Southampton vs Arsenal: Insider Info | Q&A with Arsenal blog The Short Fuse

Southampton are winless in the Premier League against Arsenal in their last six attempts, picking up just one point in that streak, which they are looking to put right when the Gunners visit St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday.

Both Saints and Arsenal are looking to quell end-of-season issues with high stakes as the season nears its peak.

Arsenal have suffered back-to-back defeats and – much like Chelsea who beat six of our beloved Saints last Saturday – need a massive result as they chase Champions League football next season.

Southampton’s last league victory against Arsenal came at St Mary’s in 2018, when Danny Ings was twice and Charlie Austin scored the winner. A total overhaul since then we hope Nathan Reynolds from The Short Fuse, SB Nation’s Arsenal blog, can give us some insight into the Gunners.

Find out what Nathan has to say about Arsenal’s European hopes, Arteta’s position at the club and his thoughts on Saturday’s game.

Our form has been dark lately and you can capture our thoughts with The Short Fuse here.

SMM: Mikel Arteta went from being in the hot seat to having Arsenal battling for a place in the Champions League. What helped him regain the trust of fans who had thought otherwise?

TSP: The trust process, ha. When Arteta took over, everyone knew the team needed a lot of work that would take multiple windows. He and Edu slowly moved on from older players and those who weren’t part of the long-term plan. I fully expect that to continue this summer with 5-6 exits and 4-6 new players either in the form of transfers or U23 promotions (i.e. Charlie Patino). Add to that their paid transfer decisions – Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, etc. and the positive results and it’s easy for fans to get back on board. This youth movement at Arsenal has seen the crowd re-energized at the Emirates.

SMM: In a situation similar to our first encounter, Arsenal arrive having lost their last two Premier League games. What do you attribute these results and performances to and how do you think Arsenal will react?

TSP: Palace’s result really hurt. They came into this game having won five straight on the road and were just played off the court. I think the stunning nature of this defeat and the injuries to Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomiyasu have Arsenal on their backs. They know they have lost control of fourth place and their main rivals, so I expect a focused team heading to Southampton this weekend. It’s three points or their chances in the Champions League are probably lost.

SMM: Likewise, with eight games remaining, including one behind the rivals Tottenham, what pressure is there on Arsenal to secure a place in the Champions League next season? Would finishing outside the top 4 be considered a disappointment?

TSP: At the start of the season, there was little pressure. The last two years Arsenal have finished 8th, so the target for this year was to continue improving the team and getting closer to the top four. Maybe a 6th place would have seemed reasonable. The fact that they controlled 4th and were seen as potential suitors for 3rd two games ago is a testament to Mikel Arteta and the tremendous season Arsenal have had, although the last two games have been disappointing. If they fail to finish 4th now, after being so close, it will hurt, but if they finish in the top four, I think fans will see the overall progress stabilize this summer.

SMM: As we approach next season, what is the area that needs to be addressed in the transfer window for Arteta to continue building a team that follows his managerial identity?

TSP: The front is top priority. Aubameyang is gone and Lacazette and Nketiah are both out of contract this summer. That leaves Arsenal with either Martinelli up top or Folarin Balogun who is currently on loan at Middlesbrough. Ideally, the Gunners sign two new strikers, but there’s a chance they’ll sign one, bring Balogun back and hand Lacazette a one-year contract.

Beyond that, Arsenal would like to get a new right-back to replace Cedric and another central midfielder. Also, I would expect a lot of departures as they have a lot of senior players on loan – Lucas Torreira, Hector Bellerin, Matteo Guendouzi, Pablo Mari, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Konstantinos Mavropanos. Moreover, they have to make a decision on William Saliba and Reiss Nelson, either return as first-team players or sell and move on.

SMM: We talked a lot about Martin Odegaard as a teenager. How has he progressed at Arsenal and is he showing signs of talent that have presented him as a prodigy?

TSP: Over the last few months we have seen the best of Odegaard at Arsenal and I think he has yet another level to reach. Like so many players, he not only needs to be in a system that suits him, but also players around him that match his abilities and a manager who believes in him. He’s the No.10 Arsenal have been missing since Mesut Ozil fell out with Arteta. Odegaard is a Champions League level player and Arsenal were lucky enough to land him from Real Madrid for just $38m.

SMM: Who was Arsenal’s surprise player of the season? Did anyone underperform compared to what was expected?

TSP: I think I would give the surprise player of the season to Aaron Ramsdale. He far exceeded expectations when he was signed over the summer and quickly became a fan favourite. I could see him as a future club captain and long-term goalkeeper for Arsenal. Second on this list would be Tomiyasu at right-back. Most had never heard of him when Arsenal made the announcement and, when fit, was a terrific addition to the defense.

Underperforming is probably Lacazette. With Aubameyang gone, Arsenal need Alexander to be the main goalscorer. And although he has other aspects of his game which help the team, he has scored just once in his last 11 league appearances.

SMM: Which Arsenal player should the Saints be worried about on Saturday?

TSP: Odegaard to open up their defense with his vision and Martinelli to punish the backline with his speed and smart runs, whether as a No.9 or playing on the left wing.

SMM: Southampton had made a good start to the game before clever one-touch passes destroyed our defence, and Arsenal eventually lost 3-0 in December. What do you think is the key to the Gunners producing a similar result?

TSP: The placements of three key starters who are injured. Both full-backs are absent, Tierney and Tomiyasu, although there is a chance that Tomiyasu’s long delay will surprisingly end this weekend and he will return to action. Then there’s the role of Thomas Partey and how Arteta manages the midfield to make up for his loss.

SMM: How do you see Arsenal lining up against Southampton this time around?

TSP: Let’s assume that Tomiyasu is still absent for this question. I would go with: Ramsdale – Xhaka, Gabriel, White, Cédric – Lokonga, Odegaard – Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Saka – Lacazette. Although I would be fine with Tavares at left-back, Xhaka in midfield, Odegaard back as No.10, Martinelli up front with Smith Rowe at left, putting Lacazette on the bench.

SMM: Finally, what is your prediction?

TSP: 2-0 for Arsenal. They need to win to stay in the hunt for fourth and know an answer is needed after losing to Palace and Brighton.

We would like to thank Nathan and The Short Fuse for their time.