Sunday, 10 December 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Southampton Previewed

It's been a week since a combination of our defensive horror show and an inspired performance from David de Gea saw Arsenal lose 3-1 at home to United. That performance was Arsenal in a nutshell as they yet again managed to get the hopes of us fans up only to utterly shatter them. It's a story we've seen unfold in front of us all too often for far too many years now and yet we continue to hope it won't happen.

The goals we conceded said so much about our inability to do the easy things correctly and to concentrate properly on our defending. You can point to individual errors and lapses in concentration for each goal, but the inability to defend as a team played a big role in the game too. I think we made United look an awful lot better than they are and I don't give them a snowball's chance in hell of catching City.

The second string at least strolled to a 6-0 win at home to BATE on Thursday night in our final Europa League group game. We finished top of our group and we will go into the knockout stages as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. The draw for the last 32 takes place on Monday and I wouldn't be surprised to see Arsene Wenger take the competition a little more seriously once it resumes

We have bounced back from defeats in recent months with positive results and it's something we need to do again today at Southampton. We need to put those defensive errors behind us and concentrate on our need to keep pace with the other teams chasing a top four finish. We're not going to catch City, but United aren't out of our sights yet, Chelsea lost yesterday with Spurs winning and Liverpool playing after us today.

We've had a few problems playing away to Southampton in recent seasons and the 4-0 loss there a couple of years ago is the reason Wojciech Szczesny no longer plays for Arsenal which is a shame as far as I am concerned. That was a game to forget though and one of the worst performances I have seen from an Arsenal team in many years. Given the chance Southampton can play well against almost any team in the Premier League and we cannot give them that chance today.

We did manage to do the double over them in the league last season and a fairly youthful Arsenal team won 5-0 at Southampton in the FA Cup last season too. They have won three of their eight home games this season, but those three wins were all against teams at the wrong end of the table. Besides those games they have really struggled to score goals at home although the return from injury of Charlie Austin seems to have helped them in the goal scoring department.

I don't expect to see too many changes to the Arsenal team that lost to United, but obviously the injured Shkodran Mustafi will miss out. The manager will have to decide whether to make a straight replacement for Mustafi or to bring in a player to bolster the team elsewhere. Despite playing three central defenders on a permanent basis at the moment it's still not his favourite formation and he must be sorely tempted to switch to a flat back four in every single game.

I think we could probably do with the extra man in midfield today and I wouldn't be surprised to see us switch to two central defenders. Whatever formation we play the players have to be better in possession in front of our own goal. It's something that has plagued us all season long, but not every team have been as ruthless as United were in exploiting it last week.

If we have Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette in attack we have the ammunition to take on any team and I would be very surprised if the three of them don't start today. Ozil and Lacazette have been very good in recent weeks and while Sanchez hasn't quite been at his best I don't buy into those who think he's not giving his all. He may give that ball away more than your average player, but he doesn't actually give it away more than players in a similar position to him who are taking chances to make things happen in attack.

With so many games coming over the next few weeks we have to put the defensive side of last week's defeat behind us and bounce back with three points today. We have seven league games in the next 25 days including home games against both Liverpool and Chelsea and we need to take as many points as possible from those seven games. We have every chance of starting those games in the best possible fashion today and I just hope we can do so.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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