Unavailable: Arsenal – Ramsey, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Welbeck, Jenkinson
Southampton – Boufal, Pied
On 15 September 2012, Southampton fans arrived at the Emirates on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but the manner in which their team imploded was bleak and unseemly. Saints were harnessed by naivety and nerves, and Arsenal punished them with the efficiency they reserve for either end of the season. It was a difficult sight as the visitors crumpled under Arsenal's sumptuous attacking play - confirming another week without a Premier League win. Saints are now experiencing their third philosophy re-brand since that point, but they face the same issue as the team selected by Nigel Adkins that day - they are yet to taste a league win in mid-September.
The times are vastly different, but should Saints pick up a predictable honourable loss at the hands of the Gunners, then it will heap pressure onto the opening Europa League clash as well as the home encounter with Swansea for Claude Puel. The Frenchman has not endeared himself to Saints fans as of yet, and he is unable to call upon the glitz and glamour of club record signing until next month. He requires a tonic to see his side on their way, but needs to be brave - especially this weekend.
If Arsenal turn the screw then they could punish Saints with their fluid play and ingenuity - but Puel must tell his team to front up and not cower in their defensive third. While playing away at United, Puel's men had more possession than their hosts but were unable to convert any of it into meaningful opportunities. This time round, they will be watching Arsenal stroke the ball around - a lot - but while the diamond à la Claude lacks tenacity and directness, the one thing it certainly should facilitate is the ability to break through pace. Nathan Redmond and Shane Long could have a field day against the Gunners' home defence if they are given some half-decent clipped balls into either channel. Dušan Tadić will also have to bust a gut in order to arrive late in the box when Saints charge away from their own half. The Serbian is accustomed to drifting around the edge of box while Saints try to break down lesser teams at St Mary's, but on Saturday, he will need to spray the ball forward before throwing himself towards Petr Čech's goal at the Emirates.
The Gunners remain vulnerable, and despite a heartening win at Watford prior to the international break coupled with two marquee signings, the discontent is palpable. If the same pattern of constant disappointment had repeatedly happened at any other "big" club, a change would be necessary, but such is the hold that Arsène Wenger has at the Emirates, that is yet to happen. A poisonous atmosphere began to rear its ugly head at the end of last season though, and you do start to believe that when Wenger finally departs, his standing amongst the majority of fans will have disintegrated.
As ever, if they cannot break Saints down in the early stages and Puel's men can break quickly and decisively, the Gunners fans will vent frustrations towards Wenger. Here's hoping one of his disciples stood to the right of the home dugout will topple the Arsenal stalwart on Saturday.
Xhaka v Davis: Granit Xhaka has been heralded as the "hard" man that Arsenal have required since Patrick Vieira departed the club, but he is in the midst of a slow start in North London. Francis Coquelin has played well in the centre, yet he in all kindness, has most likely hit a ceiling in his career as an Arsenal squad player. Therefore, Xhaka has been looked to as someone who could make the position their own. So far, he has seemed pretty yet ineffective. On Saturday, Steven Davis will have to bypass the Swiss in his vital role as a midfield connector to gain access to Messrs Tadić, Long and Redmond, with Xhaka no doubt keen to stamp his authority.
Monreal v Soares: Nacho Monreal has improved a great deal in the last few years but he remains the weak link in that Arsenal backline. The Spaniard is awkward on the turn, and Cédric Soares could exploit this if he ekes out enough space to run into behind down the right wing.
Arsenal: Čech – Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny (C), Monreal – Cazorla, Xhaka – Walcott, Özil, Sánchez – Pérez
Ospina, Gibbs, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Holding, Coquelin, Elneny
Southampton: Forster – Soares, Fonte (C), Van Dijk, Bertrand – Romeu, Davis, Højbjerg, Tadić – Long, Redmond