Arsenal head to St.Mary’s to take on relegation-threatened Southampton as the Gunners will be looking to keep their unbeaten run and race to the top four going.
Arsenal’s had to pull their socks deep last weekend as they ensured all three points against Huddersfield, courtesy of a late Lucas Torreira goal. Following that victory, Arsenal ensured they finished their Europa League group on a high note with yet another narrow 1-0 win over Qarabag, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 22-games.
The Gunners sit fifth on the table, level on points with Chelsea and only behind on goal difference. Unai Emery will be hoping to take advantage of Southampton’s struggles of late to ensure all three points are theirs for the taking and pile pressure on other top four contenders Chelsea and Tottenham.
As Arsenal aim to get into the top four, Southampton are fighting a battle to get out of the relegation zone where they sit second from bottom on the table along with a poor goalscoring record this season. Main strikers, Charlie Austin, and Manolo Gabbiadini have only two goals among them in more than a thousand minutes played.
However, The Saints have a new manager on board, former RB Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, and will be keen to impress their manager as the Austrian takes charge of his first home game. After Arsenal, The Saints face Manchester City and Chelsea, during which time a victory might not be expected, although the new manager will look to assess his squad.
Team News & Tactics
Ralph Hassenhuttl did not have the best of starts to his managerial reign at Southampton suffering defeat to fellow strugglers Cardiff City in his first game in charge. The loss could be blamed on many missing players, who now aim to make a return to face Arsenal. Among those returning stars are Ryan Bertrand, Cedric Soares, and Danny Ings, all of whom have been out with injuries.
However, Bertrand might still be a doubt, as he is reportedly not fully recovered and could join Jack Stephens in the list of defensive absentees. Shane Long, however, is back in contention for a start for Southampton or could alternatively make the bench. Overall, Hasenhuttl will be looking to make minimal changes as he might feel too many could disrupt the squad more than necessary.
Meaning the likes of Romeu, Hojbjerg, and Lemina could keep their midfield places, as the manager will look to continue with a 4-3-3 formation to control the game. Charlie Austin is set to start the game as Southampton’s central striker.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3) – McCarthy; Soares, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Hojbjerg, Romeu, Lemina; Redmond, Armstrong, Austin
Arsenal have their own troubles with injuries and suspensions to key players. The Gunners come into the Southampton with only one recognised center back in Laurent Koscielny. Rob Holding is out for the rest of the season with knee ligament damage, while the first-choice pair, Sokratis and Mustafi are suspended after receiving their fifth booking of the season against Huddersfield.
Laurent Koscielny is not entirely upto pace either, having played only once since April. The appearance came against Qarabag in midweek, where the club captain played for 72-minutes from the start. Emery, however, has Nacho Monreal as an option after the Spaniard returned to action a week ago. The left-back is fully capable of playing in central defence, but Emery has the option of Stephan Lichtsteiner too in that area.
In attack, Mesut Ozil who started for the first time in many weeks due to a back problem against Qarabag might be sent back to the bench against Southampton. Taking his place in the lineup would be Aaron Ramsey, who sat out the last two games with an injury, but now is back in the side. Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka should be the central midfielders, with Aubamenyang, Lacazette, and Iwobi all gunning for starts against The Saints.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1) – Leno; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ramsey, Aubameyang; Lacazette
- Southampton are winless in their last four games against Arsenal in all competitions.
- Arsenal have lost just two of their last 17 games against Southampton in the Premier League.
- Southampton’s win percentage against Arsenal is their lowest against any opponent in competition history (15.8% – 38 games, six wins).
- Arsenal have won only one of their last seven away games against Southampton in the Premier League.
- Arsenal have scored at least twice in their last seven away Premier League games.
1. Arsenal to win @ 1.95
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.61
1. Arsenal Clean Sheet – YES @ 3.40
Player To Watch
It only took a few games on the pitch for Torreira to stake his claim as a starting midfielder. His subsequent ability to control games and his incredible form has coincided with Arsenal’s stellar 22-game unbeaten run.
However, in the last few games, Arsenal fans have noticed a different aspect in Torreira’s game, his goalscoring prowess. The Uruguayan has scored in two of the previous three games, including the match-winner against Huddersfield last weekend.
The goalscoring ability certainly adds something different to Arsenal’s overall attack, although it’s his impressive control in midfield that will be key to Arsenal securing all three points against Southampton. Torreira needs to continue his impressive form and stay injury free as Arsenal head into a busy festive period. He certainly will be the player during the game on whom the spotlight will be on.
Southampton 1-3 Arsenal
In the last few seasons Southampton have come to trouble Arsenal in some ways; however, this season this is a different Gunners outfit, well drilled and to the point. It would be wild even to put Southampton into consideration to least get the point than a win against Arsenal, as the North London outfit are the clear favourites to win this clash.
Arsenal’s impressive attack is growing with each game and goals have been easy to come for the Gunners this season. Expect Arsenal to score a handful against The Saints. While the Gunners are vulnerable at the back due to the absence of key defenders, hence expect Southampton to score at least score one goal, but its Arsenal who will likely take all three points.