Arsenal will face Southampton on New Year’s Day and Ronald Koeman will not be able to select key midfield man, Morgan Schneiderlin for a second successive game against the Gunners.
Schneiderlin appeared to be taking one for the team when he hacked Cesc Fasbregas to the ground in their one-all draw at the St. Mary’s on Sunday. That turned out to be his second booking of the game, barely waiting to be shown the red by referee Anthony Taylor before trotting off the pitch.
Schneiderlin had missed the first leg at the Emirates after going off injured in the first half of the Saints League game at home to City, and we had taken due advantage in his absence, though we left it late to take the win.
Koeman’s team had been flying high and above their shoulders when we managed the narrow win against them to close in on a spot in the top four but the stakes are quite more direct this time as a win of any margin will see us go fourth on the table. Wenger has seen his team grind out 7 of the 9 available points over Christmas, finishing the year off in the tensest circumstances drawing against ten men at Anfield, winning with ten against QPR and surviving a cracking London derby at Upton Park.
Southampton presents a tough challenge with which to begin the New Year but the absence of the Saints man will be vital for us. We are short of midfielders at the moment, having to deploy a rare double pivot option against West Ham. Without Schneiderlin, we’ll have one less physical body to face, even if Wanyama, Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse are still capable of holding their own. Nonetheless, it’ll give us more room to have a grip on the midfield even if Wenger still chooses to play Flamini and Coquelin.
The French duo had to stay deep for the entire duration of the win on Sunday, helping out in tackling the physicality of the Hammers who were bent on pushing us right into our goal. Coquelin had a particularly impressive game considering he had not made a League start in over a year and will continue to play a role in the team till the return of the other stars. Who knows, maybe Wenger could even start using him as the sole defensive midfielder in some games, beginning with the FA Cup against Hull.
Schneiderlin, meanwhile, continues to leave the door open for a possible move to Arsenal in January. In three possible games against the Gunners this season, he’s featured only in the League Cup win at the Emirates and his performance on the day are proofs of both why we would do with not having to face him against the Saints, as well as why we should be make that the last game he would play against us by signing him in the coming weeks.
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