Premier League preview: Southampton vs. Arsenal

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  • Win could put Arsenal top of PL
  • Southampton sit 12th (21 points)
  • Arsenal conceded joint-fewest in PL

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If this is to be the year for Arsenal — the year they finally contest and/or win the Premier League title — then Saturday’s trip to St. Mary’s Stadium (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and online via Live Extra), where they’ll face a spiraling-out-of-control Southampton side, is an absolute must-win game for Arsene Wenger‘s side.

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Following their victory over Manchester City on Monday, the Gunners currently sit second in the PL, two points behind leaders Leicester City, who will play away to Liverpool earlier in the day on Boxing Day. Southampton, meanwhile, sit all the way down in 12th in the league table following a five-game winless run (four losses) in the PL. A 2-0 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday was the latest in a string of poor performances from last season’s 7th-place finishers.

On the injury front, Arsenal will once again be without Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (knee), Jack Wilshere (leg), Francis Coquelin (knee), Mikel Arteta (calf), Tomas Rosicky (knee) and Danny Welbeck (knee). For Southampton, forward Jay Rodriguez (foot) is the only recent addition to the list of injured notables, with goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (toe) being cleared to return on Saturday.

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Southampton won this very fixture last year, 2-0 over the Gunners, on New Year’s Day.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: “We know we are in a difficult situation. We had a bad run last year, but not like this one. It means maybe a little bit of lack in confidence, in belief. But win the game and then it comes back.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “The confidence following a victory like the one against Manchester City increases dramatically. What you want to maintain is the urgency and remember how much a defeat hurts. That balance between confidence and urgency has to be right.”

Prediction

Something about this Arsenal team feels just a bit… different. The Gunners’ newfound ability to sit back, defend and punish teams on the counter lends itself extremely well to playing away from home. Toss in Saint’s recent struggles, mix it all together, and what have you got? A 2-0 victory for Arsenal.