Southampton v Arsenal: Premier League Match Preview
Southampton host Arsenal in the Premier League at St Mary’s this evening (7.45pm kick-off UK time).
The Saints are currently in tenth place in the Premier League table.
After their 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday they have forty-two points from 34 matches.
Despite being on course for a top ten finish there is speculation on whether Claude Puel will still be manager at Southampton by the start of next season.
Saints are winless in four matches (D2, L2). A fifth match in a row without victory would be their worst run of the season
Southampton have also hit a sticky patch of home form.
They have had only two victories in their past eight Premier League home games (D2 L4).
Southampton have been kept goalless in three of their past four home games, having scored just 17 times at St Mary’s all season.
A third goalless draw in a row for the Saints tonight would be a top-flight record for the club.
Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium kept them in sixth position in the Premier League table, and with an outside chance of securing a top four finish.
The Gunners are two points behind fifth place Manchester United (with one game in hand), six points behind fourth place Manchester City (with one game in hand) and seven points behind third place Liverpool (with two games in hand).
If the Gunners fail to make the top four it will be for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s 20 seasons at the helm.
Arsenal have lost five of their last six away league games – as many defeats as they had suffered in the previous 27 – and have kept one clean sheet in 13 away fixtures.
The only win was 2-1 over relegated Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium
The Gunners have taken three points from a possible 27 away to sides in the current top 11 of the Premier League.
Their tally of 63 points after 34 matches is the same as this stage of last season, when they finished second. They can reach no higher than third in this campaign.
Southampton are looking to win three consecutive home Premier League matches against Arsenal for the first time in 32 years.
Arsenal are winless in their five previous visits to St Mary’s Stadium in the Premier League, last winning there in December 2003 (D3 L2).
However, Southampton have won just six of 35 Premier League meetings overall with Arsenal, losing 19.
Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on 10th September 2016.
Santi Cazorla’s stoppage-time penalty sealed the three points for the Gunners.
Southampton had taken the lead when Dusan Tadic’s free-kick rebounded off Petr Cech into the net, with Laurent Koscielny equalising for the Gunners with a bicycle kick finish after Saints had failed to clear a corner.
The impressive Fraser Forster saved his first Premier League penalty, in another man-of-the-match performance, in the goalless draw with Liverpool on Sunday.
The Saints have badly missed Charlie Austin through injury. He remains Southampton’s top Premier League scorer with nine goals this season. Austin played for Saints Under-23s at Manchester City last Friday night and is closing on a return to first team action.
Manolo Gabbiadini has scored six goals league since arriving for £14m from Napoli in January, but has failed to score in the last five, managing just one shot on target.
Shane Long scored twice in a 4-0 win the last time Southampton hosted Arsenal in the Premier League on Boxing Day 2015.
Alexis Sanchez has nineteen Premier League goals this season and nine assists. Thirteen of his league goals have come away from home this season.
Sanchez is two goals away from scoring his 50th Premier League goal for Arsenal, becoming the 8th player to do this for the Gunners.
He needs just one goal to register his best-ever return from a single campaign in Europe’s big five leagues (currently on 19, tied with his total in 2013/14 for Barcelona).
After assisting twice in the match against Manchester United on Sunday, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has as many Premier League assists this season (seven) as in his previous five campaigns combined.
Arsene Wenger’s first league championship success came in France with Monaco in 1988 – a team which featured Claude Puel.
This is what Puel had to say on the remainder of Saints season and facing Arsenal.
“We can show our qualities and it’s important to end this season well and find the clinical edge to score.
“We have tried to develop a side of young players and to play good football. Against any opponent we can have good possession.
“We know Arsenal. It’s always a great team with fantastic offensive players.
“But I think we can do a good game against this team – to keep of course, a good structure, to defend together and to prevent them chances.
“But also to have the ball and the possibility in the final third to find the clinical edge and to produce good football. It’s important also in front of our fans to show our qualities.”
This is what Wenger had to say about Arsenal’s remaining Premier League matches and achieving Champions League qualification.
“We play four games of high intensity in 10 days – it’s important everyone in the squad contributes at the right moment.
“For me it’s important (to finish in the top 4) because we want to play at the top-level and the top-level is the Champions League.
“Financially or negotiation-wise, it will not have a huge impact, but we want to play with the best and against the best, and that’s the Champions League.”
Saints have no new injuries following their 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Charlie Austin and Matt Targett played for Southampton’s Under-23s at Manchester City last Friday night and are closing on first team returns after injury.
Virgil van Dijk has been sidelined with a foot injury since January and will not play again this season.
Laurent Koscielny (calf injury) is a doubt.
As is Granit Xhaka (calf injury), who was substituted late on in the win over Manchester United on Sunday.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: E Smart, S Bennett
Fourth official: M Jones
Arsenal to secure a 2-1 win.