Our foot writer previews the EFL quarter-final clash between Arsenal and Southampton.
Arsenal got the show on the road again with a dominant 3-1 victory over Bournemouth. The second half saw them regain their much-vaunted fluidity and Eddie Howe’s side were really no match for their dynamism. Southampton picked up a solid 1-0 victory over Everton that actually could have been more.
Claude Puel’s side seem to have built on that attritional point against Liverpool and look emboldened at present. Charlie Austin’s tremendous goal-scoring form has been a real catalyst in the recent Saint’s revival, and they will be hoping to pull an upset over what will surely be a much-changed Arsenal side.
Arsenal v Southampton | Wednesday 30 November | Emirates Stadium | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Arsenal 8/10 | Draw 11/4 | Southampton 31/10
Arsenal have a hectic week coming up with a trip to West Ham followed by what could be a crunch Champions League fixture. This will likely necessitate wholesale changes to the line-up this week. Arsenal were struck another blow in that right-back position when Mathieu Debuchy was forced to leave the pitch on his Arsenal comeback this weekend.
Gabriel did alright in the right-back role but Carl Jenkinson will probably return. I expect him to opt for Rob Holding and Laurent Koscielny in the central defensive roles while Kieran Gibbs gets a run down the left.
Alexis Sanchez will no doubt get a rest after a frankly gruelling month of football for the Herculean Chilean. Olivier Giroud showed his match readiness on Sunday and will lead the line here. I expect Iwobe and Ramsey to come into the starting eleven while Francis Coquelin replaces Granit Xhaka in the heart of midfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s early substitution on Sunday also leads me to believe he may play a role here. Southampton will look to frustrate the Gunners in the midfield and I think that they may retain Elneny for that reason. He’s developed into a key stopper for the Gunners and has shown vast improvement in the last few weeks.
Claude Puel will have been impressed with the debut of 19-year old winger Josh Sims at the weekend. He may feel tempted to retain the youngster going into this game - just look at the way Traore troubled Arsenal earlier this season with raw pace - but I feel that he may opt for caution and keep him on the bench.
I expect Sofiane Boufal to return to the starting line-up to play that disciplined role on the left-hand side. He will likely replace Sims in the starting line-up. I don’t think that Puel will tinker too much with their strong defensive unit this week.
Jordy Clasie may come into the side for James Ward-Prowse this week, offering more natural bite in the midfield area. That midfield trio of Oriol Romeu, Clasie and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will present a stern physical test for the Gunners.
Nathan Redmond and Austin clearly provide a clear drive and focal point in what could be an uncomfortable night at the Emirates for Arsenal. And I expect to see the pacey Sims make an appearance at some point, which will clearly trouble untested or uncertain full-backs.
Verdict: Double Chance - Southampton Win/Draw (19/20)
I think wholesale changes may affect the tempo of Arsenal’s play while a big match awaits for them at West Ham in the league. The sheer volume of competitions always ends up being a problem for the Gunners in recent years, and the League Cup has definitely been the one trophy that they have often theoretically sacrificed for the greater good.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets