Arsenal are through to the FA Cup Fourth Round, and our opponents are our bogey cup side Southampton after their hard fought replay victory over Norwich last night.
The interesting fact for Arsenal fans is that Claude Puel made 8 changes for the Norwich game, of which 6 of them were promoted from the Saints famous Academy, and the manager has admitted that he will likely field a similar side in the Arsenal fixture.
Puel said: “We will see every time. We need to play every three days, just as Southampton have to play all these games, and we will see for the recovery for any player, and we will see for Arsenal.
“We will continue with a good balance between experienced players and young player and it’s important I think for Southampton to continue this work and develop these players.
“All these possibilities gives more opportunities for the future and it is interesting for example to see Jack Stephens in this situation.
“We know with Jose Fonte’s situation particular and perhaps he leaves the club, it is important also to see Jack and other players in this situation.”
With Southampton still not yet safe from a relegation battle, Puel is rightly targeting the League points as a priority, and also have a League Cup semifinal against Liverpool to come, so it is little surprise that the coach feels he needs to make many changes, although his reserves struggled to beat the Championship side. “We are happy because it is always a difficult game against Norwich,” Puel continued.
“It was good management in the first half perhaps without the good result to have other situations.
“I think we can do a good second half with many chances, good reasons, a lot of opportunities without perhaps the clinical, but it was a good management of the game. “Difficult. A packed defence for 90 minutes and I think for one time in this moment all the players can be happy.
“It is important now to play against Arsenal, another opportunity for my players and a mix between experienced players and young players and this is very interesting for us to develop the academy players.
Although Arsenal will have a whole weeks rest after the Burnley game on Sunday, it is certain that Wenger will also be using a bit of rotation next weekend, especially with important London derbies against Watford and Chelsea in the following 7 days, so Le Prof will be relieved that the Saints will not be fielding their strongest side. The only problem is that Arsenal always struggle against Southampton whichever team they put out!