Arsenal will hope to begin the new year by reclaiming the top-four position in the Premier League table that has traditionally been theirs.
Arsene Wenger’s side travel to Southampton on New Year’s Day in the knowledge that victory at St Mary’s will see them leapfrog their hosts into the Champions League places.
But Southampton, who drew 1-1 with leaders Chelsea on Sunday, will be determined to defend their position and Wenger has admitted he had not foreseen 2014 ending with the south-coast club so high in the standings.
That was mainly because Ronald Koeman, installed as manager during the close season, had to make a series of buys to replace a host of departed stars.
No fewer than five players who had helped fire Southampton to a surprise eighth-place finish left the club, but newcomers Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic have all made instant impacts.