Good day one and all…
Arsenal is hosting Southampton at the Emirates this afternoon with both sides in need of three points; the Saints, of course, are eager to escape the drop zone and the Gunners will want to continue being side-by-side with teams fighting for a Premier League top-four place.
We did well on Thursday night to overturn a 1-0 1st leg deficit vs BATE to progress and Europa’s ’round of 16′, but to qualify for next season’s Champions League a top-four place always has to be Plan A, making this a ‘must-win’.
Burnley unexpectedly beat Spurs yesterday and with our neighbours still to play Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Mancity in the PL, there’s now a real likelihood of them getting dragged into what has been a threeway fight for top-four since mid December. So getting results against teams below the top-six is as important as it has ever been if two spots were to be up for grabs.
Our form over the last two months has been somewhat concerning, winning just seven of our last 14 games in all competitions (D1, L6), the Emirates, however, has always been a home comfort with us now eyeing our seventh consecutive PL home win. We are currently also 12 games unbeaten in PL home games.
The Saints though aren’t marching too bad under Ralph Hasenhuttl – remember in his second game in charge he ended our 22 game unbeaten run with a 3-2 win in the reverse fixture. They had their up and downs for the rest of that December but started 2019 well with their first league defeat only coming in their last outing against Cardiff via a late goal. That was two weeks back, so over the fortnight he had plenty of time to work out things ahead of this fixture.
Two teams at opposite ends of the table but this could be a tricky one as the Saints aren’t the worst travellers. Their last 3 away games were at Chelsea, Leicester and Burnley and they returned to St Mary’s not shaming themselves (W1 D2).
So maybe Unai Emery need to take the trailer off so our boys can really dig in to force them on the backfoot. At St Mary’s our defensive issue got exploited so not to leave things to chance as we haven’t really shown improvement at the back since, our best solution remain ‘having a go’.
It’s a short turnaround till our next game on Wednesday vs Bournemouth, so a decision need to be made whether to play Aubameyang or not so soon after he was on the pitch for the full 90 on Thursday night. Him and Lacazette are such flat track bullies when given time and sometimes one feel they’re underused. Özil too played the full game so given his back troubles will it be worth risking him given that the Cherries may be tougher opponents? Whether he plays or not, we need to find a way of creating regular chances, so the odds could favour us for a win.
Arsenal got history on their side in this fixture as the Saints haven’t beaten us yet in 23 tries away from home, given that they’re not the easiest of opponents though we may not necessarily see an end-to-end encounter, rather something cagey.
If forced to stick my neck out, I’ll predict the Gunners should have enough in the armoury to make sure the points stay at the Emirates.