23 Unbeaten? The Armband Returns to Kos with A.I.R. in Attack: Preview



The xG stats tell us that Southampton should have scored 7.02 more goals than the 13 they have scored so far in the epl and should have conceded 4.19 less goals than the 30 they have shipped in (understat.com). According to these stats, the team’s effectiveness at both ends of the field has not matched the body of their work. In other words they could be a better team than the results make them out to be. Could it be that they are simply on the wrong side of luck or … ? This is a puzzle Emery shouldn’t be bothering his head about because he has a bigger one at his doorstep.

Arsenal are 19th on the 1st-Half table but sit atop the 2nd-Half table. Relegated on one half, undisputed champions on the other is a bizarre combo to say the least. City in contrast is 1st/2nd, Tot is 2nd/8th, Liv 3rd/3rd, Chl 4th/4th, Manu 6th/11th, Sthptn 18th/17th (after 16 games). They all kinda rhyme, but not the 19th/1st. Ours is so big an anomaly it’s scary. You really don’t know who you are. Click the link below:-


And this is not the only headache sitting on Emery’s doorstep as he prepares for the Southampton match. There is not a single central defender available for the match apart from Laurent Koscielny who is just coming back after 6 months out with a ruptured achilles tendon. Mustafi and Sokratis are suspended for this match while Holding and Mavropanos are out with an injury. It would be interesting to see what the coach would come up with. I predict a 3-man back line of Lichsteiner, Koscienly and Monreal with Elneny on the bench as a cover. Koshielny had 72 minute successful run out against Qarabag making 62 touches with an impressive 100% pass success rate. Qarabag was perfect for easing him back to more competitive games.

On the brighter side, Ozil and Ramsey are available. They represent creativity we can do with considering the paucity of it in the Huddersfield match, even though it could be argued that wearied legs and minds on that day were partly to blame. Would Emery play one or both of them? It depends on the formation of the day. With 82 minutes against Qarabag on Thursday night, Ozil’s role this time could be from the bench.

More words about our 1st half form. Are our boys bugged down in the 1st halves by too much instructions? Are we thinking too much of the opposition strengths at the expense of ours? Do we come into our own only when we find ourselves with our backs to the wall? Has Emery drilled the team to the point where he can now afford them tiny extra spaces for self expression? Hope so to the last question because we need those 1st-half handbrakes released. We long for the first match we would be ahead at the interval and at the final whistle. That would have Arsenal written all over it. Time overdue.

Here’s predicting the line up:-






Bench:- Cech, Elneny, Guendouzi, Mailand-Niles, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette

This season’s top-4 race is like never before. Get a draw instead of a win and the two points dropped would hunt all the way. It is 3 pts and 3 pts only when playing against a team that is, with all due respect, 19th on the table.

Prediction: 0-2 away win to the good guys.



83 thoughts on “23 Unbeaten? The Armband Returns to Kos with A.I.R. in Attack: Preview

  • Excellent stuff, PE. Good preview, good discussion starter re poor first halves and fine line-up.

    This will be a hard game. Southampton away has often been hard for us and the new manager effect is bound to have an impact on the home team and crowd. So we need to be strong psychologically and mean business from the start. A win tomorrow really would help us in our top-4 chase but it really will not be easy, and I would be amazed if we could keep a clean sheet.

    I wonder whether Elneny will start instead of Koz as it is a hell of a lot to do there in the centre of the three at the back for him. The Egyptian is fitter and as keen as anybody. He also has a calm head. I reckon he will start again with Laca and Auba, as I think your attacking line-up is not that great. Hoping also for another Ozil start as he can lift the team through the busy December fixtures. Looking fwd to this one. 🙂

  • Thanks PE– always enjoy a stat anomaly. Think we might be on the fortunate side of one. Seemingly meaning our guys don’t give in or give up. Read where Emery also has made the most numerous subs by halftime (14). Telltale for me in that number? Emery, by the break– ciphers the opposition’s gambit with clarity. Open with caution. Counter with strength. Arsenal concede <.5 GA in 2nd-halves.

    Agree with TA on the unlikelihood of a clean sheet tomorrow. Aside from our personnel issues? Until last weekend, Soton hadn't been held goalless since late-October. This would– be a prime time for one of our strike-force to provide a brace (or better!). Other than newcomers Cardiff? Arsenal are the only team not to hold a halftime lead in the PL this term. Time to break that routine.

    Predicting: 3-1 Gunners.


  • An excellent Post, PE, interesting and knowledgeable views.

    The 1st half/2nd half anomaly is very strange but perhaps the judicious use of subs at half time or later may help explain it, although there have been the occasional 1st half sub too.

    As TA said, there is another footballing statistic that is commonly accepted, and that is that teams often change character from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde when they first get a new manager. So, add that to another fact mentioned by TA – that we have traditionally struggled against S/Hampton – could mean we might struggle down on the coast.

  • Brilliant preview as always, PE. Astounding bit of stat there about our 1st half woes; I’d go with the boys over-thinking all the instructions and tactical set up, but it will end sometime and tomorrow won’t be a bad time to change that stat a bit.

    S’pton’s quality isn’t reflected in the position they are on the table and yes, they just seem to raise their game against us so we really don’t need the additional “bounce” from the new Boss. We need to start by getting our changed back 3 to settle in quickly (frequent passes, cover from midfield, etc.) and then keep possession as well as possible. Southampton do like to play too so expect an even game early on. I agree with the predicted line up but not sure Ramsey is fit to start. We may see Mkhi instead, for starters, in that case. But, who knows with Emery.

  • Yeah, TA. Such a shame as Burnley had held on well and even created their own opportunities. It’s entering crunch time in the EPL so, there will be many games as this; I will go ahead to predict United go to Anfield and get the win too (or at least, give them a game and get a point). 😋

  • What is there plain to see is that Emery gets it right with his substitutions. Only one wonders why he has not once got it right with his eleven starting ‘substitutions’. It might actually not be so much a question of right and wrong substitutions as it is (borrowing from Eris) of overthinking it at beginnings. And that to me means that we are still in the ‘process’ which is great because it means we can only be greater by the time we graduate from the ‘process’. Overthinking it can only keep diminishing with time as Emery’s ideas become more and more automatic with the players.

  • I still think some fans underestimate Emery’s calculated approach to our first halves. He does not want to dominate teams in their own half but prefers to invite pressure in exchange for space. Now the balance is not quite there yet, as we concede far too many goals in those first 45 minutes and score too few, but it does pay off for us in the second half time and again. The opponents are tired and often disorganised when we finally find the gap(s) and are then able to bang one, or often two in quick succession, in. We need to learn to absorb pressure better and pounce on the counter better in those first halves, but that is the hardest thing for Arsenal (current players) to learn, as it goes against our very Wenger-nature. Once Unai gets the balance right, which may mean buying a top quality central defender, I reckon we really will push the top two teams. But sitting deep(er), absorbing pressure in exchange for space to play quick, flowing football and making best use of LacaMeyang, is here to stay for our approach to first halves. During the breaks Unai shows us what a good tactician he is, by making changes and giving the team instructions on how to pounce on the analysed weaknesses of the team as he has been watching the game unfold. A work in progress, not helped by the injury of RH, but hopefully King Koz can reign again in defence.

  • Hmmmm. Could the well-changed back line get us our first 1st half lead, plus a clean sheet after 90minutes? Stranger things have happened.

  • Confirmed. Looks like a 4:3:3

    Bel Lich Kos Nacho
    Guend Torr Xhaka
    Mkhi Auba Iwobi

    Subs: Cech Elneny M-Niles Ramsey Ozil Laca Nketiah.

  • The team squad for the S/Hampton game, if you have not seen it;

    Arsenal XI: Leno; Bellerin, Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira; Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang

    Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Lacazette, Nketiah

  • Interesting. Trust Emery to have his full backs bumping forward so balancing it up with one extra central midfielder.

    But if it’s a 3 man CD I wonder who plays as left wing back. Iwobi? 3:5:2?

  • The Southampton 11: Southampton XI: McCarthy, Yoshida, Valery, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Targett, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Redmond, Ings

    It would seem Kolasinac isi juried again, as he isn’t even a sub. To have Lichsteiner and Kos as CBs Away is a quite a risk and tricky for Leno. Collective defending required, I guess.

    Come on, lads! Just do it!!

  • To be honest, I was half hoping Bukayo Saka would be in the 18 named. He is said to have travelled with the squad; vs Spurs, it is likely to be, then.

  • Looks like a 3 at the back with Xhaka as the left side of the 3 at the back. That took most by surprise, I’d say.
    We’ve started at a good pace and had a couple of attempts so far, but game is yet to settle into a definite pattern. Early in the game, so let’s see.

  • Looks the kind of game where we need to get the first goal so as to deflate the team and support or the home side start to grow in confidence; just as Redmond has done to get a corner kick as we enter the 14th minute. Iwobi is not allowed time on the ball; a developing pattern with most sides we play these days.

  • Agreed Eris. Keep them at full tilt. They’ll wane. Would like to see some control on the ball from Torreira.


  • Not surprisingly, we concede first and it’s Ings (again) with the goal. He always scores against us and that record continues. Should Bellerin not be doing better with preventing that cross?

  • I think Xhaka’s absence in the middle is causing us to look rushed in midfield. He gives a calming effect at times, that is hard to see until he isn’t playing……

  • There’s one good reason Monreal is at the WB. Nice curling cut back from the goal line– met by a sprinting Mhkitarytan– headed home with force.


  • Getting rather physical out there with the home side doing their best to press and put Leno under pressure, but we coped well in my view.

  • Guendouzi gets too close an attention and is fouled in the process. He has to understand he won’t be given time so, avoid holding on too long in our area.
    Auba is said to have scored 6 times against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s sides while in the Bundesliga. How about a 7th today?

  • Danny Ings makes it 2-1 for the hosts. Where was Lichsteiner there? This is starting to be annoying. Koscielny and Lichsteiner have got to be doing better there. Meanwhile, Bellerin is struggling with a knock. That’s a bummer.

  • Ing so damn lucky.. who to blamed for his two goals.. I think Xhaka must be replaced.. with Ramsey.. And maybe Aubameyang.. for his unlucky day..

  • The referee should have shown a few players yellow cards but he didn’t. We were too quiet with occasional ventures forward. Bring on Ozil.

  • Ings had time to make eye-contact and point requesting the cross. Decent warning I’d say.


  • I must be candid the super 2nd half changes don’t excite me any more.

    Let Monreal go back to the left sided CD so Xhaka can play where he plays best. Ozil and Laca to come in immediately at expense of Douuzi and Mkhi.

  • For the first, Bellerin may have done better to stop the cross or make it difficult and Koscielny should have gone with his head rather than his foot so high. Again, the CB behind Kos (Xhaka) should be doing a bit more to make it hard for Ings.
    For the second, similar problem. Lichsteiner should be covering Kos’ back while he himself should be a touch-close to Ings. He will be disappointed how the goals have come off his supposed man, but he needed help there too.

    The concern will be how to take Xhaka off defensive duties so we can dictate play. We are not putting enough pressure on the ball thus giving Auba mere scraps (if any) to feed on. Iwobi isn’t pulling his weight much but has been forced to support Monreal a bit.

    Something has got to change in the second; the table doesn’t lie. There is a reason Southampton are 19th on the table and we cannot pretend we cannot blitz this team, if we stay composed and keep it simple. They’ve rushed us and are targeting certain players for fouling, to prevent balls into Auba. How to counter that? Bring on Laca for Iwobi and look to bring on Ramsey for Mkhi not long after. Move Xhaka further up and play with 2 at the back, even if both are “strangers” at CB.

  • This seemed like a slow, clockwork performance with lots of standing around waiting for a pass. When we moved the ball quickly we looked as if we would score – but poor chance taking – except for Mihki.

    Was Xhaka on the pitch? Never saw him.

    The defence looked what it was — too many missing because of injury and banned players.

    Early days, but Leno still does not convince me.

  • Auba should be putting more into that attempt. He is too concerned about getting clattered.

  • I’m not too comfortable with Xhaka and Koscielny playing as two CBs for obvious reasons. But as long as we can keep pressure away from them, we should get by.

  • ThTs what Laca brings to the game. Pressure on defences to force errors. Iwobi skies a good chance for 3 after a back heel from Auba. Game is opening up.

  • A corner routine: Torreira to Xhaka, doesn’t come off. I guess Xhaka should be hitting that first time.

  • Koscielny’s lack of match sharpness starting to tell. Sloppy free kick to give away there.

  • Redmond off and Long (another who loves to trouble our defenders) is on. The hosts are emboldened to go for the win, then? That can only help us.

  • Fabulous hustle from Laca almost steals a chance taking the ball off GK McCarthy on a long back pass.


  • A-mN on for Lichsteiner and Long bundles the ball into our goal but ruled offside, rightly.

  • Ozil has to learn to get on with it, instead of sitting on his butt complaining about every physical contact. A quick counter attack from us ends with a sliding effort going away from goal.

  • Would like to see Am-N more on the ball but it’s hard coming on in this weather conditions.

  • I have missed many games this season – but this feels like a throwback to the days of Arsene with all the cross field passing.

    The only difference is that it happens 20 metres further up the pitch to the Keeper === our Keeper.

    Damn! What did I say about Leno? Bugger. We should make Martinez our #1 Keeper — he is good!!

  • To be fair, we just haven’t looked up for this today, as soon as Southampton showed their game plan, we had no answer. Agreed, we have a changed back line and they have a new manager, we should be beating these sides.

  • The first 2 goals was a lack of closing down by the midfield. We conceded 3 soft goals that one wonders where our defense went to.

    Crappy day for the defense. Auba should have scored a couple too. Crap.

  • Its back to the drawing board. It’s important we improve our 1st half performance. That goes a long way in setting the tone for the rest of the game.

  • One heatlhy CB. Who last played in the PL 7 months ago. With a 34yo RB playing to his right and a CM playing to his left in a 3-back. Three headed goals; all looked preventable at some stage of build-up. It was a day where we needed to outscore Southampton. Just– did not happen.

    All good things and such.


  • Something seems to have gone wrong with my last remark about the game. Can’t see it on the thread.
    In any case, my concern will be how we react now we do not have an “unbeaten run” record to pursue. These things can be important when you have a fragile squad.

    It’s lookin* to be a right battle at Anfield. Watchable, so far…

  • I have always hated the overuse of stats about a pair of opponents. I think its just pundit talking points. The players on the clubs are almost completely changed, the managers are different, so I assume the same unlikely outcomes shouldn’t continue.

  • It’s getting ugly for United at Anfield. And there I was thinking this could be the day…. ☹️

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