Connect with us

Match Previews

Match Preview: Arsenal v Southampton; Looking to defy expectations again

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Arsenal take the pitch tonight to once again see if they can maintain their hold on the top of the Premier League Table. Sounds pretty familiar? It’s probably the consistent theme of every match preview available. But hey what can you do – when the storyline is this good it pretty much writes itself.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Arsenal take the pitch tonight to once again see if they can maintain their hold on the top of the Premier League Table. Sounds pretty familiar? It’s probably the consistent theme of every match preview available. But hey what can you do – when the storyline is this good it pretty much writes itself.

It’s weird thinking that the last league match was a week and a half ago. The gaps in between some of the league matches this year has been unreal (Jose must love me for saying that.) It does seem like an eternity since the match and part of that is a personal thing as it was the match I was at and the trip to London does seem so long ago.

The second half of the season is well underway and Arsenal continue to defy the odds. No one expected them to be here and every week we are deluged with the fact that “this will be the week that Arsenal slip up.” Yet, week in and week out, our boys go out there and just keep finding ways to win.

They aren’t an overwhelming force like City. No, City are scoring goals aplenty but they also are leaking plenty of goals – thank goodness they can score so many. Arsenal aren’t at all like this and to some this is the biggest reason why Arsenal seem destined to fall eventually.

I disagree. Yes, I am biased but even if I weren’t and I tried to put an objective lens on this team, Arsenal are performing with a methodical approach to each match. We’re all a little frustrated when it takes the better part of a half a game to get the first goal. But Arsenal and Arsene Wenger knows how teams primarily set up against them.

It means we have to be patient in our play looking for ways through two banks of defending players who are hell bent on cutting off the passing lanes to Arsenal quick and fluid style of play. Inevitably Arsenal seem to tire out their opponent by having them chase balls. This leads to openings and when they are there Arsenal are making it count when they need to. There are missed chances as well but the Gunners always seem to find a goal when they need it this season.

Then they shut up shop. And in the past this would be extremely worrisome but now it seems commonplace. Since letting in 6 versus Manchester City in December Arsenal have only allowed 2 goals in 8 matches (6 league and 2 FA Cup). That two goals coming in 2-1 and 3-1 wins over Aston Villa and West Ham respectively.

Manchester City and Chelsea are the odds on favorites for the title because they are flashy, spent cash on big players ( a lot of big players) and they aren’t Arsenal. While I don’t prescribe to a particular train of thought that there is anti-Arsenal conspiracy in the English Press, it’s hard to ignore that lack of credibility Arsene Wenger and his team have gotten in terms of contending for the title.

That may be good. It’s better they continue to do things under the radar. It’s better to have internally high expectations but externally let everyone doubt. If they win something it’s so much sweeter and if they don’t it’s what everyone expected anyway.

Frankly I think Arsenal will be in it to the end. Like everyone else the February through March list of fixtures is where the title will be decided. It’s a rough run of games with the Champion’s League and FA Cup thrown in for good measure.

But today, it’s all about whom we play and it’s the trip to St. Mary’s for our second match against Southampton. When Southampton visited Arsenal they were the darlings of the league, having only lost once before their visit to the Emirates.

It would be a patient and hardworking Arsenal that came out of that day with the win. Who can forget Artur Boruc trying to execute a Cryuff turn and Olivier Giroud robbing him blind. OOPS. Even before that moment, Arsenal were clearly the better squad. There were clear chances including a chance that rattled wood work.

Now Arsenal take to the road and the Southampton team they are facing aren’t the darlings anymore and based on external issues they look a little in disarray. They also aren’t looking good on the pitch having gone 2-0 up to Sunderland only to watch the blackcats come back and draw.

Additionally they have their own series of injuries and doubts. Rickie Lambert faces a late fitness test but they will definitely be without starting Centre Back Dejan Lovren who suffered an ankle injury. Gaston Ramierez is out for the home side with injury and Pablo “Kal” Osvaldo is suspended by the team for his intra-team fracas.

For Arsenal Jack Wilshere faces a late fitness test on his dodgy ankle but Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen are all available for squad selection. I don’t expect any to start as it’s been Wenger’s practice to not automatically throw those players returning from long layoffs right back into the squad.

That means we could be faced with an interesting midfield section. My preference for the lineup is shown below in our weekly lineup projects. Oxlade Chamberlain is back to health and this could be a chance for him to slot in next to Flamini. If I were setting the team up, I’d push Santi to the right side and have Podolski on the left.

Against Fulham the energy and purpose that Arsenal were showing when Podolski was introduced was amazing. Against Coventry his playing off of Ozil resulted in what I thought it would – lots of opportunities. This is why I’d go with Podolski and Santi out wide.

Ultimately that decision is Wenger’s and there is plenty enough talent available to him to put a squad that should do quite well on the road. Hell, we are the best road team or tied for the best road team so far this season.

We can’t discount that Southampton will be a fairly organized team and with their desire to play open, fluid football, they will look likely to create issues for Arsenal. But I am giving the edge to us because (I’m biased) frankly this Southampton squad were humming when they came to the Emirates and we made it look easier than it should’ve been. Again I would urge none of us to look past this opponent but I do believe Arsenal will have more than enough to go home with the win.

Projected Lineups:
Arsenal v Southampton, Projected Lineups, Arsenal, Arsenal FC, AFC, Southampton, Soton, Barclay's Premier League, Premier League, English Premier League, EPL, BPL, Match Preview, Soccer, Football, Association Football, Footie, Arsene Wenger, Wenger, Emirates Stadium

Injuries & suspensions:
Arsenal: Walcott (knee)  Diaby (knee),  Wilshere (ankle – late fitness)

Southampton: G Ramierez (ankle) Lovren (ankle) Wanyama (knee – late fitness test)

Match Official:
Referee: Lee Mason (Matches: 9. R0 Y28 PK 2)
Assistants: Collin, Long
Fourth Official: Williamson

Head to Head:
Arsenal v Southampton, Head to Head, Statistics, Stats, Arsenal, Arsenal FC, AFC, Southampton, Soton, Barclay's Premier League, Premier League, English Premier League, EPL, BPL, Match Preview, Soccer, Football, Association Football, Footie, Arsene Wenger, Wenger, Emirates Stadium

Broadcast Information:
US: NBC Sports Extra 2:45 PM EST

UK:  Not listed

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 3

Southampton: 1

Match Facts (courtesy FourFourTwo)

  • Southampton have won just 1 of their last 5 home games and have failed to beat Arsenal in their last 8 Premier League meetings.
  • However, they have lost just 1 of their seven home matches against top-six teams since the start of last season (W3 D3 L1).
  • Arsenal have won their last 5 league matches and have the best away record in the league this season (W8 D1 L2).
  • The Gunners have the best defensive record, with City the only team to score more than once against Mertesacker & Co. when on the road this season.
  • Arsenal have won 9 of their previous 11 away encounters at middle-third teams, opening the scoring in 8 of their last 10 such matches.
  • Arsenal have hit the target with 53% of their shots this season, the best accuracy rate in the Barclays Premier League.
  • Southampton have been level at half-time in their last four home matches
  • The Gunners have scored more headed goals (9) than any other team in the top division; these goals have come from seven different players.
  • 68% of the goals Arsenal have conceded this season have been shipped in the second half of games; the highest proportion in the top flight.
  • Southampton have conceded first in their last three matches against top-six teams
  • Arsenal have won five and lost none of their last eight Premier League games against Southampton, but have won just one of the last four trips to St Mary’s (W1 D2 L1).
  • Since their return to the top flight, Saints have played Arsenal three times and the Gunners have not picked up a single card in those matches.
  • Arsenal have had loss/loss results in their last six away defeats
  • Jack Wilshere has scored (one) or assisted (three) four of Arsenal’s last five Premier League goals.
  • Only one team has managed to score more than one goal against Arsenal in their last 21 Premier League matches (Man City 6-3 Arsenal).
  • Southampton have had more goals in the second half in their last three home matches
  • Southampton conceded just five goals in their opening 11 Premier League games, but have shipped 20 in the last 11 with that run starting with a 0-2 defeat against Arsenal in November.
  • The last time Southampton beat Arsenal was in November 2002, with a James Beattie brace helping them to a 3-2 win at St Mary’s.

 

More in Match Previews