Arteta facing Arsenal abyss unless ridiculous run of red cards is ended

Gabriel Arteta Aubameyang Arsenal GFXGetty/Goal

For a few minutes it looked like the tide may have been turning.

Arsenal had been staring a fifth successive home league defeat in the face after Southampton had taken the lead at the Emirates Stadium through Theo Walcott’s first-half strike.

Mikel Arteta’s side seemed down and out, but Bukayo Saka sparked them back into life, setting off on a run which led to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s equaliser.

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Suddenly there was a spring in their step. They could sense a victory; a chance to lift the gloom after a horrendous couple of months in north London.

But then it all went wrong. Again.

For the third time in five league games and for the seventh time since Arteta took charge a year ago, they went down to 10 men in the Premier League.

Nicolas Pepe was the villain against Leeds, then it was Granit Xhaka during Sunday’s defeat against Burnley, and this time it was centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes who let himself down.

The Brazilian centre-back has been Arsenal’s shining light this season, producing consistently outstanding displays in the heart of the Gunners' defence. But here he had a torrid night.

Gabriel Arsenal 2020-21Getty Images

He was at fault for Walcott’s goal before then picking up two needless second-half bookings in the space of four minutes, the first for kicking the ball away and the second for pulling back Walcott on the half way line.

It was the latest in what is now a recurring theme for Arsenal, and it is an issue Arteta must get a grip on now before it costs him his job.

At least his side managed to hold on for a point against the Saints after going down to 10 men, unlike against Burnley at the weekend, but it is another show of indiscipline which could have cost Arsenal dear.

Xhaka is already serving a three-match ban and now Gabriel will also be unavailable for Saturday’s tough trip to Everton.

Arteta must feel like the world is against him at the moment, but ultimately this is his squad and he has to get them under control.

Whispers of dressing room unrest persist at Arsenal, with some senior players believed to be angry at a lack of game time and how they are being treated by the Spaniard.

Theo Walcott Southampton 2020Getty

And now on the pitch frustrations are showing as well, and that is far from ideal at a time when it is tough to see where the next win is coming from.

Arteta’s side did at least show some fight after Gabriel’s dismissal on 62 minutes, putting their bodies on the line to ensure they ended the evening with a point.

But the constant string of red cards is not something that can continue. While Arsenal have amassed seven during Arteta’s short tenure, no other side in the Premier League have picked up more than three.

It is an issue that the Gunners boss must put a halt to quickly if he wants to see out his first full season in north London.

Arteta has received the backing of technical director Edu and managing director Vinai Venkatesham since the defeat against Burnley, with both reaffirming their belief that the ex-Manchester City coach is the right man to oversee this period of transition at the Emirates.

But he will know that those words will count for little if his side do not start picking up points quickly. The sight of Edu throwing his arms up in the air while watching the game from the director’s box told its own story.

All is not well at Arsenal, and if Arteta does not get a grip on things - on and off the pitch - there is a sense of inevitability about what is to come.