Going into this fixture, Southampton sat 19th in the Premier League. Arsenal, albeit struggling for form, remained in 6th place. With just two wins to their name, the South-Coast side’s visit to the Emirates seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get the Gunners’ season back on track. At the very least, it would be a game that Arsenal would be unlucky to draw. That it took a 96th minute equaliser from Alexandre Lacazette to rescue a frankly undeserved point, then, was unacceptable. This side do not look to be on the brink of turning this slump around, and much of that must be laid at the feet of Unai Emery.
As is now becoming customary, the announcement of Arsenal’s line up was accompanied with my heart sinking, already resigned to a poor performance. Against a side 19th in the league, starting with five-man defence, with two “defensive” midfielders in front of them, is ridiculous. Leaving only Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette as attacking players, whilst they are all very good, is asking far too much of them. I understood the return to a back five away to high-flying Leicester, but for a manager dubbed as ‘pragmatic’, this was the opposite. You simply cannot set up that way against a relegation-threatened side and consider yourself anything other than a mid-table side. It was embarrassing.
Before the game, I had asked to see Nicolas Pepe link up with the three aforementioned attackers, but Emery once again decided to consign the Ivorian to the bench. If confidence is the key issue for Pepe, then Emery is clearly doing very little to solve it.
Even with seven defensive players on the pitch, it was Arsenal that conceded first, a quick free-kick catching the Gunners out and allowing Danny Ings to fire home after just eight minutes. Already, the atmosphere in the stadium threatened to turn ugly. Fortunately for Unai Emery, the home side leveled within ten minutes, Alexandre Lacazette blasting in after Aubameyang saw his shot blocked. What followed was an uneventful, damp squib of a first half, in which neither side can really emerge with any credit.
The beginning of the second half was little different; Nicolas Pepe was introduced at half-time as he replaced Calum Chambers, and Arsenal did look more threatening going forward. They could not create anything clear cut however. Back came Southampton. Kieran Tierney conceded a soft penalty, and although Bernd Leno saved the initial spot kick, the rebound was converted by James Ward-Prowse. Truthfully, Southampton deserved the three points. Even at 2-1 up, they missed several glorious opportunities to kill of the North London outfit, late substitute Djenepo particularly wasteful.
Deep into the seven minutes of stoppage time, a speculative David Luiz cross-field pass was flicked on by Aubameyang into the path of Gabriel Martinelli, who’s cross to the far post was fired in by Lacazette to gain Arsenal an unlikely point. This was not the time for celebration however, and Lacazette seemed almost embarrassed to have scored, whilst there was little reaction from the fans. Full-time came, and with it the loudest boos that the Emirates has heard since the end of Wenger’s era. Emery has lost the fans, and by the looks of it has lost half of the players as well. We all know how this ends, and it is better for all parties if he leaves now before his reputation, and Arsenal’s season, are irrevocably tarnished.