Arsenal would continue their English Premier League campaign this weekend with a home game against Southampton, the same side which saw them off the Capital One Cup in the same venue. Following two wins against Borussia Dortmund and West Bromwich Albion, the Gunners confidence should be sky high going into this match. However, injuries to Captain, Mikel Arteta and the left back duo of Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs will somewhat bring a distortion to the Arsenal squad that won the last 2 matches.
With Wojciech Szczesny not fully match fit, 3rd choice Emiliano Martinez, who kept the two clean sheets in the 2-0 Borussia Dortmund and 1-0 West Bromwich Albion wins would be deployed again as Arsenal’s goalkeeper. Szczesny got injured in the 2-1 defeat delved on Arsenal by Manchester United after the November international break and had since been side-lined. The Polish goal keeper has however been passed fit but may not be fit enough to play against Southampton. David Ospina, the 2nd choice goalkeeper too is some weeks short on full match fitness and so the impressive run of Martinez in games would be expectedly extended against Southampton.
The availability of Laurent Koscielny would inspire some confidence in the Arsenal back line but the absence of Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs is worrisome for the team. The left back duo got injured in the 1-0 win at the Hawthorns last weekend and they wouldn’t be available for this match. While Monreal injured his knee, Gibbs is said to have aggravated his troublesome hip in the match. Therefore, Arsenal would be left with the option of playing an inexperienced 19-year-old natural right back, Hector Bellerin in that position. To complete the back four, Per Mertesacker, who would partner Laurent Koscielny centrally and Calum Chambers, who plays at right back, would be called to action.
In the midfield, Mathieu Flamini should be given the nod this time without Captain Mikel Arteta, to take up the anchoring position. Arteta has sustained an injury in the Champions’ League match against Borussia Dortmund, so that leaves Flamini as the only anchorman available. With Flamini, Aaron Ramsey should line up with Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez for offensive duties against the Saints City this midweek. Chamberlain would be expected to play on the right wing of attack as the manager would expectedly throw him in after a slight injury worry against West Bromwich Albion while Cazorla and Sanchez would roam from left to middle of the midfield behind the top striker. Podolski, Campbell and Rosicky could have some time in the second half of the game but they start from the bench.
Switching from the 4-4-2 that saw Danny Welbeck pair up with Olivier Giroud against West Bromwich Albion last weekend, Arsene Wenger would likely revert to the 4-5-1 formation that Arsenal has deployed mostly while Giroud was on the side-lines injured. The choice of who would have the top striker position certainly would be between Welbeck and Giroud but Wenger would likely go with Danny Welbeck who scored in the top striker position for England and for Arsenal recently in the 1-0 win last weekend. This would boost the Englishman’s confidence as he is yet to master playing as a lone striker for Arsenal, throwing away chances especially against his former club Manchester United. Welbeck’s work rate and agility though can never be put to question.
Arsenal’s XI: Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez; Defenders: Calum Chambers, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Hector Bellerin; Midfield: Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez Forward: Danny Welbeck