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Arsenal vs. Southampton: Predicted Lineup, Bench & Score

Who’s ready for the comeback?

Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Like all things Arsenal over the past decade or so, every ebb and flow comes with yet another shift in fortune right around the corner. This season started with three losses and in last place to eventually see a strong climb back up the table by the holidays. January setbacks gave way to the most recent winning run and road form. Which is why the latest pair of losses were inevitable, even if frustrasting, because you aren’t quite sure when the next dip is coming. Now down into 5th place and dealing with several key absences Arsenal head to Southampton looking to once again change the shift in momentum.

Southampton are in an even bigger rut at the moment and coming off what has become their annual thrashing in the Premier League. Over the last 12 league matchups between these two sides (dating back to the start of 2016), Arsenal has just one loss against Southampton. Back in December when they met at the Emirates Arsenal had a comfortable 3-0 win thanks to goals from Lacazette, Odegaard, and Gabriel. If ever there was a time that Arsenal needed an easy win and Southampton to continue to ship goals it’s this one.

If you missed it earlier this week, we did a Q&A with SB nation’s Southampton site St. Mary’s Musings. Now on to how the Gunners may start on Saturday.

Predicted XI

Bench

  1. Eddie Nketiah
  2. Pepe
  3. Rob Holding
  4. Albert Sambi Lokonga
  5. Bernd Leno
  6. Miguel Azeez
  7. Zak Swanson
  8. Omari Hutchinson
  9. Joel Lopez
  • Left Out: Kieran Tierney (injury), Thomas Partey (injury), Takehiro Tomiyasu (injury) & Alexandre Lacazette (illness or dropped)
  • I am a believer that you shouldn’t let fixing one problem cause yet another. It’s like the old cartoon boat sinking in the water with a hundred holes, the water is going to just shift and still fill the boat from another problem spot. While Xhaka at left-back might be seen as the conservative approach, he is needed in midfield with Thomas Partey out. Shifting your last starting CM to LB only to then start two less than ideal players in central midfield to then not have your #10 in his best spot...well you get the point.
  • Arteta should simply get his best players remaining into the starting XI in their preferred position as often as possible. Keep Xhaka in midfield. Keep Odegaard as the attacking midfielder.
  • I considered using Rob Holding in a back three, but there are two major flaws there. First, that puts all of Arsenal’s healthy centerbacks on the pitch leaving no coverage on the bench in case one gets hurt. Arteta isn’t playing a backthree for the remainder of the season. Second, that formation pulls a player out of attack which is the last thing the Gunners need at the moment. Arsenal don’t need to play more conservative with wingbacks against a Southampton that was shipping goals against Chelsea.
  • With Partey out and Xhaka at left-back in the last match, why not Elneny? When replacing Partey he is the player I would look to first. He isn’t glamourous, but he will offer smart protection for the backline and is extremely unlikely to get a red card out of no where. I’d start Elneny and give Xhaka the freedom to move around the pitch to help either in attack or on the left side of defense as needed.
  • Out sick? Injured? Dropped because of his lack of goals? A fallout with Arteta? We aren’t entirely sure where Lacazette is at the moment and why, but his involvement on Saturday looks highly unlikely. So rather than start Nketiah or Pepe up top I’d stick with the best four attacking players Arsenal have had over the past few months. Martinelli makes great runs and will give the Saints backline fits. That quartet can interchange and is the future that Arteta is building around. Let them go chase down reclaiming fourth place.
  • As for the bench, with all the abcenses it’s a guessing game as to which U23 player(s) get the surprise bench appearance. If those from the Brighton match carry over, the next name I’d toss out there is Joel Lopez. He can offer further coverage for the fullback positions along with Zak Swanson, or if Arsenal do have to switch to a wingback system. Fingers crossed it doesn’t come to that.

How to watch

Saturday (4/16) at 10:00 am ET / 7:00 am PT on Peacock Premium.

Prediction

Arsenal - 2

Southampton - 0