If we win against Southampton, we will be just six points behind Chelsea. Despite us losing our last four home games. We have been worse than abysmal and changes need to be made on the pitch – but Southampton are one of the worst opponents we could have picked.
Let’s look at our next chance at redemption up close.
They are currently in the top four, a point ahead of Chelsea. That means a massive ten point gap between us and them. They do show a little weakness at the back – only two clean sheets from the last six – but they do score plenty. In fact, only Crystal Palace have stopped them scoring since September.
That’s because of Hassenhuttl instilling a wonderful versatility in their eleven. They have the ever-reliable delivery of James Ward-Prowse from either out wide or from set-pieces. They have the pace of Walcott and Redmond and they have the strength of Che Adams. Throw in the quality of Danny Ings and you have a team that is hard to shut down.
True, our defence has been one of the few things that has looked any way decent this season, but we can be assured that this has the potential to be a high-scoring affair.
We need goals and the problem is – we haven’t scored since we lost to Wolves in November.
Arteta, over to you.
Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin are both suspended for this game. Xhaka for his red card against Burnley and Bellerin for picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.
That heralds change. Ainsley Maitland-Niles will likely replace Bellerin, but in midfield it is much harder to call. Thomas Partey is unlikely to play with his thigh injury keeping him out, so it could be a centre of Mo Elneny, Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos.
In attadk,Arteta could switch it up and leave out Lacazette in the ten role and put in Emile Smith-Rowe, but it seems unlikely given the grave situation – but perhaps youth is the way to go.
In defence, Luiz will stay out of the team despite recovering from the head injury he incurred against Wolves. This is with a backdrop of rumours regarding a deteriorating relationship with Arteta. Gabriel and Rob holding will keep their places.
Player to Watch
The England midfielder is more than a set-piece specialist. He has grit and an engine that is quite remarkable. He will push on a side on the front foot and he will spring attacks. He will be the essence of any fight that Saints bring.
How this could go
Saints are in ripe form and are deservedly in the top four. We could have called them somewhat of a bogey side for us BEFORE this game – the bookies will have them as firm favourites.
With no fans in the ground after the arrival of Tier 3 in London, our home record against Southampton (unbeaten since 1987) will be under threat and with zero atmosphere to back the boys.
In order to keep that sequence going, we need to score from open play, something we haven’t done for more than 12 hours. And then there is the returning player to haunt their former club factor – Theo Walcott is just nailed on to score, isn’t he?
It doesn’t make for pretty reading, but a world-class operator like Aubameyang has to get his shooting boots back on soon, class is permanent after all.
And with the likes of Pepe and Laca, we have skillful players that can have impact against any other team.
When in form.
To regain form, it must be incremental, and the first step has to be against the Saints.
Mikel Arteta and the boys will feel the pressure – let us hope they convert it into a win.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, AMN, Gabriel, Holding, Tierney, Elneny, Ceballos, Pepe, Willock, Auba, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 1-1
Pick the team here – if you can?