saintsfc.co.uk previews Wednesday night's Barclays Premier League game at the Emirates, as Southampton look to get back to winning ways against Arsenal, kick-off 7.45pm GMT.
After defeat to Manchester City on Sunday at St Mary’s, Ronald Koeman’s Southampton will be looking to make an immediate response against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening.
It was a first defeat in seven games for Saints, who had won five and drawn one of their previous six fixtures in all competitions. The defeat meant they dropped below Manchester City to third in the table, still four points ahead of Manchester United in fourth and six ahead of the Gunners, who they face next.
Arsene Wenger’s side meanwhile picked up a morale-boosting victory away to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday lunchtime, with summer signing Danny Welbeck scoring the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win.
It was a much-needed Premier League victory for the Gunners, following defeats to Swansea City away and Manchester United at the Emirates, and came after they had sealed qualification for the Champions League knockout stages with a 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund.
The two sides have met once already this season, with Saints progressing in the Capital One Cup thanks to goals from Dušan Tadić and Nathaniel Clyne, after Arsenal had taken the lead through Alexis Sanchez.
Saints will once again be without long-term absentees Jay Rodriguez, James Ward-Prowse and Sam Gallagher while midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin will also miss the game through injury. Jack Cork is expected to be fit and available after missing the Manchester City game through illness.
Arsenal could well be without their two senior left-backs in Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal who were both injured in Saturday’s win against West Brom. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also a doubt, along with Yaya Sanogo and Wojciech Szczesny but the Gunners are hopeful of having the trio available. Another former Saint, Theo Walcott, will be absent along with Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil.
Arsene Wenger’s side finished fourth in the Premier League last season, assuring them of a 17th consecutive year of Champions League football, and after lifting their first trophy in ten years following an FA Cup win against Hull City, many had hoped for league success to follow this season.
The Gunners, however, have endured a tough start to the campaign, and while they sit six points behind Saints heading into the game, Wenger’s side are 13 points behind leaders Chelsea with only 13 games gone of the season.
In the summer, Wenger added to his array of attacking talent with the signings of Danny Welbeck from Manchester United and Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, and both have hit the ground running at Emirates Stadium. Sanchez has scored 13 goals in all competitions, while Welbeck has found the back of the net on 11 occasions so far this term.
Wenger’s side have struggled with injuries so far this campaign, especially defensively. Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal could all be missing on Wednesday night, but they have been boosted by the return of Laurent Koscielny.
At home so far this season, Arsenal have won just two of their six games – against Burnley and Crystal Palace, while the defeat to Manchester United came after draws with Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City.
Ronald Koeman: “Like Manchester City they [Arsenal] have had some problems but the last two games they have won, their spirit is back and they’ve had a good result in the Champions League.
“They won last weekend and they have good players. It’s a team who has to fight for the title, and if not then there are critics, that’s normal. [Arsene Wenger] is doing a fantastic job, but what I said before, teams like Arsenal, if they don’t fight for the title, then always there are some critics.”
Arsene Wenger: “When you consider the exodus that happened at the end of the season, their form is a surprise. But if you analyse their team, they have the stability defensively.
“In midfield they have the same players to last year, so that should not be so surprising. The strikers they have bought – Sadio Mané, Graziano Pellè, Dušan Tadić – have integrated very well into the system and have been very efficient.”
Andre Marriner will take charge of Wednesday night’s game against the Gunners at the Emirates. The 43 year-old began officiating in 1992 and became a Premier League referee in 2005 after two seasons in the Football League.
Marriner’s last game involving Saints was the 8-0 win against Sunderland at St Mary’s back in October. He has officiated just two Premier League games since then. In ten fixtures this season, he has handed out 39 yellow cards, and one red.
Last season, Marriner took charge of four Saints games, with three ending in victory – against Newcastle United, Cardiff City and Fulham – and a single draw, against West Ham. Saints have not conceded a goal in the last five games Marriner has been in charge of.
Marriner has also refereed for FIFA since 2009 and in May 2013 he took charge of the FA Cup final, the highest domestic honour for a referee in England.
Stay tuned to the official website and the club’s YouTube channel for reaction to the game.