Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Southampton

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, November 23
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: Anthony D'Urso
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 6 - 1 Southampton
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 43 Arsenal wins, 16 Southampton wins, 23 draws
  • Arsenal's Current Form: W-D-W-W-W-L
  • Southampton's Current Form: W-W-D-W-D-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 6 C / 43 F
How did you spend your break? Per Mertesacker spent his
single-handedly beating England 1-0.
Welcome back! How was your international break? I already forgot what I did last weekend. Without an Arsenal match to jog my memory, everything else becomes a strange blur. I don't think I left the house much and there was a James Bond film involved starring George Lazenby. I won't tell you which one, but I think you can figure it out.

But it's back to business now, and first place hosts third place at the Emirates tomorrow. I don't think anyone thought first place vs. third place on November 23 would have been Arsenal and Southampton when this season started, but here we are. You'll get a lot of the same rhetoric as we saw before Arsenal's trip to Old Trafford, though in a slight reversal of fortunes. This match is another acid test for Southampton, who have picked up four points from Anfield and Old Trafford this season. For Arsenal, it's another test of mental strength (but what isn't?)

In my opinion, it's better that Southampton have had they start to this season that they have and that Arsenal has not played them earlier; the Gunners won't be taken by surprise by the upstart Saints like Liverpool and United were.

So, let's get back to work.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Walcott (stomach)
Suspended: Flamini (one match, accumulation)

"Okay, I'm going to need a bigger measuring tape..."
It seems so far, so good in terms of injury news after the international break, with the only major scare being Aaron Ramsey's hamstring. That could put Arsenal in a tough spot if it's worse than expected, because Mathieu Flamini will serve a one match ban for yellow card accumulation. If Ramsey's not fit to go, then Arsenal is down two midfielders, with Jack Wilshere still a bit touch-and-go with his ankle. I assume Tomas Rosicky is fit to start, however.

Provided nobody gets another random virus right before kick-off, there isn't much other news around the team; Theo Walcott is back in contention, but unless Arsenal is truly bereft of options, I can only see him coming back from the bench. Lukas Podolski is about three weeks away, but it'll be much longer for the Ox (who had a set-back, it would appear,) Yaya Sanogo, and Abou Diaby (who remains Diaby.)

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud.

Southampton Squad News

Out: Do Prado (knee)

Southampton have only one injury concern in their squad, as Guly Do Prado (whose own goal equalized for Arsenal at St. Mary's last season) is out until early January after he underwent knee surgery earlier this month. Do Prado has only appeared in three league matches this season, all off the bench.

As such, there's no reason to assume the Saints will make any changes to their line-up; the only change I could foresee would be on the wing, where Pablo Osvaldo could return to the starting XI for the first time since their draw at Old Trafford and replace James Ward-Prowse. Their threats up front were all selected by the English national side during this last international break; both Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez picked up their first career caps, with Lallana starting both England losses. Adam Lambert appeared only once, coming off the bench to replace Lallana against Germany. England did not score in either match and were outscored by Per Mertesacker on Tuesday.

Predicted XI: Boruc, Clyne, Lovren, Fonte, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Rodriguez, Lallana, Lambert.

Current Form

Here's Southampton picking up more points at Old Trafford
than Arsenal have in years.
Arsenal might still be top of the league, but Southampton is the in-form side of the Premier League right now, as they have only lost one match this season and have picked up 14 points out of a possible 18 from their last six matches (compared to Arsenal's 13 of 18.) Southampton's away form this year, however, has been... ah, I want to use the term "bumpy" for some reason: they got a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford (where Arsenal lost,) a 1-0 win at Anfield, and a 1-0 win at the Hawthorns (where Arsenal drew,) but they also lost 1-0 at Norwich and drew 1-1 at Stoke. Those aren't bad results, mind you, but they've only picked up eight points on their travels; five clubs have done better (Arsenal, United, Everton, Newcastle, and Spurs.)

The most stunning part of Southampton's record this season is that they've only conceded five goals in 11 games (that's the fewest in the league,) and have never allowed their opponents to hit the net twice in a game; it would be four goals if it weren't for Asmir Begovic's fluke goal for Stoke.

Depending on how the results shake out, a Southampton win, however, would bring them level on points with Arsenal and bring them at least level on goal difference. If Liverpool fail to beat Everton in the early game, the Saints could go top of the league with a victory, though Arsenal's superior goals scored total means Southampton would need a two-goal or more win to do so.

Match Facts

Arsenal got a brace from Own Goal last September in this
Arsenal took four of a possible six points from Southampton last year, winning 6-1 at the Emirates in September, then drawing 1-1 at St. Mary's on New Year's Day. In the 6-1 win, Arsenal opened the scoring in the 11th minute, when a Kieran Gibbs cross was turned into the Southampton net by defender Jos Hooiveld. Just after the half hour mark, a Lukas Podolski free kick made it 2-0 to the good, and four minutes later, Gervinho added a third, and another own goal two minutes after that made it four. Southampton pinged one back just before the break, after a Wojciech Szczesny error gifted the ball to Daniel Fox, making it 4-1 at the half. Gervinho picked up a brace in the 71st, then Theo Walcott picked up a goal against his former club to close the scoring in the 88th. In the 1-1 draw, Gaston Ramirez opened the scoring in the 35th minute, but Arsenal equalized from an own goal off a set piece six minutes later. The rest of the match, however, was a dreadful display.

Southampton's last win at Arsenal came on November 21, 1987.

The Referee

Clattenburg Sass Face
The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Clattenburg has not worked a Premier League match since before the last international break, October 5 for Hull's 0-0 draw with Aston Villa. The week before that was his only Arsenal match of the year, the Gunners' 2-1 win at Swansea. This will be his first Southampton match of the season.

In any case, that's because Clatts was in the United Arab Emirates for the U-17 World Cup, where he worked two group stage matches.

Arsenal won once and lost twice with Clattenburg last year, despite a historically strong record with him as the referee over the last two or three years. Southampton had Clattenburg five times last year and drew four of them, each by a different scoreline (2-2 with Fulham, 1-1 with Norwich, 3-3 with Stoke, and 0-0 with Norwich again,) then lost 1-0 to Spurs in late May, back when Spurs only won games by one late Gareth Bale goal instead of one penalty.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Everton v. Liverpool; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Fulham v. Swansea City; Craven Cottage, London
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Crystal Palace; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Norwich City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Sunderland; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday (late): West Ham United v. Chelsea; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Sunday (early): Manchester City v. Tottenham Hotspur; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Cardiff City v. Manchester United; Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
  • Monday (night): West Bromwich Albion v. Aston Villa; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich