When Southampton visited the Emirates in November, they were sat in third place and Mauricio Pochettino’s side were the subject of many plaudits.
But an Olivier Giroud brace that afternoon set in motion a slide that has brought just two wins from eleven league games and seen them drop to ninth, while behind the scenes, the outlook has looked bleak in recent weeks for the Saints with chairman Nicola Cortese’s departure, summer signing Dani Osvaldo’s suspension for a training bust-up, and speculation regarding the Pochettino’s long term future.
However, with Pochettino moving to quell rumours that he could follow Cortese out of the club, by claiming he is fully committed to the Saints, at least for the time being, Southampton can look to kick on and rediscover their form. Fresh from reaching the FA Cup Fifth Round with a 2-0 win over Yeovill, the Saints will be hoping they can give Arsenal’s title credentials a stern test at St. Mary’s, but will have to do without key duo Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez, who face eight weeks out after both suffering ankle ligament damage.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are threatening to prove all their doubters wrong and go the distance this season, as they sit one point clear at the top of the league. They know that anything less than a win would leave the door ajar for City and Chelsea to pounce. Coming off the back of a ruthless 4-0 win over Coventry in the FA Cup, the Gunners have responded to their 6-3 mauling at Etihad with seven consecutive victories in all competitions. More good news for Arsene Wenger is that his side is boosted by the return to fitness of star man Aaron Ramsey, as well as Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen to strengthen the Frenchman’s options, as the Gunners head in to a grueling February, where they face two games against Liverpool, and games against Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
KICK-OFF: Tuesday, 7.45pm
Arsenal 2 (Giroud 2) Southampton 0, Premier League, November 2013
Southampton 1 (Ramirez) Arsenal 1 (Do Prado o.g), Premier League, January 2013.
Arsenal 6 (Hooiveld o.g, Podolski, Gervinho 2, Clyne o.g, Walcott) Southampton 1 (Fox), Premier League, September 2012
Southampton 1 (Crouch) Arsenal 1 (Ljungberg), Premier League, February 2005
Arsenal 2 (Henry, van Persie) Southampton 2 (Delap 2), Premier League, October 2004
Arsenal have the division's best defensive record, conceding 19 goals and keeping 10 clean sheets.
The Gunner's tally of 51 points is their joint second-best total after 22 top-flight matches of a season. They had 52 points in 2003-04, when they went unbeaten all season.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine matches against Southampton in all competitions, since losing 3-2 at St Mary's in the Premier League in November 2002.
Southampton have averaged 58% ball possession in the Premier League this season, second only to Swansea (59%).
The Saints have conceded 20 goals in the last 11 league games, having let in just five goals in their opening 11 matches.
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert needs one league goal to complete a century for the club.
Southampton to win: 4.2
Arsenal to win: 2
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