WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) got both of these teams wrong on Sunday but he’s feeling optimistic about this tie. Both Southampton and Arsenal have brilliant academies so whose products will come out on top?
Arsenal v Southampton | Wednesday 19:45
Arsenal and Southampton both won at the weekend and won well enough to scupper both of my Asian Handicap bets by one goal. Southampton came flying out of the traps at home to Everton; Charlie Austin scoring after 43 seconds.
Saints bossed the first-half but did come under a fair bit of pressure from their old manager’s side in the latter periods of the second forty-five. Yannick Bolasie’s pace caused them plenty of problems and so we should expect the same if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott feature for the Gunners on Wednesday night.
Arsenal were poor again in the first-half against Bournemouth. The Cherries showed no fear, passing the ball around nicely despite the host’s press but in the second period Arsenal woke up and Alexis Sanchez movement was too much for the back-four.
It certainly wasn’t plain sailing for Arsenal though and it arguably hasn’t been for some time. They have now failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last six matches and I agree with Martin Keown’s analysis of the midfield.
The Gunners are not dominating games and much of that is due to the likes of Mohamed Elneny or Granit Xhaka. Both of whom I don’t think are up to the job or ever will be top class enough for Arsenal to hit the heights they so sorely miss.
Arsenal have been the inferior side for large swathes of all of their last four matches. The scorelines have been favourable but as I mentioned in my last preview, it points towards a fall somewhere around the corner.
Saints have their measure
Saints have a good recent record against Arsenal. They have W3-D2-L2 in the last seven meetings and one of those wins came in this same competition in the Round of 32 back in 2014.
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have form of playing mixed sides in this competition; in the last round he fielded Diego Martinez in goal, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Lucas Perez up front. Coupled with six experienced players it was hardly a weak line-up but a similar XI would give Saints more than a fighting chance.
Southampton’s youth academy is at least on a par with Arsenal’s, if not better or perhaps even the best in the country. The list of current England internationals that started out or have spent time at St. Mary’s is extensive; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathaniel Clyne, Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw and Ryan Bertrand.
The current crop looks to be just as dangerous and Josh Sims demonstrated that class very well when playing his full debut against Everton on Sunday. Sam McQueen, Jack Stephens, Lloyd Isgrove, Harrison Reed and Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg all featured in the last round and probably will again here and I don’t necessarily see that as a negative for Saints.
Southampton youth to excel
Based on Southampton’s youth potential, their recent record against Arsenal and the fact that they won at the Emirates in the EFL Cup in 2014, I think we should side with them. Many will see Arsenal at 17/20 as a strong bet and I expect that price to shorten but the expected line-ups has certainly shaped that price.
For me it’s Southampton at +0.50 on the Asian Handicap at 10/9 with 188Bet. The same as a wager on the away double chance, but as usual, better value.
Arsenal v Southampton – Southampton +0.50 Asian Handicap (10/9 188Bet)