After a morale-boosting win over Manchester United on Sunday, it’s important for Arsenal to continue winning.
Arsene Wenger’s men have lost one in five matches (all competitions) since trialing out a three-at-the-back formation. Naturally, they’ll be hoping the defeat against Spurs was a blip and their final loss of a forgettable season.
A tough trip to St. Mary’s now awaits, against one of Wenger’s former players in Claude Puel. In the last 11 meetings between the two sides, both have won four. It’s fair to say that the Saints are a tricky opponent.
Wenger provided some updates on injuries within the squad, with one returning to training and another a possible doubt for contention.
Lucas Perez has been frustrated by the lack of minutes he’s received this season. Having been out with a thigh injury for two months, the Spaniard has recovered and returned to full training on Monday.
Laurent Koscielny however, is a doubt for contention. The experienced Frenchman has an unspecified knock and Wenger revealed he’d have a late fitness test, with a decision being made after training yesterday.
Granit Xhaka scored the opener against United but limped off after a recurrence of the ankle knock which forced him off against Spurs. Wenger said he’d “recovered quite well” and news on his condition was better, though he was to have a fitness test too.
Danny Welbeck is fit and didn’t sustain an injury against his former club – which is reassuring as the forward will be expected to lead the line again tonight.
With all of that in mind, here’s a possible XI (3-4-2-1): Cech; Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Gibbs, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ox; Alexis, Özil; Welbeck.
Southampton are currently on a winless run of four league matches but will leapfrog both Leicester and West Bromwich Albion into eighth place if they prevail here.
This is their game in hand and one they’ll relish, against a quality side that have been unpredictable at the best of times this term. Clean sheets in recent goalless draws against Hull and more recently, Liverpool, will also give them confidence that they can isolate Arsenal’s key men and frustrate them all evening long.
Virgil van Dijk (foot) is running with assistance as he steps up his recovery from a lengthy lay-off, whilst Charlie Austin (shoulder) and Matt Targett (hamstring) made their returns by featuring in an u23 fixture against Manchester City last Friday. Both are major doubts to feature on this occasion though.
Puel has spoken about Arsenal’s qualities but also suggested his side can perform well in this match and get a deserved result from that too.
“It’s [Arsenal] always a great team with fantastic offensive players. But I think we can do a good game against this team – to keep, of course, a good structure, to defend together and to prevent chances. It’s important also in-front of our fans to show our qualities.”
Possible XI (4-1-4-1): Forster; Cedric, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand; Romeu; Tadic, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Boufal; Gabbiadini.