Friday, 22 November 2013

Arsenal v Southampton Preview

Thankfully it's back to Premier League football for Arsenal after the latest international break. With all the teams for next year's World Cup sorted there won't be any more international football for months to come. That means Arsenal can concentrate on the important job of playing football and attempting to fill their bare cupboard with a trophy for the first time in nine years.

They have some big games coming up between now and Christmas with both Chelsea and City in the league and their final two Champions League group games. It will be two games a week for the next four weeks and it will test the strength of the and the depth of the squad. If Arsenal are still on top of the league at Christmas and through to the knock out stages of the Champions League then they will have to be considered as serious contenders. At the moment most of the so called experts are still dismissing their chances and saying they will fade.

The first of their games is at home to Southampton in the league tomorrow afternoon and it's by no means an easy game for them. Southampton are third in the table on merit and have been very impressive so far this season. They have an excellent defensive record and have already won away to Liverpool and drawn at United.

If Arsenal are going to continue in their current form they cannot take Southampton lightly and will have to be at their very best to win the game. Southampton put a lot of pressure on their opponents when in possession and can be expected to hassle the Arsenal defence when they have the ball. Arsenal are used to passing the ball across the back as teams usually drop off to defend deeper and Arsenal will have to be wary of this tactic.

Of course they're not the first team to do this and Arsenal have come up against better teams who employ this tactic. It's crucial that they don't get caught in possession and give Southampton a foot hold in the game because they have shown how well they can defend. Players like Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez have got plaudits and recognition for their performances in attack too and rightly so.

When it comes to the crunch Arsenal have got better players than Southampton and those players should be good enough to win Arsenal the game. If they can go out and express themselves while putting in the required work rate I think they will do just that. Any sort of win would be welcome and put pressure on the other contenders who are playing after them.

In team news Theo Walcott is finally fit to return to action after a two month spell on the sidelines and he will be a welcome addition to the squad. Obviously Per Mertesacker is over the illness which made him miss the defeat at United and the other players who were under the weather on the day should be fine too. It's not a fully fit squad for Arsene Wenger to choose from but he has got a few decisions to make.

I can only assume he will go back to his favoured back four in front of Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen will drop back to the bench. He played well against United and it's a little unfair on him, but it's hard to argue with the combination of Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. The full backs will be the usual two as well of course and it's a defence which is working well as a unit.

The tough choices come in midfield where there is so much quality and choice. One decision has been made for him as Mathieu Flamini is suspended which will see Mikael Artera play the holding midfield role and make the team probably a little more attacking minded too. With Flamini out Aaron Ramsey will probably play a central role which should leave Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in the wide positions.

The attack will of course be led by Olivier Giroud and I imagine Mesut Ozil will play just behind him. The Arsenal players are so interchangeable that their positions don't really count for too much with the exception of Arteta and Giroud. Wilshere and Ramsey could easily switch positions as could Cazorla and Ozil but the team shouldn't lose it's flow as a result. 

That team is missing a little pace in the wide areas in particular, but with Walcott and Serge Gnabry on the bench there is definitely an option to bring pacy players on. As long as he has recovered from his illness Tomas Rosicky should be on the bench too along with Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal and probably Nicklas Bendtner too. The bench will certainly be looking stronger than it has done in a while and hopefully the players can stay fit for the upcoming games.

It's been two weeks since the defeat against United and I don't think it will have had an effect on the players. It's not as if United outplayed them or showed them up in any way and the game could really have gone either way in my opinion. They have the opportunity tomorrow to show that the defeat hasn't affected them and hopefully they will take it.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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