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Southampton-Arsenal: Team news, lineups, prediction

Arsenal team news, lineups, and predictions for their Premier League clash with Southampton.

Check out yesterday’s prematch blog: Arteta must win Tuesday to justify his choice in the short-term

Arsenal will face Southampton for the second time in just over 72 hours with a lot on the line for Arteta — at least symbolically. In the face of Southampton playing a full-strength lineup, Arteta made the definitive decision to rotate his squad pretty heavily and rest his regular players for the cup match that saw Arsenal exit the FA Cup, losing 1-0.

Every season has pivotal junctures where decisions like this need to be made and competitions need to be prioritized. However, with Arsenal in 11th place and a hill to climb in the second half of this season, it’s fair for people to question if putting themselves at a disadvantage and eventually exiting the cup as a consequence was the right decision. Why? People like winning trophies.

In the face of Arsenal’s treacherous, upcoming run of games, the logic behind Arteta’s decision checks out. But, if Arsenal can’t manage to get enough points out of their next seven matches, there will be plenty of reason to question the decision. Justifying that choice in the short-term starts with learning from the weekend’s loss and getting a needed win against Southampton.

“I don’t think that any manager or players like to play the same opponent twice,” said Arteta in his press conference. “Obviously we will take things from Saturday’s game that we will analyse, we have already talked about them and will try to make them better in the next game. The one I really want to change is the result, because I want to win the game.”

To get that win, Arsenal will need to find a way to be significantly better against Southampton’s press that caused all kinds of problems in the first half, and eventually helped lead to their winner from a Gabriel own goal.

If there is a positive to grab confidence from, it’s that Arsenal’s resilience against the press was significantly better when Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, and Lacazette entered the game — three players you would bet on starting today.

“They are one of the most effective teams doing that like we are. It was a really intense game and we were expecting that for sure and we’re expecting it on Tuesday because they don’t really change.”

The question is, who does Arteta turn to in order to get the result he wants and needs? Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the Team News.

Team News

Arsenal haven’t released updated team news since 20 January, so things may look a little different come kick off, or we may get a new update early.

Dani Ceballos
Left calf. Missed Monday’s match against Newcastle United as a precaution with tight calf. Dani will continue to be assessed in the coming days and will be tested ahead of Saturday’s match.

Pablo Mari
Right calf. Pablo is progressing well from a mild calf strain. Aiming to be back in training next week

It’s not an unequivocal fact, but if Dani was being assessed against of Saturday’s match, things have likely progressed in recent days. It may be fair to imagine he doesn’t waltz straight back into the side but a spot on the bench is possible.

Additionally, as lineups were announced before kick off this weekend, Arsenal revealed that Aubameyang was withdrawn from the side to attend to personal matters. In Arteta’s press conference before round two against Southampton, he had this to say:

“Of course it will be a problem because he is a top striker, one who scores [a lot of] goals and he is our captain, a really important player in the team. But we have to respect the timings, let’s see – I don’t have enough information to see how things are evolving and hopefully things will go in the right direction”

It is understandably vague and void of details, but reading between the lines — in conjunction with Martinelli’s early removal in the 58th minute this weekend — suggests Arteta may have been saving legs for Gabi to get the start in Aubameyang’s place.

We will have to wait and see.

Update: Arsenal did release an update on team news which confirmed Aubameyang will miss today’s match, revealed that Dani is not considered ready for this match, and put Kieran Tierney on the injury list saying: “Right calf. Kieran is being assessed for discomfort in the right lower leg.”

Lineup

So, where does that leave us?

Leno in net and Tierney at left back are pretty obvious, but after that, things get interesting. I put Bellerin back at right back. Why? I think Arteta favors him there and Cedric has played the last two matches, including 90 minutes this weekend. Arteta could select Cedric, and his performances justify that choice, but I think we see a return of Bellerin.

In the center back pairing, I selected Luiz and Holding. There may be a lot of people that want to see Gabriel — and it’s very possible we will — but if we do, I suspect it’s Holding that makes way and Luiz that slides to the right. With Southampton’s press, Luiz offers a ball-playing center back that has the ability to hit a quick, accurate long ball to evade pressure. It’s been something Arteta has looked for, and tomorrow’s match presents a real benefit to having that skillset.

The reason I went with Holding over Gabriel was simply because Gabriel hasn’t been great against Southampton this year. That doesn’t make it a thing per say, but he struggled and was sent off in the first clash earlier this year, he was shaky in his return this weekend when Southampton pressured him, and whether Southampton is Gabriel’s kryptonite or not, I think Holding gets the nod.

In the midfield, I have stuck with what has worked recently and led to Arsenal’s success — Xhaka, Partey, Smith Rowe. Partey looked great when he came on this weekend and bullied his way through the press with great technical play and strength. Hoping to see more of that for 90 minutes.

Up top — Martinelli, Lacazette, Saka. The only surprise here would be Martinelli, and that’s not much of a surprise given Aubameyang’s situation, as discussed above. Last time, that trio led the line with Smith Rowe behind, Arsenal pressed Chelsea exceptionally well. Hopefully with Partey causing Southampton to rethink how much they press, we can see Arsenal turn the tables on the Saints and apply pressure to them.

Update: With Tierney potentially out for this match, a shift in the lineup will have to happen. If Arteta goes simple, we will see Cedric takeover the left back spot and Bellerin at right back. If he determines that doesn’t offer us enough left-footed play on the left, or an option to get to the endline, there are a few variations.

We could see Saka play at left back with Martinelli in front of him, or we could see Cedric still played on at left back with Pepe in front of him who offers that left-footed play. There are a few other variations, but regardless of how Arteta gets around this, it would be a major blow not to have Tierney in the side.

Prediction

“I think both teams will learn. I don’t think that any manager or players like to play the same opponent twice, obviously we will take things from Saturday’s game that we will analyse, we have already talked about them and will try to make them better in the next game. The one I really want to change is the result, because I want to win the game.”

Mikel Arteta

My thoughts align with this as well. I believe both teams will have learned about one another and come with a plan to change things up. I expect the bulk of those changes to come from Arsenal who haven’t managed to beat the Saints this year and made the choice to rest a good amount of their regulars for this purpose.

Arteta will know what this match means to their confidence heading into a tough run of fixtures and will be ensuring that everyone recognizes this match as one of their better opportunities to grab all 3 points.

If Arsenal can start with a win, it eases some of the pressure to get wins in a few of the more difficult, upcoming matches. Suddenly, a draw against those opponents become a powerful point.

With that message in mind, I think Arsenal come out and really look to take it to Southampton, control the match, and deny them opportunities to deploy their press. Not sure what kind of individual firepower the attack will have, but if they can break down what pressure Southampton do put on the backline and double pivot, there should be spaces for Smith Rowe to operate within and create great chances for them.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1

Check out yesterday’s prematch blog: Arteta must win Tuesday to justify his choice in the short-term

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