Arsenal v Saints Preview/ Lineup: Power and Brains in Midfield Key, Marti to Motor us On!

We are travelling to play high-flying Saints for the FA cup tomorrow, and then we will face them again at St Mary’s in the league on Tuesday. Of course it is about OGAAT but it is impossible to prepare for tomorrow’s game without one eye on Tuesday’s. The team are buoyed by our excellent win v the Barcodes on Monday, and all legs should be fresh again. But how should Mikel use his squad to produce not one but two wins v Southampton?

We are lucky to have an almost fit squad in late January, so Mikel has options. Ceballos will be assessed before the game and Mari appears not to be ready yet, but that is it. Let’s say that Arteta will want one pair of fresh, experienced legs in all areas for Tuesday’s encounter: one fit defender, midfielder and attacker? Let’s say Mari is fit then and one of Luiz, Holding or Gabriel should join him. It also seems that Arteta is ready to use Chambers again which may give us an extra option in central defence, but also RFB and DM… Or is four days enough rest to not have to worry about fatigue/injury of any of our players? Still, it would be good for Arteta to have the option of playing two fresh CBs on Saturday and Tuesday. We need at least one fit DM and one fit CF, and possibly also one fit creative midfielder on Tuesday. I am convinced that energy and therefore fitness levels will be a prerequisite for double success for the Gunners.

The Saints, as we know from last month’s hard-fought draw, are a well organised and disciplined team with a lot of balance and confidence: a sort of Crystal Palace of the south coast: not sexy but solid. They are very good at rebounds and counter attacks and our central midfield duo will be well tested again. In our 1-1 draw we played without Tierney, Xhaka and Partey and Gabriel got sent off after twice trying to fill a hole left in midfield by the Elneny-Ceballos combo. Let’s hope the boys and manager have learned from that painful lesson.

In that game Arsenal had only 35% possession of the ball and had less shots on goal than the Saints – Arsenal managed to get four on target and the Saints three, though. I was very impressed with the CB duo of Vestergaard and Bednarek and they will again be a force to reckon with. Ings will be available again and no doubt the fabulous Ward-Prowse will provide a major creative threat, especially from his set pieces. So our players need to avoid silly fouls and take the game to the Southampton half of the pitch as much as possible. It will be key to out-power and out-discipline them in central midfield, and this should be a great game for our shiny toy of a summer signing, Partey.

I feel we need to start with a very strong team and mean business from the start. Forget about Tuesday’s game altogether when we are on the pitch, and show them who the Kings of the FA Cup are.

So here is my preferred team to beat the Saints:

I would keep Luiz, Xhaka, ESR and Auba on the bench, and hopefully Arteta does not need to use them. These four will all play on Tuesday if it was up to me. I am tempted to rest Saka too but neither Nelson or Pepe have had convincing performances recently and leaving Bukayo out would weaken us right now. Same goes for Tierney and Holding. Soares had a good game v the Barcodes so why not give him another game so Bellerin can play fully fit on Tuesday? I would love to see how Willian will do with the young puppies of Martinelli and Saka around him and Laca up-front (and the DM beasts of Partey and Elneny behind him). I cannot wait to see Martinelli. Gabriel will motor us on in attack and his enthusiasm and attacking thrust could well make the difference tomorrow.

So this is my preferred team.. what is yours?!

By TotalArsenal.

37 thoughts on “Arsenal v Saints Preview/ Lineup: Power and Brains in Midfield Key, Marti to Motor us On!

  • TotalArsenal says:
    January 22, 2021 at 17:45

    Cheers GN5. And just to confirm: results of cup games are after 90 minutes (not 120/penalties)?

    Hi Total

    It will be the final result of the game that counts – even if it takes extra time and penalties to reach a conclusion.

  • Oh I see what you mean Total.

    Only yourself, PB and NJK predicted draws in the two cup game so I will use the score at the end of 90 minutes for the three of you, and at the end of the game for the rest of us.

    I wish I’d noticed that earlier but I’m glad you brought it up now., there have been no replays from the 3rd round on since 2020.

    I’ve been preoccupied with personal issues this week.

    Is it clear enough now?

  • That sounds like a good solution, GN5. Sorry to hear you have been dealing with personal issues and I hope you are feeling okay now. Have a good weekend my friend.

  • GN5, thanks for your flexibility.

    TA, on your question from the last post, Ryan is contracted to Brighton & Hove Albion til Jun 30, 2022.
    He is very experienced, but – according to BHA fans – prone to high profile errors. We’ll see if he is going to stay beyond his loan spell, but I’m not keen on player hoarding – as I always say.

  • Thanks PB, to me it seems that BHA identified the GK situation as one where they can make savings/a sale, and so they are happy to let Ryan go. It really suits us to have a PL experienced nr2 and Arteta and Co can make a proper assessment of him for the longer term.

    Not sure what you mean with hoarding in this particular case… we have a vacancy for an experienced nr2, no?

  • Thanks PB– was about to state that Ryan’s 5yr agreement was up in June 2022.

    Here’s a rarity– a goalie goal! Keeper Tom King of Newport County vs Cheltenham Town just a few days back–

    Hope this pops up visible here as an embedded tweet. If not– still worth clicking through to watch!

  • Hale End rocks (again):
    something about goalheeping too:

    I’ve just had a look at the PL injury list; So’Ton have been hit really hard, looks like Vestengaard/Ings/Redmond/Romeu/Djenepo … are out, and some of them are not going to be available before long
    like your lineup, TA – maybe eddie upfront? might be a good idea to give him an opportunity to stretch his legs before our february run of games – and i’d have picked joe instead of willian …
    anyway, COYG, denting their confidence before tuesday wouldn’t hurt either

  • I’m not sure about Willian in your formation. It’s worrying to see him struggling to perform at his best, especially as we have signed him on such a ridiculously long contract. I would play Laca in that position behind either Eddie or Pepe. Pepe is another one who hasn’t found his best formed and I wonder whether a more central position might suit him. His pace would certainly worry the CBs and with Martinelli and Saka could provide an extremely dynamic front line.

  • leno
    ainsley has definitely fallen from grace – but cedric LB backup, i have to say i’m curious
    reiss not even on the gamesheet – so sad about that
    it’s great to have the two gabes back, hope pépé and willian will finally deliver – i’m happy kieran is being rested, too

  • I really hope I am wrong, but apart from Martinelli and perhaps Eddie I don’t see where goals will come from. Hopefully Pepe will see himself as a senior player here and take some responsibility.

  • Morning and afternoon guys.

    The line up makes sense and there is firepower on the bench with Laca and Saka. Not our strongest team of course but some players will need to show us all what they have got today. Let’s hope Martinelli will stay fit and add the much needed thrust and energy to our attacking game. Big one for Eddie too.

  • Definitely morning here. 6:15am kickoff. Soton are starting a first XI through and through.

  • I’m watching the BT1 stream via time4tv, but those commentators are such biased dodgy wankers…

  • Hard to say we might have expected more from this collection of players.
    Poor Gabriel, isn’t moving with the same strength or fluidity. Must have been hit hard by the virus.

  • The first five minutes set my teeth on edge; presenting Ward-Prowse with set-piece practice didn’t look like the wisest thing to do; Gabriel looked rusty then, and unfortunately he still was on the goal
    Cedric is interesting in the LB position, he reminds me of two right-footed LBs in 1980s France teams, Amoros first, Ayache then – a right-footed backup might be interesting, against such players as Salah, Ziyech – but of course I hope nothing’ll happen to Kieran
    I don’t know if it’s because of Pépé’s positioning/moves, but Hector has barely been visible, which is not what you expect from a captain
    It’s a shame they scored that sloppy goal, I felt they were getting nervous for not dominating more our A’ team
    Partey and Joe have been warming up since the 20th minute, and since we’re one goal down, we might soon have something like:
    but, in the absence of Kieran/Bukayo/Emil I’m afraid we’d better not set our expectations too high …

  • Yeah a sluggish team performance with too many passes going astray. So much rust in this team, but second half should be much better. Saka and Laca to make the difference. CoyGs!

  • At half time we are trailing by an unlucky deflected cross, however Southampton is so far better than us in almost every aspect of the game. I can’t see a good performance among Arsenal players – Bellerin and Holding are decent though – we make cheap mistakes close to our goal, and the Cedric-Martinelli partnership is very young and still in the making.
    Arteta needs to come up with a seriously motivating talk and maybe some key substitutes, or there will not be any progress towards our #15 FA Cup title…
    Yes, we play away from home and Southampton fields their best XI, but we must make their job a lot harder.

  • hector out, laca in
    bold move (and eddie didn’t deserve to be taken out imo) – a little too late, probably, but i like that

  • we’re out
    for The Guardian et al the FA Cup has suddenly become a trophy again
    at least one thing’s been sorted out today: our tuesday lineup
    they’re really not that impressive these saints, we have to bring something back from st. mary’s tuesday

  • Shame. On an OG. Still, the quality of the team presently? Relies on a specific core group playing at high energy with a just-recently bonded bit of chemistry. The regulars who did start today? Were mostly involved with that horrendous stretch of play throughout December. Not sure how there’s disappointment in this performance, based on that history.

    Well, I’d hoped for better.

    Remember as well Southampton reside above us in the table, game in hand. Maybe we change that Tuesday with an XI that has been far more capable recently.

  • Not a great performance but not too fussed I was not inspired by the lineup but again they still underperformed. Southampton was the better side with their pressing and passing. All our eggs in Europa and the league now which should afford the likes of Saka more rest. The fringe players did not do themselves any favors and again Balogun could not get a sniff but I was already convinced he was off (he did score a hattrick for u23s last night). I sometimes wonder if their ages were reversed would Balo not have received a few more opportunities based on seniority instead of Eddy. I am sure training and other factors come into it but in general we have seen Mikel give senior players more opportunities oh well.

  • We knocked at the door in the 2nd half but the quality of our final ball and finish wasn’t up to the required level and when Pepe blasted that free kick two metres over the bar from the edge of the penalty area I just knew it was not going to be our day.

    Partey looked good when he came on and that’s the level we need to progress towards, Soares actually looked a lot better when moved over to the right. We still have a few upgrades needed to our squad but that’s going to take time and a lot of money in some positions.

    I’m feeling quite flat after that performance.

  • It was only a matter of time to run into a serious opponent, as our 6-game unbeaten run were mostly against poor opposition.
    The sad aspect of the game (for me) that Southampton didn’t play great. Besides a couple of inspired tackles from Bednarek they were ‘only’ a decent, solid team, nothing more. And we weren’t particularly bad either (even Elneny played regular Elneny and Willian did his signature Willian-stuff, nothing out of the ordinary). So basically a(n only) slightly better than average Southampton beat a(n only) slightly worse than average Arsenal.

    My MotM candidate has to be Pepe (or if possible: 2nd half Pepe), as 5 of our 7 key passes came from him, but he also was wasteful in possession sometimes, and that blasted free-kick won’t make him proud either. Xhaka was only noticeable defensively, his probing forward passes were missing today.

    Not discussing the coaching and motivational skills of the managers, but Ralph Hasenhüttl is clearly a better tactician than Arteta. He managed to explain what proper pressing was like, and he set the tactics better again. Mikel didn’t make major mistakes either, but the Cedric-Martinelli partnership seemed a bit immature, and Elneny shouldn’t have started (and shouldn’t ever start) against a team that has little interest in ball possession.

  • Yes a flat feeling… It was well below par today, but I guess Arteta will have anticipated it bit still took the risk. The priority is clearly the league this season

  • I thought we have already given up the league as priority…
    Even we are only 5 points behind West Ham at #7 and 7 point behind Liverpool at #4 it will take a miracle to get there.
    First step will be beating Southampton with a better strategy. Or soon we’ll have to say: “Europa League was always the priority this season”.

  • The priority is clearly to do well in the league, as well as can. Even if Arteta would have won the FA cup again this season, he would be judged on the league performance.

  • Total/PB, Arteta knew he couldn’t play his 1st choice every game therefore he took a chance in this game and although I know it’s ‘our cup’ we have to focus on improving our form in the league because being a cup team only takes you so far. I even think that Arteta alluded to the fact that he wanted to change us from being a cup team into one that competes in the league again, something we’ve not been for too many years in the recent past.

    I agree PB, despite Southampton having a strong starting XI I can’t recall too many close opportunities on our goal save for their deflected winner. They did hit the post but it was offside, other than that I think that Leno was relatively untroubled.

    Should we have had a penalty? I think I missed it but a friend of mine said that Ward Prowse handled in the box, but no VAR today – what’s that all about we either have VAR or we don’t?!

    I have to wonder why Balogun couldn’t have been on the bench, surely a 15 minute cameo from him would have helped?

  • It is sad to be so kicked out but, we didn’t look like we wanted it until the second half and after bringing on some of the first team hitters who tried hard and knocked and knocked but couldn’t find that opening.

    I agree it is better to focus on improving our league position and try for the top 4 while also making a fist of the Europa league effort. Next stop, Southampton in the league. We must look to trounce them to put this defeat behind us.

  • Very sad to watch but it was really a boys against men game and the boy’s were so much better. Frankly I thought that Arteta would have taken the FA Cup and Southampton more seriously. Unlike others I find both Willian and Pepe to be a waste of space – they have had ample time to perform but never show up.

  • Yes Eris, Balogun is still our player and hasn’t agreed a deal so far and until he does there’s still hope that he’ll stay..

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