Arsenal may have to make do without Laurent Koscielny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles when Southampton visit the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
Arsenal face Southampton in a crucial game at the Emirates, with the Gunners very much in contention for a spot in the top four. Unai Emery will be wary of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s struggling side ahead of their visit for it was Southampton that halted his team’s impressive 22-game unbeaten run back in December.
As for the team news, many of Arsenal’s previously injured stars are now back in contention including key defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who scored on his return against BATE Borisov on Thursday. The Gunners, however, could be without the services of captain Laurent Koscielny, who limped off in the midweek clash, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles remains a doubt following his bout with illness.
Bernd Leno is expected to take his place between the posts, sending Petr Cech back to the bench. With Maitland-Niles a doubt for this game, Emery could explore the idea of retaining Stephan Lichtsteiner at right-back, although he would undoubtedly start the Englishman if fit.
On the opposite flank, Sead Kolasinac is expected to return, meaning Nacho Monreal is likely to be back on the bench. The Arsenal boss though, could shuffle his pack in defence, owing to the potential absence of Koscielny. But, with Sokratis making a timely return from injury, the Greek could partner Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of the defence.
In the middle of the park, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira could be fielded, while Matteo Guendouzi, who has been involved quite regularly in recent weeks, could be allowed a breather.
Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil, who has been subject to intense media speculation surrounding his future could continue in the starting lineup after impressing Emery during midweek. The Arsenal manager was full of praise for the German’s performance against BATE Borisov in his post-match press conference.
“Yes, he needs to be available and carry on. He wants to do this and today he showed what he wants. If he is available, like the last two weeks, we are going to play a lot of matches, and maybe sometimes we need him in the starting XI and sometimes on the bench because we have a lot of players to also help us.”
Those words need not necessarily guarantee Ozil a place in the starting lineup, but it looks likely that he will start. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to retain his place in the side as well, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could move to the left side of the Arsenal attack, with Alexandre Lacazette expected to lead the line for the hosts after missing the midweek tie due to suspension.