Wednesday night’s game at the Emirates Stadium represents Southampton’s second opportunity of the Premier League season to move top of the table – even if it might only be for a few hours.
A brilliant run of four wins from their last six games has set them up for it, and to do so they’ll need to overcome an Arsenal side looking for a response after defeat at the weekend.
It’s been a tough place to go for the Saints over the years, but it was the scene of a fantastic performance around this time last year – one which acted as a true platform for the brilliant 2020 that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men have enjoyed.
Arsenal’s last Premier League victory came back on November 1, when they won 1-0 away at Manchester United. Since then, they have drawn one and lost four league games, although they have won all four Europa League fixtures in that period.
Whilst there were no further injury issues from Sunday’s surprising defeat to Burnley, the Gunners will be without both Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka due to suspension. David Luiz is back in full training following the head injury sustained against Wolves in November, whilst Thomas Partey remains sidelined.
Nicolas Pepe, however, is available again after completing his three match suspension.
Ralph Hasenhuttl, meanwhile, will be able to select from a fully fit squad ahead of the midweek trip to the capital. Saints tackle two games in the space of four days this week – both against ‘big six’ clubs – so rotation is likely.
Forward pairing Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond have shaken off respective injury problems in recent weeks, with both finding the net following their return to action.
Arsenal: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Elneny, Ceballos; William, Lacazette, Saka; Aubameyang.
Saints: McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Walcott; Ings, Adams.
Mikel Arteta: “They’re a really high pressing team, they are really aggressive, a really committed team. They make it hard for you to build a game up, they are really good on the counter press, the moment you regain the ball they have some really quick players and the link up play in the final third is really good.
“They are a team that is very much alive and you can see that the manager transmits that passion from the bench and everyone is aggressive and they all go, they are scoring goals and we need to be aware of that.”
Ralph Hasenhuttl: “We don’t have a lot of time to prepare for this game. We have plenty of good young lads. They are giving real pressure and this is definitely what I want to see.
“Nearly every player from this first XI has spent a time sitting in the stands whilst I’ve been here. That’s where the mentality in the squad has changed, because we all push each other to grow and be better.
“We’re not playing the stats, we’re playing an Arsenal side with quality. We should always concentrate on every part of our game, we need a perfect shape against the ball. We must find the right messages.”
Ones to watch
Bukayo Saka has been a bright spark in an otherwise lethargic season for the Gunners so far, become a first team regular at just 19-years old. Direct in attack and capable of finding the back of the net, Saka will hope to be on the front foot at the Emirates Stadium but is equally able to do a defensive job for Arsenal.
Jannik Vestergaard has been Saints’ standout performer in recent weeks. The Danish defender has put in noticeable performances at both ends of the pitch. A serious threat from set-pieces, Vestergaard already has three goals this season, whilst helping Southampton keep five clean sheets in that time. Danny Ings has scored three Premier League goals in three appearances against Arsenal for Southampton – no Saints player has ever scored four goals against the Gunners in the competition.
Head to head
Arsenal have enjoyed home matches against Southampton over the years, and three points for the visitors tonight would see them win against the Gunners for the first time away from home in the Premier League.
The Gunners have won 15 and drawn 6 of the 21 meetings thus far, although back in December a late strike from Alexandre Lacazette earned the hosts a point in a 2-2 draw.
How to watch
The game, along with all nine other fixtures this gameweek, is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video. The match kicks off at 18:00 GMT on Wednesday 16 December 2020.