Arsenal’s fate this season could be sealed three weeks from today. Over the next 21 days, the Gunners have four critical Premier League matches and both legs of their Round of 16 Europa League tie with Rennes. In the league after Southampton today, the Gunners play Bournemouth at home midweek, away to Spurs, and the biggest match of the season, home for Manchester United.
First up, today’s match with Southampton at the Emirates, a critical fixture because it’s three points Arsenal absolutely must take. Southampton sit 18th in the table. Even though they are improving under manager Ralph Hasenhüttl, today’s match is at the Emirates. There is no excuse for Arsenal not to come away with full points. The Gunners should also play with a bit of a chip on their shoulders - the Saints snapped their 22 match unbeaten streak back in December.
Today’s match is made more important by the fact that United host Liverpool today and will hopefully (likely?) be dropping points. An Arsenal win could vault them over United in the table. If Arsenal then beat United on March 10th, they could open up a greater than three point cushion in the table.
Now if you’ll indulge my table-watching fantasies for a minute - Spurs dropped points yesterday. If Arsenal beat Southampton and Bournemouth, they will be heading into the North London Derby on March 2nd, at worst, with a chance to cut Spurs’ lead in the table to four. And between now and then, Spurs are away to Chelsea, which is by no means a guaranteed win for Tottenham. Arsenal could be looking at pulling to within one or two points of Spurs with a NLD win.
Regardless of what happens elsewhere, if the Gunners take care of business over the next three weeks, the table and their chances at finishing in the top four, could look quite good.
The Gunners finally seem to be getting healthy ***knock on wood***. Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, and Sokratis have all returned from injury and are available for selection. The German playmaker started on Thursday against BATE, his first start in several matches. All eyes will be on today’s team sheet to see if he gets a second consecutive nod. Laurent Koscielny left the match against BATE for “precautionary reasons” and may be held out again, but all signs point to his knock being a minor one.
Lineups will be posted when available.
WHAT: Arsenal v Southampton
WHEN: Sunday, February 24th, 9:05am est/6:05am pst/2:05pm bst
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
WATCH: NBC Sports Gold ($$$)
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