Arsenal travel to St. Mary’s on Sunday to face a Southampton side devoid of form and confidence in the sixteenth gameweek of the Premier League.
Southampton are a side that seems to have stagnated towards the mid-table after a promising run in the Premier League. Their managerial turnover hasn’t helped either. And it seems the latest one – Mauricio Pellegrino’s appointment at the beginning of the season – has been having the same effect.
Pellegrino has failed to take the Premier League by storm, despite a magical season with Alaves in La Liga. His side is struggling to get goals past the opposition, which has been the main cause for their inability to hit some form 15 games into the season.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have been able to galvanize themselves despite the ongoing contract uncertainty surrounding some of their key players. The Gunners will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Manchester United, though.
Ahead of the interesting encounter, we take a closer look at the two teams.
Team News & Tactics
Shane Long is expected to return from his injury layoff, but is unlikely to be thrust straight into the starting eleven. The striker will have to be content with a place on the bench, which is more than what can be said for Cedric Soares, who remains sidelined.
Jeremy Pied will likely deputise in Cedric’s place again while Wesley Hoedt and Virgil Van Dijk are expected to be the central defensive pairing. Nathan Redmond is one of the best attacking outlets for Pellegrino and a player who should be starting every important match.
Manolo Gabbiadini has failed to impress under Pellegrino, which means Charlie Austin is likely to continue upfront against Arsenal.
Pellegrino does build his entire game style based on a mixture of counter-attack and possession-based football with the focus on wing-play. However, it is yet to pay huge dividends, both offensively and defensively. The manager could go for a pure defensive and counter-attacking tactic on Sunday to earn a point or three.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Forster; Pied, Van Dijk, Hoedt, Bertrand; Romeu, Lemina; Redmond, Tadic, Boufal; Austin
Shokdran Mustafi is unlikely to be fit in time and has an even lesser chance of being selected by Arsene Wenger, if he does manage to be fit, with the manager not wanting to risk the player. Per Mertesacker did not feature on Thursday against BATE Borisov, which makes him almost a certainty for Sunday.
Elsewhere, we should see a largely similar starting eleven, despite Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott making a healthy case for their selection with commendable displays on Thursday.
The trio of Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will likely be unleashed again, after another good display against Manchester United, when Arsenal did almost everything right except putting the ball into the net enough number of times.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Cech; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette
1. Arsenal to win @ 2.00
2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.66
1. Result & Both Teams to Score – Arsenal & YES @ 3.75
1. Home Dis-Advantage? – The home side has failed to get on the scoresheet in 4 of the last 5 meetings between the two sides in all competitions.
2. The Solution? – Alexandre Lacazette has scored 8 goals in his first 15 Premier League matches. Only two Arsenal players have scored more – Alexis Sanchez (9) and Ian Wright (10)
3. Austin Powers – Charlie Austin has been in fine form for Southampton, with 7 goals in his last 10 Premier League starts.
4. Super-Sub Olivier – Olivier Giroud has 15 Premier League goals as a substitute for Arsenal. Only Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer (16) has more for a single club.
5. Arsenal have not won successive games away to Southampton in the Premier League since August 1997.
Player to Watch
No one can deny the fact that a Mesut Ozil on song is a Mesut Ozil worth watching. We have seen his creative juices in full flow in recent times and Sunday could be another game where the German flexes his muscles.
Southampton 1-4 Arsenal
This should be an easy encounter for Arsenal, barring any surprises. The Gunners can also see this as an opportunity to further close the gap to the teams that are above them, provided results go their way. Saints may pose a threat, especially given Arsenal’s inability to earn successive victories at St. Mary’s in the Premier League.
But, the Gunners have shown an improvement in recent times and should be able to avert any potential storm. We expect the trio of Lacazette, Alexis and Ozil to be in full flow on Sunday.