Good afternoon all. It’s Saturday and after a few weeks without genuinely competitive football we today find ourselves playing against an extremely strong Southampton side. They’ve been somewhat of a revelation since they came back into the league a few years ago, largely down to their impressive style of play.
The sacking of former manager Nigel Adkins was questionable at the time and the decision to replace him with the fairly unknown Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino was dubious to say the least. However his tactics and training techniques have sure paid off as they currently sit third in the table with the best defensive record in the league. They’ve conceded just five goals all season so far which is twice as good as our own record of 10.
They’re an extremely strong and stable team with form on their side and an opponent that cannot be underestimated. Wenger very rightly points out that they cannot be ruled out as top four contenders, saying
You cannot rule anybody out, if they can keep the defensive record they have then they can be very ambitious.
The team plays together now for a long time. They have a very good defensive record, they have the best defence in the league. That is the best basis to be consistent.
Although realistically you can’t see them maintaining their position over the course of the entire season you also can’t rule it out. Stranger things have happened in football, that’s for sure. For us to break down this strong defensive unit that has been built up so far this season, we’re going have to make sure our passing, movement and pressing is at it’s best. There will be no room for errors in this game – particularly in front of goal. I can’t see us getting too many opportunities, so when we do get them it’s vital that we put the ball in the net.
The team news ahead of the game isn’t particularly shocking, it’s very much a team we all expected and one that’s quite similar to the one fielded against United. Today we’ll see the team lineup as follows
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
Ramsey Ozil Cazorla
That side has more than enough ability to break down Southampton, especially at home. We have a couple of options on the bench too in Rosicky and Monreal, not to mention the return of Theo Walcott whose pace will be deadly if utilised in the final half hour of the game. We’re going to have to be tactically superior today and remain completely focused if we want to pick up all three points. Southampton themselves will be looking to get at least a point, so expecting them to park the bus just because they’ve got a good defensive record is wide of the mark.
A lot of talk has been on Wilshere over the last few days and his injury record so far this season. It’s a bit frustrating because every time he takes a knock or goes down it’s almost as if every newspaper in the country is waiting to write an article on how he’s picked up another injury. However Wenger has said that he has no worries about his fitness long term and it’s all very much precautionary the majority of the time. He said
We play 60 games per year and he will certainly have to be managed, unless his pains go completely then he will be used when needed. If there is an alert on his ankles, we will of course take advice from the medical department and use him when he can really be used.
I have no concern, I have been told by the medical team that there is no concern in the long-term. He is just still recovering from his inflammation. It is hard [to hold Jack back] but we have 25 players in the squad and we can deal with that problem.
I guess what Wenger is trying to highlight is that there’s no need to force him to play through injury. We play a lot of games a season and we have other options in midfield, so why risk Jack’s fitness and health? Providing the medical team give the go-ahead and so does he, then let him play. I think Wilshere is quite clearly still returning to his former self and all we need to do is be patient. He has the talent no doubt, he just needs to find his stride again and it’s nothing more than that – just like Aaron Ramsey has shown.
One player who’s fitness is being tested at the club is the legend himself Thierry Henry. The 36-year-old striker is currently training with the club to maintain his fitness levels whilst the MLS is in its close season and will no doubt be feeling the Arsenal love right now. When he returned a few years back and scored that goal against Leeds, it was a moment of pure magic. It was the kind of stuff footballing stories are born out of. He’s returned again and although there’s no rumours of another return, I can’t help but ask the question would it be all that bad?
Henry is nowhere near the player he was however look at our options. Giroud… Bendtner? I mean ask yourself this – would you rather an aged legend who’ll wear his heart on his sleeve and give everything he’s got when he plays, or a bigheaded brat that doesn’t even know where the goal is? Of course I still want us to sign a striker in January because neither are ideal choices, but I’m just trying to weigh them up against each other.
When Bendtner comes on, the fans belief drops and it wouldn’t surprise me if the teams does as well. When Henry came on against Leeds, the stadium was full of optimism, anticipation and excitement. Henry doesn’t have the legs anymore but he hasn’t lost his ability to finish or read the game – he’d still get goals I have no doubt of it. However the biggest benefit he’d have is purely mental. He’d raise the fans, the players and scare our opponents, by just being on the pitch. That’s invaluable in games and something which you won’t get from Nicklas ‘The Shit That Will Not Flush’ Bendtner.
Anyway, it’s something for you to mull over ahead of the game. I highlighted Santi Cazorla speaking to the press in yesterday’s blog about being excited over Ozil joining but I only linked to a segment of the article. I came across the full interview since and I massively recommend giving it a read. I love Santi, he’s such a happy chap, don’t ya think?
My prediction for the game is 2-0. I get the feeling it’ll be a tough game with limited chances but we’ll take two and put out a strong defensive performance ourself. I think we can all agree that the final scoreline isn’t important nor is the game, just so long as we get all three points.
Here’s to hopefully getting them three points and showing that the United game won’t be stopping our title challenging credentials.
COME ON YOU GOONERS!