Lineups from 18:45
Arsenal:Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Welbeck
Subs: Macey, Gibbs, Bellerin, Rosicky, Podolski, Sanogo, Giroud
Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Fonte (c), Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama, Cork, S. Davis, Tadić, Long, Pellè
Subs: K. Davis (GK), Yoshida, Gardos, Mané, Mayuka, Reed, Targett.
While Arsenal may still not be playing vintage football they are at least back to winning ways with two wins in a row. The impressive 2-0 win over Dortmund was followed by a hard fought 1-0 win away to West Brom on Saturday. The common factors in both games were the work rate of the team and the clean sheets they kept as a result. There were a few hairy moments late on against Albion, but overall Arsenal deserved the win and the three points which came with it.
The injuries didn’t stop piling up in that game with Nacho Monreal going off early to be replaced by Kieran Gibbs. On the plus side though both Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud returned to the side to add some considerable strength just before the busiest spell of the season. Hopefully a few of the others who picked up knocks against West Brom will have recovered in time for tomorrow night too.
Arsenal are going to need their strongest possible line up to play against a very good Southampton team who are a few places and six points above them in the league. Southampton were well beaten at home by City on Sunday as their unbeaten home record was well and truly finished. They have have done quite well away from home too despite not scoring many goals on the road.
Ronald Koeman has them playing some very good football since he took the reins in the summer and made some very good additions to their team. They have already won away to Arsenal in the Capital One Cup although that was not Arsenal’s strongest team as per usual in that competition. Southampton are on a run of some very tough fixtures and Arsenal need to take advantage of any dent their confidence may have taken in Sunday’s defeat to City.
In team news it looks like Arsene Wenger has to make a decision on whether to risk Koscielny so soon after his return knowing there’s another game on Saturday. He will also have to make a late decision on Gibbs, Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to assess where they stand from the knocks picked up on Saturday. I can only imagine he will play his strongest team possible with the team needing to make up ground on all the teams who won last night.
The team should be very similar to Saturday, but I suspect he will opt for Gibbs ahead of Monreal if both are passed fit. I think Chamberlain’s possible knock will keep him out as it’s not easy to see who would step out from Saturday’s win to accomodate him. I’ve said it before that I think he’s always the first to be left out of the team and I think he should be a nailed on starter.
Arsenal will have to be at their best to overcome Southampton tonight, but City showed on Sunday that they are vulnerable. I think the first goal will be vital as Arsenal could be punished if they find themselves having to chase the game against the current best defence in the league. If they do fall behind they cannot make the mistakes they did against United of abandoning their defensive duties and losing all shape.
Alexis Sanchez hasn’t scored in the last two games and I have a feeling he will make up for that tonight. He scored a magnificent free kick against Southampton in that cup game in September and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a huge influence on the game tonight. I’m looking forward to an Arsenal team which has him in it along with Ozil and of course Theo Walcott will hopefully be back pretty soon too.
I expect Southampton to set their stall up to stop Arsenal scoring and I’d love to see Arsenal come flying out of the traps. If Southampton are vulnerable after the defeat to City a strong start from Arsenal could give them real problems. I’ll take any sort of victory, but I’d love to see one where the team come out and dominate from start to finish and take their chances when they are well on top. That was something Arsenal did so well in the past and surely it can’t be too much to ask for it again.