Having dug deep to see off Bournemouth’s challenge on Sunday afternoon, Arsenal will be hoping for back-to-back victories when they host Southampton with a spot in the Capital One Cup semi-finals up for grabs.
Claude Puel’s side have had mixed performances to start off their campaign but are gradually improving under his management, and their 1-0 league win over Everton on the weekend is sure to give them confidence ahead of a trip to north London.
With that being said, their last visit to the Emirates was in early September where they succumbed to a narrow 2-1 defeat against the Gunners and will be eager to avoid a repeat in a competition they could quite possibly go on and win this term.
Although it’s more than likely that Alexis Sánchez will be afforded a rest after his Man of the Match display against Bournemouth on Sunday, Arsène Wenger lavished praise on the Chilean forward pre-match.
As quoted by the club’s official website, he said, “I think Alexis adds to his game a desire to fight for the team and as well, he’s a winner, he wants to win the game and does what it takes to win the game.”
Wenger also provided injury updates after this weekend’s exertions, confirming that Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) and Olivier Giroud (groin) will both be unavailable for selection with their respective injury issues.
The severity of Debuchy’s hamstring injury, forcing him off early in the first-half against Bournemouth, is not yet known. Wenger confirmed the Frenchman had a scan on Tuesday but the medical staff do not yet know the results. It does not look good.
Arsène tends to make a few changes for these games as you know, giving the fringe and younger players an opportunity to feature and there will be that chance again on Wednesday.
Emiliano Martinez is expected to start in goal, having started and kept two clean sheets in the two previous rounds. Wenger said the squad will have “a mixture of youth and experience, but still 90% of the first-team”, which suggests a similar side to the one which beat Reading 2-0 in the last-16.
Kieran Gibbs should start again at left-back, whilst Carl Jenkinson was left out altogether from the matchday squad to face Eddie Howe’s side on the weekend – potentially given a rest after two intense fixtures in quick succession so soon after recovering from a long-term injury.
Mohamed Elneny could start alongside Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a holding midfield duo whilst recalls to the starting line-up for Alex Iwobi and Lucas Pérez are also expected, fitness permitting.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs; Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Iwobi, Ox, Reine-Adelaide; Perez.
Southampton haven’t won a piece of silverware since 1976 and their last cup final appearance was in the 2003 FA Cup. They lost 1-0 to, yep you guessed it, Arsenal.
Dusan Tadic (broken nose) and Matt Targett (hamstring) are both out of contention to feature, whilst Josh Sims is expected to be given a rest after his impressive display against the Toffees last time out. Sofiane Boufal (knock) and Steven Davis (illness) have both been passed fit for selection, and it’s likely that both will start at the Emirates.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Forster; Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand; Hojbjerg, Reed, Ward-Prowse; Redmond, Boufal, Rodriguez.
The Saints are renowned for their excellent youth academy but they’ve shown in previous seasons that they have enough quality in their ranks, injuries aside, to more than trouble Arsenal’s backline. It’s going to be another welcome test for Wenger’s men, especially with a semi-final berth available.