Arsenal did little to ease the pressure on Mikel Arteta as they dropped points for a sixth successive Premier League match and had a player sent off yet again in a 1-1 home draw with Southampton on Wednesday.
Arteta's men did at least manage to avoid a historic fifth home league defeat in a row, but, as has become something of a habit, they were compromised by indiscipline just as they had started to show encouraging signs and could ultimately consider themselves lucky to hold on to a point.
Arsenal initially struggled to get to grips with Southampton and only really began offer a threat of their own in the latter stages of the first period – by that point, former Gunner Theo Walcott had already given the visitors a deserved lead.
Southampton's urgency dropped and Arsenal restored parity through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang early in the second half, the Gabon striker ending an 11-match league streak without a goal from open play.
But their hopes of returning to winning ways in the league were dashed when Gabriel Magalhaes was shown Arsenal's seventh red card – four more than any other Premier League club – since Arteta's first game in charge.
7 - Since Mikel Arteta’s first Premier League game in charge (Boxing Day 2019), Arsenal have been shown seven red cards, four more than any other PL side in this period. Mist. pic.twitter.com/6fXjoVralK— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2020
Although Saints did not exactly pepper the Arsenal goal, they displayed much greater cohesion and it came as little surprise to see them carve open the hosts in the 18th minute – Walcott latching on to Che Adams' throughball and clipping a sumptuous finish over the approaching Bernd Leno.
Arsenal improved moderately in the latter stages of the first half, but Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe – restored to the starting XI following suspension – were denied by Alex McCarthy.
That improvement continued after the break and the equaliser arrived after 52 minutes.
Saka impressively evaded three Saints defenders before offloading to Eddie Nketiah on the edge of the box, and his flick released Aubameyang to slot in his first open-play goal since the first match of the season.
But Gabriel was shown two yellow cards in quick succession, the second for tugging back Walcott on the break, as Arsenal's task suddenly became trickier.
Nathan Redmond almost saw Saints take full advantage as he knocked Oriol Romeu's pass on to the crossbar 20 minutes from time, before Rob Holding was also denied by the woodwork in stoppage time.
What does it mean? Arsenal just happy not to lose as Aubameyang finally finds the mark
Dropping two points at home is rarely a great outcome for a club of Arsenal's stature, but given defeat would have seen them hit a historic new low and they had a player sent off again, a draw in the circumstances does not look quite so grim.
Arteta will surely be privately relieved, with Gabriel's sending off another example of foolish indiscipline, but this was by no means an impressive performance.
Nevertheless, Aubameyang finding the net without requiring a penalty is undoubtedly a positive and, for Arsenal's sake, will hopefully be the shot of confidence he needed.
Ward-Prowse the conductor
Saints were in charge for much of the match and the man behind their control was James Ward-Prowse.
The England international's 116 touches was more than anyone else on the pitch, while he was generally alert defensively, his two interceptions a joint-high among Southampton players. Additionally, his 56 passes in the opposing half was bettered by no one, and 89 per cent of those were accurate.
Hardly a peep from Pepe
Restored to the team following his red card against Leeds United, it is fair to say Pepe did little to suggest he had been missed. Although he had three shots, one was blocked and another was disappointingly tame.
His 35 touches was better than only Nketiah among Arsenal starters, but he played 20 minutes from than the striker, who was not a big-money signing.
The action comes thick and fast now over the next few weeks, with Arteta taking Arsenal to one of his former clubs – Everton – on Saturday. Southampton host Manchester City the same day, with Saints hoping to further strengthen their position near the summit.