PREVIEW: Southampton vs Arsenal

By SFC Media time Wed 31 Dec Men's First team has the lowdown on Southampton's Barclays Premier League game against Arsenal at St Mary's on New Year's Day. (Kick-off 3pm GMT).

Southampton head into the New Year looking to increase the gap between themselves and Arsenal, the side just below them in the Premier League.

Ronald Koeman’s side are currently fourth in the league at the halfway stage, ahead of the Gunners on goal difference courtesy of the 1-1 draw with league leaders Chelsea last Sunday.

Arsenal picked up a 2-1 win away to West Ham United in their last outing, to make it five games unbeaten in all competitions since a 3-2 defeat away to Stoke City. The defeat to the Potters came after Arsene Wenger’s side had beaten Saints 1-0 at the Emirates.

That defeat for Saints came during a five game losing run. A win against Everton ended that, before Koeman's side beat Crystal Palace away from home on Boxing Day and then drew 1-1 with Chelsea to see out 2014.

Ronald Koeman confirmed he will have the same squad available to him for the game against Arsenal as he did for Chelsea, other than Morgan Schneiderlin who is suspended. Nathaniel Clyne is still out injured.

Danny Welbeck is a doubt for the game at St Mary’s while fellow striker Olivier Giroud will be suspended. Tomas Rosicky will be back in the squad after missing the game at West Ham. Theo Walcott is fit and available but Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere will be missing for the Gunners.

Since defeat to Stoke City away from home, the Gunners have won three and drawn one of their last four Premier League games to edge closer to a top four spot in the Premier League.

Last season, for the 17th consecutive year, Arsene Wenger’s side assured themselves of Champions League football with a fourth-placed finish, despite leading the title race at this time last year.

Injuries have hindered their progress, with playmaker Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and defender Laurent Koscielny all spending large amounts of the season so far on the sidelines.

Olivier Giroud’s red card against QPR, which means he misses the trip to St Mary’s, and Danny Welbeck’s injury concerns, mean Wenger may call upon Lukas Podolski or Joel Campbell for the game, along with top goalscorer Alexis Sanchez.

Away from home this season, the Gunners have won four of their ten matches. They were beaten at Chelsea, Stoke City and Swansea City while they drew away at Liverpool, Leicester City and Everton.

Ronald Koeman: "We know the strengths and weaknesses of Arsenal, they know it exactly the same for us. Playing against Arsenal means that you always get space to play because they are an offensive team.

"They have great individual qualities but we know we can beat them. We showed that and now we play at home and maybe that will be a little bit more comfortable for us."

Arsene Wenger: “Southampton are a good team who have been in the top four since the start of the season – after 19 games that’s not a coincidence, so we have to consider that they are a good side.

“We played them twice [this season] and they were two difficult games. They are a balanced team with a good midfield and quality strikers. They have a good stability from last season at the back and in midfield.”

35-year-old Craig Pawson will take charge of the game at St Mary’s. Pawson has been a Premier League referee since 2013 and from 2015, will become a FIFA listed referee.

Pawson has taken charge of 15 game so far this season, handing out 49 yellow cards and four reds – including two in one game as Chelsea beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

His last Southampton game was in February 2014, as he took charge of the 2-2 draw between Saints and Stoke City at St Mary’s.

If you aren’t able to make it to the game at St Mary's, then don’t forget to follow the club’s official channels on social media, with full updates on Twitter and goal updates on Facebook.

You can also listen to commentary by subscribing to Saints Player, while there will also be a live blog running on throughout the game.

Stay tuned to the official website and the club’s YouTube channel for reaction to the game.

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