Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten streak ended today as a last-minute goal by Southampton substitute Charlie Austin earned the Saints a thrilling 3-2 victory.
The match was the first home game for new Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl, who helped send Saints fans home happy as the team moved out of the relegation zone with the victory. For Arsenal, despite the long unbeaten streak, the Gunners dropped three points behind fourth-place Chelsea in the race for a place in next year’s Champions League.
Arsenal, suffering from a rash of injuries to its center back corps, was soundly defeated in the aerial game as all three Southampton goals came on headers from crosses. Fullback Stephan Lichtensteiner was pressed into duty as a center back, and Arsenal manager Unai Emery tried to mitigate the weakness by starting with a back five that also included midfielder Granit Xhaka at center back next to Laurent Koscielny, but it didn’t work. Southampton striker Danny Ings, in his first game back from injury, scored two goals by heading in crosses from Matt Targett and Nathan Redmond.
Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the hero in a losing effort as he drew the Gunners level twice, scoring on a header of his own in the first half and tying the match at two when he scored on a deflection off a Southampton defender.
Austin, replacing the tiring Ings with twenty minutes left in the game, headed in a cross from Shane Long in the 85th minute for the winner. Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno misjudged Long’s floating cross, allowing Austin to head it into the net uncontested. Arsenal, who have won more points in the final ten minutes than any other EPL team this year, saw the tables turned on them by Southampton’s gritty performance, according to The Guardian.
The victory was only the second at St. Mary’s in a year for Southampton, who have been nearly as inept as Arsenal have been unstoppable as of late. Going into the match, Southampton had endured a winless streak of 14 games. Hasenhuettl, an Austrian nicknamed “Alpen Klopp” for his high-pressure style, was hired to try to turn around the team’s fortunes, and he quickly endeared himself to Saints fans this week– while also perhaps guaranteeing a boisterous home crowd– by offering all 19,000 Southampton season ticket holders a drink voucher during today’s game.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a guy who always brings everyone in our boat to row with us,” Hasenhüttl said. “You have to build up your credit. It’s like an account, if you always take money off sometimes it’s off (empty), so now we have to put money on the account.”