Arsenal-Southampton. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Giroud or Theo (or Both) Up Top? What Will

Wenger Do?  What would you do?

Arsenal seek revenge for the Boxing Day drubbing on the South Coast.  How do we do it?

The transfer window is closed and Arsenal have bought one player, Mohamed Elneny, who Gooners finally got to see in action just a couple of days ago in the FA Cup vs Burnley.  He cost somewhere between 5 and 7.4 million pounds, depending on how his time at Arsenal proceeds.  Compare that with teams like Newcastle and Stoke who spent more than double those amounts.  The message is clear:  Arsene Wenger believes in the squad he has, now it’s all about that group getting results.

Ronald Koeman’s Southampton team handed us our worst defeat of the season, a decidedly one-sided, 4-nil, beat-down on Boxing Day.  Do we fear this team because of that result or does it provide extra motivation for reversing that one?

I think it will be the latter.  The home crowd could help, the addition of Alexis Sanchez and Francis Coquelin should help and the simple pride of the Gunners mean that Southampton should be on their guard.

Moreover, this is just about a must-win match for Arsenal given their disappointing results in the league in January.  After squeaking a 1-nil win at home vs Newcastle they drew at both Liverpool and Stoke City before losing to Chelsea the Sunday before last.  Five points from twelve has taken the team from the top of the league to third.  With a weekend match at the other South Coast club, Bournemouth AFC, followed by a real six-pointer hosting current league leaders Leicester City on St. Valentine’s day, getting this next section of the league campaign off on the correct foot is essential.

Southampton, perhaps still hung over from their great win on Boxing Day, suffered a couple of set-backs, losing at West Ham and Norwich, before reversing course and finding much better form.  Convincing home wins vs Watford (2-nil) and West Brom (3-nil) set the stage to steal the full points from Manchester United up at Old Trafford with another clean sheet in the last round.  Their new signing, Charlie Austin, who cost less than Elneny, got the late winner in that one.

Austin’s smash and grab was big but an even bigger reason for the improved form (and the run of clean sheets) is the return of the Man-Mountain, goalkeeper Fraser Forster.  We all know some of the other strong players up and down the spine of this Saints team.  Virgil van Dijk, Jose Fonte, Victor Wanyama, Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane are the sorts of players many teams–including Arsenal–have inquired about over the years.  Shane Long is probably too old and far too cynical for the more refined tastes of many Arsenalistas, but we saw what he can do, especially if a referee turns a blind eye to his, er, gamesmanship.  If we do not show up ready to match Southampton in all parts of the pitch and all elements of the game, they can punish us.  It might also help if referee Lee Mason doesn’t forget his whistle.

How do we insure we get the performance that will get us the result?  For me, it starts at the back.  Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal–all rested vs Burnley–will surely be restored to the squad and will need to perform.  So too will the central triangle of our center backs and our deepest lying midfielder.  Some might argue against Per Mertesacker, but I think he comes right back into the team after serving his one-match ban for the red card Diego Costa won against him in the Chelsea match.  Laurent Koscielny, although he had some iffy moments of his own vs Burnley, surely starts alongside, and Coquelin must reprise his 70+minutes from the cup match.

Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, both rested for that one, will certainly come in, with Ramsey sure to relish the more mobile Coquelin behind him.  The real question comes up front.  I’m guessing that Giroud takes a bench seat, much as he did when sacrificed after we went down to ten men vs Chelsea.  That means Alexis on the right, Theo up top and Joel Campbell wide right.  It looks like this:

Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud

Or maybe not.  Elneny could go again and Ramsey could go back to that free role on the right at Campbell’s expense.  Theo could play there as well with Giroud up front in what might be an extremely attacking line-up.  Who knows?  Only Arsene…

What do you think and how would you approach this one?  It feels like a critical match, both to restore some of the pride we shipped down their way the day after Christmas and to get the business end of the season back on a winning trajectory.  Five points separates the top four teams and fifth place, but that same number of points is all that covers one through four.  We need to win our home games if we hope to get back on top.  So, a big atmosphere, plenty of commitment and a strong performance… And a big dose of revenge for the Saints.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

15 thoughts on “Arsenal-Southampton. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Giroud or Theo (or Both) Up Top? What Will

  • Fine match preview with a detailed insight in to the qualities of the Saints team and their recent run of results. Koeman has done an amazing job to give his team a through-start over the last one and a half season: from selling almost everybody to doing so well for so long last season and now stabilising the club. The fact that we are weary of them says enough.

    I like the line up but am pretty sure the man in form, Giroud, will start up top and Alexis and Theo probably start too. I would play Campbell over Theo. Agreed regarding rest of the team, although Wenger may start Flamini over Coquelin to ease in the younger Frenchman.

    Yes a big game for us. Not just for three points and getting back to the top but also for building new momentum and belief.

    Come on you Rip Roaring Gunners! 💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥

  • Hi all..
    I hope Gabriel play.. He must play more often with Kos.. This couple are our hope.. The more they play together, the more they will know each other better.. It’s not about Soton or Leicester guys.. It’s about Barca.. Mertesaker won’t fit Barca’s players.. He will only get another red.

    I love and also hated Wanyama.. We know he is a beast.. Big and strong.. And I don’t think one Coq will be enough.. So Elneny must play together.. Campbell must drop for Ramsey to take place..

    Hard to see Walcott playing for CF after 3 under performed games.. He will be on our bench.. Hope he still get 20 minutes time..

    Soton is another wall.. If we lost point again.. We will lost our trophy..
    No Hehehe this time.. It’s a serious game for our teams.. Our glory.. So be serious.. Win it.. Go Gunners..

  • Trying to second-guess Koeman, could be problematic…

    Will he park the proverbial , therefore nullifying any impact Walcotts pace would have?
    Or will he have a go?

    Koeman seems to have a pretty good record against Wenger.
    So I suspect that this is gonna be one of those tactical, ‘suck ’em in and mug them off ‘ on the break or dead ball, then park the bus jobs…

    An early Arsenal goal would change the whole games dynamics, otherwise I suspect that it’s going to be a frustrating evening…

    A narrow Arsenal win or a draw…

  • I don’t think Monsieur Wenger will be taking angry chances tonight. Therefore


    Bellerin. Kos. BFG. Nacho


    Campbell Ozil. Alexis


    Le Coq to appear after 70 minutes

    I think the next two games it will be a case of taking care of the new boy, out to impress. Austin tonight and Afobe on Saturday

    2. – 1. Arsenal.. Not a must win but pretty close to

  • The result is important, Kev, but so is the performance. I am not sure whether the Gunners celebrate Imbolc today but a ‘dawn of a new beginning’ approach is very much needed. COYG! 🙂

  • If Theo starts Total, then he needs a performance…
    Since his brilliant ManCity goal he’s been decidedly average, imho…

    If he has anything about him, he’ll have noticed that Wenger has got a few more options and that his place in the side is, in those immortal 1989 words, ‘Up for grabs now’.

    I still like Theo, but he can be annoyingly unreliable.

    But as you say, COYRRG 😃

  • Elneny not even on the bench, Flamini replaced Le Coq, at least Mert is on the bench alongside Theo and The Ox.

  • Close eyes on getting the right balance in midfield and overcoming/overwhelming Southampton with the required high level intensity and focus. Good luck team, go gunners!

  • Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Campbell, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud. Subs: Gibbs, Mertesacker, Ospina, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chambers, Coquelin.

    Southampton: Forster, Cedric Soares, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Wanyama, Mane, Long, Tadic. Subs: Yoshida, Clasie, Martina, Pelle, Juanmi, Stekelenburg, Targett.

    Not so good this time with the line-up and very surprised with the ones I missed: Flamini, Gabriel and Giroud…

    We’ll see… If Ozil, Alexis, Giroud and Ramsey make and take those chances, all should be OK…

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