Unai Emery counted the cost of small margins after watching his Arsenal side lose 3-2 away at Southampton on Sunday to bring the Gunners' 22-game unbeaten run to a grinding halt.
Arsenal twice fought back from behind at St Mary’s and were seemingly on course for a hard-fought draw before a late Charlie Austin header sank the Gunners to deny Emery a point.
A draw may have been a decent result given the balance of play, but Arsenal were left empty handed for the first time in a match since August. After the game, Emery conceded, as quoted by Football.London: “We lost. In the 90 minutes we had different issues.
“The second half we were better in the game, with the control and also creating more chances than them.
“With a small action they scored the third goal. They deserved it because they played with big motivation.
“Our game today was similar to what we have played before, but the result was different.”
Arsenal’s downfall at St Mary’s was largely a consequence of having just one available central defender for the game in Laurent Koscielny, with the Frenchman himself having only just returned from a long injury layoff.
With no Rob Holding, Sokratis Papastathopoulos or Shkodran Mustafi at their disposal, Arsenal were punished for their inability to defend Southampton’s dangerous crosses, with all three of the Saints’ goals coming from headers.
“I think they worked well,” Emery said of his defence. “Good news for Koscielny, good performance in 90 minutes. Xhaka played well, Lichtsteiner played well.
“We conceded not a lot of chances but their efficiency today was good. We had chances to score more than two goals but didn’t score.
“The control of the game in 90 minutes was more for us than them.”
Arsenal must regroup quickly from the shock of defeat on Sunday, as the Gunners host north London rivals Tottenham once more at the Emirates in a Carabao Cup quarter final on Wednesday.
The north London giants will then look to reignite their top four bid when they host Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday, and Emery admitted the challenges ahead are not easy.
“Our demand is very big but the level is very high with other teams. If we don’t win like today, it’s hard to get into the top four because the other teams are winning," Emery added.
“The objective is the top four, but we know it’s not easy. We need to be demanding of ourselves. After 22 matches unbeaten we are only fifth.”