Ahead of Southampton’s visit to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, saintsfc.co.uk spoke to Islington Gazette reporter Ben Kosky to get the lowdown on Arsenal.
What sort of form are Arsenal in at the moment?
Not the best really. I would say probably since Boxing Day (when Southampton beat them 4-0 at St Mary’s) they’ve not actually played all that well. They’ve been picking up results generally, but I think you would say performances have dipped since then. Clearly, having their best player (Alexis Sánchez) out all that time has not helped, although he’s back now. I would say there’s been some gritty performances, but no spectacular ones, and you would probably say the outstanding player of the last month or so has been Petr Čech, which probably tells you plenty about how they’ve been going.
How would you expect Arsenal to set-up against Saints?
The good thing is they now have got some options, which probably wasn’t the case a month ago. They’ve pretty much got everyone, apart from Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, at least back in training to some extent. I think in terms of how they’ll set up it will be the same formation (4-2-3-1), but clearly you would expect it to accommodate Alexis Sánchez somewhere. You would think most probably Joel Campbell will make way for him, but they have got some options now. The other interesting factor will be whether new signing Mohamed Elneny will play.
Who would you say will be the biggest threats?
You’d have to say Sánchez, because he can obviously turn a game on his own, and you’d clearly say Mesut Özil can do similar when he’s on song. In terms of players other than that, you’d say Theo Walcott on his day and Olivier Giroud, whose record speaks for itself. I’d also pick out Héctor Bellerín, who was probably their best player against Chelsea last week. He’s got such great pace and is a good crosser of the ball, so he’s always a threat. You can’t really list the goalkeeper as a threat, but certainly he’s been such a key player, and not just the saves he makes, but the way he can command the penalty area.
How important is this game being viewed as for Arsenal?
I think it’s very big, in the context of recent results. Clearly having lost at home in their last league game, questions are going to be asked if you don’t then win your next home league game. I think also it’s got to be a factor that they’re still smarting a bit from Boxing Day, and I think that was probably the result when people did start raising questions about whether this team have got the credentials to win the league, so they will want to put that right as comprehensively as they can. Certainly the home crowd will be expecting a win, and also now, after last weekend, they are down in third place, so they’ve got to make up some ground.
What are you expecting from the game this time?
I think it’s got the potential to be quite a fast-moving game, because of the way both teams like to play. It would be nice to think we will see another outstanding goal like Cuco Martina’s, but maybe for the other side this time. I certainly think there will be goals at both ends and I do feel Arsenal will win it – I’m going to say 3-1.