Arsenal’s first draw of the season was a frustrating one. The Gunners traveled to St. Mary’s Stadium to face off against 14th-placed Southampton. They started fast, dominating from the outset and going ahead in the 11th minute through another terrific Granit Xhaka volley. But referee Robert Jones and Arsenal themselves conspired to hand the initiative to the Saints, which eventually led to Stuart Armstrong’s equalizer just under a half hour before full time. Below are three Hits and three Misses from a bad day at the office.
Another game, another thunderous volley on his weak foot. Xhaka now has four goals in all competitions for Arsenal this season, already doubling his goal tally from each of his last three campaigns. Although his second half performance aligned with the leggy showing the rest of the team displayed, he had a great first half. In addition to the goal, he was dangerous in possession and good defensively as well. Even after halftime, however, he could be seen trying to marshal his teammates back into position. Xhaka continues to be Arsenal’s most reliable player.
Just as he was against Leeds, Gabriel was called into action away to Southampton. The Brazilian once more put in an impressive shift, finishing with 10 clearances, his lone ground duel won, all four of his aerial duels won, and 90% pass accuracy. As Southampton attempted to take advantage of corners and long throw-ins, Gabriel was there to persistently deny them. While William Saliba stole the show to start the season, Gabriel is demonstrating that he too is a center back worthy of high praise. He can be satisfied with his performance on Sunday.
The captain was involved in most of the good moments Arsenal had at St. Mary’s. In the 9th minute, Odegaard got into a good scoring position but shot just narrowly wide. He played a scooped pass that Gabriel Jesus surprisingly did not smack into the back of the net, and later on played the Brazilian in on goal, only for Jesus to once again be denied. He finished a Kieran Tierney cross with aplomb late in the second half as well, but the ball had unfortunately gone out of play. Odegaard looked like one of the Gunners most likely to make something happen, making Arteta’s substitution of him a strange one.
You do have to feel for him as things probably would have been better if a more competent referee was in charge; surely they would have put an end to the barrage of assaults Lyanco and Duje Caleta-Car launched on Arsenal’s no. 9. But the fact still remains that Jesus has not scored in several games now, and had plenty of great opportunities to do so on Sunday. He missed two big chances that would have put the game to bed. His all-around game is still good, but the lion’s share of the goalscoring burden is on him. He needs to meet that challenge if Arsenal are to have a successful season.
It is surprising that Tomiyasu started at left back once again considering his display at Leeds. But he reprised the role, and once again was disappointing there. Though he is statistically the most ambipedal player at the club, Tomiyasu is primarily right-footed, which impacted how he received and played the ball on the wing. This hurt his performance in possession. Defensively, Mohamed Elyounoussi proved difficult for the Japanese defender to handle. For Southampton’s equalizer, Tomiyasu dropped off enough to allow the Norwegian to play Stuart Armstrong into scoring position. Tomiyasu’s switch to right back to end the game is probably telling.
As remarkably well as he has done this season, the gaffer got it wrong on Sunday. His persistence with deploying Tomiyasu at left back ended up costing his side two points. Additionally, some of the substitutions he made in the second half did more to hinder Arsenal’s search for a winner than to help it. The replacement of Gabriel Martinelli, who looked dangerous had a highly advantageous matchup against a makeshift right back, with Eddie Nketiah, who isn’t much of a winger, was head-scratching. Arteta also removed Odegaard, who had been repeatedly incisive in his passing. Odegaard’s replacement, Fabio Vieira, looked terrible to end the match. Arteta will need to revisit these decisions and improve.
Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and is pleased to announce that he has finally figured out a funny but low-effort Halloween costume. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.