Venue: St Mary’s Stadium
Kick off: 2:30PM
Arsenal make the trip to St Mary’s to face Southampton in the Premier League having put together a 22-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
Ralph Hasenhuttl takes charge of his first match at the Saints’ home ground with the club sitting three points adrift of safety in the standings.
New boss Hasenhuttl will be given time to implement his philosophy on a Southampton squad which is still full of quality, but the Austrian will be aware that he must also find a way to get points on the board as soon as possible.
Finding a balance between the two and Hasenhuttl sometimes having to go against his own beliefs to get a result may prove to be difficult, but Southampton cannot afford to suffer many more defeats at this stage of the campaign.
Hasenhuttl does not exactly have it easy, however. Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are all to come over the next five games, although it will at least give the former RB Leipzig man a chance to assess his squad’s full capabilities.
There is an argument that decisions went against Southampton away at Cardiff City last weekend, but the fact that Cardiff were able to grind out a significant three points showed Hasenhuttl what is required to get back up the league table.
Southampton’s home form since the start of the 2017-18 campaign has been abysmal with just 24 points coming from their last 26 league outings at St Mary’s, and it is a record which simply must improve if Southampton are to remain as a top-flight side.
Less than a goal per game has come during that period, and Hasenhuttl requires a better return from his frontmen with Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini adding just two goals in 1092 minutes between them in the league this season.
On the other hand, Arsenal are still some way from being the finished article under Unai Emery, but the fact that the Spaniard has still put together such a lengthy undefeated streak should fill supporters with as much optimism as they have felt for a decade.
Emery has solved issues in goal and in central midfield, worked to rediscover the team’s scoring touch in the final third and showed a willingness to hand opportunities to youth, and all that combined has brought a wave of positivity to the Emirates Stadium.
There would have been an acceptance before a ball had been kicked that a top-four place would probably be out of their reach this season, but Emery has put the club in a position where they can really attack the second half of the campaign without the fear of missing out on European football altogether.
Arsenal had to rely on a late goal to see off Huddersfield Town last weekend, although a rare clean sheet and a scrappy win will be appreciated by a fanbase who have been used to goals galore since Emery’s arrival.
The next task on the agenda will be looking to register a shutout on their travels in the Premier League – something which Emery is yet to achieve – while the statistic of failing to hold a half-time lead in the top flight will continue to be churned out as long as it lasts.
That is a negative spin on a period which would have been considered extremely unlikely before a ball was kicked this season, but Emery will have no doubts about the character of his team and will demand further improvement over the coming months.
Southampton possible XI: McCarthy, Soares, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Lemina, Redmond, Armstrong, Austin.
Arsenal possible XI: Leno, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Iwobi, Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette.