Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Southampton, League Cup Fifth Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, November 30
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Mark Clattenburg
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 46 Arsenal wins, 19 Southampton wins, 25 draws
  • All-Time in League Cup: 4 Arsenal wins, 1 Southampton win, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Nottingham Forest, 4-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Reading, 2-0
  • Southampton's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Crystal Palace, 2-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Sunderland, 1-0
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-D-D-W
  • Southampton's League Form: W-D-L-L-D-W
Força Chapecoense.
You know I like to mix a lot of humor into these previews and some of my best jokes come when Arsenal are playing terribly. With Arsenal now unbeaten in their last 19 games, the bulk of this intro section was going to be about Theo Walcott's coffee maker.

But yesterday morning brought the devastating news of the plane crash in Colombia that killed all but three members of the Brazilian club Chapecoense, as they flew to the first leg of their 2016 Copa Sudamericana final against Atlético Nacional, for what would have been one of the biggest matches in the club's 43-year history.

In moments like these, we all come together as football fans, as sports fans, and as human beings. This tragedy could happen to any of us.

We turn our focus now to the League Cup, academic as it may seen, as Arsenal host Southampton in the quarter-final.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Giroud (ankle,) Debuchy (hamstring,) Bellerín (ankle,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Akpom (back,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)

The only real bit of good news is that Lucas Pérez will return from the ankle injury he picked up against Reading in the fourth round and likely start up top. That should give Alexis Sánchez the chance to rest a bit, while Olivier Giroud is ruled out with an ankle knock he picked up against Bournemouth on Sunday.

Meanwhile, you have to feel for Mathieu Debuchy, who has had an Abou Diaby-esque run of injuries since joining Arsenal from Newcastle for £12 million in July of 2014. The French right back has made just 23 appearances for the Gunners. The hamstring injury he suffered after just 15 minutes against Bournemouth has been described as "serious" and Debuchy has been described as "distraught," as it looks like he's in for another lengthy spell on the sidelines. That's obviously not ideal news, since Hector Bellerín is still likely, at the very least, two weeks away from returning to that position.

I don't usually include Chuba Akpom in the discussion of first team injuries, but since this is a League Cup tie, it is worth noting that he is still out with a back injury.

I suspect Emiliano Martínez, who signed a new long term contract with the club on Thursday, will start in goal and there should be starts on the cards for some fringe first team players, like Gabriel and Rob Holding. Other than that, I don't usually make it a habit of predicting League Cup squads because it's hard to know just what mix of youth and experience Arsène Wenger will opt for.

Southampton Squad News

Out: Targett (hamstring,) Pied (knee,) Reed (knock,) Hesketh (ankle,) McCarthy (hamstring)
Doubts: Davis (illness,) Boufal (illness,) Tadic (nose,) Gardoș (match fitness)

Dušan Tadić, who has a knack for scoring at the Emirates (or creating the chances that lead to goals, as he did in September,) is a doubt after he suffered a broken nose on international duty. Steven Davis and Sofiane Boufal are both doubts after missing Sunday's match against Everton through illness. Florin Gardoș is a doubt, lacking match fitness, as he has not played a first team match all season as he returns from a knee injury.

Southampton will be without young midfielder Harrison Reed, who will probably be sold to Liverpool within the next two years, after he picked up a knock with the Under-23s earlier this month. Also injured are Matt Targett, Jérémy Pied, Jake Hesketh, and Alex McCarthy.

Current Form

So, Arsenal's unbeaten run is now 19 across all competitions. Arsenal's single-season record for such an unbeaten streak is 21 at the start of the 2007/08 season; spanning back to the end of 2006/07, that unbeaten run overall was 28 matches, tied for the third longest in English football history. We're a long way away from top spot on that list, however; the longest unbeaten run in English history belongs to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1978, who went unbeaten in 40 spanning two seasons. Remember, the Invincibles in 2003/04 lost six across all competitions: three in Europe, once to get knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, and twice in the League Cup semi-final, losing both legs to Middlesbrough.

Southampton had been winless in four in the Premier League before beating Everton 1-0 at the weekend; Charlie Austin scored 41 seconds into the match as the Saints won against their former manager, Ronald Koeman. Southampton had not won since a 3-1 win over Burnley on October 16, drawing with Manchester City and Liverpool plus losing to Chelsea and Hull in the process. Not exactly the easiest run of fixtures, but that loss at Hull is puzzling. The Saints are currently 10th in the Premier League, six points clear of Hull for 18th place and relegation.

Match Facts

Arsenal have already hosted Southampton once this season, winning the league fixture 2-1 at the Emirates back in September. Arsenal, in fact, came from 1-0 down to win the match, something they did not do much of last season. The Saints took the lead in the 18th minute, as a Dušan Tadić free kick hit the crossbar, then Petr Čech's back, before rolling into the net for an own goal. Arsenal equalized from a Laurent Koscielny bicycle kick (seriously) 11 minutes later, then Santi Cazorla won it from the penalty spot in injury time. The reverse fixture at St. Mary's is in late February.

Arsenal last played Southampton in the League Cup in 2014's third round; the Saints came back from 1-0 down to win that one 2-1. Alexis Sánchez gave Arsenal the lead from a set piece in the 14th minute, but Tadić equalized from the penalty spot six minutes later, before a long distance goal from Nathaniel Clyne gave the Saints a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. The match was David Ospina's first in an Arsenal uniform.

Prior to that 2014 tie, Arsenal had met Southampton four times in the League Cup and had won all four ties. The sides met in the 1969 second round in Southampton, ending in a 1-1 draw; Arsenal won the replay at home 2-0 after extra time. The sides met in the third round in 1977 and in 1979, with Arsenal winning both at home. In the 1985 fourth round, the sides met at Highbury; it ended 0-0. Arsenal, as they did in 1969, won the replay, this by a 3-1 scoreline in Southampton.

The Referee

The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend. Arsenal have seen Friend once thus far this season, for their 3-1 win at Watford back in August. He gave Arsenal an early penalty in that match, which Santi Cazorla converted in the ninth minute. He also ended up booking six Watford players, compared to just one for Arsenal (which was Jack Wilshere off the bench.) Arsenal won all three matches in which Friend was the referee last season, keeping a clean sheet in all three. Arsenal were 3-0 winners at Swansea in October, 2-0 winners at Aston Villa in December, and 2-0 winners at Bournemouth in February with Friend in the middle. 

This is the first time this season that Friend will be working a Southampton match. Last year, the Saints saw Friend only once, for a 2-0 home loss to Tottenham last December.

Friend is one of three Select Group referees who have not yet shown a red card this season; the other two are Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor.

Around the Fifth Round
  • Tuesday: Hull City 1 - 1 Newcastle United, Hull City win 3-1 on penalties
  • Tuesday: Liverpool 2 - 0 Leeds United
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. West Ham United; Old Trafford, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat.