Arsenal-Southampton Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Arsenal will be looking to stay at the top of the Premier League as they take on Southampton at St Mary's on Tuesday evening.

Arsene Wenger's side (16-3-3) have won their last five Premier League games to hold off challenges from in-form Manchester City and Chelsea after the Gunners dropped points in all three of their matches over Christmas. Fullback Carl Jenkinson admits it's a relief not to have such a hectic fixture schedule, and trusts his manager to help the squad win their first title in almost a decade.

"Over Christmas, the fixture schedule is always jammed packed," Jenkinson said. "But now it eases a bit which is good because it was a bit intense and the boys do need a good rest between games. You get the best out of the team when we have those rest periods as well. But the boss is fantastic at that because we put a good run together when it was very intense, hopefully now we can push on with a few less fixtures and more recovery time.

"The defence has been very good this season. It is important going forward that we have a strong defence because if you look at successful Arsenal sides of the past, they have all been built on a strong back four and a good goalkeeper. It's important we have that as a building block."

Southampton (8-7-7) started the season like a train but have seen a dramatic slump in form leave them 12 points off the European places. The squad was further disrupted by a training ground fight involving summer signing Dani Osvaldo, and the Argentine was suspended by the club for two weeks.

"Obviously what has happened has happened," said Southampton captain Kelvin Davis. "As a team, as a squad, as a club, we are looking forward and we are very much together. Our dressing room is as solid as it has ever been and it will continue to be so.

"We are a friendly bunch. We've said for a long time that we have always had a good team spirit and a good changing room. That can't change and if anyone doesn't want to be involved in that then they are not welcome."

Southampton are without the injured Gaston Ramirez (ankle), Dejan Lovren (ankle) and Victor Wanyama (calf). Arsenal have doubts over Mikel Arteta (calf), Tomas Vermaelen (knee) and Aaron Ramsey (hip), while Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby are out with long-term knee injuries.

The Saints have won just two of their last 10 league games, but have been beaten just three times at home all season.

Arsenal have the league's best defensive record with only 19 goals conceded, and only Liverpool have scored more goals away from home than the Gunners' 23.

Wenger's side won 2-0 when these teams met at the Emirates earlier in the season, with Olivier Giroud scoring both goals and securing the three points with a penalty kick in the 86th minute.

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