Gunners aim for Boxing Day KO of Saints
Gunners aim for Boxing Day KO of Saints

Southampton will be looking this afternoon to win successive league meetings against Arsenal for the first time since April 1988.

The Saints won 2-0 in the last encounter between the sides at St Mary’s in January.

That was a match that will be best remembered for an erratic goalkeeping display from Wojciech Szczesny and his post-match cigarette smoking in the showers meltdown.

It effectively ended his Arsenal career and led to him being shipped out on a season long loan last Summer to Roma.

David Ospina replaced Szczesny in-goal for the remainder of the 2014/15 Premier League season, with Petr Cech joining from Chelsea to take over as the new Arsenal No 1 keeper in the Summer.

With Ospina and Cech between the sticks Arsenal have won the most Premier League points away from home in 2015 so far (38).

Another victory today will help them keep pace with leaders Leicester City, who take on Liverpool at Anfield.

The Gunners trail the Foxes by two points going into the Boxing Day round of matches, and have a four-point cushion to third-placed Manchester City.

Southampton lie in 12th place in the Premier League table.

Recent form

Southampton

Southampton’s are on a winless streak stretching back to early November.

The Saints have picked up just one point from their last five matches – courtesy of a 1-1 home draw with bottom club Aston Villa.

Southampton have never failed to win for six consecutive league matches under Ronald Koeman, last doing so in December 2013 during Mauricio Pochettino’s spell as manager.

Arsenal

Arsenal will be looking for a fourth successive league victory.

Head-to-Head

Arsenal have lost one of their last 11 Premier League matches against Southampton (W6 D4 L1).

The Gunners have won one of their last six league trips to Southampton (W1 D3 L2).

Southampton have lost just one of their last seven Boxing Day matches (W3 D3 L1).

Key Men

Graziano Pellè is Southampton’s top scorer this season in the Premier League with six goals.

Sadio Mané is the Saints main creative influence. He has also scored three times in the Premier League this season and netted in the Saints 2-0 win over the Gunners at St Mary’s in January.

Olivier Giroud has scored in five of Arsenal’s last six Premier League away matches.

Mesut Ozil now has 15 goal assists in the Premier League this season. Only five players have ever managed more in a single campaign.

The Managers

Ronald Koeman

“We know we’re in a difficult situation.”

“We had a bad run last year, but not like this one.

It is always difficult, it means maybe a lack in confidence and belief, but the best medicine is to win the game.

“I think the team is changing a little bit, the team is doubting their qualities and not playing as they can, and that’s all about confidence.

“But they have to realise we can play good football, but we need to score when we have chances, we need to more ruthless than we were against Tottenham. We need to react.”

Arsene Wenger

“I believe for us the most important thing is to focus on ourselves, and not to speculate too much on any weakness of Southampton,”

“When you look at their team they have the potential to be a very strong team. We have to convince ourselves that again we need a top-level performance.

“Football is pragmatic. No-one can predict what will happen in the next 17 games. So we want to go in with same attitude, spirit, and earn the right to win the games.”

Team News

Southampton

Maarten Stekelenburg is back in training after missing two matches with a toe injury.

Southampton (from): K Davis, Gazzaniga, Stekelenburg, Bertrand, Caulker, Cedric, Fonte, Martina, McCarthy, Targett, Van Dijk, Yoshida, Clasie, S Davis, Isgrove, Mane, McQueen, Ramirez, Reed, Romeu, Tadic, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Juanmi, Long, Pelle.

Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez has been ruled out until mid-January 2016 after suffering a set-back in recovering from a hamstring injury.

The Gunners have no new injury concerns following the victory over Manchester City on Monday night.

Arsenal (from): Cech, Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Debuchy, Gabriel, Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Ramsey, Campbell, Giroud, Walcott.

Match Appointments
Referee:
Jonathan Moss Assistants: M Mullarkey, S Child Fourth Official: G Scott

Prediction

Gunners to continue their winning run with a 2-1 victory.