Preview by Numbers: Holiday Fixtures

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I'll be out of town from today through New Year's, a span of time during which Arsenal will play three league fixtures. Since I won't have the time on holiday to cobble together any up-to-the-minute hot match preview action, you're going to get this awesome all-at-once cold preview action instead. I'll be back with you again live (read: not live) for the FA Cup third round preview, which will be posted Saturday the 3rd.

Anyway, let's get to it!

Emirates Stadium, London
Friday, December 26
12:30 p.m. EST, 17:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Martin Atkinson
    • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Peter Kirkup
    • 4th Official: Phil Dowd
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 1 - 0 QPR (October 27, 2012)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 22 Arsenal wins, 15 QPR wins, 14 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-L-W-D
  • QPR's League Form: L-W-L-W-L-W
Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (calf,) Wilshere (ankle,) Diaby (???,) Ozil (knee)
Doubts: Ramsey (hamstring,) Koscielny (Achilles)

Arsenal's scientists were able to snap this
photograph of Abou Diaby before he
Here's what we know right now: Mikel Arteta has had a setback with his calf injury, meaning he will not be available for any of these holiday fixtures. Mesut Ozil is in light training and while he won't play in any of these three games, he will likely be available in early January, fingers crossed. Aaron Ramsey could be available for the New Year's Day match at Southampton (which is why I've moved him to "doubts" here, since this section covers all three matches,) while it's still late February at best for Jack Wilshere. Abou Diaby remains missing in a parallel universe while Arsenal's top scientists are on the case.

Tomas Rosicky (thigh) and Yaya Sanogo (hamstring) could both return from their injuries and will likely get a start somewhere in this stretch in the name of squad rotation. It's been hinted at that Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Hector Bellerin (apparently a foot injury) could get the nod in the back four against West Ham on Sunday.

Second choice goalkeeper David Ospina is now available as well.

QPR Squad News

Out: Faurlin (knee,) Sandro (knee,) Taarabt (groin)
Doubts: Yun (ankle)

Don't shush me, Charlie!
The Hoops will be without three players through injury, as Alejandro Faurlin is out for the season with his third ACL injury in as many years, Sandro is out until January with a knee problem of his own, and Adel Taarabt is out until January with a groin problem. Defender Yun Suk-young is a doubt with an ankle injury as he was withdrawn from last weekend's match at halftime.

Arsenal will have to be wary of Charlie Austin up top; he had a hat trick as QPR came from 2-0 down to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 last week at Loftus Road. On the road, however, QPR will be expected to play a little more defensively.

Current Form

QPR: Not so good away from home.
If someone handed you a note before Sunday's match and it read "Liverpool 2 - 2 Arsenal," how would you have reacted? Personally, I would have been frustrated but not surprised. Therefore, it's so interesting how context changes things so drastically within an individual match.

On the whole of the 101 minutes of football played at Anfield, Arsenal certainly did not deserve a point. Yet, with under three minutes to play, they were leading 2-1 against ten men. Suddenly, 2-2 felt like a loss. As a result, it's hard to remember that Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven matches across all competitions, thanks to that first half suckfest at the Britannia.

QPR, on the other hand, are the league's worst travelers, losing all eight of their road matches. Charlie Austin, with 11 goals now on the season, has scored only two of them away from Loftus Road. This goes back to what I mentioned in the team news section; Harry Redknapp usually opts to play cautiously on the road, using Austin as a single striker. Austin benefits from a formation that utilizes two forwards at home. The Hoops are 7th in the league at home and dead last on the road. The combination of the two leaves them two points clear of relegation.

Match Facts

Probably offside Mikel Arteta bundles home the winner in
this corresponding fixture two years ago.
Arsenal won this fixture 1-0 when it was last played at the Emirates in October of 2012, although they left it very uncomfortably late. Arsenal had 70% of the possession over 96 minutes but Julio Cesar made 10 saves for QPR. Stephane Mbia was sent off in the 80th minute and four minutes later Mikel Arteta finally bundled a shot across the goal line, though the Spaniard was arguably offside when he did so. QPR had two solid chances to equalize in injury time, but both went begging. Arsenal won the match at Loftus Road later in the season by a 1-0 scoreline as well, with Theo Walcott scoring in the first minute.

Over their last 14 league meetings, Arsenal have just four wins against QPR. This stat is largely meaningless since prior to the two seasons QPR spent in the top flight between 2011 and 2013, the club had not been in the Premier League since their relegation in 1996.

The Referee

"I got this!"
The referee is West Yorkshire-based Martin Atkinson. Arsenal have lost three straight with Atkinson in the middle, including the 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge in October. Last season, Arsenal had won twice with Atkinson in the middle before two huge road losses at Manchester City last December and Everton last April. Arsenal have not lost at home with Atkinson as the referee since a 2-0 loss to Liverpool on August 20, 2011, in which he sent off Emmanuel Frimpong for two yellow cards.

QPR have seen Atkinson once this season as well, drawing 2-2 with Stoke City on September 20. Earlier this month, Atkinson had the privilege of taking charge of the Champions League matchday six showdown between Barcelona and Paris St. Germain at Camp Nou that decided the group winner.

Around the League

All matches are Friday, December 26. Arsenal v. QPR is the late match, meaning all matches, aside from the specifically marked early game, kick off at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. England.
  • Early match: Chelsea v. West Ham United; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Burnley v. Liverpool; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Crystal Palace v. Southampton; Selhurst Park, London
  • Everton v. Stoke City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Manchester United v. Newcastle United; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunderland v. Hull City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Swansea City v. Aston Villa; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Boleyn Ground, London
Sunday, December 28
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Neil Swarbrick
    • Assistants: Scott Ledger and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Kevin Stroud
  • This Match, Last Year: West Ham 1 - 3 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 58 Arsenal wins, 33 West Ham wins, 38 draws
  • West Ham's League Form (pre-Boxing Day): L-W-W-W-D-W
West Ham Squad News (pre-Boxing Day)

Out: Jenkinson (loan terms)
Doubts: Noble (calf,) Tomkins (hamstring)

This still looks weird.
West Ham play the early match on Boxing Day as they visit Chelsea in West London; they'll enter that match with no certain injuries, though two players are listed as doubts. Mark Noble is a doubt after he missed the win over Leicester last weekend with a calf injury. James Tomkins was forced off from that match with a hamstring injury and is also a doubt.

West Ham will be without right back Carl Jenkinson against his parent club, thanks to the terms of his loan.

Current Form

West Ham are beating everyone at home right now.
Even Leicester!
West Ham enter their Boxing Day fixture at Chelsea in fourth place, one point shy of third place Manchester United, two points clear of fifth place Southampton, and four points clear of sixth place Arsenal.

The Hammers have not lost at home since August, when they lost to Spurs and Southampton and also fell on penalties to Sheffield United in the League Cup (the Blades have now gone on to the semi-finals.) Since then, West Ham have beaten Liverpool, Queens Park Rangers, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Swansea City, and Leicester City at Upton Park. Only Aston Villa has earned a point there since the start of September, a 0-0 draw in early November.

West Ham have only lost four times this season, the aforementioned two home games in August, a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford where they had an equalizer ruled offside, and a 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park in November. In addition to Aston Villa at home, West Ham have drawn Hull, Stoke, and Sunderland on the road.

Match Facts

Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski scored goals in this
fixture last year as both were on the road back from injuries.
Theo got hurt a week later and has played twice since.
Arsenal have developed a strange habit of conceding first to West Ham before turning on the thrusters. Last season, Arsenal came from behind to win both fixtures 3-1, including this corresponding fixture on last year's Boxing Day: Lukas Podolski returned from a hamstring injury from the bench to ignite the Gunners; the German scored and Theo Walcott netted a brace after Carlton Cole gave West Ham the lead in the 46th. At the Emirates, Arsenal came from 1-0 down to win 3-1 as well.

The year before that, Arsenal came from 1-0 down to win 3-1 at Boleyn Ground and came from 1-0 down to win 5-1 at the Emirates. So, if you're counting at home, that's four consecutive matches against West Ham where the Hammers have scored first and Arsenal have gone on to win comfortably.

Arsenal have won their eight seven matches against West Ham, across all competitions, dating back to a 2-2 draw in October of 2009 during which I got drenched in beer by West Ham fans celebrating their equalizer; Arsenal had led 2-0. That game sucked. The Gunners are also unbeaten in 13 against the Hammers. West Ham's last win against Arsenal marked the first time a visiting team won at the Emirates Stadium; Bobby Zamora scored just before halftime and West Ham held on to win 1-0 in April of 2007.

The Referee

Why is the ref off the pitch here?
The referee is Lancashire-based Neil Swarbrick. Arsenal have never lost a match with Swarbrick as the referee, winning four and drawing one. This will be his first Arsenal match of the season; last season, Swarbrick took charge of Arsenal's win at Aston Villa and home win against Newcastle. This will also be his first West Ham match of the season; last year, he took charge of their 2-1 League Cup win at Tottenham and their park-the-bus 0-0 draw at Chelsea.

Swarbrick will come into this match having worked Leicester City v. Tottenham on Boxing Day.

Around the League
  • Sunday (very early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Chelsea; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday: Aston Villa v. Sunderland; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Sunday: Hull City v. Leicester City; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Sunday: Manchester City v. Burnley; Etihad Staduim, Manchester
  • Sunday: Queens Park Rangers v. Crystal Palace; Loftus Road, London
  • Sunday: Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunday (late): Newcastle United v. Everton; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Monday (night): Liverpool v. Swansea City; Anfield, Liverpool

St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
Thursday, January 1
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Craig Pawson
    • Assistants: Simon Long and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 1 - 0 Southampton
  • This Match, Last Year: Southampton 2 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 45 Arsenal wins, 17 Southampton wins, 24 draws
  • Southampton's League Form (pre-Boxing Day): D-L-L-L-L-W
Southampton Squad News (pre-Boxing Day)

Out: Rodriguez (knee,) Gallagher (knee,) Cork (ankle)
Doubts: Hesketh (knee,) Tadic (muscular)

Gallagher (right), shown here celebrating someone else's
goal against Arsenal last year, might be fit again for this one.
Obviously, Southampton will play twice before facing Arsenal on New Year's Day, meaning any number of things can change in terms of their injury list. Going into Boxing Day, Jake Hesketh and Dusan Tadic are both doubts with knee and muscle injuries, respectively.

Sam Gallagher, currently out with a knee injury, could find himself available by the time next week rolls around. Southampton will be without Jay Rodriguez with his long-term knee injury and Jack Cork with his ankle injury.

Current Form

All I can figure out about Everton right now is that we
played them at the wrong time and apparently Southampton
played them at the right time, even though it should've been
the right time for Everton to play Southampton, or something.
The Saints will face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day, then Chelsea at St. Mary's on Sunday before this fixture.

Entering the holiday period, Southampton will be buoyed by their 3-0 win over Everton last Saturday, which snapped a four game losing streak. The Saints had also been winless in five since a draw at Aston Villa on November 24. Over that five match span, the Saints fell from second place to fifth in the league table. Southampton have been fairly strong at home this season, falling only to the two Manchesters, while also drawing West Brom back in August.

The Saints average 2.33 goals per game at home (a number strengthened by the 8-0 thumping of Sunderland in October;) only Chelsea score more goals per game in front of their home fans.

Match Facts

I feel like we've played Southampton like eight times this year.
Arsenal have already played Southampton twice at the Emirates Stadium this season, first in the League Cup in September and then again in the league a month ago. Alexis Sanchez scored the only goal for Arsenal in each of those two matches, but while his goal stood up as the winner in the league fixture on December 3, Southampton responded with two goals, including a long range screamer from Nathaniel Clyne, to win the cup tie a few months back. The Saints, of course, went on to get knocked out of the competition by Sheffield United two weeks ago.

This fixture last year was a bit bonkers. Arsenal played a dreadful first half and fell behind 1-0, then scored twice in four minutes to take a 2-1 lead. Their lead, however, lasted all of two minutes, as Adam Lallana equalized. Those two dropped points proved to be the beginning of the end for Arsenal's run at the top of the table; the Gunners went on to win just three of their next 10 league games before closing out the year winning their final five.

Arsenal's last win at St. Mary's was on December 29, 2003; Robert Pires scored the only goal in a 1-0 Gunners' victory. Just seven months earlier, Arsenal had also beaten Southampton 1-0 via a Robert Pires goal in the FA Cup Final. Southampton, of course, were not in the top flight between 2005 and 2012.

The Referee

Crazy eyes!
The referee is South Yorkshire-based Craig Pawson. Arsenal have only had Pawson once in his career, for the 3-0 win over Burnley at the Emirates in November. Southampton have not seen Pawson yet this season, but he did work their 2-2 draw with Stoke at St. Mary's back in February.

Pawson will come into this match after refereeing the Newcastle v. Everton match on Sunday the 28th; he will not be in action on Boxing Day.

Around the League

All matches are Thursday, January 1.
  • Early match: Stoke City v. Manchester United; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Hull City v. Everton; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Liverpool v. Leicester City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Manchester City v. Sunderland; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Newcastle United v. Burnley; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Queens Park Rangers v. Swansea City; Loftus Road, London
  • West Ham United v. West Bromwich Albion; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Late match: Tottenham Hotspur v. Chelsea; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and is very impressed you read to the bottom of this. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat so you can let him know personally that you read to the bottom of this.