Arsenal face Southampton at the Emirates Stadium as the Premier League returns this weekend after the international break.
For once, Arsenal fans weren’t actually too disappointed about the timing of the break, given the team hadn’t won a league game since before the October international break anyway.
It’s make-or-break time now though, as Unai Emery’s side have to start picking up points before a hellish schedule towards the very end of the year.
Southampton sit 19th in the table with four defeats and one draw in their last five games, so nothing other than a win is acceptable, and given the away side’s terrible defensive record it should also be Arsenal’s first Premier League win by two or more goals this season.
It’s not going to be that simple, of course. We all know what happened when Arsenal faced 20th-placed Watford. Let’s hope for more this time and take a look at our predicted lineup for the fixture.
Bernd Leno will keep his place, particularly as Emi Martinez has gone a little off the boil lately. Martinez is likely to start on Thursday against Standard Liege.
Unai Emery would be a bit mad to go with three-at-the-back. He needs to go for the kill after only managing one goal in the last two games with three centre-backs, and he’s also likely to be missing his usual favoured left wing-back Sead Kolasinac.
As a result, we expect Kieran Tierney to start at left-back, with Hector Bellerin retaining his place at right-back.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz seem the most likely candidates at centre-back, even though it’s harsh for Calum Chambers to drop out. Rob Holding didn’t really make his mark on the Leicester game so he’s easier to sideline at this stage.
Whether we see the return of Granit Xhaka is a bit of a mystery. Emery seemed to be suggesting it was a possibility in his press conference, but the coach did say “little by little we can help him come back”, which doesn’t make it sound like he’ll be starting.
Dani Ceballos is also injured, meaning Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe and Mesut Özil are the five available options.
Guendouzi, Torreira and Özil all seem pretty much nailed on, but after that, it depends on which formation Emery plays.
With Bukayo Saka injured and Nicolas Pepe arriving back late, he’ll probably go with a midfield diamond and two up top. Willock is the most likely to come in as the fourth midfielder given Smith Rowe’s lack of game time in any senior competition this season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette should start. Reiss Nelson is back available, Gabriel Martinelli is also an option, but neither will replace Aubameyang or Lacazette as strikers and as mentioned, it’s unlikely we see a formation with wingers.