Mikel Arteta is expecting another stern examination of his Arsenal squad when they face Southampton just three days after crashing out of the FA Cup at St Mary’s.
The Gunners return to the south coast on Tuesday night looking to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat which saw them relinquish their grasp on the FA Cup as an own goal from defender Gabriel Magalhaes settled the tie.
Arteta made seven changes for the game but is expected to recall the likes of Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe for the Premier League fixture.
A win for Arsenal could see them move to within four points of the top four, having been languishing around the relegation zone just before Christmas.
This season's @EmiratesFACup campaign ends at St. Mary's.
😇 1-0 🔵 (FT)
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 23, 2021
But they face a Saints side that gave their visitors the runaround for large parts of Saturday’s meeting – and Arteta knows his team face another tough test.
“I think both teams will learn, obviously I don’t think any manager or players like to play the same opponent twice (in succession),” he said.
“We’ll take things from today’s game that we’ll analyse – we’ve already talked about them and try to make them better in the next game.
“The one I really want to change is the result because I want to win the game.
“It was a really intense game and we were expecting that. We’re expecting that on Tuesday because they don’t really change – they’re a really brave team, a really good manager, they know exactly what they’re doing.
“They’ve been doing it for years now and they’re good at it. We expect a similar game on Tuesday.”
One player likely to keep his place in the team is goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who started the cup tie despite the signing of Mat Ryan a day earlier.
Ryan joined on loan from Brighton for the remainder of the season after Arteta and technical director Edu identified the need to sign a back-up goalkeeper in January.
“He’s a player that knows the league really well,” Arteta said of the Australia international.
“He’s played so many games, he’s got international experience, he’s at the right age, he’s been competing regularly until December.
“We looked at the market, we wanted a loan deal and we decided to go with Mat because he had the right profile for us.”
The role of back-up stopper had been occupied by summer recruit Alex Runarsson but, after a few shaky displays, he is now expected to fill the role of third-choice.
Some reports suggested Arsenal could look to send Runarsson out on loan to gain experience but Arteta – who said it was too early to suggest Ryan’s move would be made permanent – has suggested the Iceland international will stay put.
“That area needs three goalkeepers and they have to compete with each other, they have to challenge each other and everybody will get his role,” he said when asked about Runarsson’s future.
“After you get the role you just have to support each other to get the best out of all of them. That’s the role: come here and try to make us better.”