After Monday night’s superb and uplifting win against Manchester City, it has felt very much like Arsenal are favourites for the title.
Maybe that should be whispered, but what the hell. (I’ll be up front about this, dear readers: it’s Christmas and I haven’t spent a great deal of time on this preview, as I often do.)
A trip to St. Mary’s to face Southampton now beckons, with a lot at stake. By the time we play on Boxing Day, Leicester City would have already played at Anfield – will we be able to top the league with our first win at Southampton since 2003?
Yes, that’s right, we haven’t won there since they were promoted back in 2012. Saturday will be our fourth visit since then, so it is surely the perfect time to put that record straight?
Arsène Wenger met the media on Wednesday and spoke about beating Manchester City, as well as looking ahead to the Southampton game. The Saints have struggled of late, but we won’t be drawn into a false sense of security.
“Everybody put hard work into the game – we got a positive result against a strong team who will fight for the championship, so it was an important night for us,” said the boss.
“I believe for us, the most important is to focus on ourselves. We have not to speculate too much on any weakness of Southampton.
“When you look at their team, they have the potential to be a very strong team. We have to convince ourselves that we again need another top-level performance.”
So, what exactly is their problem? After losing yet more important players in the summer, Ronald Koeman’s team look weak at the back and impotent going forward. Players like Sadio Mané can spark the whole side into life, but Victor Wanyama looks lost in midfield, Graziano Pellè is struggling badly and the entire defence is porous. With Mark Stekelenburg behind them instead of Fraser Forster, they don’t even have a safety net.
They haven’t won in their last five Premier League games, of which they have lost four. In that time they’ve only managed to score three goals. Obviously they are still a threat on their day, but this isn’t the Southampton side Arsenal faced the last two winters.
Possible XI: Stekelenburg; Soares, Fonte, Dijk, Bertrand; Davis, Wanyama, Clasie; Tadić, Pelle, Mané.
Please win, Arsenal. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope the team continue it on Saturday.