Preview by Numbers: Southampton v. Arsenal

St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
Wednesday, May 10
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Eddie Smart and Simon Bennett
    • 4th Official: Mike Jones
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 1 Southampton
  • This Match, Last Year: Southampton 4 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 47 Arsenal wins, 20 Southampton wins, 25 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-W-W-L-W
  • Southampton's League Form: W-W-L-L-D-D
A big win for Arsenal on Sunday basically doubled the Gunners' paltry odds at finishing in the top four, thanks in part to Southampton's 0-0 draw at Anfield. Arsenal's odds of a top four finish jumped from 7.3% to 14.7%, leap-frogging their odds over Manchester United's 9.2%, thanks to their game-in-hand. This, however, is that game-in-hand.

Arsenal have 63 points with four games to play, meaning they can finish with no more than 75 (note: they had 71 last year.) United currently have 65 points with three to play, Manchester City have 69 with three to play, and Liverpool have 70 with two to play. They can fully leap over United with a win tonight and can close the gap on Liverpool to one point by winning both games in hand.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, Liverpool's remaining games are against West Ham and Middlesbrough; Arsenal need Liverpool to drop points in one of those while winning out themselves, or have Manchester City stumble in even worse fashion to finish in the top four. Doable, but a long shot.

A win tonight keeps the dream alive, while also ensuring they can't finish worse than sixth, avoiding the dubious fate of a third qualifying round entry to the Europa League.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Cazorla (Achilles)
Doubts: Xhaka (calf,) Koscielny (knock)

At the moment, Arsenal are not particularly banged up by injuries. The biggest question would surround Granit Xhaka, who was expected to be ruled out against Manchester United after taking a knock in the North London derby, then passed fit anyway, then scored the opening goal, then left the match on 76 minutes. Maybe Arsenal should keep him rested since Jonathan Moss will be the referee...

Shkodran Mustafi has been back in training, so one wonders when he'll be able to crack the XI again, especially since Laurent Koscielny is a slight doubt.  Arsenal could really use some fresh legs in some positions, since they'll be playing again on Saturday. The word is that Lucas Pérez is fit and available again and rumors of a Danny Welbeck knock have been played down, so you know that means we'll get a frustrating 70 minutes from Olivier Giroud or something instead.

Predicted XI: Čech, Koscielny, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin, Özil, Alexis, Giroud.

Southampton Squad News

Out: McCarthy (thigh,) van Dijk (foot)
Doubts: Targett (thigh,) Austin (shoulder)

Southampton have no fresh injury concerns after their 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Sunday. Alex McCarthy remains out with a thigh problem and captain Virgil van Dijk should remain out after foot surgery.

Charlie Austin has been out with a shoulder injury and recently made a return for the Under-23 team, but is expected to still lack match fitness. Matt Targett is on the way back from thigh surgery he had in December and should be near a return.

Fraser Forster made eight saves, including a penalty, against Liverpool at the weekend, so I fully expect him to make 13 saves tonight. You know how that works.

Predicted XI: Forster, Soares, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeu, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Gabbiadini, Tadić.

Current Form

Let's talk a little about Arsenal's road form in the league, shall we? I've discussed before that it's all been downhill since Arsenal's win over Stoke in early December. Their form, in the league, away from home since that date is L-L-D-W-L-L-L-L-W-L. Two wins, one draw, seven losses. And even in the draw, they had to come from 3-0 down against Bournemouth. The wins were against relegation fodder, Swansea City and Middlesbrough. So if Arsenal want to finish in the top four, they're going to have to find a way to win on the road immediately, in places they have historically not won (St. Mary's and the Britannia.) Six points from these two fixtures though and they're coming back home with momentum on their side.

Meanwhile, Southampton's form is as mid-table as you can get. After losing the League Cup final to Manchester United, they won at Watford, lost to Spurs, drew Bournemouth, beat Crystal Palace and West Brom (must be nice...), then lost to Manchester City and Chelsea, then drew Hull and Liverpool. Honestly, that is completely all over the place. It leaves Southampton in 10th place on goal difference, three points back of West Brom for 8th, but eight points clear of relegation. So, yeah, sort that out.

Match Facts

Arsenal and Southampton will be meeting for the fourth time this season, having been drawn against each other in both domestic cups. Just think, if that FA Cup tie went to a replay, this would be meeting number five. Then again, Arsenal won that tie comfortably, so it's for the best that did not happen.

In the league meeting in September, Arsenal came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1. 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.

In the League Cup tie, however, there was no comeback on the cards, as Arsenal made 10 changes to their league squad. Jordy Clasie scored in the 13th minute to give Southampton the lead, then Ryan Bertrand doubled the advantage in the 38th. The match ended 2-0.

In the aforementioned FA Cup tie, Arsenal('s reserves) ran out 5-0 winners over Southampton('s reserves.) Danny Welbeck had a brace and Theo Walcott had a hat trick.

Before the cup win, Arsenal's last win at St. Mary's was on December 29, 2003; Robert Pirès scored the only goal in a 1-0 Gunners' victory. Southampton, of course, were not in the top flight between 2005 and 2012. But Arsenal's struggles at St. Mary's since the Saints' most recent promotion have been well documented: they lost 4-0 there on Boxing Day last year, 2-0 on New Year's Day in 2015, and picked up two draws in other meetings for good measure.

The Referee

The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss, so watch out, Xhaka!

Arsenal have seen Moss twice so far this season and on both occasions Granit Xhaka saw red. That said, Arsenal also won both matches: 3-2 over Swansea in October and 2-1 over Burnley in January. The penalty madness ending of that match, of course, led to Arsène Wenger's touchline ban, when he called Anthony Taylor "dishonest to his federation." Moss has only shown one other red card this season in 34 total matches. It was to Manchester City's Nolito, late in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in September.

Arsenal's all-time record with Moss is exemplary: 14 wins, one loss, one draw. Those two non-wins came one month apart last season, 1-1 at Carrow Road and, perhaps a bad omen, 4-0 at St. Mary's on Boxing Day.

Southampton also have a great record with Moss in the Premier League: 12 wins, two draws, and two losses in top flight fixtures. This year, he has taken charge of their 3-0 win at West Ham, their 1-0 FA Cup win over Norwich, their 4-3 win at Watford last month, and their 0-0 draw with Bournemouth on April 1.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is ready for summer vacation from all this nonsense. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to suggest summer holiday destinations.