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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Big guns Arsenal have too much power for Southampton

Away win likely at St Mary's

Shkodran Mustafi and Arsenal celebrate their first goal in the north London derby win
1 of 1

BT Sport 1, midday Sunday

Arsenal are having problems against their big-six rivals this season, taking four points from a possible 15, but they have won eight of ten league games against the other teams and look a great value odds-against punt to beat Southampton at St Mary's Stadium.

Whenever Arsenal lose on the road to a smaller club, they are often bombarded with questions about their lack of character – or "cojones", as Troy Deeney put it following the Gunners' 2-1 defeat at Watford in October.

But Arsene Wenger's side have won their last four games against teams outside the big six stable, scoring 13 goals and conceding three.

Southampton have competed for the positions just outside of the elite clubs in recent years. At the start of the weekend, they were 5-1 third-favourites with in Sky Bet's betting without the big six and odds-on across the board for a top-ten finish.

However, there is a danger they are being priced up on the evidence of previous seasons rather than what has happened over the last four months.

Saints slipped to 11th after their 1-1 draw at Bournemouth last Sunday and will do well to hold on to that position by the end of the year.

Four of their remaining matches in 2017 are against big-six clubs and they haven't had much recent success against the top teams.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season they have played 15 league games against the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham, drawing four and losing 11.

Saints' manager Mauricio Pellegrino still seems to be working out his best tactics but he has at least settled on a favoured striker – Charlie Austin – who has netted three goals in the last three games.

But the harsh reality is that Southampton are nearer to the relegation zone than the top seven and, barring some better results against the elite clubs, they are going to go into 2018 looking over their shoulder.

Arsenal's minimum requirement is to get back into the top four and they are in decent shape despite last Saturday's harsh 3-1 loss at home to Manchester United when they won the shot count 33-8.

Five of their next six matches are against bottom-half teams and they approach the busy Christmas period with a squad boasting lots of strength in depth.

Wenger made 11 changes for Thursday's Europa League clash at home to Bate Borisov and watched on with great satisfaction as the Gunners romped to a 6-0 victory.

His first-choice side won't have it as easy on the south coast but there is a clear class difference between the sides, especially in attack, and Arsenal look a decent-value bet.

1pt 21-20 general

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Premier League standings

Team news
Striker Shane Long (calf) is a doubt and Cedric Soares (hamstring) has been ruled out.

Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) has not recovered so Per Mertesacker is in line for a recall in defence.

Key stat
Southampton have kept just one clean sheet in their last ten matches.

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Arsenal's minimum requirement is to get back into the top four and they are in decent shape despite last Saturday's harsh 3-1 loss at home to United
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