Theo Walcott scored against his former employers, but it wasn’t enough to secure all three points for Southampton in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates against Arsenal.
Southampton, naming an unchanged side from their 3-0 win against bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United, looked to further solidify their place in the European qualification spots in the league. Arsenal, on the other hand, sought to get their first win in five games in the Premier League.
The visitors, as has been seen often this season, started well, with chances early on for Che Adams and James Ward-Prowse from a free-kick.
Arsenal’s first real chance of the game came to Eddie Nketiah, but the 21-year-old failed to challenge Alex McCarthy after cutting in from the left.
Indeed the opener came to formal Arsenal man Theo Walcott. A defensive mishap allowed Adams to seize possession from the Gunners, whose through-ball found former England man Walcott. The Everton loanee placed the ball with a lovely dink past goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Jan Bednarek nearly threw it all away with a slightly mistimed challenge on Arsenal’s record signing Nicolas Pepe, who went down under some contact from the Pole. The referee waved away appeals, and whilst Arsenal stayed positive, they couldn’t find an equaliser before half-time.
Shortly after the interval, it was relief for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who finished off a great piece of play from the Reds. Bukayo Saka’s brilliant run found Eddie Nketiah who rolled the ball into the path of the Gabon striker for a cool finish into the bottom corner.
Arsenal looked the better side for a while after the goal but, for the second consecutive match, the hosts went down to ten men. Gabriel picked up his second booking of the match after pulling Walcott down needlessly.
The red card really stunted Arsenal’s momentum – Mikel Arteta had to shake up his line-up, bringing on David Luiz in place of the exciting Eddie Nketiah.
Nathan Redmond was desperately close to a second for the Saints, hitting the bar, and that wasn’t the end for the woodwork; Rob Holding’s header in stoppage time clashed against the bar and both sides had to settle for a point.
Both managers would have been disappointed with just a point, but for different reasons. For the hosts, and Mikel Arteta, the threat of relegation – something simply not associated with Arsenal Football Club – is going from becoming a joke to, amongst some fans, a serious concern. A win would really have taken some of the pressure off of the Spaniard’s back. Meanwhile, Hasenhuttl’s side – coming up against Manchester City in their next match – would have hoped for a win, not least to go top of the league for a short time.
The Saints, whose festive period involves fixtures with Manchester City at the weekend and Liverpool early in the new year, will be enjoying the chance to potentially bring European football back to the South Coast, but in this most extraordinary of seasons, they’ll know they must pick up as many points as possible against the big guns to have a real chance of securing a spot in Europe’s top competition come the summer.
FT: Arsenal 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON (Aubameyang 52′) (Walcott 18′)
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Gabriel (booked twice, sent off 62′), Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Ceballos (booked) (Willock 67′), Saka, Pepe (Cedric Soares 85′), Nketiah (David Luiz 65′), Aubameyang. Unused Subs: Runarsson, Lacazette, Willian, Mustafi.
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek (booked), Vestergaard, Bertrand (booked), Armstrong (Djenepo 63′), Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Walcott (Redmond 63′), Adams, Ings (booked). Unused subs: Forster, N’Lundulu, Diallo, Salisu, Stephens.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Theo Walcott (Southampton).