Has a club in first place hosting a team in last place ever felt this level of unease? On paper and on form Arsenal win against Southampton. With the Emirates fully behind the players, there is every reason to expect a decisive victory on Friday. But after the last two matches, there has to be a little bit of doubt across the board. A win on Friday puts Arsenal seven points clear of Manchester City, having played two matches more, and just six games left in the season. So very close.
Well, last time out Arsenal had a great historical run of form over West Ham, and it looked to continue for the opening half-hour. The Gunners’ record against Southampton is a bit less one-sided but still favors Arsenal. The two sides drew 1-1 at Southampton in October and split home wins last season. Prior to that Arsenal had gone six straight league matches without a defeat against Southampton. Most of Arsenal’s defeats to the Saints at the Emirates have come in cup competitions, with the last league loss to Southampton coming all the way back in 1987. Mikel Arteta will be hoping history favors them this week.
Q&A with the Opposition: 5 questions with The Athletic’s Jacob Tanswell
- Leandro Trossard
- Eddie Nketiah
- Reiss Nelson
- Fabio Vieira
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Kieran Tierney
- Jakub Kiwior
- Matt Turner
- Left Out: William Saliba (injury), Takehiro Tomiyasu (injury), & Mohamed Elneny (injury)
- Zinchenko missed out on the West Ham match and he was sorely missed. Kieran Tierney has long been supplanted in the left-back role, but the loss on the attacking and midfield sides isn’t worth what additional focus Tierney brings to the backline. Zinchenko was in training this week and should be back in the XI for Friday.
- Meanwhile, Saliba still hasn’t been cleared by the club but was around practice. It’s doubtful he is ready for Southampton and likely wouldn't be risked with the aim of having him available, even if just on the bench, for the Manchester City clash.
- It feels really harsh to not start Leandro Trossard, but for who? In the last two matches, Martinelli and Jesus have both scored and are integral in the fast, early 2-0 leads. Saka missed the penalty against West Ham, but as long as he is fit it’s unthinkable that Arteta would consider benching him. You’d like to start all four, but someone simply has to be the second-half change, and right now Trossard fits that role. He can sub in for either Jesus or Martinelli.
How to watch
Friday (4/21) at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm PT on the USA Network.
Arsenal - 3
You shouldn’t feel nervous about hosting the bottom-place club, but Arsenal and their supporters in the stadium won’t be taking anything for granted until the final whistle blows. A chance to rebuild some momentum, shake off those four points that slipped away, and look for a clean sheet before turning their attention to the biggest game of the season.