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MATCH PREVIEW: CAN ARSENAL TURN IT AROUND AT SOUTHAMPTON?

After the dismal performance last week, and back-to-back defeats, Arsenals season now hangs in the balance. While every match during the season is important, Arsenal are in must-win territory when the travel to Southampton this weekend. Confidence is at a seasons low right now, with the past performances and the injury woes a reminder to fans that nothing is given in the Premier League.

About the Opponents

I got 3 games on my notepad. Two of those we lost against teams that read us early and set out to upset us early on. I was second guessing writing notes on Southampton, because while they are enduring a bad spell, no doubt this is the game where Broja burst to life and add to the 3 goals the Saints has scored in the last 7 games. He might even be out with a season ending injury, I’m sure he’s going to come in on crutches and manage to score.

Southampton sets up in a somewhat changing 442 formation, where the role of Elyounoussi has the freedom to roam centrally and play as more of a central attacking midfielder, allowing Walker-Peters to bomb forward. The 442 can form into a somewhat 4141 in buildup, using Romeu to drop slightly back and allow the fullbacks to join the offensive.

When attacking, Southampton likes to use their wide areas early, trying to set up overlaps for Livramento and Walker-Peters to get towards the byline and cross it in. While Livramento usually try to get a cross in, Walker-Peters has a habit of trying to cut in early and find a pass on the edge of the box towards either one of the inverted wingers or a midfielder moving forward. That being said, the Saints are struggling find a consistent goal threat, only scoring 35 during this season, while allowing the opponent to net 51.

 Early build-up, fullbacks moving slightly forward while Romeou looking to drop slightly deeper

When defending, Hassenhüttl’s men try to engage high up the pitch, trying to force turnovers, using the industrious work ethic of Che Adams and Elyounoussi, committing 3-4 players to the high pressure. Should the opposition move through them, Southampton try to without a variant of the 442, tucking in the fullbacks, letting the wingers engage early and tucking in the opposite fullback and winger. The Saints do tend to stretch their chains somewhat, leaving a lot of room to run through the middle in transition.

 Southampton pressuring high up the pitch with 3-4 people in the first press

When defending against Southampton, Arsenal should look to lock down their wide areas early on, possibly letting Elyounoussi to be man marked at all time. Furthermore, picking up late runners and denying them the possibility to get a free shot on a cutback would be greatly appreciated.

 Typical 244 buildup formation, both fullbacks moving up, giving the wingers the chance to move slightly central

When attacking Southampton, I’d actually go against the usual channels and focus on moving the ball quickly through central areas. For all Romeu and Ward-Prowse give, they do lack the athleticism to lock down runners, so slipping an inverted winger inside early, could force open space wide, as fullbacks drag centrally to deny the threat.

 Rather stretched centrally

We should have this in the bag, but we need to actually do the entirety of the delivery and not just the putting-the-match-inside-the-bag part. Be smart, work centrally, force the opposition to either stretch the pitch or drop deeper. And don’t give up a free kick for the love of whatever!

What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)

I think it’s related to our history and we want to be not fourth, but third, second or first, and that’s what we have to do. That’s always within every supporter and anybody who has any connection with the club, so the moment you see the team doing better and having better aspirations, your tendency is to get excited about it and I think that’s the right reaction.

I said that the performance in the first half it was unacceptable, because I saw things that I didn’t see for a long time. I saw a big reaction in the second half, but we didn’t put the game into a situation where we could still get something out of it. Against Brighton it was different, it was not an attitudinal thing, it was something else. Again it wasn’t good enough, and we didn’t perform at the level that we should do. We are trying to change things, but not too many things because there are a lot of things that are working.

Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League only)

25 W 13 D 7 L

Goals Scored (Season Average)

Arsenal (Away): 1.42

Southampton (Home): 1.25

Goals Conceded (Season Average)

Arsenal (Away): 1.57

Southampton (Home): 1.25

xG per Match (via fbref.com)

Arsenal (Away): 1.3

Southampton (Home): 1.33

Match Officials

Referee: Peter Bankes

Assistants: Neil Davies, Timothy Wood

Fourth Official: Andre Marriner

VAR: Stuart Attwell

Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis

Match Facts (courtesy bbc.co.uk)

  • Arsenal have lost three of their past four Premier League matches, having previously lost just one of 11.
  • A win would ensure Arsenal become the third club to record 250 Premier League away victories, emulating Manchester United and Chelsea.
  • Mikel Arteta’s side have lost seven of eight Premier League games when conceding first this season.
  • Alexandre Lacazette has been involved in seven goals in his past six Premier League appearances against Southampton, scoring five and setting up two.
  • Bukayo Saka has been Arsenal’s most prolific shooter (72) and chance creator (56) in the Premier League this season. He is the only English player to have registered more than 50 shots and 50 chances created in the top flight in 2021-22.
  • Saka has had five goals and an assist in Arsenal’s last six Premier League away matches.

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