Premier League: Arsenal v Southampton Preview

Mesut OzilArsenal will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to three games when they take on Southampton, who are still awaiting their first victory of the 2016/17 campaign, this weekend (3pm Saturday).

Arsene Wenger’s charges overcame Watford 3-1 before the international break, picking up their first win of the season. That followed a goalless draw with champions Leicester City and a 4-3 defeat by Liverpool on the opening day of the season. Arsenal were much improved in that triumph over the Hornets at Vicarage Road, playing some excellent attacking football and also keeping things relatively tight at the back. Southampton could struggle to cope if the Gunners perform at a similar level on Saturday. The return to the team of Mesut Ozil (pictured) has been a major boost, with the north Londoners’ creator-in-chief such a consistent supplier of chances. Summer signing Granit Xhaka looks to have added some much-needed steel and grit to the Arsenal engine room.

Southampton have taken two points from the first nine on offer, losing 2-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford and drawing with both Watford and Sunderland at St Marys. It has been a slightly underwhelming start to the campaign for Claude Puel’s men. Given that they have a new manager in the dugout and a host of new players on the pitch, it was perhaps always going to be difficult for Saints to hit the ground running immediately. The fact that there will be no pressure on them to pick up a result against Arsenal could work in their favour. That said, they will have to show much more of a clinical edge in front of goal if they are to leave the capital with anything on Saturday.

Arsenal are expected to be without each of Gabriel Paulista (ankle), Per Mertesacker (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Carl Jenkinson (knee). Alex Iwobi has shaken off a thigh strain and could feature. Shkodran Mustafi picked up a knock in Germany’s recent friendly with Finland but should be available to play, with Rob Holding the man most likely to drop out if the former Valencia centre-back goes straight into the starting XI. Olivier Giroud will probably begin a Premier League match for the first time this season, with Alexis Sanchez shifting from central striker to a role out on the left flank. New signing Lucas Perez will be hoping to make an impact off the substitutes’ bench.

Southampton will have to make do without Fraser Forster (arm), Jeremy Pied (knee) and Florin Gardos (knee) for this weekend’s trip to the Emirates Stadium. Jay Rodriguez is pushing for a start after his late equaliser against Sunderland last time out. Shane Long could replace Charlie Austin as the side’s centre-forward and Ryan Bertrand might come in for Matt Targett at left-back. Sofiane Boufal, the Moroccan forward who was acquired for £16 million from Lille in the final week of the transfer window, will probably be involved at some stage but may initially have to settle for a place on the bench.

This should be a reasonably straightforward task to negotiate for Arsenal, who are worth backing to record a victory on Saturday afternoon. The Gunners will inevitably dominate possession but must remain patient if they are unable to make the breakthrough early on. Southampton are likely to be content to sit back, position their defensive line deep in the field and deny the hosts space in behind. Taking everything into account, our preview expects a 2-0 win for Arsenal.

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