Arsenal draws with Southampton at Emirates Stadium, London but no celebration.
Unai Emery under pressure as Ward-Prowse strikes
Alexandre Lacazette’s second equaliser of the game, deep into injury time, had rescued Arsenal from a calamitous outcome but the forward stood virtually motionless after jabbing in Gabriel Martinelli’s cross. It did nothing to stem the boos at the end of a match in which Southampton should have put Arsenal to bed and left Unai Emery’s tenure on the brink.
The visitors will rue their inability to follow goals from Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse, the latter after his penalty had been saved, with a clincher and the frustration of their manager, Ralph Hasenhüttl, was visible as the players went off. But the audible unrest among an Arsenal fan base that cannot tolerate much more of this felt like much the bigger story.
Southampton flew into Arsenal from the first whistle and had already come close through Stuart Armstrong when Ings gave them an eighth-minute lead. The home side had conceded to a quick restart from Wolves in the previous match here and were undone similarly after Calum Chambers blocked Nathan Redmond’s run. While Arsenal’s defence stood around Ryan Bertrand slipped a quick free-kick through to Ings and, given plenty of time to work a shooting position, he advanced on Bernd Leno before slotting in via the near post. Replays showed the ball was moving slightly when Bertrand played the pass but that could not account for Arsenal’s lethargy.
It would have been the tip of the iceberg if Ings, teed up by Michael Obafemi’s centre, had not flashed a half-volley narrowly over just before the quarter-hour. Arsenal looked at sixes and sevens, barely able to escape their own half and frequently stretched by the 19-year-old forward Obafemi, pitched in for his first league start of the season.
A familiar hum of groans around the stands set in. So Lacazette’s prompt equaliser was timely for Emery, who had stuck with a back three and two relatively conservative central midfielders in a selection that hardly screamed of initiative. It came from good work by one of his wing-backs, Kieran Tierney, who found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a typically accurate left-sided cross. Aubameyang’s shot was blocked by Bertrand but fell nicely for Lacazette, stationed 12 yards out, to dispatch his first goal since 1 September.
The consequence was a small improvement in performance and atmosphere, even if Southampton remained the more threatening side. A series of 50-50 decisions against Arsenal made a pantomime villain of Stuart Attwell, the referee, among their support and there were lusty cheers when Ings was eventually booked for a naughty clip on Matteo Guendouzi. Ings scraped wide from 18 yards and James Ward-Prowse, letting ambition get the better of him, was wayward with an effort from inside his own half.
By half-time Southampton had outshot their opponents by 10 to three, an increasingly familiar theme here. Emery reacted by introducing Nicolas Pépé for Chambers and Arsenal came out with purpose, although they were fortunate in the 47th minute when Leno turned a Torreira interception around the post. Alex McCarthy saved from Aubameyang after some slapstick defending and then Pépé, given a run on goal, opted to square towards Mesut Özil and saw Jan Bednarek intervene.
Leno tipped over a Redmond piledriver and then Pépé, meeting another fine Tierney delivery, cracked a bouncing volley against the bar. Openings were racking up at both ends and Arsenal’s level of threat had increased immeasurably. They remain prone to defensive mishap though and, when Sokratis Papastathopoulos lost possession in his own area, Cédric Soares somehow overcooked a centre that would have given Obafemi a tap-in.
What a warning that proved to be. Minutes later Tierney was adjudged to have pulled Ings back in the box after more fine work on the counter from Obafemi. Leno blocked Ward-Prowse’s penalty but could do nothing about the rebound.
For all Arsenal’s attempts to respond the scoreline should have increased when the substitutes Moussa Djenepo and Sofiane Boufal saw goalbound efforts blocked before the former missed a sitter. Southampton lived to regret that when Lacazette pounced, but the home joy could hardly have been more muted.