Arsenal V Southampton at Emirates Stadium : Match Preview

22 November 2013 05:31
Arsenal V Southampton - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Wenger: Players can fulfil WC goals

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes a successful season with the Gunners can only help drive their World Cup hopefuls on to success in Brazil.

Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and even full-back Carl Jenkinson are all in the mix to make Roy Hodgson's England squad for next summer's showpiece tournament.

France trio Bacary Sagna, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny - who could be banned for the start of the World Cup after his red card in the first-leg play-off against Ukraine - will also be hoping to make an impact in Brazil, along with Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen, Germans Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil, while Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal will both be determined to be in Spain's squad.

While always focused on putting the interests of Arsenal first, the French coach sees no reason why his players cannot fulfil all of their ambitions whether it be domestic, European or international in 2014.

"You do what is right for the club. If the players can do well at both levels that is even better," said Wenger, who maintains there is no issue with England's use of midfielder Wilshere in both the friendlies over the international break.

"I remember 1998, (Patrick) Vieira and (Emmanuel) Petit had an outstanding season here and they won the World Cup after (with France), so the positives of one go into the other."

While Wenger was keen to play down any talk of a row with the Football Association, the Gunners boss remains acutely aware of the need to avoid burnout with Wilshere, who was ruled out of contention for both the 2012 European Championship finals campaign and representing Team GB at the London Olympics because of injury lay-offs.

"There is no problem between the FA and Arsenal Football Club. I don't know where that idea comes from because he was supposed to play," he said.

"He was available for England, they used him like they wanted and if he had played the two (full) games I would have been perfectly happy, there was no restriction there at all."

Arsenal will have forward Walcott available again against his former club following a two-month injury absence when Barclays Premier League action resumes with the visit of Southampton on Saturday.

They will, however, be without suspended midfielder Mathieu Flamini against the Saints, who have surprised with their rise up the table this season.

Wenger has been impressed by the form of Mauricio Pochettino's well-drilled side.

"Southampton have conceded only five goals since the start of the season after 11 games - that is remarkable," he said.

"It shows you that there is a big challenge for us offensively to open that defence, but I am confident we can do that."

Southampton could usurp Arsenal at the top of the Premier League if they succeed in exacting revenge in north London.

Last season Saints began life back in the top flight disastrously, with the 6-1 hammering they suffered at the Emirates Stadium their fourth defeat in succession after automatic promotion.

Now, 14 months on, they return to Arsenal in remarkably different circumstances.

Should Liverpool fail to beat Everton in the early kick-off, Southampton would go top with a two-goal or better margin of victory against the Gunners.

That outcome would certainly prove Saints' credentials this term and for the likes of James Ward-Prowse, one of those to play in last year's thumping, it is a chance to right some wrongs.

"We went there last year and did not have a good day," the 19-year-old midfielder said.

"We will be out on Saturday to put that right and hopefully go top of the table.

"It will be tough. They have improved massively from last year, made some new signings, obviously with Mesut Ozil coming in.

"It is going to be tough but if we want to get to the top then we have got to beat teams like this."

The fact Southampton are heading into the match third in the standings is remarkable in itself.

The blend of home-grown talent, long-serving players and big-money signings is evidently reaping rewards, although Mauricio Pochettino's side now face a tough few weeks.

After the trip to Arsenal comes a clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, before Aston Villa and Manchester City head to St Mary's.

"I think the next four games will show how far we have come as a club, as a team," Ward-Prowse said.

"We are playing three of the top teams in the next four games and have the difficult task of Villa at home.

"After the next four games we will see where we are, but I think we are confident with all the hard work we are putting in that we can stay there."

Source: PA