Southampton 1 Arsenal 1: Mikel Arteta's side lose ground in Premier League title race as battling Saints grab draw | The Sun

STUART ARMSTRONG ended Arsenal’s eight-match winning streak as the Premier League leaders suffered a reality check at St Mary’s. 

Mikel Arteta’s faded alarmingly after an excellent start, which brought an early Granit Xhaka opener, and their lead over Manchester City is now just two points. 

The way Arsenal started with such energy and swagger, you felt they would canter to another victory but Ralph Hasenhuttl’s strugglers fought back with conviction to earn a deserved point.  

Nobody at the Emirates had been getting too carried away about Arsenal’s magnificent start to the campaign – with a feeling that they might not have the squad depth or experience to make a serious title challenge. 

And it felt as if Arsenal had hit the wall physically as they allowed inferior opposition back into a game they would have expected to win.

Saints had ended a miserable run with a midweek victory at in-form Bournemouth but with their team depleted there was little pre-match optimism around St Mary’s.


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Arsenal may have lost on three of their previous five visits here but this lot had been looking like a very different Arsenal. 

They were full of it early on – a supreme conviction about everything they did. 

Xhaka had an angled shot well saved by the legs of Gavin Bazunu and then the Swiss combined with Gabriel Martinelli to tee up Martin Odegaard, who dragged his shot wide. 

But it took only 11 minutes for the opener to arrive, Bukayo Saka slipping a pass to Ben White on the overlap and the right-back cutting back a low centre which Xhaka met with a stunning half-volley on his weaker right foot.

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Gabriel Jesus could have had a penalty soon after when he appeared to be pulled back by Lyanco and then the Brazilian forward twisted Duje Caleta-Car inside and out but drilled into the side-netting. 

It had been an outstanding opening 20 minutes from Arsenal but then the Saints decided to join in.  

Arteta’s side were pinned back for a long stretch, aerially bombarded by corners, free-kicks and long throws – but they dealt with it all unfussily. 

And Jesus ought to have doubled the lead before half-time, when a defensive mix-up allowed Odegaard to play a saucy scooped pass only for the Brazilian to miscue his volley and allow Bazunu a comfortable save. 

Arsenal struggled to find their first-half fluency after the break and St Mary’s – so quiet except for intermittent groaning – began to find its voice as the Saints stepped up the pressure.

Yet when the Gunners broke, a cute through-ball from Odegaard sending Jesus clear, Mohamed Elyanoussi needed to make an excellent saving tackle just as the Brazilian went to pull the trigger. 

Arsenal’s tempo had dropped, though, and Saints were sensing a way back in well before the equaliser arrived midway through the second half. 

It was a sweeping move, featuring a smart dummy from Joe Aribo and finishing with Elyanoussi cutting in and slippin a pass through for Stuart Armstrong to steer past Aaron Ramsdale.

This proved to be a powerful fillip for Hassenhutl’s side rather than a kick up the backside for Arsenal.

Romain Perraud fizzed a shot wide and Aribo had a shot saved by Ramsdale as Southampton confidence surged, on and off the pitch. 

Arteta sent on Eddie Nketiah for Martinelli, while former Gunner Theo Walcott and striker Che Adams arrived for the hosts. 

As tempers rose, Arsenal coach Nicolas Jover was yellow-carded by ref Robert Jones. 

Odegaard found the net but his effort was disallowed because the ball had crossed the line before sub Kieran Tierney had cut it back to the Arsenal skipper. 

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Nketiah, one of those back-up men who do not look like title-winning players, sent a poor shot wide after more creative work from Odegaard. 

And Arsenal were unable to find a way through in an end-to-end finale.

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