02 February 2016

Tactical Preview: Arsenal v. Southampton

After three disappointing Prem results, we finally got back to winning ways in an FA Cup win over Burnley. Offering a nifty study in parallel universes, Southampton have bounced back from an FA Cup loss with three impressive Prem results. Something's got to give. Here's hoping it's the Saints' little win streak (each of them a clean sheet, by the way). After dropping seven points from our last three matches, we have to get back to winning ways in the Prem. Leicester host Liverpool while Man City visit Sunderland. There may not be quite enough to see us climb top of the table, but we'll have to at least keep pace...

Season after season, Southampton have pulled off miracles of varying sizes. Every summer, it seems, they see their best and brightest leave—but they still manage to reload. Even in the summer of 2014 when it looked like Liverpool hoovered up their entire squad, Southampton stayed in the top four deep into the the 2014-15 campaign. However, this season seems to have reached a tipping point, as the Saints can no longer catch lightning in a bottle. The departures of Schneiderlin, Clyne, and Boruc deprived their defense of an anchor or two, but this is a squad long-accustomed to such bittersweet departures.

Meanwhile, we at Arsenal have the ill-breeding to look various gift-horses in the mouth, with Chambers firmly rooted to the bench (FA Cup-ties notwithstanding) and Walcott and Ox taking turns as the horse to be flogged to death. What Southampton's fans might give to have one or two of them back...then again, given their uneven performances of late, maybe Southampton are better off without pinning their hopes to such mercurial talents? In place of those perenially potentially potent players, Southampton have assembled a squad still-capable of rattling a few cages; witness their win at Old Trafford ten days ago. Set aside any snark at Man U's expense (satisfying though it may be); Southampton showed that they can get a result when they want to, even away from St. Mary's. New signings like Austin, van Dijk, and Soares give them a firm foundation. For as apparently disappoint as they've been to this point, a win on Tuesday, combined with the right results elsewhere, elevate them to sixth, just a few points off the pace for European competitions.

Then again, we are also reloading, with a raft of LANSes to boost our campaign. The clash with Burnley saw the returns of Alexis and Coquelin, about as talismanic as a pair can be. Our lineup against Burnley saw nine changes from the side that faced (and lost to) Chelsea; that's almost on a par with the number of players Southampton sees leave each summer. Yes, that's a bit hyperbolic, but only slightly. We've been bloodied but unbowed over the last few weeks, but it looks like we're off the ropes and ready to give as good as we've gotten recently.

Southampton are a proud squad that hits above its weight more often than anyone would ever expect, but I have a feeling that they just can't contend with a full-strength Arsenal side. Oh, yeah...there is the small matter of a certain 4-0 hiding that we suffered on our last visit to St. Mary's Stadium. I wonder if anyone on the Arsenal side draw any extra motivation from that...

LAST 3
  • Southampton 4-0 Arsenal (26.12.2015)
  • Southampton 2-0 Arsenal (01.01.2015)
  • Arsenal 1-0 Southampton (03.12.2014)
FACTFILE
  • These two clubs first clashed on 26 December 1966, a 4-1 win to Arsenal.
  • Arsenal are undefeated in 10 of 11 home matches against Southampton.
  • Under matches refereed by Lee Mason, Arsenal have won both of their matches; Southampton lost their only one.
INJURIES
  • Wilshere, Welbeck, Cazorla, and Rosický have all been ruled out.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Čech; Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Bellerín; Coquelin, Ramsey; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.
PREDICTION
  • Arsenal face a must-win situation and are gathering strength; Southampton will struggle to contend.
  • Arsenal 3-1 Southampton.