Arsenal in reverse as Gunners blow golden opportunity in race for Champions League football

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Arsenal in reverse as Gunners blow golden opportunity in race for Champions League football
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The race for Champions League qualification looks like it will have plenty of twists and turns, but right now Arsenal are heading in reverse.

Defeat to Southampton means they have now lost three Premier League games in a row and, after starting this international break in fourth, they are now sixth.

The scenes back in March, when they clung on to beat Aston Villa, felt like a lifetime ago at the full-time whistle at St. Mary’s.

Arsenal players had their heads bowed after a 1-0 loss to Saints, while the hosts linked arms and cheered in unison with their fans after Jan Bednarek’s goal had secured them a first Premier League win since February.

Before kick-off Arsenal had been handed a golden opportunity in the top-four race after Tottenham lost to Brighton.

Suddenly, the Gunners knew they could move level on points with Spurs - with a game in hand - if they beat Southampton.

But they blew their chance and instead they finished they day sat sixth in the table following Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Norwich.

There may well be more drama as the race to qualify for the Champions League continues, but right now Arsenal don’t look like a team ready for Europe’s elite.

They had plenty of possession against Southampton, 76 per cent to be precise, however they were blunt going forward.

Fraser Forster made an excellent save to deny Bukayo Saka in the first-half and Emile Smith Rowe late on, but other than that the Saints goalkeeper didn’t have masses to do.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal seemed to lack urgency, particularly in the first-half and they were made to pay just before the break. They cleared a corner but, after the ball was hooked back in, Mohamed Elyounoussi squared it for Bednarek to lash home at the near post.

Mikel Arteta’s side tried to get back into the match after the break, but they couldn’t find a way to break Saints down - who only a week ago shipped six against Chelsea.

Arsenal finished the game with Gabriel Martinelli and Saka as the wing-backs, and Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe as the strikers, but even then they didn’t have any joy.

It leaves them in a precarious position ahead of what promises to be a huge week. Next on the horizon is Chelsea on Wednesday night, before they host Manchester United in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday.

If Arsenal play like this, it could well be five defeats on the spin.

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