Southampton vs Arsenal: FA Cup Match Preview

(written by Morgan Harvey)

Arsenal will face Southampton in the next round of the FA Cup after an extra-time win versus Newcastle. The Gunners will play the Saints at St Mary’s tomorrow and will want to continue their significant form, with the potential of retaining their title as FA Cup holders.

The 14-time winners will enter the game with confidence after four wins out of five in the Premier League since boxing day, scoring 11 goals, and only conceding one. Southampton will not be an easy opposition for Arsenal, however. Under Hasenhüttl, Southampton have been performing at a high level, positioning them above Arteta’s Arsenal with a game in hand. Southampton have been massively over-performing for a side that, this time last year, were being smashed 9-0 by Leicester, therefore suggesting that they have taken huge strides to improve their form.

On face value of the game, the odds will be in Arsenal’s favour with their history in the cup and their current form. I can predict that Arteta will continue with his 4231 variant to counteract the Saints’ 442. In this game, expect to see players such as Elneny and Ceballos (if fit) to take up the middle of the park. Ceballos will be ideal in this scenario, with his press resistant ability being a key to avoid Hasenhüttl’s high press.

On face value of the game, the odds will be in Arsenal’s favour with their history in the cup and their current form. I can predict that Arteta will continue with his 4231 variant to counteract the Saints’ 442. In this game, expect to see players such as Elneny and Ceballos (if fit) to take up the middle of the park. Ceballos will be ideal in this scenario, with his press resistant ability being a key to avoid Hasenhüttl’s high press.

I doubt Arsenal will rest Leno considering his incredible form making him almost un-droppable, this being helped by Icelandic keeper Runnarson not suggesting any reason Arsenal should give him a chance. As well as this left-back Kieran Tierney will most likely be rested after his calf injury scare a few games ago. Considering how important he has become to Arteta’s plans, I do not think risking him in a game like this would be ideal, also considering the minimal backup for the Scotsman now that Kolasinac has joined German side Schalke.

A front 4 Gooners should expect to see will be along the lines of Martinelli and Pepe holding down the wing spots, with either Lacazette or Aubameyang leading the line and the misfiring Willian locating in the no.10 role. There is a chance for somebody like Nketiah to get an opportunity with Arteta showing how much he likes the striker with appearances in cup competition coming to him regularly.

For the Saints, this game might not at the top of their priorities with potential European places up for grabs and having to face Arsenal again 2 days later. We will expect them to make a few changes to the side that beat Shrewsbury earlier in the week, with important players such as Che Adams and full-back pairing Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand to come back into the fold.

Southampton enjoys pressing high, and in numbers to force mistakes in dangerous areas for the opposition. Hasenhüttl likes to play a positive style of Football, enforcing his team to play a lot in the opposition’s half. This can be very effective early in games, however, with his personnel not being at the highest of levels it can see his team running out of gas later in the game- the Spurs thumping coming to mind.

This game will be important to Arteta because he will want to add more silverware to his cabinet and to keep his team spirit high after their win against Newcastle. However, Mikel will be aware of the threats Hasenhüttl’s side possess, which could force Arsenal to play a more conservative style to avoid Southampton’s press to take full effect.

My personal prediction for the game will be a 2-1 win for The Gunners who will look to get this game out of the way to retain a focus on their climb back up the Premier League table, with a big game versus high flying Manchester United coming up.

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