Many believed that Southampton’s strong run this season had come to an end when the club suffered 4 consecutive league losses. However, with wins over Everton and Burnley followed by a tidy display against the leaders Chelsea, Ronald Koeman’s boys have sneaked up to 4th spot with 33 points. Their guests for the night, Arsenal too have 33 points and sit in the 5th spot only by the virtue of a lower goal difference than the Saints. Though the Gunners have won over the last 2 match days, their victories can hardly be classified as convincing, as they let their opponents off the hook after being in advantageous situations. In Southampton, they face a strong unit at home and if the Gunners’ fans were looking for a convincing performance, they might be in for a surprise.
Nathaniel Clyne has been crucial to Southampton as the defender has mixed it up well at either end of the pitch, putting in crucial tackles as well as creating chances with his marauding runs forward. However, the Englishman is out for the clash due to an ankle injury. Other absentees at the club include Cork (ankle), Gallagher (knee) and Jay Rodriguez (ACL knee). Morgan Schneiderlin has drawn a lot of praise from the footballing community in the last year and understandably so. The influential midfielder was sent off in the game against Chelsea and hence is set to miss the game against the Gunners due to suspension.
Arsenal fans will be hoping that Welsh International Aaron Ramsey can recover from his hamstring injury in time to travel to St. Mary’s. He will be joined in a late fitness test by Danny Welback (hip). However, with injuries plaguing the team time and again, it remains to be seen if Wenger will start Ramsey even if declared fit. The definite absentees for this tie are Arteta (calf), Wilshere (ankle) and Ozil (knee). Having resorted to desperate measure of playing Coquelin alongside Flamini in a 2 man midfield for some time in the last game, Wenger can see brighter days ahead as Arteta and Ozil are set to be available for selection in mid-January.
- Graziano Pellè has fired the most shots (59) so far over the current season.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored the first goal of the game more often than any other Premier League player this season (7).
- Arsenal have now scored two goals in three successive Premier League away games, but didn’t win either of the previous two.
Forster, Alderweireld, Fonte, Yoshida, Targett, Wanyama, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Mane, Pelle
Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Flamini, Rosicky, Sanchez, Welbeck
The creative lynch-pin at Southampton has been creating chances at will this season, linking up brilliantly with team mates on occasion. However, it comes as a surprise that with the assist against Chelsea, Tadic finally ended an assist draught that extended back to the middle of October. Despite creating 30 chances since the middle of October, the Serbian international has a solitary assist to show for, which in some ways is a poor reflection on his teammates. Up against a defence that has come under scrutiny time and again this season, Tadic will be keen to set the tone for the meeting with his creative displays early on in the game. With 7 assists from the 50 chances he has created this season, the former Twente FC star is a definite threat to an Arsenal side whose leadership and abilities are being questioned frequently over the last few months.
The Spanish midfielder has been the brightest spot in this Arsenal line-up alongside the mercurial Alexis Sanchez. The quick footed, tricky midfielder sits only behind the Chilean in terms of chances created (43 compared to Sanchez’s 50). However, there is much more to his game than just chances, he often drops deep into his own half to help out the often susceptible defence at the Emirates. The pass master has linked up well with the attack, with more than 70% of his passes made forward. He has always shown a penchant for short, quick passing often from wide positions and likes to cross.
With Nathaniel Clyne set to miss out for the Saints, their right-back from last game Alderweireld will have his task cut out. With players like Giroud in the fold, Cazorla will look to cross the ball often into the box and should the Southampton defence fail to close him down time and again, he could cause mayhem in their box.
|2014/2015||Wed 03 Dec||Arsenal||1 – 0||Southampton||Premier League|
|Tue 23 Sep||Arsenal||1 – 2||Southampton||League Cup|
|2013/2014||Tue 28 Jan||Southampton||2 – 2||Arsenal||Premier League|
|Sat 23 Nov||Arsenal||2 – 0||Southampton||Premier League|
|2012/2013||Tue 01 Jan||Southampton||1 – 1||Arsenal||Premier League|
|Sat 15 Sep||Arsenal||6 – 1||Southampton||Premier League|
Both the teams will be keen to begin the year on a positive note. However, with injuries and suspensions marring both the sides, it is a tough call on the result of the game. We expect the game to end all squares at 1-1.