Mikel Arteta felt Arsenal needed more courage and consistency in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton as his side missed the chance to move four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
After Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Brighton on Saturday, Arsenal knew only a win at St Mary’s would be enough to regain a healthy advantage at the top of the table, but Granit Xhaka’s early opener was cancelled out by Stuart Armstrong’s second-half finish.
The Gunners extended their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions with a draw on the south coast and despite saying he had no complaints during his post-match press conference, Arteta could not hide his frustration when speaking to Arsenal’s official website.
“I have a feeling that we lost two points, especially with the way we started the game and the chances we had,” he said. “When you look back at the chances, we should have come out on top.
“But we have to blame ourselves. I think the way we played in the first half and in the second half was very different, especially what we did in ball possession.
“We should have more courage, more consistency and be more reliable in ball possession and dominate the game better when we have total control of it.
“Today we should have won the game and sustained our level, which we haven’t done in the second half – and that we have to raise the level again.
“There are positives – if you can’t win, don’t lose it. Coming to any ground in the Premier League with the amount of games we are playing is very difficult – but we have to demand from ourselves to be better.”
Arsenal stutter as fatigue sets in
Sky Sports’ Zinny Boswell:
Arsenal rolled into St Mary’s like a side top of the table that had won eight games on the bounce.
Once Xhaka fired in the opener it felt inevitable that the floodgates would open. Southampton had no answer to the slick brand of football that has got so many people talking about Arsenal as serious contenders this season.
As the second half wore on, though, it became clear that Arsenal were unable to match the levels of intensity they had produced in the first half.
Arsenal’s number of attempts on goal halved to four in the second half during which time they failed to register a single shot on target. Their fall-off was evident out of possession too, with their number of successful tackles dropping from nine to three after the break.
Arteta’s side have been in title-winning form since the start of the season. The only question mark has been about the depth and durability in their squad and whether they will be able to contend with the rigours of one of the most taxing seasons ever owing to the winter World Cup.
Sunday’s draw with Southampton was Arsenal’s seventh match in 23 days and it showed.
Arsenal will be disappointed to drop two points, especially considering the chances they missed and the referee’s decision to ignore calls for a penalty for a foul on Gabriel Jesus by Duje Caleta-Car. But they remain in a strong position, leading Man City by two points after 11 games.
This season’s calendar is demanding on all teams. Competing at the top of the table and on all fronts makes it that much harder.
Finding a way to freshen up his squad will be of the utmost importance to Arteta if Arsenal’s title push is to have any longevity this season. The fatigue is starting to set in.