With Arsenal clinging on to European aspirations by the skin of their teeth, they will be desperate to change their fortunes when they travel south to face Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side. The Saints, however, are just three points behind their opponents and know a win will take them to 40 points. This tally will almost guarantee their already likely Premier League safety.
Southampton Looking to Close Gap on Arsenal
Awful Arsenal in Dire Straits
The North London side couldn’t have had a poorer start. Mikel Arteta’s men have conceded five goals in two games and have picked up major injuries to key men. First choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno is the latest of these casualties, and Arsenal fear the injury is long-term. Last weekend they lost to 15th placed Brighton & Hove Albion after Neal Maupay’s last-minute winner. Arsenal, with a growing injury list and suspension of David Luiz, are going to Southampton with a fragile squad and a team shot of confidence. As well as this, there are off-field disputes, contract struggles going public, and their front men not performing. It leaves Arsenal in a perilous position.
The Gunners look extremely vulnerable. Yet, their attacking threat is indisputable. Nicolas Pepe’s incredible effort to give Arsenal the lead this Saturday at the Amex proved that. Any chance of success lies in Arsenal’s attacking firepower being at their best. However, their defensive inadequacies and weakness in midfield suggest the problems will continue in North London for the rest of the season. Positive results in the next couple of games are crucial for the Gunners, who have a horrid run of games to come in the next few weeks. Arsenal will be desperate to put things right this Thursday.
In contrast, Hasenhuttl’s men looked good in their return with a convincing 3-0 win against bottom of the League Norwich City. Danny Ings rekindled his goalscoring form, netting his 16th goal of the campaign. The Saints ran out convincing winners after a solid performance, the perfect way to return to Premier League action. Ings is in the running for the Golden Boot and would love to outshine Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when the two go head to head this week. Nathan Redmond, who recently returned from injury, also hit the ground running, scoring against Norwich. The Saints will look to pick up where they left off and take advantage of a wounded Arsenal side.
Head to Head
St. Mary’s has been a difficult place to go for Arsenal in recent years. Southampton put an end to Unai Emery’s early season unbeaten run in 2018 with a 3-2 win over the Gunners. Arsenal have only won one in their last six league visits to Southampton. This run includes a 4-0 Boxing Day thrashing in 2015. Southampton have fond memories of facing Arsenal at home and, even without the presence of their fans, will fancy their chances.
Southampton have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Gunners. Earlier this season, the Saints held Arsenal to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates. Arsenal, now with a new head coach, will hope to get one over Southampton this Thursday and pick up their first points since the restart.
Southampton will be without Moussa Djenepo, whose suspension from before the break continues. Striker Shane Long is a doubt as a result of a back injury he has not yet fully recovered from.
Arsenal have a long injury list. Leno, along with Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari, are all ruled out of Thursday’s fixture. David Luiz is suspended. Matteo Guendouzi has been cleared to play after avoiding disciplinary action for his behaviour post-game at the Amex. Lucas Torreira is still a doubt having only recently returned from a spell on the side-lines.
What to Expect
One could argue that neither of Southampton or Arsenal seem to have much to play for, for the rest of the season. But, Southampton expect to be safe of the drop and will reach 40-points with a win, which is usually seen as the safety net. Also, Arsenal are hanging on to European aspirations and know they will need to turn things around quickly. They have a difficult run-in awaiting them and are will need to start picking up points. They are a side shot for confidence and will hope to gain a much-needed three points.
However, the Gunners are in such bad form, and the weaknesses in the squad are being further highlighted through injuries and suspension. They will travel to St. Mary’s where they have struggled in recent years to face a side who looked great on their return to Premier League action. Although, with the result coming against rock-bottom Norwich, who knows how Southampton will perform against an arguably more difficult task against Arsenal?
Arsenal, despite their form, are still fancied as the favourites for this clash. However, we could be in for a repeat of the reverse fixture, in which the two sides shared the points at the Emirates.
Prediction: Southampton 2-2 Arsenal