The Inside Track: Arsenal

By SFC Media Tue 09 May Saints vs Arsenal
Photo by Getty | Arsenal celebrate

Football London's Arsenal writer Charles Watts gives us the lowdown on the Gunners ahead of their visit to St Mary's...

How would you sum up the current mood and form at Arsenal?

It fluctuates by the week to be honest. The FA Cup semi-final win against Manchester City, especially the way they fought back to win, really gave everyone a lift.

But then a week later everyone came crashing back down to earth with the abject defeat at Spurs in the north London derby.

Right now it’s pretty positive again thanks to the victory against United, but you just never know with this team what sort of performance they are going to produce.

Obviously there is plenty of attention and frustration directed towards the manager right now, with the imminent decision over his future having dominated the agenda for months.

It’s really not helped the situation. The uncertainty that it has brought has clearly directly influenced results, no matter what Wenger says.

How important is this game for Arsenal?

It’s huge. This club is built around getting into the Champions League. Rightly or wrongly, we all know that is the aim at the start of the season.

Right now Arsenal face the prospect of missing out on the Champions League first the first time in two decades.

They still have a slim chance of getting into the top four, but they have to win every one of their remaining games and hope others do them a favour elsewhere.

So nothing but three points will do against Southampton. It’s a massive game.

What sort of a style of play/formation would you expect to see?

Ever since the horrible defeat at Crystal Palace, Wenger has gone to three at the back.

They’ve only lost once since that formation change, the defeat at Spurs, so I expect Wenger to stick with it at St Mary’s.

It’s tightened things up defensively, they have not been shipping anywhere near as many goals as they were in the weeks leading up to the change.

That formation also allows Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to operate centrally together, so they can get into the game more - especially Sanchez, who had been floating around on the left.

Who would you pick out as Arsenal’s key players for this one?

Obviously everyone looks at Sanchez because of his goals and assists, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been exceptional recently.

Since the turn of the year he has been Arsenal’s stand out player in my opinion, whether it be in a central midfield position - or in the right wing-back role where he is currently operating.

Granit Xhaka - the £35m summer signing - has had an impressive few weeks after a slow start to life in England, while at the back Rob Holding looks like a gem of a signing.

What sort of a game are you expecting to see?

A tight one, certainly not one like we saw in the FA Cup earlier in the season.

Southampton are good defensively, Arsenal are working hard in a bid to tighten things up at the back as well - so I don’t think there will be too many goals.

Given there is so much riding on the game for Arsenal though and not that much for Saints, I can see Arsenal edging it by the odd goal.

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