St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
Saturday 26th December 2015, 1945 GMT
While Arsenal FC are vying for the title this season, they have Southampton, a team that mirrors Arsene Wenger’s philosophy, in their way. Things have been going well for the Gunners, but it is exactly the opposite for the Saints, who seem to be slowly slipping down the Premier League table.
Team News & Tactical Brief
The Saints have been on a really poor run of form, and are in serious danger of slipping into the danger area of the Premier League table at the moment. Having picked up just one point from their last five Premier League matches, the dark clouds seem to be gathering over St. Mary’s, the venue for Saturday’s clash against Arsenal FC.
Manager Ronald Koeman would be looking to quickly turn things around for the club, before things start getting out of hand for them. While the Dutchman would be happy to see goalkeeper Fraser Forster return to training after a nine-month layoff due to a knee injury, the goalkeeper is unlikely to feature in the Arsenal FC game, as he is yet to get back to full fitness. However, Maarten Stekelenburg is set to make his comeback from a toe injury, and will likely replace Paulo Gazzaniga in goal.
There are more worries for Southampton though, as both Florin Gardos (knee) and Jay Rodriguez (foot) are ruled out of the match with injuries. The Saints’ top goalscorer Graziano Pelle has been quiet of late, and Koeman would be looking to the Italian to bully the Arsenal FC defenders and return to scoring ways.
Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane would also need to send in as many crosses from wide positions for the tall Italian striker to get his head onto. Meanwhile, Steven Davis would be the one sitting in the No. 10 position, to feed the ball to Pelle. Mane has five assists so far this season, and could prove to be crucial for the Saints.
Southampton would however need their back four to remain strong against an Arsenal FC side that has looked increasingly menacing this season. Virgil van Djik and Jose Fonte would be the two central defenders, with Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares guarding the flanks. Meanwhile, both Jordie Clasie and Victor Wanyama would have their work cut out for them, as they would be occupying the crucial pivot positions.
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Stekelenberg; Bertrand, Van Djik, Fonte, Soares; Clasie, Wanyama; Tadic, Davis, Mane; Pelle.
The Gunners seem to have a new found swagger about them, as they go about their job of defeating one opponent after another in their quest for the elusive Premier League title. This has been one of the best seasons for them so far, and a win against Southampton would be a great Christmas present for their fans.
What is incredible is the fact that they have so many players injured, and yet Arsene Wenger seems to be finding just the right formula every time Arsenal FC walk out onto the pitch. Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck (knee), Mikel Arteta (knock), and Jack Wilshere (ankle) make up a rather long injury list, but Wenger would be more worried about the players who are fit right now.
The Frenchman is unlikely to make any change to the starting XI just yet, with the Mertesacker-Koscielny partnership defending brilliantly, and Monreal and Bellerin playing well as fullbacks. Interestingly, Aaron Ramsey seems to have fitted perfectly back into his role in the two-man pivot in the centre of the park, even though he himself is a box-to-box player, while Cazorla, the one he replaced, plays more of a passing game.
Partnered by Mathieu Flamini, the midfield duo seems to complement each other well, with the Frenchman sitting and holding the shape together, and the Welshman bombing forward.
Mesut zil has been on top form, and the playmaker would be looking to add to an already impressive assists tally, as he weaves his way unselfishly through the opposition players. With the in-form Giroud, Walcott and Cambell to feed, the German should have ample options to pick the perfect pass.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Ramsey, Flamini; Walcott, zil , Campbell; Giroud.
- Southampton are on a five-match winless streak in all competitions.
- Inversely, Arsenal FC are on a four-match winning streak in all competitions.
- The Gunners have the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 14 goals.
- The Saints have conceded the same amount of goals in their last six matches in all competitions.
Player to watch out for
This is a no-brainer really, with the German international being on top form this season, already racking up 15 assists in the Premier League. zil seems to be in a world of his own right now, acting as the conductor in the midfield, something that striker Olivier Giroud has been feeding off pretty well.
Southampton FC 0-3 Arsenal FC
Another thrashing seems to be on the cards for Southampton, as Arsenal FC would be looking to completely steamroll the Saints in their pursuit for Premier League glory. With zil in top form, it seems unlikely that the Southampton defence would be able to stop a pass (or three) from the German.