We're looking to extend our unbeaten run to 23 fixtures on Sunday against Southampton, so what are the five key things we need to look out for? Read on to find out...
Following Rob Holding's injury, the defensive line has been further disrupted by suspensions to Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis. It means none of the three centre backs who started our wins over Bournemouth and Tottenham – and the draw at Old Trafford – is available this weekend.
Laurent Koscielny's return to fitness is therefore well timed, as is Nacho Monreal's recovery – he came on against Huddersfield last weekend for the final 25 minutes, and was also used in the second half on Thursday. Stephan Lichtsteiner is another possible option, having played the first half last weekend as the right-sided central defender, and he was rested completely in midweek.
On Thursday Arsenal lined up with Koscielny alongside Sokratis in a back four, though it was notable that when Monreal came on he played at centre back, rather than switch with Zech Medley to play left back.
The comfortable win over Qarabag on Thursday extended our run to 22 games unbeaten in all competitions – the sequence consists of 17 wins and five draws. This is now the joint-third longest undefeated run in the club's history, matching the achievement of 1986/87. The only longer runs came in 2002 (24 matches) and 2007 (28). Looking purely at league games, it's now 14 games without defeat, stretching back to August.
The omens look good for Arsenal to extend the run on Sunday. We have lost just two of the last 17 encounters with the Saints, and both of those were when Ronald Koeman was in the opposition dugout. In addition we have lost just one of our past 37 matches against teams in the bottom three - that was against Swansea in January. Aside from that we have win 30 and drawn six of those clashes against sides in the relegation zone.
Arsenal still have yet to lead at half-time in the Premier League this term, forcing Unai Emery to make 14 substitutions before the start of the second half so far this season, that's more than any other team in the division. More often than not Emery's tinkering from the bench has worked – we have scored more goals via subs than any other Premier League side (eight) and these subs have also contributed eight assists between them.
Emery has also used his full allocation of three subs in every game this season, and with another north London derby coming just three days after the trip to the south coast, the head coach is likely to want to balance the workload for his players again this weekend.
Aaron Ramsey will bring up a milestone if he plays this weekend – his 250th appearance in the Premier League. Only 10 players have ever played more often in the competition for Arsenal. His first game was as a sub in a 4-0 win at Blackburn in September 2008, when he was just 17, since then he's appeared in each of the past 11 seasons, scoring 37 goals and adding 46 assists. Of his 249 appearances so far he started 174 and came off the bench 75 times. No-one has played for the Gunners more often since he made his debut. He needs to play just seven more times to overtake Tony Adams and enter the club's top ten for all-time Premier League appearances.
Ramsey has also played exactly 100 times in other competitions for the Gunners, so this will also be his 350th overall appearance in the Arsenal first-team. That places him joint 30th in the club's all-time list.
For the first time this weekend, Unai Emery will have more experience of the Premier League than his opposite number. As Michael Cox of zonalmarking.net explains, new Saints boss Ralph Hassenhuttl arrives with a good reputation, though his recent appointment makes them difficult to predict.
"Hassenhuttl will be making his home debut as Southampton manager," Cox explains, "having taken charge for the first time in the defeat at Cardiff. The 51-year-old made his name for Ingolstadt before moving onto RB Leipzig in 2016, earning a reputation as an excellent coach because of the club’s integrated pressing. He took them to second place in their debut Bundesliga campaign, before leaving in the summer.
"Southampton fielded a rough 4-3-2-1 last weekend, an appropriately timed outing for the system sometimes termed the ‘Christmas tree formation’. Charlie Austin, who has a good record against Arsenal with Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond breaking forward from deeper positions. Whether Hassenhuttl will continue with that shape, however, remains to be seen."
Copyright 2023 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.