After the lull caused by the international break over the past week, we’re quickly back into the thick of things with another tricky Premier League fixture.
We host Southampton in one of Saturday’s 3pm kick-offs and given their form since the start of the campaign, we’ll be quietly confident of sealing all three points.
Admittedly we’ve been far from perfect after a frantic 4-3 defeat at the hands of Liverpool on the opening weekend, but flashes of brilliance were on display during our 3-1 victory over Watford last time out – suggesting the international break may have come at just the wrong time with many of our key players returning to fitness.
Arsène Wenger answered plenty of questions on a range of different topics, but one of the most important answers was in regards to Aaron Ramsey’s fitness.
The talented Welshman, injured (hamstring) during our defeat at the hands of Liverpool last month, has been categorically ruled out of contention against both the Saints tomorrow, as well as our first UEFA Champions League group stage fixture of the season – against Ligue 1 giants Paris-Saint Germain.
As we covered earlier, Alex Iwobi (thigh) is expected to feature in some capacity after recovering fully from his muscle strain whilst Gabriel (ankle) seems ahead of schedule to return after being pictured in first-team training too.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was heavily linked with a potential switch to the Emirates as Wenger’s successor – but when asked, the Frenchman answered the journalist’s question with this:
“I don’t know who will take my job one day… I don’t know who will take your job one day.”
Alexis Sánchez (Chile) is a doubt to start as he and second-choice goalkeeper David Ospina (Colombia) only returned to London in the early hours of Thursday so might not be risked from the off in an attempt to avoid needless fatigue. When asked about his two new acquisitions to the side, who started full training earlier this week:
“They bring us their qualities. Mustafi has international experience and Perez is versatile, can score goals and also provide assists.”
On Jack Wilshere, who sealed a surprise loan move to Bournemouth on deadline day, Wenger remained firm about his confidence in Jack’s abilities despite a lack of senior minutes (due to injury) in recent seasons.
“I think Jack Wilshere is a world-class player. It was a shame that he plays too deep.” As expected, the thinking behind his move elsewhere was to offer him regular football and Bournemouth can help Jack recapture the type of performances he has produced in previous seasons.
As previously mentioned, Iwobi will return to the first-team squad but Alexis Sanchez returning late from international duty suggests he will not be risked. Per Mertesacker, Carl Jenkinson and Danny Welbeck (all knee) and Gabriel (ankle) are the unavailable first-team players for Arsenal, as well as Ramsey (hamstring).
Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez could be handed their competitive debuts with both available for selection, so the selection dilemma will be intriguing to see ahead of kick-off.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Cazorla; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Özil; Giroud.
Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster is available for selection and expected to start, despite withdrawing from international duty with England after suffering a minor arm injury. Left-back Ryan Bertrand (knee) may return whilst new signing Jeremy Pied (ACL) is sidelined indefinitely.
Sofiane Boufal, who joined Claude Puel’s side for a club-record fee late in August, will have to wait patiently for his debut appearance as he builds match fitness after a sustaining a knee injury.
Southampton are 15 games without a clean sheet, but have managed to keep three consecutive clean sheets against us.
Plenty is at stake, and we’ll be mindful of avoid losing further ground on the top four as both Manchester clubs and Chelsea have started the season in the best possible way – with three wins from a possible three.
Jose Fonté, a European Championship winner with Portugal this summer, is amongst the Saints’ key men and they’ll be hoping a solid performance can warrant their first victory of the season after two draws and a disappointing defeat away at Old Trafford.
Nathan Redmond has settled into life well with his new side, whilst Dusan Tadić is the key cog in attacking midfield and Shane Long is effective on the counter despite his inconsistencies in-front of goal at times.
Possible XI (4 -3-2-1): Forster; Cedric, Fonté, van Dijk, Targett; Romeu, Hojbjerg, S. Davis; Redmond, Tadić; Long.