Morning friends and welcome to Wednesday, the second match day in a three match week and yet another game in which there is absolutely no wiggle room. Arsenal’s horrific couple of months recently has effectively left us clutching at the fourth place straw although unlike most previous seasons, even perfect results between now and the last game of the season mean that we won’t be guaranteed a Champions League spot. So nothing more than a victory tonight can be seen as anything other than an extension of the hope of Champions League football come next season. 

A draw does nothing for us. Our maximum point tally at this stage is 75. Liverpool – who is see as the only club we can catch given City’s opponents – maximum is 76 and they play relegated Boro on the final day and so that will almost certainly guarantee they’ll finish on 73 at least. It means a draw tonight gives us a maximum points tally of 73 and they will have a much better goal difference than us. 

So there really is no margin of error. The pressure is on.

Which is why I’m surprised I’ve read so many pundits talk us up for this evening. Whilst we were better in the second half against United on Sunday, we still looked a little unsure of ourselves in my opinion in that first half, so it’s hardly the swagger you’d expect from a team that everyone feels will beat Southampton away tonight. Yes we gave them a good tonking in the FA Cup, but that was a rotated Southampton side with one eye on the League Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool at the time, so it was hardly a decent barometer for tonight’s game. And I haven’t even mentioned our record on that ground. It’s like a second Stoke to us (who wonderfully, we have at the weekend…) and so when I read people saying that we should win this one, I’m kind of surprised if I’m honest.

Southampton are a good team. A tough team. A resilient team who showed just that against Liverpool last weekend. But they have players who can hurt us – and have done – tonight and so I think we’re going to have to ride our luck at times if we want the result. Last season was a debacle of a performance and you’d like to think that the players can’t put in such a performance again, but let’s not forget that this side has mentally melted on many occasions in 2017, whilst in previous years we’ve always found this game hard.

Yet there are some hopeful signs we can look at. Like the potential quick return of Xhaka who limped off on Sunday. He and Ramsey were both excellent and I’d like to see more of that performance tonight. In the 5-0 win at St Mary’s in January we hit Southampton hard and fast with pace and they never really recovered and whilst Theo had a great game that day, I wouldn’t be calling on him tonight in any way, shape or form. But I would be calling on Welbeck to start and I would give Lucas time today too. He’s back in training and deserves it, although we know the manager won’t give him a shot and his comments in his press conference yesterday were a mask to show that he just doesn’t fancy him. Which is idiotic because he could have been so valuable to us this season if used correctly.

So the forward line will most likely involve Alexis and Özil, but it’s whether Arsène feels Welbeck can play two games in four days, otherwise we’ll see a static Giroud in a formation that doesn’t suit him, ahead of any other kind of mobility in our forward line.

Defensively I hope he also plays Holding, but with Mustafi back he might find himself relegated to the bench again. He made a couple of mistakes in the first half against United but really grew in to the game in the second, so deserves his chance, so my hope would be for a back three of Koscielny (if fit), Holding and Mustafi, with wing backs of Monreal and Bellerin, because I suspect that right wing back slot is where the manager will certainly rotate.

Southampton will have Gabbiadini as their main goal threat and he’s a man who loves a bit of movement and is very good playing off the shoulder of forwards. He’ll get chances from our back three tonight and so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him try to isolate one of the back three. Probably not Koscielny though.

In the attacking three with him is Tadic and he’s somebody who I think always seems to have a good game against us for some reason. He’s scored the odd goal too, so the hope is that he’s marshalled with his runs from right and centre. That’s where the extra defender can come in handy because I expect Tadic to get in behind Ramsey and Xhaka quite a lot, which means one of the back three will need to take some responsibility in snuffing out any attacks that come from his boots.

Their midfield with have Romeu sitting in front of their back four and he’ll be given responsibility for little niggly fouls against Alexis and Özil. What the both of those guys have to do is ensure that they’re constantly on the move to pull the former Chelski man away from his key position in front of Southampton’s back four.

I don’t care if people are saying Southampton are fatigued, that they’re on the beach and that this should be an Arsenal win, because people said the same about West Brom and we choked massively away from home. What needs to be different today is the urgency from the team. If we see more of the ponderous possession that we’ve shown away from home in the last three months, then we can kiss goodbye to any hopes of Champions League football, as well as any chances of building some momentum ahead of the cup final.

I just hope the players are up for it tonight.