By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Free-scoring Arsenal will be looking to build on a terrific Christmas period when they travel to St Mary's Stadium to play Southampton on New Year's Day.
The Gunners (9-6-4) have won four straight games in the league, and Theo Walcott bagged a hat-trick in a stunning 7-3 victory against Newcastle on Saturday evening.
"The club loves Theo, Theo loves the club and trust me reciprocal love is difficult to find," said manager Arsene Wenger. "He was man of the match, but the intensity of my desire is the same as it would have been if he had had a disastrous game: I want him to extend his contract and I'm hopeful he will.
"Theo showed what he can do, but there was also a new determination about him and a desire to run into the box. I know he can only get stronger. He is an intelligent player and because of that intelligence, he will continue to improve."
Southampton (4-5-10) have suffered a disappointing Christmas, losing 1-0 against champions Manchester City despite an excellent performance, and following that up with a goalless draw against Swansea on Boxing Day. Nigel Adkins' side's most disappointing result of the festive period came on Saturday when they conceded a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 3-3 with 10-man Stoke, but the manager was quick to put a positive spin on the game.
"I thought we did fantastically well, we have come away from home where there is a notoriously noisy home support and our fans could be heard all around the stadium," said Adkins. "We scored three very good goals and they have only conceded four here all season.
"I thought we dominated in the first half and I was really pleased, we started OK in the second half and we had the chance to go four up. We knew we would have to defend. Manfully the players have done their jobs today and it has taken a wonder goal for them to get the equaliser."
Southampton have doubts over Nathaniel Clyne (knock) and Adam Lallana (knee), while Arsenal have concerns over Per Mertesacker (illness). Lukas Fabianski (ankle) and Abou Diaby (thigh) are out for the Gunners.
Southampton have picked up 12 points at home this season, and their 13 goals conceded is the lowest of all the teams involved in the relegation scrap.
Theo Walcott's hat-trick against Newcastle made him Arsenal's top-scorer with eight. The Gunners have conceded just eight goals on the road all season - a league low.
Arsenal beat Southampton 6-1 when the teams met at the Emirates Stadium back in September, but the Saints drew both matches against the Gunners in their last stint in the Premier League in the 2004-05 season.
Updated December 30, 2012