Cheers for Theo and Ox! Wenger praises Saints youth set-up ahead of St Mary's trip
10:59 GMT, 31 December 2012
Arsene Wenger has lavished praise on Southampton's youth policy as Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain prepare to make their returns to St Mary's tomorrow.
The Arsenal manager has found the south-coast club a valuable market place in recent seasons, signing Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain from the Saints.
The duo both went on to earn England call-ups within months of their high-profile moves to north London and have since established themselves as important members of Wenger's plans.
Homecoming: Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain were both products of the Southampton youth system
But the Gunners pair are not the only top Premier League players to have come through the highly-respected Southampton academy.
Gareth Bale, Chris Baird and Wayne Bridge have all gone on to have well-established top-flight careers after being nurturing at Southampton.
And the club's consistency in nurturing young talent has not gone amiss by Wenger, whose side face Nigel Adkins' men tomorrow.
'The question of Southampton's academy set-up is a very good one because they have done a fabulous job,' said the Frenchman, whose side have won four successive Premier League matches.
'Why It is down to the quality of their scouting, the quality of their coaching and education. When you look at what Bale is doing, and Walcott.
'And now they have they players like Morgan Schneiderlin, they have brought some players of top, top quality and they work well. They have fantastic scouting.'
Striker: Walcott scored a hat-trick during Arsenal's 7-3 win over Newcastle
Arsenal will be expected to make it five league wins on the spin down on the south-coast, particularly after the 6-1 mauling of the newly-promoted side earlier in the season.
But after a disastrous start to the campaign, that very nearly cost Adkins his job, Southampton have improved significantly – though they still go into the clash against Arsenal in the bottom three.
And speaking after Saturday's 7-3 trouncing over Newcastle, Wenger has fired a warning to his players, saying: 'They are not comfortable [opponents], Southampton.
'I saw them against Fulham, I will watch them against Stoke (on video), but from what I've heard they played very well.'
The Ox: Oxlade-Chamberlain was also among the Arsenal scorers against the Geordies
He added: 'They 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.
'We will train on Sunday and Monday and go to Southampton on Monday night to prepare the game. It is another game that is very important over the Christmas period.'
Meanwhile, what is shaping up to be the busiest January transfer window in Wenger's managerial career also kicks off tomorrow.
Thierry Henry, who is currently training with the Gunners, is expected to sign a short-term loan deal – but Wenger insists the clash against Southampton will come too early for the Frenchman.
'He has just come back from holiday and is a bit short to play on Tuesday night,' added Wenger.