Nigel Adkins is targeting a winning start to 2013 with a success over Arsenal on New Year’s Day.
Saints have come through a gruelling Christmas schedule with respectable draws away at both Fulham and Stoke City, and the manager is confident that those results will give his side a platform to produce against the Gunners.
Arsenal, who beat Saints 6-1 earlier in the season, come into the game on the back of another high scoring contest after seeing off Newcastle 7-3 at the Emirates Stadium, but Adkins insists he is not looking to shut up shop against Arsene Wenger’s men.
“We’re just concentrating on what we’re going to do and that’s what we’ve gone and done,” Nigel told Saints Player. “We know Arsenal are a good football side, we know they’ve got threats in the team, but we’re going to concentrate on what we’re doing. We’re at home, it’s going to be a full house, it’s New Year’s Day, on the telly and it’s going to be a cracking game so we’ve got to enjoy it.”
Despite a heavy defeat in the reverse fixture during September, Adkins says there’s plenty of belief within the squad that Saints will at least match their opponents in Tuesday’s evening kick-off at St Mary’s.
“We actually outpassed Arsenal that day,” the gaffer recalls, “and for half an hour we did very, very well. Jos goes off injured, they scored a goal, and then for Maya Yoshida it’s a ‘welcome to the Premier League’ after one day of training with us.
“They were on fire Arsenal though as well. They created problems for us and they will for a lot of other teams, but we’ve learnt a lot from that game; there were a lot of positives to take from it.
“We were very close against Manchester City and Manchester United when you look at those games, so what we’ve got to do is keep on working very, very hard, when the opportunities come a long and keep scoring goals.”
Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Stoke epitomised the presence in front of goal Saints have had of late, but Adkins believes his side have proved they are stronger at the other end of the field too.
“We seem to have a far better defensive resolve and we’ve got a point from the Stoke game where it’s taken a great strike to deny us a win, but we’re playing against the best players and we have to remember that.
“We’ve had two defeats in the last nine games which shows that we are moving in the right direction.
“Again, we’ve demonstrated that we can score goals, which is important, and we’ve tightened up at the back. The goals against column now means we’re in a far healthier position than we were at the start of the season.”
Having recalled Guly, Jay Rodriguez and Jos Hooiveld into his starting line up over the weekend, Adkins may look to change his team around once more, but confirmed that he will be without his skipper again.
“Adam Lallana won’t be fit for the Arsenal game,” he stated.
“Nathaniel Clyne didn’t play against Stoke City and we’ll have to wait and see whether he’s available for selection or selected to play against Arsenal.”