Arsenal will aim to get their season back on track at St Mary’s on Sunday after suffering a demoralising defeat at home to Manchester Utd last weekend.
It was one of the most frustrating games for an Arsenal fan to endure as the visitors ruthlessly punished some suicidal defending and then clung on for three points.
The nature of the loss will be hard to overcome for the Gunners as they were so dominant for so much of the game, only to be sucker punched. But they must pick themselves up and try to stay in the hunt for a top four place against a solid Southampton side.
The Saints have improved markedly since Virgil Van Dijk returned from injury and will represent a stern challenge for Arsene Wenger’s men.
They do not take many risks going forward and try to keep it tight at the back, and those are the sort of teams Arsenal often struggle against.
How many times have we seen teams put 11 men behind the ball, thwart Arsenal throughout the game and nick a winner on the break? They dropped points against Stoke in exactly that fashion earlier in the season.
Arsenal will need Mesut Ozil to be at his creative best to unlock a stubborn Southampton backline on Sunday, and they will need to improve in front of goal. Last weekend Man Utd were every bit as clinical as Arsenal were wasteful.
Jose Mourinho’s team had four shots on target and scored three of them. Arsenal had 16 shots on target and scored just once. David De Gea put in a heroic performance and every man and his dog could see that Arsenal battered Man Utd and really did not deserve to lose, but ultimately they did not take their chances.
Alexis Sanchez and Granit Xhaka should have got on the score sheet, and Alexandre Lacazette should have scored more than once, as all three missed gilt-edged chances.
Check a review of YouWager and find the best odds available and you will see that Arsenal are clear favourites to beat the Saints, but you can almost double your money on an away win in this game and that looks intriguing. Before the Man Utd game they were on a three-match winning streak, and they really should have extended it to four against Utd as they were the better team throughout.
Meanwhile Southampton, for all their grit and discipline, have lost three of their last five games and are not in great form.
The Gunners beat them home and away last season and should take a psychological edge from that. They left empty handed on their previous two visits to St Mary’s, including a Victor Wanyama-inspired 4-0 thrashing on Boxing Day 2015, but seemed to turn a corner last season by twice beating Southampton to nil.
They do not have a great deal of firepower right now as their top scorers this season are on just three apiece, so Petr Cech should not be in for a busy afternoon and Arsenal can afford to commit men forward. A win would improve morale and set them up nicely for a busy fixture schedule over the festive season.
After Southampton, Arsenal face West Ham and Newcastle within a short space of time. All three games are winnable and Arsenal are clear favourites each time. If they can take nine points they will be sitting pretty ahead of the visit of Liverpool on December 22.
That will be a huge game against a serious top four rival, and the Gunners will be desperate to make amends for their 4-0 defeat at Anfield earlier in the season, especially if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plays. Liverpool have a shocking defence and Arsenal really should take it apart. If Wenger manages this festive period properly Arsenal could be well in contention again come the New Year, but he needs to instil belief in his players and encourage them to put their shooting boots on.