Well, it certainly feels better than another loss.
Arsenal’s youngest 11 since 2012 grabbed a point against Southampton to end our losing streak – but it was yet another red card that ended our hopes of a first Premier League win in six weeks.
Mikel Arteta made changes for the game. Two were forced – Bellerin and Xhaka were suspended so AMN and Ceballos came in – and Eddie Nketiah replaced Lacazette up top. Nico Pepe replaced the ineffectual Willian too – to freshen things up.
Southampton started the stronger of the sides, which is unsurprising given our lack of confidence at the moment. Che Adams and Arsenal old boy Theo Walcott were seeing plenty of the ball and James Ward-Prowse was pulling the strings in midfield.
Bernd Leno punched away a dangerous free-kick and there was plenty of buildup around our box but we were resisting pretty well, until Walcott broke free and produced a great chip over the onrushing Leno. The German may well have done a little better but you just knew that it had to be former Gunner Theo to break the deadlock.
Minutes later, Theo was in another great position but Holding and Gabriel combined to shut him down, thankfully.
We started to come to life in the next few minutes though. AMN set off Aubameyang, who laid off to Pepe but a block stopped him testing McCarthy.
Saka was looking lively and had a few ventures down to the byline but there was little presence in the box for him to find – but we were looking far more intent than the first twenty five or so minutes.
Half time came and went and there were no changes from either side, but there was more of a sense of purpose from our side and seven minutes after the restart, we had our first goal from open play in nearly 13 hours.
And it started with Saka.
The winger beat three Saints men and finally provided the link between midfield and attack. He slipped in Nketiah and the ball around the corner from the striker was well met by Auba, who put in a customary curled finish past McCarthy. Cue jubilant scenes – and we were back in it.
In fact, we were on top – much like the Burnley game.
And like the Burnley game – a red card was to distinguish our hopes of victory.
We were on top, but a second yellow card for Gabriel put paid to our dominance, and we had pretty much half an hour of the game remaining.
It prompted changes of shape for both teams. Djenepo and Redmond came on for Saints to offer more width and we swapped Willock for Ceballos and Luiz for Nketiah.
We were officially digging in.
The next half hour was pretty much all Saints – and us holding on for the draw that breaks our losing run. Redmond came closest on the 70th minute but his shot hit the post with Leno beaten – we were risking our luck.
Leno then denied Che Adams as he swivelled in the area, but we then came the closest to a winner.
Right at the death – Rob Holding rose highest to send a header smacking the crossbar.
So, agonisingly close.
That was that for the game and we had avoided loss, showed spirit and scored an actual goal.
What can we take from the game?
Ill-discipline costing us
That is now five points from six we have dropped because of red cards. We were in the ascendancy in both and the red card robbed us of that initiative. The team need to keep the red mist away, turn that desire into positivity. Instead of losing their cool.
Auba breaks his duck
A world class operator like Auba needs service, true, but it was almost as important for him to start scoring again and end the bad run. Now he has? Watch him transform again. He’ll be a handful for Everton in our next game.
The old boys act comes true again
Theo scored against us – as I predicted he would in the match preview. It is an unwritten law that this must happen, when a former player revisits his old haunts. Theo scored and we should’ve known.
A decent result
With Saints in the top four, this result, with ten men for a third of the game, was a decent return. We now need to capitalise on it and push on.
Our next game is against Everton at Goodison. Rate the team performance here.