Friday, 25 December 2015

Arsenal's Trip To Southampton Previewed

After the great win at home to City on Monday night it's back to regular Premier League action for Arsenal when they pay a visit to Southampton on Saturday evening. It's the first of three games in eight days over the festive period and a chance for them to strengthen their grip on second place or maybe even overtake Leicester at the top of the table. There only two points behind the surprise, but fully deserving, league leaders and Arsenal have what look like easier games on paper at least.

Arsenal went to Southampton over the festive period last season and were lucky to come away with a 2-0 defeat after a shocking performance. Things improved greatly after that game with Francis Coquelin cementing a place in the team and Arsenal eventually finishing third. In that game against Southampton Coquelin played his defensive midfield role with Calum Chambers I think and from what I recall it really didn't work out.

We didn't see much of Chambers after that game and another player to lose out as a result of it was Wojciech Szczesny who was hugely at fault for both goals and was then apparently caught smoking in the showers afterwards if the stories are to be believed. He lost his place to David Ospina after that performance and he now finds himself out on loan at Roma with Petr Cech firmly established as the team's first choice in goal. The team had an awful lot of injuries going into that game and very little has changed since then.

The squad is still threadbare due to injuries with Alexis Sanchez, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck (remember him), Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta all unavailable. It means Arsene Wenger doesn't have too many choices in his team selection and the players who beat City on Monday night will mostly be called upon again to perform. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same team line up, but it is possible Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Chambers will get s chance from the start.

Arsenal have had a very good calendar year and have taken more points than any other team in the league since the start of last January. They have won their highest percentage of games ever in a calendar year and they need to continue that for the rest of the season. The league trophy is handed out in May and the great results of the calendar year will count for nothing if Arsenal aren't on top of the pile at that stage.

They have a very good record away from home so far this season with only Leicester taking more points and scoring more goals on the road. After a slight hitch a few weeks ago they have won their last three league games and have won every game so far in December. They go to a Southampton team who are heading in the opposite direction at the moment.

They have only taken one point from their last five games and they have only scored two goals in those five games too. Their only point in those games was against basement boys Villa and Ronald Koeman has admitted he is worried about his future if they don't turn it around soon. They do have some very good players and play good football, but that's not always enough.

Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy might be the in form players everybody is raving about, but Arsenal have some of the best performers in the league at the moment too. Mesut Ozil already has more assists than in his previous two seasons combined and looks on course to smash the record for the most assists by one player in a single season in the Premier Lesgue. He has done so well that he has more assists than the whole Chelsea squad combined or the Manchester United squad too for that matter.

Besides him Aaron Ramsey is thriving in his favoured role in midfield while both Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott are in fine goalscoring form. I've said before that I like Wakcott on the left coming in onto his right foot and he's getting the chance with Alexis injured and he's certainly thriving there. I would imagine he will move back to the right when Alexis returns as it's impossible to consider Arsenal playing without Alexis when he's fit.

Joel Campbell impressed again against City and put in a tremendous shift for every minute he was on the pitch. He might drop back in the pecking order when others return, but he is proving he deserves a place in the squad and he can be relied on when called upon. Just like Coquelin and Hector Bellerin he has taken his chance when it came along and hopefully others will continue to follow in their paths.

I think Southampton will make a real game of it despite their current run as they're never an easy side to beat. The Premier League has been so unpredictable this season that there are no easy games for any team. Arsenal most certainly have the wherewithal to go on and win the league this season and the chance of gaining an advantage on orders over the next few games is one they really need to take. There's bound to be a few setbacks between now and the end of the season and any advantage gained comes in very handy in such times. 

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

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