Kickoff – 1945GMT
Just when we think all hope is lost, Arsenal pull a result out of the bag.
Last weekend’s emphatic victory over Manchester United reminded us all what our team is actually capable of after months of infuriating incompetence, and left us all wondering where this team has been?
Great that result may have been, but it has not made qualifying for the Champions League any easier. It merely kept us in with a shout, and our next four games must be reaped to the tune of maximum points.
The FA have not dealt us a kind hand, the scheduling from here is a nightmare, but it is only the team which has put themselves in between this rock and this very hard place, and they must fight tooth and nail to rectify the situation.
We have four remaining games, and they will be played over the course of 11 days. First up is Southampton at St Marys.
We do not have the best record at the home of the Saints, with the last four games played there all being winless for the Gunners. The last time we won at the home of Southampton? 2003. This must change.
With so many games in such a short space of time, personnel will be high on the agenda as well as points. Laurent Koscielny has a calf strain and may not be risked, so the fit-again Shkodran Mustafi may come back in, with Gabriel and Rob Holding making up this new-fangled back three. Nacho Monreal is another who could slot into this backline, but Koscielny is the leading light in defence and his presence could be sorely missed.
Granit Xhaka is expected to shrug off his calf problem and his midfield partnership with Aaron Ramsey looks set to continue. There shouldn’t be too many changes in the side, but with so few rest days in between games, Arsene Wenger will have to choose wisely when to disrupt rhythm and swap around the players to keep them fresh.
With Danny Welbeck scoring against United, his confidence will be soaring, and that should give him the edge over Olivier Giroud in attack. Theo Walcott is one who could come in and has fresh legs too, so there are plenty of options should injury or scoreline start to bite.
Saints boss Claude Puel has a top half finish in his sights, and with the squad at his disposal, this is the least he should be expected to achieve. Big money striker Mannolo Gabbiadini was in fine form before injury struck, but since his return, the goals have dried up. Charlie Austin is still not match fit, but Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long are other choices the Frenchman could opt for.
Every club’s favourite summer transfer target, Virgil Van Dijk, is out for the season. This has given others a chance to shine. One is youngster Jack Stephens, and he has really impressed. One to watch for the future.
Puel rested Nathan Redmond for their last game – the 0-0 against Liverpool – and the winger could come back into the side. One to make way may be Sofiane Boufal, the French wide man was ineffective against the Reds and it has been a tough first season for the starlet.
Back to The Arsenal though, and five of our last six away games have ended in defeat. With our next game also being away from home, this poor trend must stop now. The Saints don’t have the best record at home this season, and they have scored a paltry 11 goals in their last 12.
One sobering stat is that our side has taken three points from a possible 27 to the current sides in the Top11 in the League. That is simply awful. A victory here will go some way to ending some of these runs and also keep us in the hunt.
We must presume the teams above us will win, which means we must win too. It will get dicey at times, and it will be tight. We must fight tooth and nail for every loose ball though.
Time for your game faces boys. Otherwise our worst season in two decades falls at their feet. That includes Wenger.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil, Sanchez, Alexis
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. #UTA