Daily Archives: January 28, 2014
With the FA Cup fourth round nothing more than a distant memory, all focus has been shifted to the mid-week Premier League fixtures and the Gunners head to St. Mary’s to take on a Southampton side that has endured a mixed campaign thus far. With fellow title contenders, Chelsea and Manchester City playing tomorrow, the Gunners will have a golden opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
After a rather solid start to their Premier League season with five clean sheets in their first nine games, Southampton were in third place and the media lauded their aggressive style of play where the players closed down their opponents with such frantic pace but after the loss of their chief enforcer, Victor Wanyama, to injury, their fortunes changed for the worst.
The Saints have managed just three victories from their last 13 games and they have surprisingly conceded 20 goals in the last 11 league games, having let in just five goals in their opening 11 matches. Since their 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates, they have managed a meager two wins from 11 games, which has seen them drop into mid-table mediocrity.
Despite their recent slump in form, they have 31 points from 22 matches, their best tally at this stage of a Premier League season since 2002-03, when they had 35 points. They finished that season in eighth place. They’re also renowned for their ball retention (58% ball possession) abilities on the pitch in the Premier League, second only to Swansea (59%).
Arsenal also has to be mindful about the threat Jay Rodriguez could pose. He’s the Saints leading goalscorer with 11 goals and he scored in their last tie against Sunderland in the Stadium of Light. According to EPL Index, Rodriguez has registered 100% shot accuracy in no less than six games this season, which shows how accurate the young man can be with the ball. He has created four clear-cut chances and he has had 822 touches to his name so far this season.
Arsenal are the third highest scorers in the Premier League with 43 goals and also have the best defensive record in the top-flight, conceding just 19 goals (10 clean sheets) this season. Arsenal’s tally of 51 points is their joint second-best total after 22 top-flight matches of a season. They had 52 points in 2003-04, when they went unbeaten all season.
The game would be of some significance to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as he plied his trade for Southampton, scoring nine goals in 36 League appearance in their time at League One.
To injuries, Wanyama is close to full fitness but this game would be too soon for the lad. They would be without the services of Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez that would be out till Spring, while Pablo Osvaldo remains suspended by the club after an altercation with Jose Fonte on the training pitch.
Arsenal on the other hand, gave some deserved rest to a couple of key players in the FA Cup clash against Coventry and we would expect a couple of returnees in various positions. Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen are all believed to be close to a return to the first team, all three could possibly feature in this clash. Tomas Rosicky is still nursing a nose injection but Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby are out for all eternity, I guess.
I’d expect Wojceich Szczesny to replace his compatriot, Lukasz Fabianski but we could see Bacary Sagna return to first-team action in place of Carl Jenkinson. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini would play alongside Jack Wilshere with Mesut Ozil supplying the firepower to Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and hopefully, Lukas Podolski.
My predicted lineups are,
Let’s hope that the Gunners would captalize on Southampton’s shortcomings.
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