up for it in the second half. It seemed as if all the football they’ve played over the last three or four weeks caught up to them. They looked leggy and short on ideas. Mikel Arteta went 1-for-3 on subs, too.
- Kieran Tierney was quite good and made a difference. Hindsight is 20-20 but with Southampton supposedly being weak on the right, you wonder why Arteta didn’t opt for Tierney’s better on-ball skills over Tomiyasu.
- Eddie Nketiah was fine but below his usual impact as a sub.
- Fabio Vieira was terrible. He actively made Arsenal worse, giving the ball away nearly every time he touched it. And he replaced Ødegaard, too, which further lessened Arsenal’s ability to retain the ball and unlock the defense.
But since I’m making bulleted lists, here’s one of the refereeing mistakes as I saw them.
- Gabriel Jesus pulled back in the box, no penalty given. Extremely similar to McTominay on Broja on Saturday Probably also a straight red to Caleta Car for DOGSO because there was no attempt to play the ball.
- Lyanco swinging his fist / elbow at Gabriel Jesus and connecting at least once. Nothing given.
- Bukayo Saka given a yellow for diving when there was clear contact from the defender. Not sure if it was enough for a foul, but it definitely wasn’t a dive. Bernardo Silva won a penalty on Saturday for something similar.
- Ben White shoved over from behind in the box. Probably falls into the “I’ve seen them given” category more than the active mistake.
- Kieran Tierney catching a hand / forearm to the throat in the box. Nothing given.
- Caleta Car kicking out at Gabriel Jesus’ arm in the center circle at midfield. No yellow (or red) card.
- Caleta Car wrestling Gabriel Martinelli to the ground at midfield on the play with Gabriel Jesus’ breakaway. No yellow card.
- Lyanco headbutting Eddie Nketiah, grabbing him by the throat in second half extra time, and only getting a yellow.
In the grand scheme of things, not sending a man off with minutes to go in the match doesn’t make much difference in the final scoreline. But that decision (or lack thereof) is illustrative of the refereeing and VAR incompetence that was on display all match. Southampton were allowed to manhandle the Arsenal attackers all day, and it absolutely affected the result. As I acknowledged, Arsenal could have finished one of the handful of good chances they had. At the same time, it’s tough to generate additional chances when the defenders are allowed to clutch, grab, and hold from behind all match with impunity.
Such is life in the Premier League. The refereeing is awful. Arsenal had chances to win despite that. They did enough to win even though the performance wasn’t as commanding or dominant as we’ve seen at other points this season. It’s a bummer. But it’s nowhere near panic-stations. You’re not going to win them all, especially not all the away matches. This one just leaves a particularly sour taste because of how it happened.