EPL Preview: Gunners look to rebound, Spurs’ Wembley curse

In match-day 16 of the English Premier League, Arsenal looks to pick itself up from the Manchester United hit and run show from last week while Tottenham must avoid losing further footing in race for the Top 4 spot.

Arsenal

Arsenal bounced back from defeat to Manchester United in the league with a 6-0 trouncing of BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League.   -  AFP

Arsenal demonstrated its powers of recovery midweek but Arsene Wenger knows a greater test lies ahead when it returns to Premier League action at Southampton on Sunday.

Wenger and his players were left crushed following last weekend's home defeat by Manchester United when they dominated periods of the game, producing 33 shots on goal, only to see Jose Mourinho's team run out 3-1 winner.

Big Match Focus: Manchester United vs Manchester City

A much changed line-up put that result behind them when the Gunners wrapped up their Europa League group-stage campaign with a 6-0 home victory over BATE Borisov with Jack Wilshere in particular pressing his claims for more Premier league action.

The meeting with Mauricio Pellegrino's Saints side, however, is more significant than a dead rubber in Europe -- Wenger's side had already qualified for the knockout stage before the meeting with BATE -- with the Gunners desperate to force their way back into the top four.

Wenger has been impressed with the way his side have fought back after trailing in a number of games this season and similar qualities will be required at St Mary's Stadium.

"It's down to the attitude of the players, the team mentality and I must say the united spirit the players have shown," said Wenger.

"Their focus makes it an absolute pleasure to work with them on a daily basis.

"That's the quality that will be needed until the end of the season because we play in the Premier League where you have to be focused in every single game."

The top half of the points table ahead of game week 16.

 

Wenger is in no doubt Southampton pose a threat to Arsenal's hopes of returning to winning ways in the league.

"They have Charlie Austin back now, and of course they have players like Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond, Sofiane Boufal who are all very strong offensively," he said.

"It is true that if you look at the number of goals they scored and the quality of their last two performances, it looks like they are coming back to a much more dangerous team."

'THE MOST MATURE WILSHERE'

Jack Wilshere Arsenal

Jack Wilshere is yet to make a Premier League start for Arsenal since his return from a loan spell from Bournemouth last season.   -  AFP

 

Wenger must decide whether to hand Wilshere a first Premier League start of the campaign in the wake of his outstanding midweek display.

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"The next step is for him to be competitive in the Premier League and to fight for his place in the team," said Wenger.

"I would say this is the most mature Wilshere I have seen, in the game and outside the game. He is not excessive, he has taken a distance from the pressure that was always around him."

Pellegrino's side have shown signs of improvement recently, beating Everton and drawing with neighbour Bournemouth either side of a last-minute defeat at Manchester City, to move up to mid-table.

Boufal has played a more prominent role after spending the opening weeks on the bench and the Morocco international says he is now finding his feet.

"Yes, I need to progress, I need to be more consistent, I know this, but now the most difficult period is gone and now I look forward to the future," said Boufal.

MOYES TO DROP HART FOR CHELSEA VISIT

West Ham boss David Moyes looks set to drop Joe Hart from his starting line-up for Saturday's match against Chelsea, putting the England goalkeeper's World Cup ambitions in serious jeopardy.

Adrian is in contention to feature after impressing against Manchester City last weekend, stepping in when Hart was ineligible to face his parent club.

With Hart also under pressure for his England number one spot from Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland, losing his club place could leave his Russia 2018 hopes in tatters.

Joe Hart West Ham

West Ham has kept three cleansheets in 14 matches in the Premier League with Joe Hart playing in goal.   -  AFP

 

"I'll keep my team until tomorrow," said Moyes. "But I have made a decision in my own mind."

As for whether he had discussed that decision with Hart, Moyes added: "I would always try to speak to the players. There are some occasions you should speak to them and others there is no need to.

Chelsea visit the London Stadium on Saturday, trailing Manchester City by 11 points and with a three-point deficit to second-placed Manchester United, who host the leader on Sunday.

Defender David Luiz is out with a knee injury while Danny Drinkwater is out after the midfielder missed three days of training through illness, while there are "two or three" undisclosed doubts.

"The best result is to win against West Ham and then anything can happen in the Manchester derby," Antonio Conte said.

"For me the best result is our result, to try to win in a difficult game."

WEMBLEY DENTING SPURS' CHANCES, SAYS POCH

Mauricio Pochettino says playing at Wembley is hurting Tottenham's Premier League title chances as its opponents are doubly motivated to perform at the national stadium.

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Stuttering Spurs -- which has slipped out of the title reckoning -- play Stoke at their temporary home on Saturday before hosting Brighton next Wednesday and they cannot afford to lose further ground in the race for the top four.

Harry Kane Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham has won only one of its last six matches in the Premier League and trails Liverpool by four points for the fourth position.   -  AFP

 

But Pochettino's men have proven to be vulnerable at Wembley this season -- taking only 12 points from a possible 21 there in the Premier League, a record that has included draws with Burnley, Swansea and West Brom.

Spurs' last six Premier League results

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham (L)

Tottenham 1-0 Crystal Palace (W)

Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham (L)

Tottenham 1-1 West Brom (D)

Leicester City 2-1 Tottenham (L)

Watford 1-1 Tottenham (D)

 

"To play again in your home always is much better than to play how we are playing now," Pochettino said. "It is so important how the opponent sees Wembley -- that it is fantastic to play at Wembley.

"It is not to blame Wembley or an excuse. But when opponents come to Wembley to play it is a historic day. For many clubs it is difficult to play at Wembley but today it is easy because you come in the Premier League.

Tottenham has managed only one league victory from its past six matches, a slump that has left them 18 points behind runaway leader Manchester City and four adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool.

Defender Davinson Sanchez is suspended for the visit of Stoke following his red card against Watford last weekend.

Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama remain out with injuries.

Other EPL fixtures:

Saturday (All KOs in IST)

Swansea City vs West Brom - 8.30 PM

Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth - 8.30 PM

Burnley vs Watford - 8.30 PM

Huddersfield vs Brighton - 8.30 PM

Newcastle United vs Leicester City - 11 PM

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