Arsenal FC have dominated Southampton FC whenever they have played at home, whether it was at Highbury or the Emirates Stadium, and they will look to extend their undefeated streak of 20 games against the Saints as the two teams meet on Wednesday.
The last time the Gunners lost to Southampton was before the Premier League era had even begun, a 1-0 loss at Highbury in November, 1987. Since then they have maintained their unbeaten run against a team that they have traditionally enjoyed playing against.
But this is a new, progressive Southampton side under the dynamic Ronald Koeman and they proved just what they could do against Arsenal in the reverse fixture, where they dealt a severe blow to the Gunner’s title hopes with a 4-0 victory at St. Mary’s Stadium. Arsene Wenger will be wary of the visiting Saints, but the return of the Chilean dynamo Alexis Sanchez will definitely boost his confidence before the match.
Ronald Koeman knows how to handle Professor Wenger
Everyone knows Arsene Wenger loses sleep at night over his poor managerial record against his Portugese nemesis Jose Mourinho. But Ronald Koeman, though not as prolific at dismantling Wenger as Mourinho, also boasts of an admirable record against the Arsenal manager.
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In the 10 times that they have faced each other, Koeman has come away as the victor on four occasions, Wenger twice and four have ended as stalemates. Arsene Wenger will be well aware of the manager’s capabilities as Arsenal have slumped to two league defeats in their two previous games against Southampton. The manager will be looking to unleash the full force of his attack this time around, with Alexis Sanchez returning to action having missed out on the reverse fixture.
1. Victor Wanyama v/s Mesut Ozil
If the midfield battles between the two teams play an important role in how the game unfolds, then expect these two players to be in the thick of action. Ozil has not been assisting goals as routinely as he in the first half of the season, but all it would take is a spark of brilliance from the German to add to his tally of 16 Premier League assists.
Ozil will however have to contend with Southampton’s midfield rock, Kenyan defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama. The latter has a good work rate and will look to wrest control of the midfield from Ozil, while preventing him from getting much space to work his magic.
2. Alexis Sanchez v/s Van Dijk/Fonte
The Southampton defenders will have their hands full as they deal with Alexis Sanchez, who is thirsting to get back into the thick of the action after a prolonged spell on the sidelines. Sanchez is an indefatigable presence in the Gunners attack and will be looking to make the opposition pay for even the slightest defensive errors.
The Southampton back-line of Van Dijk and Fonte had a great run of form in January, allowing only 3 shots on target in the Premier League, but their resilience will be put to the test against the attacking prowess of the Chilean play maker who has scored in both of his previous appearances against them.
3. Charlie Austin v/s Petr Cech
The English forward scored against the Gunners in both of his appearances against them last season too, albeit for current Championship side Queens Park Rangers. He is a goal poacher par excellence and will be the focal point of Southampton’s attacks after joining the side in January. Austin will be longing to prove himself in the absence of regular striker Graziano Pelle, to cement a spot in the starting XI.
But one big thing has changed since Austin last met the Arsenal defence, Petr Cech. The Gunner’s keeper has played a big role in their successful run this season and his reflexes, as well as awareness in the penalty area, could end up thwarting Austin and prevent him from adding to his tally against Arsenal.
Blast from the Past
Arsenal FC will still be stinging from their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the Saints last time around, which included some absolutely beauties being scored. The win dismantled the momentum of Arsenal’s title surge and reminded the league of what Southampton were capable of pulling off.
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