LONDON (Sporting Alert) — Arsenal and Southampton will meet in the English Premier League on Wednesday night as the race for a top four spot heats up.
The Gunners enter the clash sitting seventh in the table standings on 20 points, six behind the Saints, who are in third place and manager Arsene Wenger admits that the “target is to beat them.”
“We want to be competitive in every game,” Wenger said on www.Arsenal.com. “We’ve just had two very competitive games and the team we face on Wednesday night is a team who is a good team and who have started very well.
“Of course our target is to beat them.”
Southampton, meanwhile, will be looking to rebound from the 3-0 defeat suffered at the hands of Manchester City on Sunday, but manager Ronald Koeman is expecting another tough game against a quality Arsenal team.
“Like Manchester City they [Arsenal] have had some problems but the last two games they have won, their spirit is back and they’ve had a good result in the Champions League,” the Saints boss said on www.saintsfc.co.uk.
“They won last weekend and they have good players. It’s a team who has to fight for the title, and if not then there are critics, that’s normal.
“[Wenger] is doing a fantastic job, but what I said before, teams like Arsenal, if they don’t fight for the title, then always there are some critics.”
Wednesday night clash with Arsenal is the second of a testing month for Southampton, who will meet Manchester United next Monday and Chelsea later in the month.
Full-back Nathaniel Clyne admits that Sunday’s home defeat against Manchester City was a disappointing setback, but revealed that he and his teammates have quickly move on and are now focusing on the upcoming fixtures.
“[We have reacted] positively. We went over the game, decided what went wrong and we’ve put that game [against Manchester City] to bed,” he said on the club’s official website.
“We’ve got another big game on Wednesday and we need to put in a good performance there. The games are coming thick and fast throughout the Christmas period so focus quickly turned to Arsenal.
“There was no time to dwell on it, we just have to move on and just pick ourselves up for the next game and try and put in a good performance there.
“We’re still confident in our ability. We just need to prove to everyone that we can bounce back and put in a good performance against Arsenal.”
Southampton will play without midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who picked up a thigh injury in the defeat to Manchester City and he will be a massive loss for the travelers at Emirates Stadium.
At the same time, it gives another player the chance to impress the manager with Jack Cork being the front runner to start in the midfield.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny continues to struggle with a hip injury and is out of the game, so too is midfielder Mikel Arteta, who is battling with a calf problem.
Wenger will also check on Kieran Gibbs, who is being bothered by an ankle injury, while winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is doubtful with a knee problem.
Southampton have won just twice in their 37 Premier League games at Arsenal, but did pick up a win the last time they visited the Emirates for the Capital One Cup in September.