Let’s get back in the winning habit.
The 3-1 defeat to Man United last week still rankles. The manner we lost in should have garnered all three points, but instead we’re looking back on a loss that widened the gap between us and the leading pack.
It does mean we’re still in rude health in terms of our play. The United result aside, the only other loss in that time – 12 games – is the anomalous loss to Koln and the defeat to Watford.
We do need to keep our heads up, especially with this game marking the start of the annual festive fixture congestion. We’ve now got seven games between now and the end of the month, so it’s a good thing that our fringe players are ready and firing – because they’ll be needed.
Our midweek hammering of BATE didn’t get the credit it deserved from the journalists – what a surprise. The quality of the opposition was poor, granted, but that’s never stopped us struggling before. We were quite excellent in attack, and Jack had one of those games that really highlights his talents.
In terms of our game against Saints, our team will be all changed most likely. Petr Cech will return in goal, and the stopper has been in fine form of late. In defence, Shkodran Mustafi will miss out after limping off against United. Laurent Koscielny will come in with Nacho Monreal, with one of Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers or Rob Holding replacing Mustafi.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will slot in the central roles, with Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac taking the wing-back roles.
Up top, we should have Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez back in the lineup. If the golden trio don’t pull it off, we’ll have Theo Walcott, Jack, Olivier and Danny Welbeck as an option from the bench. Most clubs can’t boast such strength.
Southampton are a Jekyll and Hyde team. From one week to the next, no one knows which side will turn up. They can go from sublime to mediocre in the space of minutes, but make no mistake, we should be wary.
Fraser Forster has been a pain in our backside on a few occasions, and definitely has the capacity to frustrate. How is this for a stat – Forster has conceded just one goal in five games, facing 30 shots on target in that time. They have ample threats too.
Charlie Austin is a real handful and is in good goalscoring form of late. Nathon Redmond out wide can conjure up trouble, and Sofiane Boufal is the wildcard.
It is in midfield that Southampton have real strength, but it is all dependant on what combo they go for. They have Hojbjerg, Davis and Romeu who are well covered in both defensive and attacking tactics. It means they have a solid foundation to build on. With Virgil Van Dijk, Mario Lemina and the set-piece delivery of Ward-Prowse, Mauricio Pellegrino has all the makings of a top side.
Before the weekend, we were one point from the top 4. We need to keep up the pace, and we need to show the tenacity we showed in our last away game – the 1-0 win at Turf Moor.
Predicted lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.
Predicted scoreline – This will be a tight one, but 2-0 to The Arsenal.