LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 23 – Arsenal manager Unai Emery admitted that he and his players had missed a big opportunity to appease the club’s angry supporters after the Gunners were held to a 2-2 draw at home to second-bottom Southampton.
It could have been worse for the under-pressure Spaniard as Alexandre Lacazette’s second equaliser of the day, six minutes into stoppage time, denied Southampton a first win at Arsenal since 1987.
Nevertheless, Emery’s men dropped to seventh place in the Premier League table, below Burnley and only a point ahead of north London rivals Tottenham, who won at West Ham in Jose Mourinho’s first match as manager.
Lacazette had earlier cancelled out Danny Ings’ ninth-minute opener for Southampton, who went on to retake the lead through James Ward-Prowse on the rebound after his second-half penalty had been saved by Bernd Leno.
Southampton squandered a host of clear chances to go 3-1 up, and although Lacazette made them pay for their profligacy, Arsenal were still booed off at the end.
Emery had been told by the club hierarchy before kick-off that his job was not in immediate danger so long as results improved, but this was certainly a game Arsenal had been expected to win.
“We are disappointed and frustrated,” Emery said. “I understand the supporters, we didn’t deserve any more today, we lost a big opportunity to connect with our supporters.
“We had the chance to take confidence from today but we didn’t do that. In the first half we were growing but it wasn’t enough. In the second half we started better — it was our the best 20 minutes all season — and we had the chances. We didn’t score but I was happy.
“Then they scored and we took risks after that but conceded chances to score the third. We scored in the last moment but it was not enough.
“The supporters helped us for 90 minutes but we didn’t achieve the win to connect with them.”
– ‘We need to play better’ –
Arsenal have now won just two of their last 11 league games and the question remains how much longer Emery will be given to turn the situation around with his side eight points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
“My job is to work, analyse and find the solution to improve,” added Emery. “Confidence comes with a good result and for confidence we need to play better and control the game, which we didn’t for 90 minutes.”
Asked whether he feared the club’s backing would be withdrawn soon, Emery replied: “They are supporting me and also I have a responsiblity, I know I can do better and I’m going to try to do so.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl also had to console disappointed players, albeit for completely different reasons.
“We have to force the positive feeling inside,” said the Austrian said. “We always thought we could win this game and the opponents had few chances in the second half.
“We could have won by four or five goals but we didn’t. But I was impressed with the way we played, believing and being on the front foot.
“After 70 minutes only we were playing. We tried to create chances and it was a fantastic performance from every player.”
Hasenhuttl confirmed that the poisonous atmosphere surrounding Arsenal at the moment, which saw Granit Xhaka stripped of the captaincy for swearing at booing fans last month, had been on his mind in the run up to the game.
“Being brave against a team that is not so full of confidence can help you,” he said. “We could feel they were not so positive, but it is not easy to defend against the quality of Lacazette. We needed the third and fourth goal but we couldn’t do it.”