After a relatively easy 4-1 win against CSKA Moscow on Thursday, Arsenal will transition back to the Premier League this week welcoming Southampton to the Emirates Stadium. Premier League games are actually not all that important for Arsenal at the moment. They are well out of the top four race, so their only chance to get into the Champions League next season is to qualify for the Europa League. As a result, the Premier League takes a back seat.
While this game may not mean a whole lot for Arsenal, it means everything for Southampton. The Saints find themselves two points from safety with only seven games left to play. With three of those seven games coming against the top six, they may be forced to win one of their matches against the big teams Considering Arsenal’s season, this is probably their best chance to do so. It will not be easy though as, while Arsenal have been awful away from home, the Gunners are yet to drop a point at home to a team outside of the top six this season.
Arsenal got a great result against Moscow, but they did not get out of the game unscathed. Henrikh Mkhitaryan suffered a knee injury that will definitely keep him out of Sunday’s fixture and could keep him out for a few weeks. The Gunners will also be without backup goalkeeper David Ospina, Santi Cazorla, and could be without Ainsley Maitland-Niles as he is a doubt with a muscular injury, according to Physioroom.com.
Southampton could get Stephen Davis back from injury after he’d missed time with a hamstring injury, while Mario Lemina could miss out with an illness, according to Physioroom.com.
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey
Ramsey is not always fit, but when he is he is one of the most dangerous midfielders in the league. The Welshman has scored six goals and assisted six more in only 1558 Premier League minutes, or a goal contribution every 130 minutes. His ability to float in from deep and time his runs to create chances was on display against Moscow during the week as well as he scored two goals and had seven shots inside the box. Those are fantastic numbers for a striker, much less a midfielder. His goalscoring ability could easily win this game for Arsenal.
Southampton: Oriol Romeu
The Saints one shot to win this game is to control the midfield, limit the space for Arsenal’s creative players to use, and stop players like Ramsey from making dangerous runs. If that is going to happen, Romeu is going to have to be a big part of it. The Spanish midfielder will have a big task on his hands, but, if his team has a chance, he’ll have to help keep Arsenal’s dangerous central players from having free reign in midfield.
Arsenal should win this one. In the last few weeks, they’ve made a habit of putting mediocre teams to the sword, scoring at least three goals in their last four matches. Southampton won’t be able to keep up with them if they do that again, simple as that.