Our long unbeaten run came to an end on Sunday as Charlie Austin’s late goal condemned us to defeat on the south coast.
With Southampton playing their first game under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, there was a sense of optimism among the home fans ahead of kick off.
Straight away, we were put under pressure from the hosts’ high press and a patched-up three-man defence of Laurent Koscielny, Stepehan Lichtsteiner and Granit Xhaka soon had their hands full.
We created the first chance as Matteo Guendouzi picked out Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang in the area for a shot that was saved by Alex McCarthy, but after that the home side began to grow in confidence.
Danny Ings preyed on some hesitant defending to open the scoring, but our response was good and we equalised through Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s header just before the half-hour mark after good work from Alex Iwobi and Nacho Monreal.
Almost immediately we had a golden chance to take the lead as Lucas Torreira was played in by an incisive Guendouzi pass, but the Uruguayan’s ball across the six-yard box was diverted away just before it reached Aubameyang.
But we never looked truly comfortable at the back, and on the stroke of half-time Ings got in between Koscielny and Lichtsteiner to send a looping header into the far corner.
To make matters worse, Hector Bellerin limped off straight away to add to our defensive woes and Unai Emery had it all to do at half-time once again if we were to turn this game around.
We started the second half having reverted to a back four, with Alex Lacazette on to replace Bellerin and we created a chance almost straight away, but Aubameyang’s poked effort was saved by McCarthy.
Lacazette was making himself busy and he was absolutely central to our equaliser, as he picked the pocket of a defender 20 yards out, and found Mkhitaryan, whose deflected shot squirmed beyond McCarthy and into the net.
With the game on a knife edge, the hosts thought they had the lead when Leno saved from Yoshida and Long poked in from close range, but much to our relief the flag was up for offside against the forward.
Both sides were going flat out, and we were next to have a go when Aubameyang poked wide after a rapid counter-attack and we continued to turn the screw in search of a winner.
But there was a late suckerpunch as the Saints broke on the counter and Shane Long picked out Austin to score at the far post to end our unbeaten run in all competitions.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
Next up is the small matter of our second north London derby in the space of two weeks as Tottenham visit Emirates Stadium for our Carabao Cup quarter-final on Wednesday.
Last time out, we were trailing 2-1 at the break to our rivals, before unanswered goals from Aubameyang, Lacazette and Torreira secured a memorable win.
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