The international break is finally over, and the Premier League resumes this weekend as we take on Southampton on Saturday. Having just lost to Man United in our last game and having played a lot of tough fixtures, the break was perhaps welcome for most of the side. There are no new injuries to report of after the break which has been a cause for concern over past seasons but we can go into the weekend with things looking pretty positive. We’re still top of the table but we’ll be welcoming an inform Southampton side who are sitting pretty in third place. This will be, by no means an easy game.
Mauricio Pochettino has done an extremely good job with this Southampton side and they have become an extremely attacking side under him. Arsenal, as we fully know are very quick on the attack too so this could be a very open game. It has all the characteristics of being a cracker. However, the Saints are aiming for a first League win at Arsenal in 18 matches, a record that stretches back to November 1987. Since then we’ve won 13 and drawn 5 against them, a particularly good omen going into this weekend’s game. Last season we demolished them 6-1 at home where they were particularly bad but the reverse game ended in a draw. Of late, a draw between these two sides has been a familiar theme with 3 of their last 4 games against each other ending in stalemates.
With Arsenal top of the table, you wouldn’t think that the team could get any better. It can though, and the man to make it better is Theo Walcott. He is returning from a two month lay-off this weekend and should add an extra dimension to the side that we’ve been missing of late. Theo will be in action against his former club which should give him extra motivation going into the game as well as having not played in a while. Walcott’s pace has been hugely missed lately. We’ve missed his runs in behind massively and it’s something which has often been a feature of our play over recent seasons. In previous months we’ve been restricted out-wide though due to our 3 main wingers being out injured. With Walcott back in the squad we’ll be able to stretch teams more in our attacking play. A player that should benefit hugely from the English wingers return is Mesut Ozil. The German has been a little quiet in recent matches but with Theo returning he should be able to play some of his killer through balls into Walcott to hopefully finish off. Those two could be a potent force if they manage to link up well.
A deeper look into Southampton this season suggests that they’ll be difficult to break down. They’ve only conceded 5 goals and kept 6 clean-sheets in the League this season, one of the best records in Europe. They’ve already beaten Liverpool and held Man United to a draw away from home this campaign so they’ll be going into Saturday’s fixture pretty confident that they’ll be able to get a result. As well as them being solid at the back they’re pretty good on the attack too. The fact that Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana are now in the England squad outlines that and shows the excellent relationship those three have together. Southampton’s balance is a strong one and we could have trouble getting through their defensive midfield pairing of Schneiderlin and Wanyama if West Brom is anything to go by. Mulumbu and Yacob were brilliant when we faced them and we’ve had trouble against sides that have parked their midfielders in a space where we like to play into. If you fancy having a flutter on the game be sure to check out 888sport.com for the best odds.
Compared to recent games our line-up I think will look a little different. Per Mertesacker is returning having missed the last game through illness. He scored for Germany in the week so he could have extra confidence going into the game. Koscielny didn’t have such a good break, giving away a penalty and being sent off for France. However their partnership shouldn’t be affected by what’s happened. Mathieu Flamini will miss the game having picked up 5 yellow cards and will serve a suspension. Tomas Rosicky may also miss the game through a continued illness but Wenger thinks he should be OK to be in the squad.
Expected line-up: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Wilshere, Rosicky/Jenkinson, Gnabry, Bendtner.
This game will be an incredibly hard one to predict in my opinion and will really depend on what side turns up on the day. Both sides are in good form and are both attacking threats. Arsenal have home advantage but as we’ve seen, Southampton have beaten some of the best teams in the League away from home this season.
By Matt Dawson