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Preview: Saints v Arsenal, team news, starting line-up & prediction
Arsenal take on Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday evening with a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup awaiting the victors.
We squeezed in to the fourth round after coming from behind to beat Preston North End 2-1 earlier this month thanks to a late Olivier Giroud winner.
Late goals have become something of a trend for Arsenal this season with Alexis Sanchez scoring a 97th minute penalty to secure a 2-1 win over Burnley at the Emirates last week.
It was a vital win as it saw us climb to second in the table, however, it came at a cost as the FA confirmed earlier this evening that Arsene Wenger has been slapped with a four-game touchline ban following his bust-up with the officials on Sunday.
It means Arsene won’t be in charge against Southampton tomorrow or for the subsequent games against Watford, Chelsea or Hull City but he’ll still be allowed in the stadium and will no doubt get messages to Steve Bould on the bench.
Southampton come in to the game after booking their place in the final of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night so hopefully that match has taken a lot out of Claude Puel’s side.
Arsene is set to ring the chances once again for the FA Cup with the likes of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud expected to be rested.
Theo Walcott is back in contention after recovering from a calf injury so he should start in attack while Lucas Perez, Kieran Gibbs and Danny Welbeck are also in line to feature.
Granit Xhaka starts a four-game ban following his sending off last weekend so with Santi Cazorla still injured and Mohamed Elneny at the AFCON, we have limited options in midfield.
Hector Bellerin should come back in to the defence after recovering from an ankle injury which will allow Gabriel to move in to the middle of defence alongside Shkodran Mustafi.
Wenger will probably risk Aaron Ramsey alongside Francis Coquelin in midfield but I think we need to protect Rambo as we have very few midfield options right now and the last thing we need is him getting injured.
Therefore, I’d give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a run out in the middle. He’s played there before and he can interchange with Alex Iwobi if needed. Otherwise, I’d go with Perez on the left and Welbeck through the middle.
Without knowing exactly what sort of team Wenger will put out it’s difficult to make a prediction. Assuming it’ll be a side similar to the one above, I think we’ll have a decent chance of progressing against a Southampton side who will be feeling the effects of Wednesday’s EFL Cup win. Puel may decide to rest some of his key men and with one domestic cup final already in the bag, the Saints may not see this game as a top priority.
Therefore, I’m backing the boys to secure a 2-1 win and book our place in the next round. Southampton 1-2 Arsenal