January 1, 15:00 BST
St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
In the first game of the new year, two teams who are battling for 4th place take on each other to determine who takes the lead in the race for the Champions League spots. After a tough run of fixtures, Southampton would want to get back to winning ways, and they’d be happy to take on an Arsenal defence that has been suspect for a large part of the season.
Arsenal themselves seem to have steadied the ship and getting into some semblance of winning form, even if it means holding on to dear life for a good half of the game. Beating West Ham and leapfrogging the Hammers would have given them some much needed confidence going into the game against the Saints.
Team News and Tactics
Southampton will be hosting Arsenal on New Year ’s Day for the 2nd time in 3 years, but the biggest concern they will have is that they have not been able to beat the gunners the last 10 times that they have faced each other in the league. They would be keen on addressing this particular stat, and in the process remain above the gunners and still in contention for the Champions League spots. No doubt, they will be looking at their Carling Cup win earlier in the season for some inspiration.
The Saints, however, will have to do this without the help of Morgan Schneiderlin, who got booked twice in the game against Chelsea on Sunday, and so is suspended for this game. They could also be missing out on Nathaniel Clyne as well, but could well see the return of Ryan Bertrand. But the injury list they have is missing a few more key players, including Jay Rodriguez and Jack Cork.
The team’s formation would depend on whom Ronald Koeman picks for this fixture. If Koeman wants to rest Pelle, then it could well see Shane Long playing as a central striker. Instead, if he goes for James Ward-Prose, then Southampton could line up in a 4-3-3. The most likely option is keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation, and play Tadic instead of Ward-Prose, and have Long on the right side.
Predicted Line Up: Forster; Bertrand, Fonte, Alderweireld, Yoshida; Wanyama, Davis; Mane, Tadic, Long; Pelle
While Southampton have been hailed for the 33 points that they have scored this season, Arsenal, despite having the same points as the Saints, are being labelled as flops. This is, of course, because of the difference in stature between the two teams, and Arsenal would certainly want to ensure they go above their high flying opposition by taking all 3 points against them. Having won against Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United, they would want to continue their winning run, and picking up points against top 4 rivals would help them a long way in consolidating their position.
Olivier Giroud will continue serving his suspension after his ill-thought red card offence in the QPR game, and Danny Welbeck has also picked up an injury, which could see the deployment of Alexis in the centre unless Wenger wants to give Sanogo another go. Flamini and Coquelin are likely to continue their midfield partnership in the absence of Arteta, and the main question would be whether Arsene Wenger would give a start to Podolksi.
There could well be a start for the German striker, with Ozil not yet ready to start games, and it will be an opportunity for Podolski to put himself in the shop window. Either that or Wenger could go with Alexis in the centre and Walcott and Ox on the wings. There would also be concern about playing Laurent Koscielny in back to back games, but Wenger will hardly have a choice in this regard.
Predicted Line Up: Szczesny; Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Debuchy; Coquelin, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Walcott; Alexis
- In the last 10 league meetings between the two teams, Southampton have not been able to beat Arsenal even once.
- Arsenal have played 9 times on New Year’s Day in Premier League history, and have lost only once, and drawn once, winning the other 7 games.
- In the previous 6 league games between the two sides, 5 red cards have been dished out.
Both Southampton and Arsenal like to play good attacking football, so this is a games that is always of interest to the neutrals. However, Arsenal may just be able to nick another win, holding to a slender lead one more time, especially if Koscielny starts the game.
Predicted Score: Southampton 1-2 Arsenal