Southampton vs Arsenal Preview: Can Arsene Wenger break the top four mould with the visit to St. Mary's?

Southampton vs Arsenal Preview: Can Arsene Wenger break the top four mould with the visit to St. Mary's?

Arsenal, on the back of a convincing Europa League triumph on Thursday, travel to the South Coast for their Sunday clash with Southampton.

Ryan White

Arsenal continue their Premier League campaign this weekend as the Gunners travel to the south coast as they face mid-table outfit Southampton at St. Mary's on Sunday, and both teams are eager to gain more points on the board in the lead up to the festive fixtures. 

The hosts go into the game on the back of a satisfactory result from the south coast derby against AFC Bournemouth; in-form attacker Charlie Austin cancelling out Ryan Fraser's opener to ensure the Saints went home with a point - a disappointing four points from a potential fifteen sees the club sit 11th in the table. 

As for the visitors, Arsene Wenger's men had to cope with a midweek outing as they hosted BATE Borisov in the Europa League but easily surpassed their opposition following a 6-0 victory.

However, the last Premier League match for Arsenal ended in disarray as they suffered a 3-1 home loss to fierce rivals Manchester United, despite arguably dominating the ninety minutes of play. 

Both Mauricio Pellegrino and Wenger will need the points, for very different reasons though. Southampton should be anticipating a move into the top-half but have struggled to capitalise in their home games so far, whereas the Gunners could possibly overtake Liverpool into fourth. 

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​Defensive woes for managers a concern

​Southampton will be without key man Cédric Soares, who picked up Player of the Month for December earlier this week, as the Portuguese right-back remains in the treatment with a hamstring problem - he was ruled out of action for the club's draw to Bournemouth last Sunday. 

This means Frenchman Jérémy Pied is heavily likely to slot into his team-mate's position for the visit of Arsenal. 

Arsene Wenger is worryingly short on defenders as centre-half Shkodran Mustafi is a doubt for the visit to St. Mary's following his sustainment of a thigh problem, which led to the German's substitution during the defeat to Manchester United. 

Although, Arsenal should have several influential first-team members back up to full fitness after the boss rested a number for the midweek Europa League encounter. 

Recent meetings suggest Gunners are favourites

Southampton and Arsenal met a total of four times last season; with the clubs meeting in the League Cup before their FA Cup game in January, as well as the two matches in the top-flight. 

Wenger last travelled to the south coast in May where his men gathered a comfortable 2-0 triumph with goals from Alexis Sánchez and Olivier Giroud; the previous trip to St. Mary's was the FA Cup outing and a hat-trick from Theo Walcott alongside Danny Welbeck's brace ensured the Gunners progressed to the next round of the competition

The Saints' most recent triumph over their opponents came in the 2016/17 campaign in the League Cup as Jordy Claise and Ryan Bertrand rippled the net in the first-half, and went onto keep a clean sheet as well.