Southampton-Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Saints Took Points at Anfield as Arsenal Must Take Them at St. Mary’s.

Thank you very much, Southampton, for your work over the weekend.  Drawing nil-nil at Liverpool a couple of hours before we were able to eke out victory vs Manchester United improves our slim chances of a Top-4 finish.  A special shout-out should go to goalkeeper Fraser Forster for his save on this spot-kick by James Milner.  Well done, Indeed.

Now we must hope that Forster and the Saints have had their fill of these sorts of heroics and ask that they welcome Arsenal to St. Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday night with slightly more generosity.  While we remember fondly our last trip there–a 5-nil win over a much-rotated So’ton squad in the 3rd round of the FA Cup back in January–we must also know that Southampton is unlikely to present such an easy challenge this time.

The deep rotation for that game was due to Southampton’s congested schedule and their focus on getting to the League Cup final–which they managed to do, again at Liverpool’s expense.   This one will surely see a much stronger squad and a fully determined effort as the Saint’s try to extract themselves from a large group in mid-table and get up for another strong league finish.  They’re currently sit 10th in the table on 42 points, but, like Arsenal, they have two make-up games in hand, and, should they be able to secure enough points, an 8th place finish seems well within reach.  Such a finish would cap a strong first year for Manager Claude Puel and suggest more to come next season.

Arsenal, of course, are even more focused on finishing their league campaign as best they can.  The Gunners need to keep winning their matches while hoping either Liverpool or Manchester City stumble sufficiently to allow them into the Champions League places.  A strong finish would also bode well for that extra game at Wembley, the FA Cup final against the presumptive league champions, Chelsea.  Meanwhile, the futures of Manager Arsene Wenger and our two most expensive buys, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, will be determined over the summer.  Surely the results of these remaining matches will go a long way towards creating an atmosphere that might tilt some of the big decisions at hand.

As always, we can only play them one at a time and this match appears plenty daunting.  To begin with, Arsenal have not won a league match at St. Mary’s since 2003.  In the reverse fixture back in September, we needed a penalty in stoppage time to take the full points.  If anybody doubts what Southampton are capable of on their home turf, they need only remember the result of this same fixture last season–a 4-nil drubbing and a performance that was at least as one-sided as the scoreline.

So, how do Arsenal set up and try to take down the stubborn Saints?  Will Wenger try to build upon Sunday’s 2-nil win over Manchester United by using the same three at the back formation and the same players who got that result or will the tight fixture list–five matches in these final two weeks of the season–force some rotation?

Keeping the formation, which has garnered four wins from five matches, seems a no-brainer.  And, unfortunately, I believe the pressure on the manager allows few, if any, changes to the starting 11.  Acting captain and defensive anchor Laurent Koscielny faces a late fitness test and Wenger expressed worries about his availability.  The manager was much more upbeat about Granit Xhaka, however, despite the deep-lying midfielder having to be substituted in our two most recent matches.  These two represent the spine of the new formation and are also responsible for much of the ball distribution when we try to play it out from the back, not to mention Xhaka’s fortunate goal that proved to be the winner vs United.  Continuing on the winning run without them, I think, would be very difficult indeed.  As such, and with fingers crossed that the pair are fit to play, here’s the starting group I think Wenger will choose, unchanged from the one that faced ManU.

Cech

Holding–Koscielny–Monreal

Oxlade-Chamberlain–Xhaka–Ramsey–Gibbs

Ozil–Welbeck–Alexis

Substitutes: Ospina, Gabriel, Bellerin, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Giroud

Once again, I don’t feel very confident putting these names out, especially as I only got 8 of 11 correct last time and thought Wenger would revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation he had used most of the season.  In other words, your guess is as good as mine and the manager certainly has options.  Beyond the fitness issues with Koscielny and Xhaka, Wenger might choose to freshen up at the front and save some of the starting attackers from Sunday’s win as bench options.  What about players like Shkodran Mustafi, Per Mertesacker, Mathieu Debuchy, Mohamed Elneny and Lucas Perez, all of whom are in full training?  Could one or more of them take up a bench seat or even jump into the first 11?  Last time I opted for twist and I was wrong; this time I think the manager will stick.

No matter who gets to put on the full kit as one of the first 11 (or 18) they must give their all for the shirt.  As our recent record indicates–at least for league matches–traveling to St. Mary’s is never easy.  On Sunday we put to rest some hoodoos vs ManU with Wenger finally beating a Jose Mourinho team and ending the Red Devils lengthy undefeated streak.  We need to do likewise at Southampton and take full points back to North London with a committed performance and a victory.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

 

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45 Responses to Southampton-Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Saints Took Points at Anfield as Arsenal Must Take Them at St. Mary’s.

  1. retsub1 says:

    Well written 17ht I pretty much agree subject to fitness, he will pick the same side. If it were possible I would rather see Nacho as the left wing back. He has a reasonable understanding of what Alexis will do next.

  2. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey Buster… Yeah, I haven’t understood why he didn’t stay with Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding across the back (from right to left) with Nacho (who had scored two goals from that spot) as the left wingback. I guess it has to do with the pen Gabby gave up vs Totts… That’s a vulnerable moment, right after the first goal of the match and people need to keep their heads…

    Two games running, in fact, and Holding (asked to do quite a bit, IMO, switching sides like he did…) made the play of the game, I thought, vs United, pushing up and getting the ball back to the Ox (who had just lost it in the corner) with the perfect weight so that the latter had time to look up and pick out DW with the perfect cross. That second goal was boom, boom, boom, three inch perfect touches, aggressively executed while United were still regrouping from the first goal. By far the best moment in quite awhile and I liked how it left me breathing much (much) easier for the remainder of the match…

    Getting back to Gibbs vs Nacho… The former looks a bit lost up there and being so extremely left-footed doesn’t help. He and Alexis seem very static, esp. compared to Ozil and the Ox (who benefits tremendously from the space Ozil creates for him) on the right…

  3. 17highburyterrace says:

    Quick Note to PE… I got a copy of your post (e-mail from TA…) and it looks good. Hopefully many of the strong ideas will still apply after the So’ton game… Regardless, one of us ought to be able to get it out at that time… Cheers again for writing it and being cool with waiting for its release…

  4. LostBob_Ke says:

    Keep up the good job 17ht.In regards to your piece,Mr wenger will opt to rotate heavily with the game to stoke in mind.Here is my permutation to the starting XI considering S’oton a must win & should be an easy one for us
    P.cech
    Gabriel-Koz-Mustafi
    Bellerin-Le Coq-Ramsey-Monreal
    Walcott-Welbz-Sanchez
    At the end of it all i think we’ll take home the three points

  5. Pony Eye says:

    HT,
    Good post. Sober optimism. First sentiment is not to ruffle things, but 3 games in 6 days creates a challenge. Can Welbeck handle it? What about Ramsey’s proneness to muscular injury? Should Xhaka and Kosh be rested? And so on.

    Many lines of thinking appear justifiable, not least continuity as HT has chosen. My long shot is Welbeck and Ramsey rested. Bellerin and Musti to start. My line up :-

    —————CECH—————-
    —MUSTI—KOSH–NACHO—
    BEL—-XHAK—-OX—-GIBBS
    ——OZIL—ALEXIS—IWOBI—-

    SUBS:- OSPINA, HOLD, COQ, RAMBO, THEO, WELBZ, GIROUD.

    3 changes to the starting 11, and early substitutions of Ozil and Kosh all things equal.

  6. 17highburyterrace says:

    LostBob… Welcome to BKesque…

    I wish I shared your optimism about this one being easy… So’ton are a strong team–though maybe not as deep as Arsenal–hence the lopsided scoreline when both teams rotated for the FA Cup match… It’s possible Puel will choose to rotate given that they’ve got the same 5-games-in-2-weeks schedule that we do and might fancy trying to get their points elsewhere. That said, it’s a home match so putting out a strong team seems his best bet. I have plenty of respect for a lot of their players, several of whom (Forster, Bertrand, Redmond, Tadic, Gabbiadini, anyone else?…) wouldn’t look at all out of place on our team… In my opinion, of course… And, they’ll be buoyed they got a result at Anfield after some close ones at Spurs and Chelsea…

    You might be right about rotation, however. I can’t see Wenger leaving out Ozil or Xhaka (if fit) and I think it would be a tough call to leave out the Ox against his youth club. That sort of thinking might get Theo into the squad, however. And Giroud, IMO, is always useful at set pieces, while it’s hard to be sure about Welbeck’s fitness. I called for Mustafi to come back into the first 11 a week ago and he didn’t even make the bench, but he’s a good shout too, I think…

  7. 17highburyterrace says:

    Inneresting line-up, PE…though I don’t see Ox nor Alexis getting moved into central positions in the new formation. Ramsey’s strong engine makes me hopeful he can play a few games in a row and continue making those forward runs which help pull defenders out of position. The new formation perhaps makes him less needed on the defensive end and he seems to be benefiting as much as anybody from being part of a 4 man midfield…

    But now I’m “foreshadowing,” maybe… Winky face, eh…

  8. Pony Eye says:

    HT, maybe it’s Ramsey’s huge engine which gets him to cover more ground than others that predisposes him to muscular injuries. So with him, Wenger might prefer “to fight and run away, so he might live to fight another day”.

  9. Pony Eye says:

    HT, ” foreshadowing”? No, nothing is patented, nothing is anybody’s intellectual property.

  10. Waldo says:

    Nice preview 17! Injuries permitting, I think your predicted line up is what we’ll see versus Southampton.

    That said, if Arsenal do persist with a 5-2-3 setup, the starting line up I’d prefer to see is:

    GK: Cech
    RWB: Debuchy
    RCB: Mustafi
    CB: Koscielny
    LCB: Monreal
    LWB: Gibbs
    LCDM: Xhaka
    RCDM: Ox
    LW: Alexis
    CF: Giroud
    RW: Perez

    In that setup I’d like to see Arsenal employ the following complimentary tactics:

    1. Defensively, the back seven (i.e. the back five and 2 CDMs) predominantly sit deep, focus on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, stay compact and tackle and intercept. As for Alexis, Giroud and Perez, I would like to see them remain around the halfway line and press the opposition’s defenders when they are in possession of the ball.

    2. In terms of transitional play, I’d like to see Debuchy, Ox, Xhaka and Gibbs as Arsenal’s primary outlets to transition the ball from defence to attack. Specifically I envisage that they would do so through a combination of: executing long range passes into the channels for Alexis and Perez respectively; and, in the case of Debuchy, Ox and Gibbs dribbling the ball upfield.

    3. Offensively, i’d like to see Alexis and Perez position themselves in the left and right channels, either side Giroud in the CF role. The when they take possession of the ball in those spaces, I’d like to see them try to cut inside and fire angled shots toward the far post. In addition I’d like to see Giroud prowling in the 18 yard box and attacking crosses from Gibbs and Debuchy as well as pouncing on defensive errors from the opposition’s defenders. Furthermore, when Arsenal inevitably monopolise possession in the opposition’s half, I’d like to see purposeful build up play designed to create long range shooting opportunities for Xhaka, Ox and Alexis.

    While that’s the players and tactics I’d like to see Arsenal deploy if they were to go with a 5-2-3 setup, I still think Arsenal’s squad is best suited to a 4-3-1-2 setup compromised of:

    GK: Cech

    RB: Debuchy

    CB: Mustafi

    CB: Koscielny

    LB: Monreal

    LCDM: Xhaka

    CDM: Coquelin

    RCDM: Ox

    CAM: Ozil

    LS: Alexis

    RS: Perez

    In that setup I’d like to see Arsenal employ the following tactics:

    1. Defensively, again the back seven (i.e. the back four and 3 CDMs) predominantly sit deep, focus on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, stay compact and tackle and intercept. As for Ozil, Alexis and Perez, I’d again like to see them remain around the halfway line and press the opposition’s defenders when they are in possession of the ball.

    2. In terms of transitional play, I’m imagining Ox, Xhaka and Ozil being Arsenal’s primary outlets to transition the ball from defence to attack and would do so through a combination of: Ox and Xhaka executing long range passes into the channels for Alexis and Perez, playing one-twos with a floating Ozil, passing through the lines to Ozil and, in the case of Ox, dribbling the ball upfield. As for Ozil, I’d like to see him drifting horizontally across the field when Arsenal attack in order to execute one-twos with Ox and Xhaka, when they attempt to transition the ball forward, as well as make himself available to receive the ball from any of the back seven and quickly execute through passes for Alexis and Perez.

    3. Offensively, I’d like to see Alexis and Perez primarily make darting off the ball runs behind the opposition’s defensive line and on goal when Arsenal attack. That said, when Arsenal inevitably monopolise possession in the opposition’s half, I’d again like to see purposeful build up play designed to create long range shooting opportunities for Xhaka, Ox and Alexis.

    Should be a tough match versus the Saints. I hope Arsenal can put in another entertaining but pragmatic performance, like they did versus Man Utd. COYG!!

  11. allezkev says:

    I reckon it’ll be a draw and pretty much finish off our slight top four chances.

    Puel might be looking for some payback for that 5-0 FACup thrashing…

  12. allezkev says:

    Since winning at St Mary’s, Arsenal have played 8 games away, winning at Sutton and M’boro, whilst losing the other 6 games, so I think a draw would be progress, of sorts…

  13. 17highburyterrace says:

    Line-ups are out…

    Southampton: Forster, Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeu, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond, Gabbiadini. Subs: Hassen, Caceres, Long, Boufal, Pied, Hojberg, Rodriguez

    Arsenal: Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Gibbs, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Bellerin, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Giroud

    One change…Kos out, Mustafi in…

  14. Goonereris says:

    The team sheet is out and only one change from the last game- Koscielny out for Mustafi.

    If we can prevent them scoring early and take it into 25 minutes without conceding, I feel we will get stronger and start to create our own opportunities too. I won’t subscribe to the fast start that I have seen some pundits advocate. A cautious start, then take control. We just need to get the 3 points is all. COYG!

  15. retsub1 says:

    I have a feeling we may just nick it Kev. Lady Luck has been good to us recently, so here’s hoping.. have been looking forward to this all day, presuming it would be on Sky or BT but I guess it clashes with the Champions League semi?

    Arsenal player for me tonight. I have absolutely no clairvoyant skills, but I just have a feeling Theo may have a part to play tonight.

    If we should lose there is a very funny programme on at 10pm on one of thre Itv channels called better late than never. Henry Winkler, George Foreman , William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw who I think was NFL tour Asia. Worth a look if you need cheering up

  16. allezkev says:

    No Debuchy again?

  17. allezkev says:

    Retsub, I’m hoping that the game will be on the radio, I’ve not checked yet, but TalkRubbish have the CL, so I’m hoping that the BBC won’t let me down…

    Mate, we’re gonna need some luck to finish in the top four, but Liverpool are doing their best to assist us. 😊

  18. Goonereris says:

    Does Gibbs realize he is a wing back and not a full back? He is good offensively and needs to do a bit more going forward and putting in crosses. His preference for going backwards is frustrating.

  19. Goonereris says:

    Ozil ducks out of a (potentially goal-threatening) challenge again. How does he get away with that attitude?
    Now, Ox out injured and Bellerin on. Well, expect some weakness on our right side. We will miss Ox’s composed dribbling runs for Bellerin’s poor man tracking and reliance on speed alone. Worried with Ox out.

  20. Goonereris says:

    Mustafi lunges with a clearing tackle and referee deems it reckless and calls a free kick against us, from just outside the box. Pathetic officiating because he got the ball, 100%.

  21. Goonereris says:

    Half time. It’s been heart in the mouth stuff with Southampton getting the better of the chances; indeed, they had a spell of pressure on our back line which had my heart pounding. Boy, it’s going to be a gruelling end to the season, each game, if we win this and the next…and the next.

    We are playing a containment game, so far and it’s not so bad that we go in 0-0. We have to find that second gear from somewhere, but who is going to bring it, from the bench? My pick would be Iwobi, with Coq to come on to shore things up if we go ahead. Come on, lads.

  22. 17highburyterrace says:

    Half time… Best chances were So’ton’s…

    Gooneris, gotta disagree with you about Ozil and the Ox… I’d rather see Ozil avoid injury than go for the dive while I found Ox’s contribution to be awfully pointless… Bellerin’s late cross barely missed Welbeck and was the closest we came to a goal. Sending them out of play or towards nobody in our neon blue (Ox’s crosses) doesn’t work for me…

    Agreed, however, that Gibb’s forward game is wanting and that Mustafi’s tackle looked good to me.

    Overall, we’re not moving the ball very quickly nor crisply and we’re standing waaay off at the defensive end… Pretty fortunate to be nil-nil at this juncture. Gonna need some strong words during the interval and a real change in our play afterwards…

  23. 17highburyterrace says:

    ALEXIS!!!!

  24. 17highburyterrace says:

    Very nice throughball from Otil…Then the coolest of pull-backs by Alexis…

  25. Goonereris says:

    Yessssssssssss! Giroud!!! 2-0!

  26. 17highburyterrace says:

    2-nil Giroud…header for the goal, header for the assist…All set up with the lofted ball in from Alexis…

  27. Goonereris says:

    Smart assist by Ramsey. But we must be sensible now and just keep things on an even keel till the whistle.

  28. Goonereris says:

    17ht: Gooneris, gotta disagree with you about Ozil and the Ox… I’d rather see Ozil avoid injury than go for the dive while I found Ox’s contribution to be awfully pointless… Bellerin’s late cross barely missed Welbeck and was the closest we came to a goal. Sending them out of play or towards nobody in our neon blue (Ox’s crosses) doesn’t work for me…

    There’s a reason Wenger plays Ox ahead of Bellerin in this formation. That’s what I refer to. We lost power and guile, as soon as Bellerin came on and it was obvious. He is a threat with his speed and wing play but, surely, his decision making can’t be that much better than Ox’s.

    Anyway, easy to go into this now we have the points we need.

  29. allezkev says:

    Retsub Knows

  30. 17highburyterrace says:

    Indeed, if it was Retsub who said start slow and they will tire… he was spot on…

    A couple of moments of real quality was the difference…

    Now, on just two days of rest, we have to do it again at Stoke…

  31. retsub1 says:

    Sadly 17HT it wasn’t me who made that claim. I was going for a Theo winner!!!!!!

    Gutted about the Ox

  32. retsub1 says:

    Pullis and his Orcs next that will be a much tougher game. Onwards and upwards

  33. retsub1 says:

    Plonker Pulls left years ago

  34. allezkev says:

    No Retsub, you said we would nick it.
    And we did, according to the snippets I heard on the radio.
    Good result, at last, night all…

  35. retsub1 says:

    If we hadn’t lost to Liverpool (twice) Palace, Watford, WBA, Palace, Chelsea, Man City, Everton we would have won the league by now. lol

  36. retsub1 says:

    I listened on Arsenal player Kev. they were just saying what a diabolical game Alexis was having when we scored. Very difficult to tell on a commentary , but they said we lost momentum when the Ox went off.

    Its funny how you get a feeling before a game sometimes. Am neutral on the Stoke game at the moment. Given recent form we will probably win then lose at home to sunderland

  37. Goonereris says:

    Since you asked, 17ht, I’ll have to accept credit for that call (shy, gracious bow).

    Guys, it’s 2 clean sheets in a row. It’s no mean feat.

  38. njk84sg says:

    The question was how did Mustafi managed to let 2 attackers move past him.

    Luckily his last ditch tackle and Cech meant that the ball did not enter our net.

    We did well to score, but it is worrying that Ox got hurt.

    Good game, and 3 more games to go. OGAAT lads! 🙂

    JK

  39. njk84sg says:

    The question was how did Mustafi managed to let 2 attackers move past him.

    Luckily his last ditch tackle and Cech meant that the ball did not enter our net.

    We did well to score, but it is worrying that Ox got hurt.

    Good game, and 3 more games to go. OGAAT lads! 🙂

    JK

  40. Pony Eye says:

    TA,
    Time to surface for a breather.
    THE UPDATED POST IS IN YOUR BOX.
    …….silence? HT, I count on your magic!

  41. njk84sg says:

    Chill PE. They will post it when they have the time.

    I am ashamed to say that I caught the last few games on Footylight, mainly on highlights.

    On top of that I caught the second half of the last game. Even more ashamed.

    It is good to see the lads playing well and they can only play better.

    JK

  42. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey PE…

    I’m just waking up over here… I haven’t gotten a copy of your updated post from TA… My hunch is that he continues to be extremely busy right now…

    I realized that I do have access to peoples’ e-mail addresses, so I just wrote to you asking if you could send a copy of the updated version to me… In other words…

    PE, You’ve Got Mail…

    😀

  43. TotalArsenal says:

    Sorry chaps, busier than a cockerel in a henhouse at the moment. Will forward email to Seventeenho with the hope he will have a bit more time. 🙂

  44. 17highburyterrace says:

    OK, it seems like I’m gonna get a copy of PE’s post one way or the other… hopefully before the coffee drinking part of my day is over…

    In the meantime, on last night’s match… I’ve got to join in with those acknowledging Cech’s contribution in these two most recent clean sheets. Very strong technical goalkeeping and their shots hit his body parts and stayed out… What more can you ask for?… (Beyond wishing away a shanked kick or two…)

    Likewise, all praise to Gooneris re: the slow start then watch ’em tire bit… Indeed, we can debate the relative merits of Ox vs Bells in the right wing-back position. We’ll have to see what the manager says re: Ox’s injury ahead of the Stoke match but I’m not at all bothered if Bellerin has to start. He’s still a little antsy with the final ball but he also looks very close to getting back on the assist train. On that note, I think it’s very good that Rambo made the right decision and got one himself for the 2nd goal…

    There were additional injury worries about Alexis and Xhaka in the latter parts of the match but both seemed to surmount their troubles… Mustafi had his head knocked (as did Nacho…) but was able to play on while getting the job done despite a few iffy moments. I’m hoping that Kos’ absence was precautionary and that he can get back in the line-up sooner than later. I think we’ll need to rotate a little with matches on Saturday and then Tuesday. Overall, the turnaround to this next one–Stoke’s last match was a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth last Saturday–is what has me most worried. It’s not quite Pulis and his Orcs any longer (more like Stoke-alona, perhaps, under Hughes…) but their rabble always want blood (if not broken legs) when (effete?…) Arsenal come to the potteries… We’ll have to dig (extremely) deep to keep the winning streak going… We also need Liverpool to draw one of their (two) remaining matches or ManCity to draw a pair (of their last three)… That’s a tall order, but focusing on our own play and improving it, ideally while continuing to win matches, could be it’s own reward, esp. with that cup final on the horizon…

  45. 17highburyterrace says:

    New Post

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