Arsenal travel to Southampton on tonight hoping to extend their lead at the top the Premier League. With their nearest title rivals not playing till Wednesday night, the Gunners have the chance to move four points clear, for 24 hours at least.
Just six points separated the two sides when the Saints visited the Emirates back in November, but the gap today is 20 points. Mauricio Pochettino’s men took the game to Arsenal three months ago, but their impressive start to campaign has since faltered, with the South Coast club winning just two games since.
That’s not to say that Arsene Wenger can take their opponents lightly on Tuesday night, Southampton posses the quality to cause an upset.
The battle between Adam Lallana and Mesut Ozil could be the one that decide who comes out on top in this contest. The duo are the most creative players in their respective teams with Ozil creating 51 opportunities, while Lallana has created 33 chances for his team mates.
The Arsenal midfielder leads the way on assists in this clash too, notching up an impressive seven, only Wayne Rooney has set up more goals in the Premier League this season. The Saints midfielder has four assists to his name.
Lallana edges his German counterpart in terms of goal scored; the England international has five goals this season to Ozil’s four. However, the former Real Madrid man has a superior shot accuracy of 83% with 15 of his 18 attempts on goal finding the target. Lallana has had more efforts on goal this season but has found the target with just 63% of his strikes.
Pochettino has utilised Lallana on the right of a front three in recent weeks and although his heat map from the 2-2 draw with Sunderland shows he likes to drift inside, the 25-year-old spent a lot of the match out wide.
In comparison, Wenger uses Ozil as part of an attacking midfield trio playing behind Olivier Giroud. This gives the German international more freedom to roam from his position as he looks to influence the game in the attacking third of the pitch. His Heat Map from the 2-0 home win over Fulham shows the amount of ground he covered.
Many will feel that Arsenal have enough to see off a Southampton side who are in indifferent form and are struggling with off-field distractions. However, if Lallana can produce the sort of form that earned him an England call-up, the Saints could shock their hosts tonight. There’s just the small matter of keeping Ozil quiet for 90 minutes.
The wait is over...
The free Squawka football app is here