Ideally, the plan would have been to pick up the win at Everton, remain in fifth place and give Mikel Arteta the chance to heavily rotate the squad for the next match. That would place most of the B-team players up against Southampton at home and rest the key starters ahead of the more important West Ham match. However, Monday night’s result was one to forget for the Gunners, and are now forced into what feels like a must win with fourth-place West Ham just days later.
Arsenal have a great record in the Premier League against Southampton. Dating back to the start of 2016, the Gunners hold the series advantage with six wins, four draws, and just one loss. The last time Arsenal lost to the Saints in the league was a 1-0 result back in 1987. However, they did get the better of Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup, winning one-nil thanks to a Gabriel own goal. History and home form are on Mikel Arteta’s side, but the pressure will be on after dropping three of their last four.
Make sure you check out the Q&A for this match with St. Mary’s Musings.
- Bernd Leno
- Kieran Tierney
- Ben White
- Calum Chambers
- Granit Xhaka
- Thomas Partey
- Martin Odegaard
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Left Out: Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Pablo Mari, Cedric, Folarin Balogun & Arthur Okonkwo.
- Out: Sead Kolasinac (left ankle).
- At this point finding an option to start up top that you feel confident about is quite difficult. Aubameyang is off form at the moment — one goal in his last seven appearances. Alex Lacazette isn’t bringing out the performances you’d expect for a player looking to make a move this summer — zero goals in his last eight matches. Just a single goal for both Pepe and Martinelli, while Nketiah and Balogun have failed to score in the Premier League, albiet with limited minutes. All that to say, no one is a lock at this point, but from the bunch I believe Aubameyang has the best chance to course correct this weekend. Martinelli and Balogun perhaps are in the long view, but Arsenal can’t afford starts and minutes at the moment based on development.
- Meanwhile, what has happened to Pepe? After closing out last season strong, he’s struggled to even get on the pitch as a sub, despite Arsenal needing a goal late in the recent stretch of matches. This season he has zero goals in the Premier League from 484 minutes, but does lead the club in assists, across competitions, with three. This has to be a Pepe match. The attack needs a boost, and if not at home versus Southampton in between two much more difficult matches, then when?
- The biggest piece we missed on Monday was Emile Smith Rowe. The knock he picked up in the Manchester United match not only severly impacted Arsenal’s chance of picking up points late in that contest, but he was a glaring miss in the second half as Everton dominated momentum. With six goals and two assists, he has become the focal point of the Gunners’s attack this season. Get him, plus Bukayo Saka, plus one other on a hot streak and the pieces begin to fall back into place. But with both of them recently injured and everyone left wondering if that third piece is even at the Emirates at the moment, the gap between an efficient attack and the U-pass pattern of doom is narrow.
- Truthfully, this midfield is probably a reach too far for Mikel Arteta. We’ve seen Sambi and Maitland-Niles together before and it wasn’t bad. I’d love to see them together again on Saturday against Southampton in order to give Granit Xhaka full rest after his return in the Everton match and honestly, Thomas Partey needs a break. He has admitted himself that he’s playing at about a 4 out of 10 level. But with the pressure on, will Arteta perhaps bring out Mohamed Elneny instead? With the team needing a wakeup call after the last two matches (except for Aaron Ramsdale), who wants to roll the dice and see how the young center mid duo can do on Saturday?
- Ideally, I would have preferred the chance to rotate the backline more heavily. With a win at Everton and coming home to face Southampton, could Arsenal get away with a Pablo Mari & Rob Holding pairing? Possibly even Calum Chambers or Cedric in at right-back as well? With Ramsdale in goal maybe you could risk it. But with Saturday’s match now three important points and the need to correct this slide before facing West Ham and Leeds, I wouldn’t rest all the key defenders at once. That being said, Arteta can comfortably let Nuno Tavares and Rob Holding start without seeing a major difference (in theory) in the backline’s performance. You just have to hope that Gabriel and Tomiyasu can play both Saturday and against West Ham before getting a break against Leeds and/or in the League Cup quarterfinal.
How to watch
Saturday (12/11) at 10:00 am ET / 7:00 am PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Southampton - 0
It might be ideal to rest a few players in order to keep them fresh for West Ham next Wednesday. You can easily justify rotation this time of year and bringing in a few players we haven’t seen in the last few matches as Mikel Arteta looks for a response following this dip in performances. Arsenal really need a boost from an unexpected player at the moment. Who can step up on Saturday in what should be a tense Emirates stadium?