After the international break, we’re back with a home game vs. Southampton. England and Wales, amongst the four UK sides, have qualified for Euro 2020 outright. Can we get the win here, in our hope to qualify for another competition commencing in 2020 (Champions League)?
If we can, it’s dependent on our tactics, attitude, mentality, and Southampton’s game plan.
Looking back at yesteryear, a certain Dennis Bergkamp opened his account in this fixture, with two top-class strikes in 1995/6 season.
Whilst these were at Soton’s old ground, the Dell, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry both scored their first league goals for us too.
And it was a certain Robin van Persie who scored a late equaliser in this fixture, in the game immediately after our 49-game unbeaten termination at Old Trafford.
So this fixture has some history behind it, to say the least.
As of today, we’re in sixth and Soton is in the relegation zone.
On paper, this may look like a home win. Our form vs. Soton at home is excellent since we haven’t lost to them since the 87/88 season.
In any event, at least in recent seasons, we seldom lose games at home.
But as the cliche says, football isn’t played on paper.
There are several reasons why this is a key game for us to win, and why the league positions between us and Soton mask the reality at hand. Certainly, the ref on the day has had an interesting history officiating both of us:
- Tottenham, Manchester United, West Ham, Wolves et al. on our tail
There are only a few points between 5th/6th and 15th.
Our good friends, with their new and admittedly world-class manager Jose Mourinho, could get a few wins together and move up the table.
United has improved lately, which is impressive since Solksjaer was under serious pressure lately.
Wolves under Espirito Santo are improving, and West Ham too could feature in the top four/Europa League places mix. West Ham for one is under the radar since they do have a manager (Pellegrini) who has won the Premier League before. So he’s no slouch, and will add some pressure.
Let’s not forget Sheffield United, who has been the surprise package thus far. They beat us well, and could do so again vs. Man United on the same weekend we play Soton.
So this game vs. Soton is a pressure game – since if we lose, we could get sucked down into a deeper league position.
Leicester and Chelsea are ahead somewhat – and a win is vital to keep the pace on them. Relying solely on the Europa League can be dangerous, with far less margin of error.
Our rivals will be hoping we remain sluggish, given the relative tightness between us.
Let’s look at our other home games this season.
It’s not all been plain-sailing, it must be said.
The Burnley game was an uneasy win.
The Spurs game saw us fold in the first half, but look good in the second.
Wolves was a poor draw, whilst we were lucky to beat Aston Villa.
Bournemouth was a narrow win, and the Crystal Palace draw was very hot and cold.
The common theme here is not just inconsistency, but a poor defensive structure.
Teams are continually exploiting this – and it has been our attacking strengths that have prevailed. Auba being captain should be a reward for his continuous strikes – since without them we’d be in far worse issues.
Southampton WILL analyse our games thus far, and look for a plan.
And Emery – as the supposed “tactical master” – must try and anticipate this and plan accordingly.
We have better players than Soton, even though our structure is poor.
And given our home form, we should win this.
But whether we do or not is down to not making mistakes and being balanced throughout.
This means no Luiz howlers.
No Torreira being a neo-Ozil and playing high up the pitch.
No Guendouzi not tracking runners.
And no passing-from-the-back blunders either.
If we can get these on point, I believe we can get the win here.
Whether Xhaka will start or even feature is moot.
But it’s imperative that Torreira MUST play in his defined role. And not as the next Ozil or a prime Bergkamp.
I get why he’s playing in an advanced role these days. He is adept at breaking up play, and this can help Auba, Laca, and Pepe get chances.
But then this leaves our midfield exposed.
And Soton WILL have some kind of plan here.
Their best chance to win this is to exploit our well-known weaknesses since they cannot out-pass or out-play us. Villa and Wolves did this well. Spurs did this well to some extent.
So Southampton will have no choice, given their league position, to not press our midfield and use runners in this space.
An imbalanced middle-third could cost us dearly, and even though our head coach has to leave, he would lengthen his stay if he resolved this issue.
This game is a perfect place to gain more credit.
I expect Ozil to play, and whatever beef (if any even existed) between him and Emery seemingly has evaporated.
This may be a good game to play him in, as we’d have more of the ball, and Soton whilst pressing us and utilising our gaps would be resolute at the back. So we’d need Ozil to unlock their defence and find the runs of Auba.
A free-flowing game, which referee Atwell usually officiates, could suit Ozil well here.
Look, he has to go.
But – IF he is to say. And that’s a mammoth IF – then getting a win here is the first step to any kind of “redemption”. At best, it would only forestall the inevitable, but then a loss would surely mean he HAS to go that night. Or even at the weekend at the very most.
He’s on his last legs at the club – and the only way he can save himself is a monumental shift in tactical deployment and mentality. A convincing win vs. Soton wouldn’t get everybody on his side – far from it. But it would ease some tensions. And IF he can sustain better performances over the long haul, it may cool hostility towards him.
That said, I see little evidence he can change or correct our long-standing flaws. And as said, a win vs. Soton is too limited to say he’s our man again.
Emery may like the referee’s judgments here and not be annoyed in his post-match interviews:
I’m not UEFA Pro licenced coach like “el jefe” but this would be my side for the game:
Pepe is a doubt due to an extended international travel period, but the only injuries are Ceballos and Kolasinac.
I’d favour a midfield diamond since we need to control the midfield and plugin key areas that Soton can exploit.
I wouldn’t play Luiz here since I feel it’s time Chambers came back in his natural position.
Laca and Auba can now resume their partnership – and Ozil will play in his natural role.
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton
I feel they will have a game plan and we have to watch how they’ll exploit our spaces.
But then we should have enough firepower to handle them.
Our good friends are playing at West Ham and could win there. United are at Sheff. United and whilst we lost there, it doesn’t mean Ole and company would too.
Chelsea faces Man City, and Pep may be keen to get City back firing, especially after losing ground to Liverpool. Chelsea though has looked good under Lampard, and it won’t be a rollover for Pep by any stretch. Brighton faces Leicester and given the Foxes’ prowess, it could be happy visiting for Leicester. They too would be confident of top-four football and need the win to sustain this.
So it’s imperative we get the win here – as if not we could join the Saints in a relegation battle.
It may seem extreme but then the table is unprecedentedly packed this year, and a few wins or defeats in coming games could spell trouble or success.
MarbleHallsTV is an Arsenal social media account on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Been a Gooner since the 90s, inspired by Ian Wright, then Bergkamp, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Campbell, Rosicky, Koscielny, Ozil and Sanchez. A digital marketer/entrpreneur by profession, born in UK living in the Americas now.