These teams head into this game with completely contrasting form with Arsenal winning their last five games in the league compared to Southampton’s poor recent record of two league wins in six attempts. Arsenal will be looking to stay ahead of the leading mini-pack which has separated itself from the other top teams – Chelsea, City and the Gunners are all in fine form and any slip-up could prove costly, with momentum so important at this stage of the season. Southampton on the other hand are just looking to stabilise what is, in reality, a decent league position – the Saints sit in ninth place with a seven point lead over Aston Villa.
Southampton go into this game with a relatively healthy squad, they have just three injuries hampering Pochettino’s plans. Victor Wanyama is the man who is closest to returning with a return date scheduled for around the end of January – the defensive midfielder has been missing since the beginning of December with a hairline fracture. Both Gastón Ramírez and Dejan Lovren will have to wait until March for their returns from ankle and foot injuries. Other than the above, Southampton are in good nick heading into this crunch game.
Arsenal are much worse off than their Premier League counterparts in terms of injuries which means their current position of league leaders deserves extra credit. At present the Gunners have six injuries within their squad – and that’s a fairly low number compared to other parts of the season. Arsenal fans can be optimistic though with Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Mikel Arteta (calf) and Thomas Vermaelen (knee) all potentially in line for appearances this week – as all should come through late fitness checks. Young striker Sanogo will be out until the second week of February and the young man could be in line for a few short appearances with Arsenal’s squad being pulled from pillar to post by matches against Bayern Munich, Liverpool and many other tough teams in what could prove a decisive two month period. Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott are long term injuries with no return dates decided for the pair who have both been stricken by the dreaded ACL injury.
Southampton have kept eight clean sheets this season but five of those came in the first nine Premier League games of the season.
The Saints have won eight games with five coming in their first nine games of the season. Pochettino’s side have won just three in the thirteen games since.
Arsenal are the joint third highest goalscorers in the league with 43 goals compared to Southampton’s 29. Only Manchester City and Liverpool have scored more.
Southampton have carved out 21 clear-cut chances this season, with Arsenal on exactly double that figure. The Saints actually maintain a higher possession than Arsenal on average with the Gunners clocking in at an average of 56.6 % compared to Southampton’s 57.78%.
Southampton – Jay Rodriguez
The young Englishman is Southampton’s top goalscorer this season in all competitions with 11 goals to his name and the young Saint scored in his last Premier League outing against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light – although the one goal was produced from seven shots (his most in any one league game this season). Rodriguez has registered 100% shot accuracy in no less than six games this season, which shows how accurate the young man can be with the ball. Rodriguez is also one of Southampton’s most creative talents with the winger producing four clear-cut chances for his team-mates this season – that’s almost a quarter of his team’s overall total. Rodriguez is also not afraid of being on the ball with 822 touches to his name so far this season.
Arsenal – Santi Cazorla
Cazorla has been one of Arsenal’s best players this season and has crucially helped the Gunners storm to the top of the Premier League table. The Spaniard has hit a very impressive 86% of his passes accurately this season – despite playing the game almost totally in the opposition’s half and in intricate areas. Quite surprisingly, Cazorla has only created two clear-cut chances for his team-mates this season, meaning Rodriguez has out-created the diminutive Spaniard. Another surprise is that Cazorla has only scored three goals this term. However, Cazorla has been super important in Arsenal’s attacks with an impressive 416 successful final third passes so far this season (82% accuracy).
My prediction for this game is an Arsenal win simply because they seem unstoppable at the moment and they know this is a must win game with the hard fixtures they have just on the horizon. Southampton are on the up slightly and should start picking up points again soon but Arsenal’s interchanging whilst in attack should be too much even for Pochettino’s famed pressing game. I’ll go for 2-0 to Arsenal to leave them sitting pretty at the top of the table.