St. Mary’s Stadium – Thursday 1st January at 15:00
Southampton host Arsenal on New Years Day in what should be an exciting, entertaining encounter. Both teams sit on 33 points with Southampton ahead on goal difference. Arsenal can get back into a Champions League spot with a win here but Southampton will be a difficult opponent after putting some poor form behind them.
Southampton will be buoyed by their strong and well organised performance against Chelsea on Sunday. After taking an early well deserved lead they conceded just before half time to go in level at the break. The determination they showed in the second half to withstand the pressure from Chelsea showed real character, a trait they will need going in to the second half of the season if they are to keep their impressive league position. The Saints lost to Arsenal less than a month ago at the Emirates, the match looked to be heading for a draw until Sanchez netted the winner in the 89th minute. Some may say Southampton were unlucky to not walk a away with a point but they were outplayed on the day. Arsenal had 60% possession and a total of 19 shots. With home advantage, they will be looking for a better performance.
The Gunners have had a good Christmas period picking up 7 points from their last 3 matches. They were unlucky not to walk away from Anfield with all 3 points, conceding in the 95th minute, but have beaten QPR and West Ham in their last 2. Arsenal’s performances however, have not been solid. They were outplayed at Anfield despite leading until the last minute, and the 2-1 victories which followed could have both ended differently as they struggled to hold onto their lead. There are glimpses of Arsenal at their best but their has been no consistency within the 90 minutes or game to game. Despite this they are sitting 5th in the table with an opportunity on Thursday to go clear in 4th spot. Arsene Wenger will need to improve his record on the road to ensure a UCL spot, a win over the Saints in their first match of the New Year could set the tone for the second half of the season.
This game is going to be won by the team who turn up on the day. Arsenal have been inconsistent and Southampton have shown weaknesses against teams finishing in the top 6 last season. This could well end up all square but I believe Arsenal have the slight edge. With this in mind my recommended trade is to back Arsenal 0 (Draw No Bet) @ 1.81.
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