Arsenal will be desperate for three points after back-to-back defeats in the Premier League as they host a much-maligned Southampton at the Emirates.
Arsenal sat comfortably in fifth and looked primed to challenge West Ham for a top-four place at the start of December. In the days leading to this weekend, they have lost back-to-back games to Manchester United and Everton to let their rivals take advantage of the situation and drop down a few places.
Arsenal are currently in the 7th spot and could reclaim the 5th place if Manchester United falter against Norwich City, as Tottenham are not in contention this week. However, the major concern will be their recent form, as the Everton defeat raised a few questions regarding the team’s mentality.
The Gunners lost both previous games after initially taking the lead, and against Everton, they were outclassed in the last ten minutes at Goodison Park. Mikel Arteta will hope the result was just a blip and aim to bounce back swiftly against Southampton. A win will be the bare minimum requirement from the manager as the race for the fourth spot picks up steam.
Southampton have had a few good results this season, although Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side are yet to hit consistent form. They are on a winless run of four games which could stretch further with a defeat at the Emirates, where they haven’t beaten Arsenal in 26 games.
The Saints are in real danger of being considered among those in a relegation battle. Despite their six-point advantage over 18th-placed Burnley, a defeat on Saturday will bring them closer to the danger zone and put tremendous pressure on Hasenhuttl.
They might feel aggrieved by their previous result against Brighton when they looked on the brink of a narrow win only for wind-up merchant Neal Maupay to score an injury-time equaliser. However, their away form in 2021 is far from encouraging, as they have lost 14 of their 18 games on the road, and things may not change this weekend in that regard.
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Getting set for Southampton 💪
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— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 9, 2021
On Monday, Granit Xhaka made a surprise return to fitness against Everton and played the full 90 minutes. His presence gives Arteta a boost to play around with his midfield options, as there could be a bit of shuffling in the area. It remains to be seen if the Swiss star will be playing against Southampton from the start, although if he does, it would put Thomas Partey’s place in danger.
The Ghanaian has had a few bad games, which hasve cost Arsenal. ALbert Sambi Lokonga, who has been in top form, might in for Partey if Arteta decides to change. Sead Kolasinac might be the only sure absentee with an ankle injury in terms of injuries. Gabriel Martinelli, who suffered a hamstring problem against Everton, could be expected to sit this one out. Likewise, Emile Smith Rowe might also be absent as he nurses a similar issue.
Those absentees could cause Arteta to make changes in the attacking third. Nicolas Pepe has not featured for a few games now, as it seems he has fallen out of Arteta’s plans. Despite the need for a wide attacker in the squad, the manager might prefer to start Martin Odegaard on the left side, with Alexandre Lacazette expected to slot in behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Bukayo Saka is the preferred choice on the right side of the attack. The same back five could be preferred in defence, meaning Kieran Tierney will keep his place at left-back ahead of Nuno Tavares.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Saka, Lokonga, Xhaka, Odegaard; Lacazette; Aubameyang
Ralph Hasenhuttl will have to make do without several key personnel to visit the Emirates. Southampton will be without both their goalkeepers, as Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster are out of contention for this clash. The Saints made an emergency goalkeeper signing a few days ago and brought in veteran Willy Caballero, who will start this weekend.
Meanwhile, Hasenhuttl’s options are further depleted as Oriol Romeu and Mohammed Salisu are also missing through suspension. Attacking midfielder Stuart Armstrong also remains out with a problem. The manager will have to tinker with his squad to achieve a positive result against the Gunners.
Jan Bedranek’s absence means Hasenhuttl will have to shuffle his central defence. Lyanco and Jack Stephens are prime contenders to fill the role at the back.
Southampton could go with a 4-4-2 formation with Nathan Redmond and Nathan Tella providing width from the midfield. James Ward-Prowse and Ibrahima Diallo should take up the central midfield positions, while Hasenhuttl should prefer Che Adams and Armando Broja to lead the line.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Caballero; Livramento, Stephens, Lyanco, Walker-Peters; Redmond, Ward-Prowse, Diallo, Tella; Broja, Adams
- Southampton are winless in their last 26 visits to Arsenal, losing 18 of those games.
- Southampton are winless in their last four Premier League games, losing two and drawing as many.
- Southampton have failed to win 11 of their last 12 away games in the Premier League.
- Only three teams have created fewer clear cut chances in the Premier League this season than Arsenal, who rank 17th in that regard.
- Arsenal have won five of their last six home matches in the Premier League.
Player to Watch
Despite some impressive displays, the Arsenal sensation is yet to hit top gear this season. The team struggles to create chances and score goals, which has become a general theme of their struggles this term. Moreover, the potential absence of Smith Rowe could put further burden on the 20-year-old’s shoulders.
Saka is always a dynamic character in games, even when the team is poor. The youngster’s commitment is never in question, although the attacker needs regular goals to his game to reach the next level. Teams like Southampton represent an opportunity to add some strikes to his name and be the difference-maker.
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton
The Gunners have been lacking defensive nous in the last few games and the back four will be trying their best to keep things tight. The Saints have a solid threat in attack, although Arteta might have worked hard this week to make things better in his defensive ranks. Moreover, Southampton’s depleted squad makes their chances to get a positive result at the Emirates difficult.
Arsenal will be desperate to get a win under their belt following back-to-back defeats to Manchester United and Everton. They have lost ground to other rivals in the race for a top-four place and will be eager to keep the pressure on. We expect the Gunners to take all three points with a comfortable victory over Southampton at the Emirates.