Saturday, 23 November 2013

Arsenal vs Southampton: Match Preview

After what seems like an age, we finally get to see our Arsenal in action again as we face the Saints at the Emirates Stadium. And while Southampton are in unbelievable and unpredictable form, above Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and the Spuds in the table, this is a game that we really must win today.

I must confess, I haven't really seen any of Southampton's games this season, bar the one where they defeated Liverpool. They were resilient in defence, and played with real determination in preserving that one goal lead at Anfield. They do look like a side that can give a real push for the Europa League this season, and if results go their way, they can find themselves on top of the Premier League at the end of the weekend.

However, this is a team that we really need to beat. With Liverpool facing a rejuvenated Everton, there is a plausibility that they might drop points, and we can go further clear on the top if we manage to defeat Southampton. It won't be easy, as no Premier League match is, but we have to show our newfound quality of grinding out results today if possible, like we did against the Spuds, Crystal Palace and Dortmund.

The odds are in our favour too. The match is in our own stadium, we have Theo back and we have a rested squad, which should be enough to get 3 points today. The only long term injuries are that of Lukas Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby (yes, he still plays for us). It won't be a comfortable ride, but I'm confident that we will get a win today.

In team news, Mathieu Flamini won't play due to receiving 5 yellow cards this season (unexpected, right?) and Arsene Wenger has busted any myths regarding Wilshere suffering any niggling issues during the international fixtures. Even though there is an important Marseille match coming up on Tuesday, I expect to see our strongest possible squad of Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Cazorla and Giroud. Of course, Wenger might put Theo on the bench and/or play Wilshere in the main lineup, but I don't think that those changes will make a huge difference to the result.

It's nice that we have so many options to fall back on in midfield, especially in this time of the season, where there is constant football till March 2014, which is where the next international fixtures butt in. With Podolski only 3 weeks away and the Ox set to return in December and Yaya Sanogo in January, we might have a little bit of reserve depth in the striker area until the winter transfer window arrives.

I have a hunch that we are in for a stellar Arsenal performance, even though Southampton are a team that have produced upsets at Anfield and Old Trafford. This well rested, motivated squad will be raving to consolidate their lead at the top, which is why I'm going for a 3-0 thumping at the Emirates. For now, let's enjoy the return of the Premier League and hope for another Arsenal victory.

Oh, and make sure to catch the Merseyside derby today, it looks to be an exciting match.

P.S. Congratulations to France for overturning the 2-0 loss and qualifying for Brazil. World Cup ambitions can only mean increased motivation for Sagna, Koscielny, Flamini and Giroud.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )