Preview: Arsenal v Southampton

Following a horrific 3-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend, Mark Hughes will be desperate to see a strong reaction from his relegation bound side this Sunday. 

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The only problem, however, is that we’re not getting a second crack at a team who’ve been stealing corner flags, fighting their own fans and arguing with players.

Instead, we’re facing an Arsenal side who come into this fixture off the back of four consecutive wins, and two Premier League games in which they’ve scored three without reply.

So to gain some greater insight into what we can expect from this current Arsenal side, we spoke to Sports Journalist Mason McDonagh, who’s an Arsenal fan and writer for Sportskeeda.

Considering the fact that you’re 13 points off the top four,  is Europa League glory the only way that this season could be considered a success? 

MM: Most definitely. It still won’t be much of a successful season given our terrible defence of the FA Cup, thrashing in the final of the Carabao Cup and a dreadful league campaign, but it will at least get us into the Champions League which is so important.

Which player has surprised you most by truly stepping up this season?

MM: Is it okay to say nobody? It’s hard to pick out anyone who has had a stand out season. If I had to pick, I’d say Ramsey has had another good season, but nobody has stepped up their game really.

You’ve got an abundance of quality in your frontline, but Arsene Wenger still appears to be tinkering with personnel and the formation. How would you like to see them line up?

MM: I’ve always preferred when we play with a 4-2-3-1, allowing Ozil to play as a 10. So, if it was me picking the team I’d have Mkhitaryan on the right, Ozil in the middle, Aubameyang on the left and Lacazette as striker. I’ve been a big fan of both Lacazette and Aubameyang since their arrivals, so I’d like to see a regular starting line-up with them both in it.

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How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

MM: Based on our defensive performances this season, any way possible. I’d say a high press is what usually forces Arsenal into mistakes with their passing, giving opportunities to the opposite team. And generally, quick wingers/inside forwards usually cause Arsenal some problems.

As an outsider looking in, what have you made of Southampton’s season?

MM: At the beginning of the season, I would have never have tipped Southampton to be anywhere near the relegation zone at this point of the season, so I’d say it’s been a catastrophe. Most times when I’ve watched, Southampton have just looked extremely boring and void of ideas, so hopefully Hughes may be able to change that.

Now that VVD is gone, which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

MM: I’d have to say Sofiane Boufal. Although he has struggled to nail down a place in the Saints side, he is the biggest talent and the most technical player in the side by far. With Arsenal not having any natural wingers with most of the players who play there having being forced out wide, Boufal could certainly offer something different.

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Which Arsenal player would help to improve Mark Hughes’s Saints most?

MM: Aaron Ramsey. I know Southampton have struggled for goals this season, and Ramsey loves a goal from midfield. It would be obvious to choose Aubameyang, but he could become very isolated for a team like Southampton and I don’t think it’d work.

Do you think we have what it takes to beat the drop?

MM: There is a lot of quality in the Southampton side, as I mentioned I can’t quite believe you’re in a relegation battle. However despite that quality, I think you could be going down. I just don’t see where you will pick up any points from your remaining fixtures.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

MM: 3-0 Arsenal. Although Southampton have been somewhat of a bogey team for Arsenal in recent years, I think it should be a comfortable victory this Sunday.

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