Arsenal Look To Jump Start Their Project Restart With Trip to Southampton – Match Preview
With the project restart fully underway, Arsenal have yet to return to the form that had Arsenal supporters feeling positive prior to the suspension of play. Today they venture to Southampton for their third match away from home and in search of their first win since play resumed.
To say that Arsenal have been floundering would be an understatement. They’ve yet to find any level of consistency. Sure, a lot of it could be cobwebs from the layoff but systemic issues within the team still exist.
Staying on the road, they’re hopeful that they can turn their fortunes around and begin to pick up where they left off back in March. However, being on the road isn’t a friendly situation for the Gunners as they still have only managed two wins away from the Emirates this season.
Typical analysis of Arsenal usually result in phrases like “soft underbelly’ or “lacking the mentality.’ While on their surface they may seem correct, they fail to recognize the real issues. Issues, like underperforming players, an inability to create chances, a midfield that offers no support to Arteta’s desired style of play, etc.
When you look across the variety of stats that relate to Arsenal’s overall performance, it’s astonishing to think that a perennial top tier team is performing as they are. The phrase the “table doesn’t lie” is fitting for Arsenal as they currently sit 8th in the Premier League and it’s supported by all the underlying stats.
For instance, Arsenal are second in the league for losses of possession. Their average per 90 is 90.7 turnovers. 23% of them (20.59) happen in their own third. This has resulted in 35 goals conceded of which only 4 have happened outside the box (and from open play)
As for recovering the ball, Arsenal are dead last in the league with an average per 90 of 64.54 and for a team that likes to supposedly press the ball, they manage only 15% (9.69 per 90) in the final third.
For a team that likes to possess the ball Arsenal still maintain a level of dominance averaging 55.4% possession per match. That puts them 5th in the league behind the team they lost to last week Brighton and Hove Albion. The possession is supported with an average of 440.95 successful passes per 90 (85% success rate) which is 7th in the league.
In terms of other attacking attributes, Arsenal are 11th in the league in passes to the final third (48.73 per 90), 7th in deep completions (9.15 per 90), 9th in progressive passes (68.93 per 90) and 7th in through passes (7.46 per 90). Other offensive stats tell the same story.
Defensively the picture becomes even bleaker. Arsenal are 15th in defensive duels (59.9 per 90), 19th in aerial duels (27.82 per 90), and 18th in loose ball duels (30.66 per 90). Like the offensive stats, the remaining defensive stats reinforce the task ahead of Mikel Arteta.
When taken in their entirety it’s clear to see why Arsenal are where they are. Attacking wise they aren’t creating enough and defensively they aren’t able to effectively protect their goal. If not for the valiant efforts of Bernd Leno, the standings could be a whole lot worse.
There are many reasons why Arsenal find themselves in this state. Two of the most important are we are at the start of Arteta’s reign as head coach and his system hasn’t yet taken hold with the players. Additionally, we have to face it but a few of these players just aren’t good enough.
It’s going to be a tough affair for the Gunners and this match today could be as difficult as the previous two. With the injuries that have plagued the already underperforming backline and the lack of creativity in the midfield, Arteta is struggling to find the players that cohesively can have an impact together.
Southampton have become a bogie team for Arsenal over the years. Typically we’ve had them over the festive fixtures and they’ve had a terrible run of form only for them to welcome Arsenal and suddenly appear as peak Barcelona.
Under manager Ralph Hasehuttl, Southampton are an up and coming side. Attacking wise they look to play direct to their forwards often time looking for a flicked on the second ball. Worryingly for Arsenal, they create most of their goals in the central area of the 18-yard box.
Off the ball, they like to press and they do it quite effectively. Where the press is especially effective is in the middle of the pitch with 42% of their recoveries happening there.
Arsenal need to be wary of the threat posed by Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Working alongside Ward-Prowse as a double pivot, he’s exceptional at reading the play and cutting off opposition passes in the midfield.
It seems likely that Granit Xhaka will return for the Gunners after getting injured early in the match vs. Manchester City. With Southampton looking to press the ball having Xhaka’s ability to ping the ball more directly to the wide players is important in breaking through the Southampton press.
Arsenal need a result. A loss, well, it’s probably best not to discuss but it would all but close the door to any European football. They simply have to come out and give a solid 90 minutes. Perhaps the loss to Brighton will act as a wake up call and spur the team on.
Since we’re talking clichés, it’s the hope that kills.
Southampton 1 – 2 Arsenal
What the Head Coach Says (Courtesy Arsenal.com)
They are a very German side. A manager who has the team into pressing mode, they are really aggressive, really good on the counter-press, really good on the transition, they know what they’re doing and they all seem very committed to him. A very dangerous team.
I think they are really willing and they are trying really hard, and I was really upset because when I was talking about competing it is for 100 minutes, now these types of games have water breaks and the amount of changes with substitutions that you can make, so you have to keep focus. I hate losing, but I hate giving games away when they are under control and you deserve to win them. So it is about that edge,, the way they run, the way they press, the way they care, it is completely changed and I am satisfied with that. We have done more than enough to win that game, but at the end of the day in the Premier League, at this level, if you give something to the opponent in some moments, it is going to be difficult to win football games in a row.
Arsenal record vs Opponent (League only)
41P 22W 12D 7L
Average Goals Scored Per Game
Arsenal: 1.00 (away)
Southampton: 1.07 (home)
Average Goals Conceded Per Game
Arsenal: 1.40 (away)
Southampton: 2.07 (home)
Referee: Graham Scott.
Assistants: Simon Long, Derek Eaton.
Fourth official: Simon Hooper.
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Neil Davies.
Replacement official: Mark Pottage.
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have lost 10 points from winning positions in their 12 Premier League games under Mikel Arteta – as many as they had lost in their previous 36 combined under Freddie Ljungberg and Unai Emery.
- The Gunners’ only victories in 15 league away fixtures this season have come against West Ham and Newcastle.
- They go into this game with a goal difference of zero – they’ve not finished a top-flight season on a negative goal difference since 1975-76.
- One goal in this match for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would see him become the sixth fastest player to reach 50 Premier League goals in what is his 78th appearance.
- However, he could go four league games without a goal for the first time since November 2014.
- Southampton have won three of their past five Premier League home games against Arsenal, more than they had in their previous 12 against them.
- Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first victory as Southampton manager was against the Gunners in December 2018.
- Southampton have only conceded more Premier League goals against Manchester United (82) than they have against Arsenal (76).
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all stats used for this preview are courtesy of WYSCOUT. Additionally, the graphic featured in this report is courtesy Dylan Buesnel (@DylanBusenel) and cannot be reproduced or used without permission from either Mr. Busenel or YouAreMyArsenal.