- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 18 league home games vs. Saints
- Southampton now have the longest unbeaten run in the PL (8 games)
- Last season Arsenal won this fixture 6-1 at the Emirates
Did anyone seriously believe this would be a first against third clash before the season started?
Well it is, and what a game we have on our hands at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday as Arsenal host Southampton (Watch live on NBCSN, 10am ET and live online via NBC Sports Live Extra) in a match that will have huge implications at the top of the table.
The Gunners lead the way and have had a terrific start to the season with eight wins from their opening 11 games. Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud have stolen the show and a game against Southampton would usually go down as an Arsenal win.
But here’s the twist. The Saints are also flying high.
Currently in third spot and just three points behind Arsenal, Mauricio Pochettino’s young side have taken the PL by storm and are the surprise package of the season so far. Mix in teenagers Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse with recent England call ups Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert and the Saints are going places. Their high-pressure style of play is winning them plenty of fans across the league and they genuinely believe they can beat Arsenal on Saturday.
That’s saying a lot, as in September last year the Saints were hammered 6-1 by Arsenal and it could’ve been more. They’ve come a long way in a short space of time. Now they have the league’s best defense, conceding just five goals in 11 games, and have Arsenal worried ahead of Saturday’s match.
Arsene Wenger has been complimentary about Southampton’s play but Arsenal really should win this game if they want to keep their title credentials intact. It’s hard to predict this result, but we do know that both these teams play attractive soccer that’s sure to produce a fine spectacle in an unlikely battle for top spot.
In terms of team news, Arsenal will welcome back former Southampton star Theo Walcott as the England international returns from a few months out after minor abdominal surgery, but Mathieu Flamini will miss out due to yellow card accumulation. The Saints have a clean bill of health to choose from as record-signing Daniel Osvaldo has overcome an allergic reaction whilst on international duty with Italy.
What they’re saying
Arsene Wenger on Saints’ dream to finish in the top four: “You cannot rule anybody out. If they can keep the defensive record they have then they can be very ambitious. The team plays together now for a long time. They have a very good defensive record, they have the best defense in the league. That is the best basis to be consistent.”
Southampton’s teenage midfielder James Ward-Prowse: “I know it’s a cliché, but we’ve just got to take each game as it comes, prepare right for each one, and go into them with the right attitude and mentality to come out on top. There’s a confidence instilled in us that no matter who the opposition are – whether they’re lower league or top of the league – we can go and beat them. I think these next couple of games (Arsenal and Chelsea away) will show us as a club where we’re at in terms of playing the top teams in the league, and I think we’ll be alright.”
This game will perhaps provide the most scintillating and attractive 90 minutes of soccer we’ve seen in the PL so far this campaign. As we’ve mentioned both sides are flying high and it’s hard to pick a winner here, it all depends on who gets the first goal. If Saints can nick it, then their defense will hold firm and likely grab the side at least a point. But if Arsenal score early they could burst Southampton’s bubble… and I think that’s exactly what will happen. Home win.