SOUTHAMPTON host Arsenal on Tuesday night. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Southampton vs Arsenal | Tuesday 26th January 2021, 20:15 | BT Sport
Arsenal make the trip to St Mary’s for the second time in three days as they look to avenge Saturday’s 1-0 defeat and leapfrog their hosts in the EPL by taking all three points.
It was potentially somewhat of a surprise to see Mikel Arteta rotate his side with seven changes in defence of the FA Cup they won back on the first day of August, especially during a positive upturn in form which had seen an unbeaten run of six games, not conceding a goal in 508 minutes of action – but that should mean several familiar faces coming back in to start here.
Despite being on a run of only one league win in the last six, Ralph Hasenhuttl has seen his side win their last three home games in all competitions and in fact have top four home form in the EPL, with a win here actually placing them behind only Manchester City and Liverpool for league points gained on home soil.
Despite having the prolific Danny Ings and set piece wizard James Ward-Prouse in their squad it is arguably the Saints defence that has helped build such fine home form, keeping five clean sheets in their last six competitive fixtures – a win here can potentially lift them up to sixth.
In researching this game, I came across a set of stats that not only surprised me but were impossible to overlook and led me to a nice priced 5/1 selection.
Of their nine league games at St Mary’s this season, Southampton have been winning at half time in six (W6, D2, L1) with the late Edinson Cavani inspired capitulation against Manchester United being the only occasion they didn’t go on to win (W5, D1, L3), so all five wins coming as a Half Time/Full Time result and all five as wins to nil.
The Gunners have won four and lost four on their league travels this term with just one stalemate, however only one of those wins (1-0 at Manchester United) have come against a side in the current top half of the table.
The opening goal looks like it could be crucial as Arsenal have gained just one point from games where they have fallen behind – only Burnley have recorded less – as for their opponents on that solitary occasion? Well that would be Southampton!
All four away league defeats, to Everton, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, have seen them fall behind in the first half – an interesting statistic when coupled with that Southampton Half Time/Full Time record.
It will certainly pay for Saints to come out of the blocks quickly given Arsenal’s second half record away from home in the league this campaign, conceding just one goal after the interval in their nine road trips and not since an 88th minute Diogo Jota strike for Liverpool in September has their defence been breached in the second 45 – a run of seven successive shut outs.
So, as a result and despite their selection headaches I am taking a chance on Southampton Half Time/Full Time at odds of 5/1 with SBK.
As mentioned above, we should expect to see a much changed, arguably stronger side named by Mikel Arteta for this league clash and one player who should be one of the first on the team sheet is Bukayo Saka.
The teenager has been a shining light for his side this season and has made that wide right attacking position his own, with his performances probably being the better than the bare return of four goals and one assist suggests but certainly enough to keep £72m signing Nicolas Pepe firmly on the bench.
The England international will be looking to exploit a lengthy Southampton absentee list, which may include key full back Kyle Walker-Peters who faces a late fitness test on a quad injury which caused him to pull out of Monday’s training session only half way through the warm up.
Definitely missing will be Ryan Betrand who having collected five yellow cards in the competition will sit this one out through suspension. Bertrand has started all but one match this season at left-back and while Jack Stephens played there in that contest at Newcastle, he's now at centre-back, which means youngster Jake Vokins could come into the starting eleven.
Although a year younger than his opponent Saka has far greater experience and should be keen to test any big game nerves and although shots on target, 16/5 for 2+ with Paddy Power, Genting Bet’s offer of 7/2 for him to score, appeal it is another angle at bigger odds that caught my eye.
Most, if not all, of you will be familiar with WhoScored.com and their player ratings and it is no surprise to see Saka with an average of exactly 7, top the ratings for Arsenal of all the players who have made 10 or more appearances – he has also scooped the Man of the Match award twice already this season.
Only Oriol Romeu can match that total but is one of the Saints missing contingent – with only the aforementioned Ward-Prowse and Ings combine being available for this game and averaging more than Saka.
The 11/1 on offer with Paddy Power seems a very large price given the circumstances and I am happy to put that forward as my pro Arsenal selection in a game which is tough to call.
Southampton vs Arsenal – Southampton/Southampton (5/1 SBK)
Southampton vs Arsenal – Bukayo Saka WhoScored Man of the Match (11/1 Paddy Power)