Match Preview: Arsenal v Southampton; Saints and Serendipity
What’s the proper preview of Southampton’s visit to the Emirates on Sunday?
Many Arsenal fans will not consider this match of any great import; after all, there’s little chance of the Gunners achieving a Champions League position by the end of the season. The opportunity to overtake Chelsea, currently five points ahead in fifth place, might not excite many, either.
Those from the South Coast, threatened with relegation, will see things differently, but their concern is not ours.
The appropriate frame of mind might also be difficult to reach so soon after Thursday’s scintillating win over CSKA Moscow in the Europa League. A mundane, low-stakes league fixture will always pale in comparison to that simultaneously manic and brilliant European performance.
Yet the potential for even glimpses at a similar spectacle should be motivation enough for supporters to pay attention to every match Arsenal play.
The possibility that one of Arsenal’s gifted creators could be afforded the space that Mesut Özil enjoyed at the edge of the opponents’ penalty area. That he would spot the space identified by Aaron Ramsey or another skillful attacker. That this teammate would then share with us a work of absolute genius, somehow figuring the angle of the pass, the likely position of the goalkeeper, the perfect spot for his heel, to score a goal like Ramsey’s second against CSKA Moscow.
There might be another moment like that against Southampton. We have no idea. Would you really be justified in the simpleton’s protections of cynicism or apathy when serendipity reigns so?
The unexpected is always in the cards, particularly with the number of lineup changes we’re likely to see. Last week’s league starting XI was definitely conceived with Thursday’s first knockout leg in mind. Calum Chambers, Mohammed Elneny, and Danny Welbeck all got run-outs against Stoke; they probably will feature again.
Questions come over the participation of the architects of the recent European success, Özil and Ramsey. The pair needs to fire again in Moscow, so manager Arsène Wenger may rest both against Southampton. In that case, ingenuity might be in short supply.
Perhaps Alex Iwobi provides a surprise in that respect. He’s certainly due a good performance. Or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang capitalizes on one of the few opportunities he gets—we know the Ghanaian is more than capable.
Whatever the developments, let’s not allow the narrative of subdued expectations to ruin the possibility of a magical moment.
Arsenal’s strong home form continues, though as against Stoke the goals are not quick in arriving. Southampton’s position becomes more perilous.
Players to Watch
Arsenal. Sead Kolasinac. After a storming introduction to Arsenal, the Bosnian’s effectiveness cooled. He’ll likely give Nacho Monreal a respite at left back, where his powerful runs could trouble Southampton’s right side.
Southampton. Charlie Austin. The Saints’ big galoot and top scorer flat out embarrassed the Gunners’ defense at St. Mary’s earlier this season. His early goal extended his match scoring streak to three against Arsenal. He’ll take advantage if the home team’s back line engages in further risky play.
Injuries and Suspensions
Arsenal: Cazorla (plantaris), Ospina (ankle), Mkhitaryan (knee), Maitland-Niles (match fitness)
Southampton: McQueen (groin)
Goals Scored (per game season average)
Goals Conceded (per game season average)
Form vs. Opponent (courtesy Kickoff.co.uk)
Referee: Andre Marriner (22M, 55Y, 2R)
Assistant referees: S Ledger, S Lang
Fourth official: M Dean
UK: Sky Sports, 1415 GMT
US: NBCSN, Sling Blue, DirecTV NOW, 9:15 AM EDT
Arsenal 2-1 Southampton
Match Facts (Courtesy BBC.com)
- The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 22 home league games against Southampton (W16, D6).
- Saints’ last top-flight win at Arsenal was a 1-0 victory in November 1987 when Rod Wallace netted the only goal.
- However, Southampton did win League Cup ties at the Emirates Stadium in 2014 and 2016.
- This season Arsenal have won all 11 of their home league games against sides currently below them in the table, compared to one victory in five matches when hosting the teams above them.
- A Gunners victory would be their 150th win at the Emirates Stadium. They would become the first club to win at least 150 games in the division at two different stadiums.
- The Gunners have scored 42 Premier League goals at home this season – the only other club with more than 40 are Manchester City (51 prior to the latest round of matches).
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had a hand in six goals in his first six Premier League games for Arsenal (five goals and one assist).
- Saints have lost their last two Premier League games 3-0. The last time they lost three consecutive league matches by three goals or more was in 1930 (in the second tier).
- Mark Hughes guided Stoke to victory against Arsenal in August, and can become the first manager to beat the Gunners twice in the same Premier League season with different clubs.
- Saints have won only two away games in the Premier League this season, which both came against the side who were bottom of the table at the time: Crystal Palace in September and West Brom in February.
- Southampton have won just once in their last 18 league fixtures (D9, L8).
- Charlie Austin has scored in all three of his previous Premier League appearances against Arsenal (including two matches for QPR).
Give us your thoughts? How do you see this match playing out?
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