SOUTHAMPTON

V

ARSENAL

St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton

17:30 hrs GMT; 1st Jan, 2013

***

Arsenal starts the new year with a trip to the St Mary’s stadium. A year filled with ups and down ended on a positive note as the Gunners thrashed Newcastle 7-3 at the Emirates. That win was Arsenal’s 4th on the trot in the Premier League after they lost to Swansea. This fantastic run of results means the Gunners are now just one point behind fourth placed Tottenham with a game in hand. Arsene Wenger will have to ensure his team maintains their momentum as we enter the business end of the season.

Southampton on the other hand have started picking up points after a dismal start to the season. They have lost only twice in their last nine Premier League matches. Nigel Adkins will be disappointed that his side failed to take all three points against Stoke City in their last match, despite leading the Potters till the 90th minute of the match.

The Saints can leap frog Wigan and and Aston Villa to 16th place in the table, and into safety, if they manage to take a point against Arsenal. But the kind of form Arsenal’s forwards displayed against Newcastle would have given Adkins lots to think about in the build up to this match.

Team News

Southampton

Southampton don’t have too many injury concerns at the moment, with only two players in the sidelines. But captain Adam Lallana’s absence is something they could have done without. The extent of the midfielder’s knee injury is still not known, while Right-back Nathaniel Clyne is also expected to miss out this game. The defender who is also suffering from a knee injury, is expected to be back within two weeks time.

Lallana’s absence has given Adkins lot of selection headache. He has stuck with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, although he did experiment with 4-4-2 against Sunderland. Lambert will once again spearhead the attack upfront, but the question remains, who will support him?

Adkins has tried to fit in Steven Davies, Jay Rodriguez and Emmanuel Mayuka alongside Lambert. He has employed Mayuka upfront in a 4-4-2 formation against Sunderland. Rodriguez has been deployed as the lone striker upfront with Lambert dropping deep against Stoke City, while Steven Davies was deployed in the hole behind Lambert in the match against Fulham. It is fair to say Southampton’s attack looked at its best against Stoke.

Rodriguez will once again lead the line-upfront, while Lambert will drop deep and will look to support the 23-year-old in the box when ever the ball goes to the wings. Adkins will also have to choose between Ramirez and Guly in this match. Puncheon has been a regular in the team, and Guly’s wonderful performance in his last match against Stoke would mean Ramirez might once again start from the bench.

Cork and Schneiderlin will have to work hard among themselves to stop Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere getting too much time on the ball in the attacking third of the pitch. Southampton will have to press from the front, while their back four would drop deep in order to prevent Theo Walcott too much space to run behind the defense.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Davis; Yoshida, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Lambert, Guly; Rodriguez

Arsenal

For Arsenal it has been a merry Christmas, both on and off the field. By the 2nd week of January, the Gunners face the possibility of  a fully fit squad – something which has been unimaginable in recent seasons. Per Mertesacker is fit once again after he missed the match against Newcastle United and should replace Koscielny in the starting line-up. Tomas Rosicky is also expected to play some part in this match, while Abou Diaby and Andre Santos will be back in training this week. Even Fabianski is expected to return to first team squad by the 2nd week of January.

The big question of Wenger before the match against Newcastle United was, whom to start up-front – Walcott or Giroud? But after 90 minutes of scintillating football, we are now sure who will start in the next match. Walcott, scored a wonderful hat-trick to and have strongly claimed a permanent shift to the center forward role.

To Wenger’s pleasure, even Giroud came off the bench and scored a wonderful brace, which means the Frenchman now has two in form striker in the squad at the moment. Something which Arsenal have missed for a long time. Walcott is once again expected to start in this match ahead of Giroud, with the Frenchman coming on in the second half of the match.

With Rosicky available, Wenger might opt to give Santi Cazorla some rest in this match, and start the Czech international alonside Wilshere and Arteta in the midfield. Another player who shined in Arsenal’s last match is Podolski. He and Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to start on the wings once again.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski; Walcott.

Key Facts

  1. Arsenal have scored 13 goals in their last three Premier League games.
  2. Southampton have lost only two of their last nine Premier League games.
  3. Each of Southampton’s last five home league games have featured under 2.5 goals.
  4. Arsenal have scored six goals twice in their last six meetings with Southampton.
  5. Only Man Utd (16) have taken more points over the past six Premier League games than Arsenal (13).

Player To Watch Out For

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)

ArsenalTheo Walcott has racked up seven goals and five assists in his last eight matches for the Gunners, including a hattrick in his last match against Newcastle United. Walcott sent out a strong statement to Wenger and the board with his performance last time around. But now, he has to prove that he can consistent as well and score against different oppositions and defenders. If he continues his goal scoring exploits upfront, then Wenger might well decide not to buy a new striker in January with Giroud on the bench.

Prediction

Southampton 1 – 3 Arsenal 

Southampton have performed well against big teams this season, but haven’t got the right results. They will once again start brightly against Arsenal. But the Gunners are in wonderful form currently and should be too strong for the Saints. The home team will trouble the shaky Arsenal defense, and will score, but sadly they will concede more.

Blast From The Past