Arsenal travel to St Mary’s on Saturday to face Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round, as they embark on the next stage of their title defence.
Fortunate to be in this position at all, Mikel Arteta‘s side could easily have been knocked out at the first time of asking had Andy Carroll not fluffed his lines and Bernd Leno not produced a crucial double save late in normal time.
There was a selection of tough ties awaiting the Gunners in the next round after Emile Smith Rowe produced the goods against the Magpies, with Southampton among the sides Arsenal would have preferred to avoid. They still had to navigate their way past Shrewsbury Town, but that was a formality, if we’re being candid.
Saturday’s early kick-off will be followed by another venture down south just three days later for a Premier League clash, and neither fixture presents Arsenal with a sure-fire win.
Arsenal defend their FA Cup title on Saturday against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side
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The Saints’ league form has stuttered after a flying start to the season, winning just one of their last six fixtures, which included that 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium in mid-December.
Having played an almost entirely different side in midweek for the visit of the Shrews, Ralph Hasenhuttl will doubtlessly revert to some of his more regular senior stars on Saturday, although for both sides we can expect there to be changes from the certified ‘full strength’.
Returning to Europe in some capacity is high up on the Arsenal wishlist this season, and while initial hopes were that this would be in the Champions League, that dream appears beyond their grasp. Due to that, an FA Cup triumph could prove to be their best avenue back into the Europa League.
No route into the competition is straightforward, and Southampton will take some beating. Here is your preview of Saturday’s clash.