Arsenal vs Southampton preview: Smith Rowe back, Caballero debut

Team news, stats and prediction ahead of Arsenal vs Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday; kick-off 3pm.

Team news

Arsenal could have Emile Smith Rowe back in contention for the visit of Southampton after the England international returned to training on Thursday.

Bernd Leno is being assessed ahead of the game after suffering a groin problem in training last week.

Gabriel Martinelli is fit and available after being substituted against Everton on Monday while Sead Kolasinac (ankle) has returned to outdoor training.

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Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl says goalkeeper Willy Caballero is likely to make his debut on Saturday against Arsenal after signing for Saints on Monday on a short-term contract

Veteran goalkeeper Willy Caballero will make his Southampton debut after signing a short-term deal until January 5.

Caballero, the former Manchester City and Chelsea goalkeeper, comes in with Alex McCarthy (hamstring) and Fraser Forster (hip) both ruled out.

Jan Bednarek is available after a calf problem, but Che Adams is a doubt after picking up a knock in training and Oriol Romeu is suspended.

How to follow

Follow Arsenal vs Southampton in our dedicated live match blog. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel from 5.15pm on Saturday.

Last time out…

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton’s win over Arsenal

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 1-1 draw between Southampton and Brighton

Jones Knows prediction

The market is skewed too far in the direction of a home win with a very skinny 8/13 available with Sky Bet, meaning there is a 62 per cent chance of Arsenal landing maximum points according to those figures. That is a hard probability to make a sound argument for backing, especially on the back of Arsenal’s timid showing at Goodison Park.

Southampton have shown this season – and for the majority of the Ralph Hasenhuttl reign – that a league position of 16th significantly underrates their true level in the Premier League. Hasenhuttl’s side have scored six goals fewer than their expected goals figure of 20 this season – that is the worst underperformance of any team in the league.

It’s that poor ability of converting chances that does put me off going in too heavy on their chances of winning at The Emirates as is the fact they have won just two of their last 20 away league matches.

History isn’t in their favour, too.

Arsenal are unbeaten in all 22 Premier League home meetings with Saints – it is Arsenal’s best unbeaten home record against any opponent club in Premier League history and Southampton’s worst record without an away win.

Also, Southampton’s tendency for a fast start – they would be fourth in the league if first halves only counted – might just be blunted here. Since the Ben White, Gabriel and Aaron Ramsdale axis was formed, Arsenal haven’t conceded a goal before the 38th minute in those 12 fixtures.

As you can see, I’m a little muddled in my thinking, so when that is the case the draw is the obvious play at the prices – a result which has landed in nine of Southampton’s last 12 away games.

SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1

BETTING ANGLE: Back the draw (3/1 with Sky Bet)

Opta stats

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A preview of the weekend’s Premier League matches, including Southampton’s trip to Arsenal, Chelsea against Leeds and Liverpool vs Aston Villa

  • In their top-flight history, only against Fulham (27 since 1949) and Manchester City (27 between 1976 and 2012) have Arsenal had a longer unbeaten home run than their current run of 26 against Southampton.
  • Southampton have lost 14 away Premier League matches in 2021, their most away league defeats in a single year since 2004, when they lost 15.
  • Southampton have conceded 47 away Premier League goals in 2021, the joint-most by a team in a year in Premier League history (also Sheffield Wednesday in 1997, Bolton Wanderers in 2007 and Wigan Athletic in 2009). The last top-flight side to concede more in a year was Luton Town in 1991 (49) while the last side to ship 50 was both Watford and West Brom in 1985.
  • Since Ralph Hasenhüttl’s first game in charge in December 2018, Southampton have dropped more points from winning positions than any other Premier League side (71). Seven of these have been against Arsenal, with Saints only dropping more against Wolves and Manchester United (10 each) in that time.
  • Arsenal’s Martin Ødegaard has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances although ended on the losing side in each game against Man Utd and Everton. Only four players in Premier League history have scored in three in a row and lost each time, most recently Michail Antonio for West Ham in August/September 2016. The last Gunners player to score in three league games in a row and lose all three was Malcolm Macdonald in March 1977.

Latest Essential Football Podcast

Alice Piper is joined by Sky Sports football journalists Ron Walker, Charlotte Marsh and Ben Grounds to look ahead to the Premier League weekend.

PART 1 | Ralf Rangnick’s start at Manchester United goes under the microscope ahead of their trip to Norwich. Plus, Steven Gerrard goes back to Anfield for the first time as a manager, when Aston Villa face Liverpool. We look at his start in the Midlands and that romantic return.

PART 2 | Leicester host Newcastle on Sunday, with Eddie Howe looking to land back-to-back wins for the Magpies. We assess their chances of doing that. Plus, after Everton’s last-gasp win over Arsenal, we build up to their Super Sunday clash with Crystal Palace and debate what Rafael Benitez must do to build on that victory.

PART 3 | We preview the Friday Night Football clash between Brentford and Watford, which starts a pivotal run of games for Claudio Ranieri’s side, and also take a look at Chelsea’s recent drop in form.

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