Not even a week after beating Manchester City 2-1 in December, we were all brought right back down to the ground.
A Boxing Day trip to the south coast saw us lose 4-0, and we’ve only won two of the five Premier League games since. They were home matches against Bournemouth and Newcastle United, hardly prestigious opposition, but it’s time to get back to winning ways after two draws and a defeat.
What better way to end our poor form than beating Southampton, who started our wobble just over five weeks ago?
Arsène Wenger said as much to the media on Monday, insisting that it’s time to put things right. He was referring to our recent form almost as much as that day at St. Mary’s stadium, with a look ahead to the rest of the season:
“They gave us a tough game last time and we have to put that right.
“It is a very important time in the season as we go into big, big games and have 13 matches to go.
“The [coming weeks] can be pivotal but not decisive,” Wenger added. “They will give a clear indication of the strength of the teams and who can cope with the importance of the games”
Tomas Rosicky is the only player who played at the weekend who isn’t unavailable, having suffered a thigh injury. Long term absentees Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla remain out but Per Mertesacker returns after being banned at the weekend.
Petr Čech, Héctor Bellerín, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott were all rested at the weekend and could return.
The boss will have to decide if Francis Coquelin and Alexis Sánchez are fit enough to start just over 72 hours after their first starts in two months, but I suspect both will play. Theo Walcott could lose his place to Alexis, but is also an option up front.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Campbell, Özil, Alexis; Walcott.
Southampton are having a disappointing season but have finally managed to put a run together in recent weeks, beating West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Manchester United in their last three Premier League games.
The game on Boxing Day proved that they can be very good at shutting down spaces and stopping the flow of the game, something instilled in the side by Mauricio Pochettino’s days in charge. Arsenal will have to pass and move well while stretching the big Emirates Stadium pitch to really threaten the visitors.
Up front, Charlie Austin could be in line for a first Southampton start after coming off the bench to score the winner at Old Trafford on his debut. They are without Steven Davis and Graziano Pellè is a doubt. The pace of Shane Long and Sadio Mané, should they play, will be a huge threat on the break.
Possible XI: Forster; Soares, Van Dijk, Fonte, Bertrand; Wanyama, Clasie; Tadić, Mané, Targett; Austin.
Form is temporary
Class is permanent. That’s the old adage, anyway. After three Premier League games without a win, Arsenal have surrendered top spot to Leicester City and are now third in the league, behind Manchester City on goal difference. As the manager has said, this is a big month. It sees us host Leicester before playing Manchester United away from home, and we begin March with a trip to White Hart Lane.
We’re getting to the stage where ‘every game’s a cup final’, so let’s start this one in a positive manner.