A 3-3 out of nowhere, and a point that may still be worth something. It just didn’t mean everything in the way it could and should have, and it certainly didn’t mean three points. Arsenal, on the other hand, has given all the advantages to Manchester City, from the initiative and the impetus. They still go there on Wednesday with some conviction, though, after a desperately late 3-3 comeback against Southampton that could have been a lot worse.
The big question is how they can go and beat the best team in Europe after failing to win their last three against teams at all levels of the Premier League, including bottom. That is what hurts so much in the midst of the pride of the fans for the comeback from 2-0 and after 3-1. The sudden silence after so much late celebration said it all. This result would be damaging enough on its own, but it comes on the heels of three without a win that could see them decisively lose this league and the title itself.
You could feel it in the stadium. The players collapsed on the grass at the end.
There was defiance of what had happened, but an awareness of the importance. It’s hard not to think that this affected the team throughout the game, as he showed his inexperience in a clash.
The aftermath was so flat, far removed from the chaos everyone had just experienced.
Maybe that’s part of the problem. Even that manic energy from the previous games caught up with Arsenal. They couldn’t keep expending that emotional energy, and they certainly couldn’t keep getting involved in wild 2-0 turnarounds. This was another.
This one eventually went on its way, if not all the way, but you have to wait for it to mark a change of direction; with conviction, especially considering what follows.
It’s not over, but Arsenal need to overcome some huge lockouts. This is how champions are, and an anxiety that has inevitably afflicted them in this key stretch of the season.
He didn’t go so far as to kill them yet. But she is driving them to the brink.
So much came from a start that was shocking and yet in its own way felt inevitable.
There were so many elements in the first 15 minutes that they could almost represent the most extreme illustration of a breakdown, even in the shape and nature of the little twists, not to mention some of the key characters.
Ramsdale has been one of Arsenal’s best-performing figures of the season and his saves against Liverpool could still prove crucial, but here he bounced back immediately from a panicked, fluttering performance at West Ham United. That was for not choosing an Arsenal shirt. With the first action of the game, Ramsdale somehow only gave the ball to the excellent Carlos Alcaraz. He caught it with open arms, which was a bit like the goalkeeper for the spike. Alcaraz turned inside and shot through Ramsdale’s hands.
If that wasn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things, the biggest element was that Arsenal immediately went into a frenzy game when the club could use a bit of composure. Southampton evidently sensed this. They were willing to take an opportunity. You could see that with the way Theo Walcott, of all the players, was begging to be given the ball behind Gabriel when another break went to Southampton.
Alcaraz obeyed and the former Arsenal striker rolled into the easier ending.
As Southampton celebrated, Zinchenko called the entire team together for a meeting. It wasn’t something you always see, but you also don’t often see the league leaders 2-0 against the bottom team after just 15 minutes of a crucial warm-up game.
This dictated everything about the performance. Arsenal spent the next 80 minutes playing like it was the last five. There was that conspicuous combination of hesitation but then anxiety and rush to almost everything they did. The process was not trusted. It was all too manic.
Saka was one of the few to play through him and it was his stint on the Southampton flank that set up Gabriel Martinelli to make it 2-1. It was one of those instinctive endings born of sheer urgency.
That didn’t really calm Arsenal down, mind. However, it did disturb Southampton. Soon they were playing like it was the last five minutes, wasting time at every opportunity and attracting more and more players.
That was fine for a key moment, as Alcaraz again headed a flick by Ben White from under the bar.
How could Arsenal have done it with a similar attitude in the 67th minute. Worse still, Arteta’s team had worked so long to get to Southampton, without creating so much, only for Rubén Selles’ attack to arrive at Arsenal with so much ease. The third goal was just as ridiculously easy as the previous two. Ramsdale’s back line was again pummeled for conviction, only for the finishing touch to require no one to be beaten. Armel Bella-Kotchap tossed the ball in and Duje Caleta-Car had just looted a header.
This was. Arsenal now had 20 minutes to score at least twice, but really needed three.
Gabriel Jesus immediately squandered a good opportunity.
This was a summary of why they may not win the title. Of course, there are bigger discussions about the wider Premier League context, but it seemed like Arsenal didn’t have the experience together as a team to handle real pressure.
Many of their senior players stopped performing at the level we’ve known all season. Thomas Partey couldn’t keep the ball. Jesus could not direct it. Martin Odegaard wasn’t handling the ball properly until he finally deflected a shot into the corner late on.
That was the spark. The question is if it’s that season finale fire. Arsenal could not bring the explosion of joy that the stadium demanded, needed.
With Southampton suddenly panicking in a way they hadn’t all game, the ball broke for Saka to deliver.
It was 3-3 but it was not yet the three points. Leandro Trossard hit the crossbar.
Arsenal couldn’t raise the bar any higher. They had gone as far as they could. Whether that’s all for his challenge itself remains to be seen.
Everything goes for Wednesday. It’s a game unlike many in modern English football history. If Arsenal win from here they will be champions unlike many in modern English football history.