Southampton face another of last season’s top four in Arsenal in midweek looking to bounce back following the poor defeat to Man City on Sunday. The Gunners produced a narrow 1-0 win away to West Brom in the Saturday lunchtime kick off, putting defeats against Swansea and Man Utd behind for the crucial three points. These two teams are generally known for their pretty football but will take any sort of win to boost their chances of a top four finish at the end of the season.
Arsenal have started nowhere near how they would have expected to, having won only five of their 13 games so far. Five draws and three losses have resulting in sixth place in the league table so far, 13 points behind leaders Chelsea but only two off the top four places. Two wins against Sunderland and Burnley were following by losses to Swansea and Utd which summed up the inconsistency of Wenger’s side so far. A much needed win against West Brom at the weekend has given the team some belief and a run of good results now with games coming thick and fast can put Arsenal in good stead going into the New Year.
The Saints will be rueing the poor second half display against Man City which saw them concede three goals and fail to capitalise on a sending off at 1-0 down. After a tight first half, the game changer saw Morgan Schneiderlin come off at half time due to a knock which left Southampton very open in the middle. Even a red card to City centre-back Mangala wasn’t enough to help Southampton who dropped to third and saw their five game unbeaten run come to an end. December will feature clashes with Man Utd, Everton and Chelsea as well as Arsenal on Wednesday which test their credentials of challenging for European football.
The two teams have already clashed this season in the Capital One Cup which saw Southampton come from behind to win 2-1 at the Emirates. A penalty of Tadic and an absolute thunderbolt from Clyne put the Saints into the next round after Sanchez had put Arsenal in front.
Arsenal’s injury list seem to become longer with each game after both left-backs, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs both picked up knocks against West Brom. Both are likely to have recovered by midweek however so one of them should start on Wednesday night. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny should have recovered hip injury which has kept him out of the last two games. Young Emiliano Martínez has deputised in his absence and has kept two clean sheets but if Szczęsny is fit, he will more than likely take over between the sticks in goal. Back-up keeper David Ospina is still out with a thigh injury.
Jack Wilshere has recently been ruled out until February with a foot injury just as he was finding some good form. Mikel Arteta is still a few weeks from being ready after a calf strain but Theo Walcott and Mathieu Debuchy should make their comebacks early this month. Mesut Ozil is another player who will be out until at least the New Year.
The Saints will be missing Morgan Schneiderlin for the trip to London after being substituted at half time in the defeat to Man City. The thigh injury isn’t deemed to be too serious at the moment but without the Frenchman patrolling the midfield in the second half, Southampton looked very open in the middle, meaning he will be a big miss.
Jack Cork is likely to return to the first team to replace Schneiderlin however, partnering Victor Wanyama in midfield. James Ward-Prowse (ankle) and James Rodriguez (knee) are still absent.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine meetings Premier League meetings with Southampton.
- Southampton’s three defeats so far this season have all come against team who finished in the top six last season.
- Arsenal’s defeat to Man Utd in their last home game ended an unbeaten run of 23 league games at the Emirates.
- Arsene Wenger has come up against Ronald Koeman on seven occasions but has only won one of the meetings, drawing four and losing twice
- Olivier Giroud has scored three goals in his last two Premier League games against the Saints.
- The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 19 home league games against the Saints (W14 D5).
Recent Head to Heads
2014/2015 Tue 23 Sep Arsenal 1 – 2 So’ton League Cup
2013/2014 Tue 28 Jan So’ton 2 – 2 Arsenal
2013/2014 Sat 23 Nov Arsenal 2 – 0 So’ton
2012/2013 Tue 01 Jan So’ton 1 – 1 Arsenal
2012/2013 Sat 15 Sep Arsenal 6 – 1 So’ton
Arsenal: Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck ended a run of four games without a goal after superbly heading in the winner against West Brom on the weekend. That being said, the former Utd striker has only managed to find the net three times since his arrival on deadline day. Having already scored a hat-trick in the Champions League and consistently scoring with England, he will hope to transfer that form into the league sooner rather than later with the cluster of games coming up. The likes of Alexis Sanchez have been able to take some of the pressure off Welbeck, who is adjusting to life as a main striker, his favoured position. The 24-year-old has also created 21 chances and two assists to his name and provides the team with a different type of outlet. What Arsenal seem to lack when they have the likes of Giroud up front is the ability to time runs and get in behind defenders which Welbeck is more than capable of along his pace and finesse with 54% of his 24 attempted dribbles being successful so far this season.
Southampton: Graziano Pelle
After netting six goals in his first eight games for Southampton this season, Graziano Pelle now find himself struggling to find form and has been without a goal in his last five league appearances. Pelle has adapted well since his move from Feyenoord, featuring as a formidable figure at the top of Southampton’s attack. That being said, a striker who is to revel in the Premier League needs to show consistency, especially if Southampton are to prove that they are a team who can challenge for Europe come May. The tall Italian striker has shown that he is not fazed by the change in league and test goalkeepers with 43 shots attempted so far with a conversion rate of 14%. With the influx of strong and powerful frontmen in the Premier League, Pelle must show that he can have the impact that say Bony has had at Swansea or Costa has at Chelsea, in order for his team to maintain their good position in the league.
I think this testing period will show whether Southampton really have the capacity to challenge the more established teams in the long term having started off so brightly. The loss to Man City will be a kick in the teeth and I don’t think they’ll recover sufficiently in order to pull off a result at the Emirates with Arsenal looking to build on their win at West Brom.
My Prediction – Arsenal 2-0 Southampton