December 30, 2014

Title challengers Arsenal will look to keep up the pressure on the league leaders as they travel to the St Mary's Stadium to take on Southampton on Boxing Day.

Arsene Wenger's Gunners (11-3-3) are two points behind surprise table-toppers Leicester City going into the busy Christmas week, but a 2-1 win over Manchester City on Monday underlined Arsenal's current status as the side most likely to overtake the Foxes.

The win over City made it three straight wins for Arsenal, but Wenger believes it is still too early to start talking about which teams are going to contest the title.

"It is too early to say we can win the league, but the win strengthens our belief," Wenger said. "You come out and realise you have earned your right to win these games. We have to be ready to fight like that in every single game.

"It is quite interesting on my side because there is real life in the team, real togetherness and real solidarity, so let's take care of that."

The chances of Arsenal making it four wins on the bounce appear to be high, with Saturday's hosts Southampton (5-6-6) heading into the game in appalling form. The Saints have picked up just one point in their last five, scoring only two goals and failing to find the net in their two most recent matches during that run.

Last weekend's 2-0 home defeat to ex-Saints coach Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur was a low-point of the season, but left back Ryan Bertrand was one of a number of Southampton players to come out after the game and speak of the need for the players to stay unified.

"We have to stick together and go out there with our heads up, with the confidence to play our football," the England international said. "It's about each and every one of us standing up. There's no time to shy away from things here, there's no time to hide in your shell. We have to be out there bringing everything we can to the table.

"Everyone has to analyse their individual performance and make sure they are doing everything required in their specific role. Then once they are doing that we need to build on that with the quality we have."

The return to fitness of Maarten Stekelenburg will boost the Saints, but first-choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster is out, as are long-term absentees defender Florin Gardos and attacker Jay Rodriguez.

Arsenal's injury problems are beginning to ease, although Wenger remains without the services of Danny Welbeck, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin. Midfielders Mikel Arteta and Alexis Sanchez are also doubts for Saturday's game.

Southampton have won just one of their last 11 Premier League games against Arsenal and one of the last six at St Mary's. However, that lone win came in the most recent meeting, a 2-0 victory for the Saints last January. Arsenal were also knocked out of the League Cup by Southampton last season and have won only two in six against the Saints in all competitions.

Both teams have terrific Boxing Day records. Southampton have tasted defeat just once in seven Christmas fixtures in the Premier League, while Arsenal's record is even more impressive - just one loss in 18 Boxing Day fixtures.

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