Arsenal face Southampton in the Premier League at St Mary's on Tuesday night.
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MAIN MAN - OLIVIER GIROUD
Olivier Giroud will be looking forward to facing Southampton again on Tuesday night after his brace against them at Emirates Stadium in November.
The French striker has 13 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions for club and country this season, but none will be easier than his opener against the Saints - thanks to Artur Boruc's error. However, what is often forgotten is Giroud's determination and tenacity in closing down the Saints keeper, forcing him to panic into losing control of the ball.
That prodigious work-rate is typical of Giroud. As our heatmap above shows, he worked tirelessly up the right channel, and spent a significant amount of time around the halfway line and even in his own area. He caused Southampton real problems with his ability to hold the ball up and feed the midfield runners - and, as the chalkboard above indicates, he was particularly influential around the centre circle as the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil burst past.
It is a role he will be expected to replicate on Tuesday night and, against a Saints defence that has conceded six times in their past two home games, he will be confident of adding to his goal tally.
KEY MAN - FONTE v GIROUD
Giroud is epected to come up against former Crystal Palace defender Jose Fonte at St Mary's on Tuesday night.
The Portuguese centre-back has enjoyed a fine season and will provide a major challenge for the Arsenal striker, particularly in the air. Fonte has won 60.7 pe cent of his aerial duels and an impressive 61.8 per cent of his overall duels, while also boasting a tackle success rate of 73.2 per cent. His 166 clearances and 33 interceptions this season only add to the impression of a player in fine form.
Giroud's task will be to push him and his defensive team-mates back as far as possible, or simply to pull them into areas where they are less comfortable. With the likes of Serge Gnabry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil and (possibly) the returning Ramsey alongside him, the Arsenal attack contains plenty of pace and energy and the French striker will be at the focal point of that.
SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Southampton have four players to have played in every league game this season, more than any other team in the league (Lallana, Lambert, Rodriguez and Ward-Prowse)
- The Gunners have scored more headed goals (9) than any other team in the top division. These goals have come from seven different players
- Sixty-eight per cent of the goals Arsenal have conceded this season have been shipped in the second half of games; the highest proportion in the top flight
- Arsenal have won five and lost none of their last eight Premier League games against Southampton, but have won just one of the last four trips to St Mary's (W1 D2 L1)
- Since their return to the top flight, Saints have played Arsenal three times and the Gunners have not picked up a single card in those matches
- Jack Wilshere has scored (one) or assisted (three) four of Arsenal's last five Premier League goals
- Only one team has managed to score more than one goal against Arsenal in their last 21 Premier League matches (Man City 6-3 Arsenal)
- Southampton conceded just five goals in their opening 11 Premier League games, but have shipped 20 in the last 11 with that run starting with a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in November
- The last time Southampton beat Arsenal was in November 2002, with a James Beattie brace helping them to a 3-2 win at St Mary's
The matchday programme is now available on the iPad! Find out more here.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 28 Jan 2014