Southampton hosted another team from North London last week and found it very difficult. With some very poor defensive performances, Southampton’s problems look to get bigger and bigger going into the busy Christmas period. Failing to win yet another home game has left Koeman’s team languishing only six points away from the relegation zone. It is very difficult to see where the Saints will get their next points from, scoring just once in their last three games. They host Arsenal on Boxing Day before a tough away fixture against West Ham so they will be hoping to get some points on the table before the turn of the year.
Arsenal, on the other hand, staked their claim to the title this year with a solid 2-1 victory over rivals Manchester City on Monday night. Mesut Ozil has been in inspired form in the last few months and will be key if the Gunners are to stay the course this year. Leicester have shown no signs of letting up yet whilst other contenders have faltered more than once. It is definitely more open than ever for Arsene Wenger to earn his first Premier League title since the invincibles in 2004.
The sides meet on Boxing Day at 7.45 pm.
Southampton have not been too strife with injuries but Stekelenburg remains a doubt for this fixture. Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic returned to the team last week but could not lift a flat performance. Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte are two solid defenders but have not been able to perform to their capabilities in recent games.
Arsenal’s injury list has shortened quite a lot but are still without key players Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez for a little while longer. Francis Coquelin is another player that has been a big miss for Arsenal but Mathieu Flamini has been an able replacement. Theo Walcott looks to be getting into good attacking positions whilst aiding the defence as well and Aaron Ramsey back in the central area makes for much more attacking promise.
In this fixture last season, Southampton came out 2-0 winners with goals from Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic. The south coast team will need these two guys back on track if they are to get anything out of the tie this time around. Historically, though, Arsenal have won approximately fifty per cent of encounters, winning 38 of 77 matches in all competitions. Southampton have only won 18 of these meetings but Koeman’s men managed to win two out of three times last season, losing at the Emirates in the league after having beaten them in the League Cup.
Despite Arsenal’s dominance over the years, Wenger’s record at St. Mary’s has been less than satisfactory. The last four games at Southampton between the two sides have yielded zero wins for the capital club, earning three draws and one loss. In fact the last time that Arsenal won away at Southampton was a 1-0 win in that invincibles year with a goal from Robert Pires.
Graziano Pelle – The Italian striker has not been as prolific as he was last year and that has been part of the problem for the Saints. He will need to offer more than a goal threat in this game though as Arsenal are likely to dominate the ball. His ability to use his strength and hold up the ball will be very important to allow the Southampton defence move up the pitch and form some attacks of their own.
Aaron Ramsey – Despite Mesut Ozil’s contribution with assists, Ramsey’s engine and willingness to run from midfield constantly draws defenders out of position and, as we saw against Manchester City, he can get into some really good goal scoring positions. I anticipate Ramsey finishing off a chance this time around and putting in a top performance for Arsenal.
Arsenal will be brimming with confidence whilst Southampton will be the complete opposite. As a result, I don’t see Arsenal losing this game but with the ability that Southampton possess, I would not be too surprised to see a draw.
I predict a 3-1 win for Arsenal.