I'M GONNA KNOCK YOU OUT - Mike Hewitt
It's back to Premier League action tomorrow as Arsenal wander on down to Southampton for a Tuesday night clash with the Saints.
Southampton vs. Arsenal
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 11.45AM PT/2.45 PM ET/7.45 PM BT
Barclays Premier League
League Form: ARS DWWWWW | SOTON LWLLWD
St. Mary's Stadium, Britannia Rd., Southampton
The wacky fixture date and time thing continues for another match, as Arsenal and Southampton play that rarest of beasts, a Tuesday night game, thanks to this weekend's FA Cup exertions. With seven games on the schedule, I guess it's not that rare this Tuesday, though.
Anyhoo, Arsenal made it through Friday night's Cup win pretty much unscathed, and, in a sentence I feel like I may have written a few times before, are rapidly returning to health; Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen, and Tomas Rosicky may be available for selection (although Arteta and Vermaelen are a bit questionable), and we can probably expect a full-strength, Giroud/Szcz/Cazorla/Sagna-populated lineup tomorrow, as Arsenal look to keep turning the screws on their title-contending challengers. After playing pretty well on Friday, it's reasonable to expect Ox to get some time at his former club as well, although I doubt he'll get a start.
Remember back in late September, when Southampton were as high as fourth in the table, and it wasn't unreasonable to think they'd have a pretty strong season and maybe even push for a European place? That's the cautionary tale about paying too much attention to the table that early in the season. After their visit to the Emirates in November, a 2-0 Arsenal win that was a lot harder than the scoreline indicates, Southampton struggled to score for a while, lost eight of their next nine, and saw their league position drop as low as ninth.
Ninth is, in fact, where they currently sit - and it seems like, without trying to sound condescending, that's where they belong. They're a squad full of solid, hard-working players who play in a formation similar to Arsenal's, so they're by no means a bad team, they just lack the personnel to maintain a serious charge at a Champions League place at this point.
I fully expect this to be a tight, nervy game that may well end in a draw; Arsenal are on a bit of a hot streak at the moment, but Southampton always give Arsenal a good test. Away from home, especially, Arsenal will need to avoid their seemingly regular 20 minute stretch where they don't seem to care about the game very much if they want to avoid dropping points tomorrow night.
POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUP:
Szczesny; Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sagna; Flamini, Ramsey; Podolski, Ozil, Gnabry; Giroud.