Arsenal 1-1 Southampton: Aubemayang cancels out Walcott as Gunners avoid defeat against lively Saints
(Photo by Adrian Dennis - Pool/Getty Images)

Arsenal drew 1-1 with Southampton at the Emirates on Wednesday evening. 

A first half goal from former Gunner Theo Walcott put the Saints ahead before an excellent equaliser from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following intelligent play by Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah made the score 1-1. 

While both sides had their chances to win the game, a draw was a fair result, with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta simply relieved his team avoided another damaging defeat after Gabriel saw red in the 62nd minute after two yellow cards.

Preamble

The Gunners hosted a buoyant Saints side fourth in the Premier League table at kick-off, two points behind leaders Spurs.

That fact alone would normally be enough to have Gooners crying in their socially-distanced beers - but the Lilywhites hegemony has been compounded by an utterly miserable 2020-21 campaign for the red and white half of north London so far. 

Visitors Southampton hadn't won a league game against Arsenal at Highbury or the Emirates since November 1987 - and for a spell appeared to be heading  for a rare victory in N5.

Form

With only four wins all season and a meagre ten goals scored from 12 matches, no wonder the Gunners have made their worst start to a season since 1974-75, when they finished 17th.

Arsenal have been busy setting records of the wrong sort during 2020.

By failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their six home league fixtures they set their longest such run from the beginning of a season since a 10-match streak in 1964-65.

Prior to kick-off, Arteta's side had also lost four straight home league matches for the first time in 61 years, equalling the club record. They were determined to not make it an unwanted five. 

Following their miserable 1-0 home defeat against Burnley, Arteta's Gunners also equalled the club's Premier League record of four consecutive defeats, set in December 1992 and matched in March 1995.

For their part, Southampton's tally of 23 points was their second highest after 12 games of a top-flight season and they came into the match in fine form, having been beaten only once in their last 10 league matches. 

The Saints had also failed to score in only one of their past 19 Premier League matches, a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on the opening weekend of this season, while striker Danny Ings is one short of 50 Premier League goals.

Team news

Arsenal made four changes from the side that lost 1-0 to Burnley on Sunday. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Dani Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah replaced Hector Bellerin, the suspended Granit Xhaka, Willian and Alex Lacazette respectively. 

First half 

The home side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Gabriel and Rob Holding as centre-backs flanked by Kieran Tierney on the left and Maitland-Niles on the right. In midfield were Mohammed Elneny and Ceballos with an attacking trident of Saka, Aubameyang and Pepe supplementing Nketiah up front. 

Following a shapeless opening, in the 16th minute Nketiah fired a low shot that Saints keeper Alex McCarthy gathered safely.

Yet, it was only the prelude to the visitors going ahead through former Gunner Walcott 120 seconds later. 

The south coast side won the ball in a crowded midfield before Che Adams played an exquisite through ball to the pacy Walcott who showed a composure not always evident during his time in north London to lift the ball over Bernd Leno to make it 1-0 to Southampton.

In what was small consolation for Arsenal supporters everywhere, Walcott's strike temporarily moved Saints to the top of the table, knocking off the Gunners bitter rivals from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.  

Eight minutes before the interval McCarthy made an instinctive, point-blank stop, after Saka worked the ball into the middle only for it to rebound off 

Fuelled by Arteta's constant exhortations from the touchline Arsenal looked to attack Southampton. With three minutes remaining, Ceballos played the ball into Pepe who fired a low shot which was gathered by McKnight. 

However, as referee Paul Tierney (no relation to Kieran) blew for half time, Ralph Hasenhuttl's side were good value for their lead, with Danny Ings' excellent off the ball running and Adams' harrying and hassling a constant feature. 

Second half 

A big 45 minutes for Arsenal and beleaguered boss Arteta loomed.

When times are tough big players and big characters have to dig deep. 

Which is exactly what happened seven minutes into the second half, when the home side displayed a bout of intelligent football we all know they are capable of. 

Moments earlier Saka won the ball from Walcott in what felt like a symbolic moment - as the young tyro displaced the elder statesman,  who had himself, once been a prized teen at Arsenal. 

Shortly afterwards the 19-year-old drove down the left flank with power and purpose, engaging three Saints players before cutting in to feed Nketiah. 

Arsenal's Lambeth born-striker cleverly touched the ball into the path of Aubameyang, who curled a low, right-footed shot past McCarthy's despairing dive to make it 1-1. 

Cue an eruption of joy that from Gunners staff and officials, joyful of the equaliser and, no doubt, the fact their team had scored from open play  once again.

That joy was tempered by the fact Gabriel was sent off for his second yellow card only ten minutes later. 

The leveller should also have been notice for Arteta's team to concentrate on lots of levels, with Saints sub Nathan Redmond thudding the woodwork when well-placed, to give the home side a lucky break not long afterwards.

For, even against ten men, make no mistake, this Saints vintage is excellent.

With Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand constantly prompting attacks from the backline, while captain James Ward-Prowse was an influential presence in the heart of battle, one felt the match was far from over. 

As witnessed by the dangerous Redmond nearly beating Leno with a powerful near post shot.

As the clock ticked down and Southampton kept up the pressure, Ings was furious with himself after powering a header wide of Leno's post. 

And despite Holding's late header striking the woodwork, in the final analysis, a point apiece was a fair result, even if Arsenal and Southampton still appear to be on different trajectories. 

Man of the match

Hassenhuttl's Saints side deserve all the plaudits they have been receiving of late. A disciplined hard-working side full of attacking intent their top four spot is not a false position. 

Walker-Peters and Betrand impressed as did Ward-Prowse, while Ings up front was always a lively presence. Walcott's goal earned him credit, not least for his cool head in scoring past Leno.

However, while Saka shone in spells, man of the match is Aubameyang for his superb goal to remind people of his talent.

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