Arsenal vs Southampton

Arsenal vs Southampton

Lucas Perez could make a timely return to first team action in the quarter-final of a competition that very much heralded his arrival at Arsenal.

Striker Perez, who signed from Deportivo La Coruna in the summer for around £17million, made a dazzling impression in the EFL with his first two goals in the Gunners’ 4-0 win at Nottingham Forest in the fourth round.

Then fortune turned for the Spaniard when he was injured in the next round, which was a 2-0 win over Championship side Reading at the Emirates Stadium, in which Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain grabbed both goals.

Perez, 29, limped out of the game in the 72nd minute after being tackled by Reading substitute Danzell Gravenberch. Ankle ligament damage meant it was feared the hitman would be out for up to six weeks but he has already started training again after healing quickly.

And if manager Arsene Wenger is told by the medical team and the player himself that he is ready to make a comeback, the game against the Saints this coming Wednesday would be a perfect opportunity at a time when there are favourable betting odds for Arsenal’s EFL Cup game.

Over the years of his tenure, Wenger has used the competition to give first team squad members a run out and also handed chances to youngsters keen to prove their capabilities at the highest level.

Saints boss Claude Puel, although some way behind Wenger in years at the helm in the English league, will adopt the same tactic of choosing from a combination of emerging talent and established stars for the encounter.

The St Mary’s outfit earned the duel with the Gunners after Sofiane Boufal’s brilliant second-half goal proved the difference as they beat Sunderland 1-0 last time of asking. The club’s record signing came up with a superb touch and shot in the 66th minute of his debut to beat Jordan Pickford and settle matters.

Southampton came through a testing clash with Crystal Palace before that. Charlie Austin gave the home side a first-half lead from the penalty spot in a timely statement to his manager. The highly-rated Jake Hesketh added their second and his first senior goal in the second half to ensure victory.

Hesketh, 20, is another of the promising youngsters to come through the Southampton youth ranks and his talent has led to enquiries from Manchester United for his services earlier this year.

Understandably, Saints didn’t want to do business. Puel will hope Hesketh gives a decent account of himself in  the game against the Gunners.

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