On paper, timing couldn't possible be worse as in-form Arsenal, who are looking good in their attempt in winning their first Premier League title for over a decade. Meanwhile, Southampton look completely out of sorts as they enter the festive football break, having lost five of their last six matches in all competitions.
It's looking a bit bleak for Boxing Day. Saying that, Saints did beat the Gooners last time they visit St. Mary's so who knows?
Read the reverse interview with The Short Fuse here.
St. Mary's Musings: What were your expectations for Arsenal's season before it started and how do they compare to what's going on now?
The Short Fuse: My expectations before the season were for Arsenal to challenge for the title but to fall short to defending champions Chelsea. Boy, am I happy to be wrong there. I made my preseason prediction of Chelsea first, Arsenal second then Manchester City third before the Citizens signed Kevin De Bruyne though. At that point, third seemed most likely.
Fast forward a few months and I have to say, I'm feeling slightly better about things. There's still a lot of time for us to screw things up (and as Arsenal fans, we're conditioned to expect it to happen at any second), but we've both stayed alive in the Champions League and set ourselves up well for a league title challenge.
SMM: With Leicester and Arsenal establishing a nice cushioned lead on the top of the Premier League, how do you rate Arsenal's chances of winning the title? Do you think Leicester will stay the course?
TSF: I think it's fair to say we're the current favorites, but certainly not prohibitive ones. I still think City has too much talent to write off yet. However, I think we're the only two legitimate contenders. Leicester is really fun to watch but they lack squad depth, heavily rely on two guys (who are brilliant, to be fair) which is a risky proposition, and their defense is really shambolic. Due to the rest of the league being down, I think they can mask their flaws enough to sneak into a Champions League spot if they stay healthy but a title challenge seems unrealistic.
SMM: What stands out as the most memorable moment of Arsenal's season so far?
TSF: Well, Arsenal have had three of their more memorable wins in recent years this season but if I had to pick one, it'd be the utter demolition of Manchester United. We owed a beatdown to our league rivals and the match was over so quickly I enjoyed every bit of it. Honorable mention to the Bayern Munich win which kept us alive in the Champions League.
SMM: Who has been Arsenal's most important player this season?
TSF: Mesut Ozil. Easily. He's got 15 (FIFTEEN!) assists in the league so far and his contribution goes far beyond numbers. He's the heartbeat of our team and we'd be in big trouble without him.
SMM: Who should Southampton fans be most wary of on Saturday?
TSF: I already said Ozil above so I'll switch it up here and say Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has been a force this season and is in a particularly rich vein of form at the moment. He's always been a streaky player and there has been no indication that he's about to slow down.
SMM: A lot of Arsenal fans bemoaned Arsene Wenger for not signing any outfield players in the summer. With the benefit of hindsight, do you think this was a good move?
TSF: In hindsight, we could really use someone, anyone. Mathieu Flamini is our starting defensive midfielder after probably being fourth or fifth choice for that position at the beginning of the season. Joel Campbell is our starting right winger after being sixth or seventh choice in August. We've had two youngsters on our bench due to our crisis. We're in a dangerous position.
From this Arsenal fan's perspective, it seems like Arsene Wenger was targeting players of a higher quality over the summer. Unfortunately for us, he couldn't get any deals done. There were lots of players available this summer of a similar talent level to what we have. I can't fault him for aiming for more and not pulling the trigger on those guys.
SMM: If you were Wenger, would you sign anyone in the January transfer window? If so, what areas need bolstering in the Arsenal squad?
TSF: Yeah, he has to sign at least one player. The title is up for grabs and it would be foolish of Wenger not to solidify our chances on that front. Defensive midfield is a huge hole. Due to injuries, we should also look for wide forwards that could help us. I wouldn't be surprised if Wenger is either forced to overpay for a middling talent or takes someone on loan for 6 months. We've a lot of players linked to us, including your defensive midfielder, Victor Wanyama, but I suspect it will be a name (or names) that has (have) stayed off the radar.
SMM: If you could sell any Arsenal player from your regular starting XI, who would it be and why?
TSF: Wow, that's a really good question. To be honest, Arsenal are quite hashtag blessed to have a really solid starting XI filled with likable guys. There's no obvious weak links to ship out. As such, I'm just going to go with my gut and say Theo Walcott. Now, don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore Theo. That said, he's English and good English player come with a massive premium. If we put him on the market right now someone is giving us at least 40 million pounds for him and I think we could replace him and more with that money. Did I mention I really like this question?
SMM: If you could sign any Saints player, who would it be and why?
TSF: Sadio Mane is a joy to watch and we could use a wide forward. He would absolutely be my pick. Can you imagine having to defend him, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil? That front line would be a force.
SMM: Finally, what do you think the score will be on Saturday?
TSF: I'm going to say 3-1 to the Arsenal. Southampton's backline has looked vulnerable this season and I think Arsenal will be able to take advantage of that. However, I do think Southampton will keep things close and the match will still be up for grabs until a late Arsenal goal seals it.