Wednesday night will see a very important game being played out at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal and Southampton locking horns to see who can stake a firmer grasp on the top 4 slots. With Southampton riding high and Arsenal floundering every few games, this will certainly be a game worth watching even for the neutrals, especially since both the teams like to play beautiful, attacking football.
Team News and Tactics
The league campaign has not been any fun for Arsenal this season. After what seemed a promising start to the season following a few games going undefeated, they predictably lost to Chelsea. Since then, it has been a free fall for the gunners, which only now they seem to be getting out of, after wins against Borussia Dortmund and West Bromwich Albion. They’ll look for another win and clean sheet against the Saints, though it looks doubtful either will happen.
In terms of team news, while the return of Laurent Koscielny has certainly added some much needed stability to the defence, it has been tempered by injuries to both the Left Backs. Both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs face late fitness tests, and if neither can pass then it could very well be down to Mathieu Flamini to play there. Joining them would be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who also picked up a knock during the West Brom game.
While Yaya Sanogo is fit, it is likely that Arsenal will go with the same formation that he played against West Brom, with Alexis Sanchez on the right, Danny Welbeck on the left and Olivier Giroud in the centre. Behind him, if the Ox doesn’t pass his fitness test, it could be Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky, with Ramsey playing the holding role. If that does happen, it is definitely a recipe for disaster, because Ramsey has shown no inclination to stay back and defend throughout this season, and one can only hope one of the Left Backs is fit enough to start so that Flamini can play the holding role instead.
Predicted Line Up: Martinez; Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Flamini; Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck; Giroud
Southampton have been a sort of a revelation this season, especially after everyone had written them off following departures of their manager and some very important players. However, they have defied everyone’s expectations and not only stayed away from the relegation zone, but also have a fair shot at finishing in the top 4.
It is not that Southampton’s rise to 2nd place is some fluke of circumstance, which will get corrected after the traditional top 6 teams get into form, as will most likely be the case with West Ham. Southampton have been a genuine threat in all the games they have played so far this season, and taking them lightly would be at the opposition’s peril. If they can keep up their good form, they will certainly upset some established teams in the final tally.
However, they would be a little short of confidence going into this game, considering they lost to a 10 man Manchester City over the weekend, conceding 2 goals while having a man advantage. If Arsenal can capitalise on that shaky nerves in the first few minutes, it could yet turn out to be a second consecutive defeat for the Saints.
Predicted Line Up: Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand; S Davis, Cork, Wanyama; Tadic, Pelle, Mane
Both teams will be looking for the win, and with neither team a believer of playing defensive football, it will be a fantastic game for the neutrals. With the likelihood of a high number of chances being created, it could end up in a scoring draw.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 2-2 Southampton