Arsenal v Southampton preview: Alexis Sanchez set to feature again
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 02/02/16 7:30pm
Alexis Sanchez is set to continue his return from injury in Arsenal's home game with Southampton after making his first start since November against Burnley in the FA Cup.
The forward scored the winner against the Championship side on Saturday as Arsene Wenger made nine changes from the team that lost to Chelsea.
The Gunners are winless in the Premier League since their 1-0 victory over Newcastle on January 2, and their stuttering form has allowed Leicester to open up a three-point gap at the top of the table.
Opponents Southampton head to the Emirates in good form, with their stunning 4-0 victory over Arsenal on Boxing Day still fresh in the memory.
Charlie Austin came off the bench to score the winner at Old Trafford on his Southampton debut as the Saints earned their third win in a row last weekend and they start the game eighth, three points off West Ham in sixth.
Arsenal will be without midfielder Tomas Rosicky. The experienced Czech Republic international only returned from a knee problem ahead of Saturday's FA Cup victory over Burnley but suffered a thigh problem during the game and will again spend a spell on the sidelines.
Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech should return for the Gunners after Wenger opted to ring the changes for the FA Cup.
Mohamed Elneny is still waiting for his Premier League debut having made his bow in the cup win. Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla (all knee) and Jack Wilshere (leg) are out.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is keeping quiet about how his side will line up against Arsenal. The Dutch manager hinted recent signing Charlie Austin could make his first start for the club after impressing on his debut by scoring the winning goal against Manchester United.
Graziano Pelle (knee) and Steven Davis (knock) remain doubtful while Jay Rodriguez (ankle) and Florin Gardos (knee) are unavailable.
Wenger has come up against Koeman on 10 occasions as Arsenal manager, winning just two of those matches (D4 L4).
Southampton have won just one of their last 21 away trips to Arsenal, but that came under Koeman in the Capital One Cup (D5 L15).
Austin has scored in each of his two Premier League appearances against Arsenal, but both came in 1-2 defeats.
Sanchez has scored in both of his appearances against Southampton at the Emirates for Arsenal.
Southampton have scored a league-high 10 headed goals in the Premier League so far in 2015/16 and they have also fired in the most crosses from open play in the league this season (436).
No side has allowed their opponents more shots on target in January than Arsenal (24 - level with Sunderland).
This is a difficult game for Arsenal because Southampton have really turned a corner. They had a bit of a dodgy patch but they've got a run going and aren't letting in too many goals now.
This one is a potential banana skin for Arsenal but having Sanchez back is a real boost. I also think the fact Per Mertesacker is suspended is a bonus too because we all saw what Shane Long did to him in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day.
That's the way Southampton would have tried to play again, hitting long balls over the top of Mertesacker for Long to chase. Still, it's a difficult game for the Gunners but one they will win because of the return of Sanchez. He will score the first goal for me in what will be a 3-1 home win.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1 (Sky Bet, 14/1)
Arsenal are 4/5 with Sky Bet to avenge their 4-0 drubbing at St Mary's when they welcome 7/2 shots Southampton to the Emirates, with the draw priced at 13/5. The Saints have lost only one of the last five meetings in all competitions and are evens in the win or draw in the 'Double Chance' market. Arsenal won 1-0 when the sides last met in north London courtesy of a late goal from Alexis Sanchez and a repeat of that scoreline is available at 22/1 in a scorecast, while strike duo Olivier Giroud and Charlie Austin both to score is a 15/2 shot. Check out tips from our Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp, Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson and Matt Le Tissier here.