Southampton V Arsenal at St. Mary's Stadium : Match Preview
Southampton V Arsenal - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Adkins' pride at Ox
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins is proud of the way Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is developing but warned the winger that he and his Arsenal team-mates face a tough test at St Mary's.
The 19-year-old is a graduate of the south-coast club's fabled Academy system, following in the footsteps of players like Gareth Bale and his Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott.
Oxlade-Chamberlain made his name under the tutorship of Adkins, helping Saints secure automatic promotion from npower League One in 2011.
Much has changed since the winger's #15million move to north London, with the teenager now an England international and Southampton once again back in the top flight.
Oxlade-Chamberlain makes his first return to St Mary's and Adkins is proud of the winger.
"I think he will get a fantastic reception," the Saints boss said. "He is one of the players that came through out system.
"We are excited watching him played. We'd love him to still be at Southampton, but he is an Arsenal player now and an England international.
"I went to watch him against Reading the other night and he was exhilarating, with his acceleration to go away, a desire to get on the football. He is a joy to watch.
"I think everybody at Southampton is proud of what he is doing now.
"Everybody at the football club has had a role and a responsibility to play in Alex's development, but it is down to him as well. He is an exciting young talent."
Saints may be in the bottom three heading into the match, but they are a different proposition now due to a new-found sturdiness and confidence,
"We have improved and grown in maturity all the way through," Adkins said.
"Obviously we had a baptism of fire coming into the Barclays Premier League when you look at the fixtures we had at the start of the campaign.
"We have only lost two of the last nine games, which is important and both of them were narrow 1-0 defeats.
"I think we have got a group of players that have become more accustomed to the level that we are at."
"We have grown in maturity and we are looking forward to the next run of fixtures we've got."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes 2013 will be the year that Arsenal confirm all the promise the Frenchman believes his team have.
The Gunners head to Southampton on New Year's Day on the back of a thrilling 7-3 win over Newcastle, which was a fourth straight Premier League success.
There is now genuine optimism for the second half of the campaign as the Gunners are back within striking distance of the top four and ready to tackle Bayern Munich for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
"My hopes (for the new year) are that the win (over Newcastle) will give even more confidence, desire and ambition to our team, and that 2013 will confirm we are a great team," Wenger told Arsenal Player.
Walcott bagged an impressive hat-trick against Newcastle and is relishing a chance to shine in his preferred central attacking role.
Despite the England international, 23, having yet to agree terms on a new contract with the Gunners, Wenger is glad to see Walcott enjoying his football.
"I have worked with Theo for seven years and the fact that he had an exceptional game against Newcastle will not influence me more or less - if he had played a disastrous game, I would still have wanted him to sign with the same intensity," Wenger said.
"It is good that he gets rewarded for his effort and for me that is more important."
Wenger is likely to rotate his squad at St Mary's, but could well opt to unleash Walcott down the middle once more.
"I like the fact Theo can play through the middle because it gives us more opportunities to do that and more possibilities to change from game to game. I will do it again," Wenger added.
Despite some positive displays, Southampton remain in the relegation zone after they drew 3-3 at Stoke in a match they had led 3-1.
Wenger is expecting a tough test of his side's new-found confidence.
"They are not comfortable (opponents), Southampton. I saw them against Fulham, and they played very well against Stoke," Wenger told reporters.
"Southampton are a team that has learned in the Premier League now. Usually you find in February or in January a different team to what you see in August or September."
Southampton will again be without captain Adam Lallana (knee) while right-back Nathaniel Clyne (knee) is also a doubt once more.
Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker could be available after illness. Midfielder Tomas Rosicky was left on the bench against Newcastle so may also come back into contention.
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