Arsenal have been handed a considerable injury boost ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League clash with Southampton, as Ralph Hasenhuttl faces key absences.
Two of the players who were part of the Saints’ side that beat Arsenal 1-0 in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round tie will play no part on Tuesday.
Ryan Bertrand, who is subject of interest from the Gunners as backup in the left-back slot, will be unavailable through suspension. The 31-year-old is the club’s only senior option in that position, which means 20-year-old Jake Vokins looks set to make his first Premier League outing of the season.
On the opposite flank Kyle Walker-Peters, whose shot was deflected in for the Saints’ winning goal during the last meeting, has been declared unfit by Hasenhuttl.
Arsenal handed double injury boost ahead of Premier League clash against Southampton
"“Kyle Walker-Peters picked up an injury today,” the Austrian told the official club website. “It looks like he will definitely not make it, yeah.”"
Both absences provide a boost to Mikel Arteta‘s side, not least Walker-Peters who’s enjoyed a career renaissance on the south coast since falling out of favour at Tottenham. It’s no overstatement to claim he’s been among the best right-backs in the division this season. Yan Valery will take his place for a first Premier League start of the season.
This opens the door for Arsenal to hurt Southampton in wide areas. It’s expected that Gabriel Martinelli will assume the left-wing spot with Bukayo Saka on the other flank, areas of genuine threat for the visitors.
Seeing Martinelli make a string of darting runs during the first half of the previous clash that went unmet was a source of frustration, but with Emile Smith Rowe back in the side and a starting berth for Thomas Partey in midfield, his dangerous movements will finally be worthwhile.
These injuries may have a damaging effect on the Saints’ usually impeccable balance, with overcompensation for fringe full-backs creating spaces centrally for Smith Rowe to drift into. Ensuring he has the half-spaces where he can thrive with Saka and Martinelli stretching the opposition vertically, Arsenal can’t pretend this news isn’t welcome.
Now, they just mustn’t let the opportunity slip. Arteta shouldn’t radically readjust the tactics for two like-for-like changes as the above approach is key to most setups of late, they just have a better chance of executing them now.