Hasenhuettl wary of threat posed by 'fantastic' Arsenal

FILE PHOTO: Premier League - West Ham United v Southampton

(Reuters) - Southampton are expecting a fierce battle on Thursday when they host an Arsenal side who are reeling from two straight defeats in the Premier League, manager Ralph Hasenhuettl said on Tuesday.

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal were outclassed by Manchester City 3-0 on their return to Premier League action after a three-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic before falling to a 2-1 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

"Arteta has a strong team, it’s never a good or bad moment to play them," Hasenhuettl told reporters in a virtual news conference ahead of Thursday's match. "It’s always difficult because they have fantastic players."

"Even if they have a few injuries, the quality is so great they can absolutely hit back immediately and if you give them a little space, they are unstoppable with their speed."

The 52-year-old manager has fond memories of this fixture, having overseen a 3-2 victory in his first home game in charge of Southampton after succeeding Mark Hughes as manager in December 2018.

"It feels like it is 10 years ago. It's long gone and there's nothing older than the success you had yesterday in football, so you don't look back too much to such moments. But you will never forget it - it was a special moment," he added.

Southampton, who are 14th in the standings, three points behind 10th-placed Arsenal, will be boosted by the return of striker Shane Long, who missed the 3-0 victory at Norwich last week due to injury.

"Long is back – he trained with the team this week so we have another opportunity up front. Moussa Djenepo is out through suspension but the rest are available," the Austrian manager added.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)