Arsenal could only muster a 1-1 draw with Southampton at St Mary’s as they missed the chance to go four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
A Granit Xhaka goal on 11 minutes looked like being the difference between the two sides – in a game where Arsenal controlled proceedings for the most part – but Stuart Armstrong slotted home on 65 minutes to level the scores against the run of play.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side came into the game having taken four points from their last two, but they were well-dominated throughout as the Gunners showed why they are the force to be reckoned with in the title race so far.
Mikel Arteta’s men exploded out of the blocks, as their fast-paced start startled the hosts, and Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard began to get into their groove quickly.
It was down the right that the visitors got their breakthrough, as Bukayo Saka and Ben White linked up nicely. The right-back fizzed in a low cross with great pace and accuracy, which was begging to be thundered home by the onrushing Swiss international Xhaka.
Gabriel Jesus’ goal drought continued as he was thwarted twice by excellent saves from young shot-stopper Gavin Bazunu, and Mohamed Elyounoussi slid in well to stop the Brazilian as he raced through on goal on the hour.
Southampton failed to really threaten Aaron Ramsdale’s goal as Arsenal defended resolutely and confidently, but the visitors were rocked as an incisive counter from the hosts was finished off brilliantly by Armstrong to haul the Saints level.
The Gunners continued to probe as they desperately chased that elusive winner, but the Saints clung on to a huge point for them and their under-fire manager, while Arteta will now be feeling Pep Guardiola’s breath a little stronger than before as the Gunners stumbled to a singular point.
TALKING POINT – LACKING THAT CLINICAL FINISH
Xhaka demonstrated his predatory instincts as he swept the Gunners into the early ascendancy, but Gabriel Jesus seemed to have lost his shooting boots somewhat.
The Brazilian was denied three times by good stops from Bazunu, but he perhaps should have hit the target with at least one of his chances.
Gabriel Martinelli’s influence in the game was diminished greatly as Elyounoussi put in a real shift at right wing-back, and Bukayo Saka seemed to drift away after he was wrongly booked for a supposed dive.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – GRANIT XHAKA
The Swiss was the all-action battler in the engine room.
He broke up play, drove his side forwards, and was a threat in the opposition box as he sought to keep his impressive run of form going.
He did, to full effect, with his opening goal a testament to the player he has become: that free eight, with the licence to maraud into the box and be another goal-scoring option.
Southampton: Bazunu 7, C-Car 6, Lyanco 6, Salisu 6, Elyounoussi 7, W-Prowse 6, Diallo 6, Armstrong 6, Perraud 6, Aribo 5, Armstrong 5. Subs: Adams 6, Walcott 6, Edozie 6.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 6, White 7, Saliba 6, Gabriel 6, Tomiyasu 6, Partey 7, Xhaka 7, Odegaard 6, Saka 5, Martinelli 6, Jesus 5. Subs: Nketiah 6, Tierney 6, Vieira 6.
9′: CLOSE! Another chance goes begging for the visitors as Xhaka advances and feeds Odegaard, who opens his body up to whip it into the far corner, but the captain drags it wide!
11′: GOAL! Arsenal are ahead, and it’s been coming. Lovely play down the right between Saka and White ends in the right-back’s cross being thumped home by Granit Xhaka!
44′: GREAT SAVE! Fortune favours Arsenal as the ball falls for Odegaard, and then Jesus! Bazunu foils him from point-blank range!
60′: GREAT RECOVERY The ball from Odegaard is exquisite as Jesus is in on goal, but Elyounoussi recovers excellently to divert the danger. Corner, Arsenal, as Bazunu punches, and Saka lashes well over.
65′: GOAL! They’re level. and it’s Stuart Armstrong! Great play from the Saints as they slice through the Gunners like a hot knife through butter, and the Scot slides home past the onrushing Ramsdale after great play between Perraud and Elyounoussi to set up the chance.