Arsenal need to put thoughts of their Europa league success behind them when they take on Southampton today at the Emirates.
Revenge is perhaps too strong a word but the Gunners will be looking to reverse the result which saw the Saints overwhelm them in a surprising 3-2 defeat. It was an intense performance that ended Arsenal’s 22 match unbeaten run and invigorated a club facing a relegation battle.
Arsenal can expect more of the same. A high pressing game with a physical edge that requires application and concentration.
The Gunners simply switched off last time around and fell apart as they ran out of ideas and lacked any dominance. Southampton swallowed up the space, gave chase and never allowed them to find a decent rhythm, that will need to change.
Personally, I’d start with Ozil in the middle because it was obvious, to me at least, that he gave Arsenal a creative urgency and flow but Unai Emery’s comments about rotation are becoming tired. The most creative player in the squad must play.
Rumour has it that he isn’t in contention but I would be staggered by this impasse, which is becoming slightly embarrassing for the coach, player and club.
Elsewhere, Guendouzi and Xhaka merit inclusion. The young Frenchman because of his incisive passing and ambition and Xhaka, not always a favourite of mine, should make the cut because of his contribution against Bate Borisov which delivered two goals.
Lacazette, Aubameyang and Iwobi are the main threat up front and if Arsenal are to win this, they will need the trio to find a way past a stubborn and committed Southampton defence.
Mkhitaryan may narrowly miss out, despite looking good in the previous two games and one hopes that although Lichsteiner had a good game against Bate, he remains in a tracksuit because of his inability to deal with pace.
Sokratis will probably replace the injured Laurent Koscielny and he may need to shackle Charlie Austin, should the Southampton man get the nod.
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Austin has been a constant thorn to the Arsenal backline and will exploit any nerves or indecision, having been the main irritant in the defeat last year.
If Arsenal are to stay in contention for a 4th place finish, it’s the teams such as Southampton that they have to brush aside. Manchester United face the daunting prospect of facing an in form Liverpool side and a defeat plus an Arsenal win, will pile on the pressure.
Preferred Line-up Against Southampton:
Leno, Monreal, Mustafi, Sokratis, Xhaka, Torreira, Iwobi, Guendouzi, Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette
Probable Line-up Against Southampton:
Leno, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Torreira, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Arsenal win 3-1.