Southampton Preview: Saints Or Sinners

So back to the action. Southampton pitch up at the Emirates, cast as sacrificial lambs which is hardly surprising given that they haven’t won a league match in this part of north London in three decades. Of more concern to the Saints will be the fact that they haven’t won a league match this season.

It’s a day of expectations. Arsenal are expected to field at least one of the late transfer window additions today. It will be a huge surprise if Shkodran Mustafi doesn’t partner Laurent Koscielny in the centre of the defence, relegating Rob Holding to the bench. The youngster has done well alongside the more experienced French international but with PSG looming large in the fixture list, Arsène will want the new partnership to have some game time together.

Ever optimistic, he noted that both Mustafi and Lucas Perez had settled quickly at the club, no doubt helped by their fluency in English. As Wenger observed, it’s matches where their value to the squad will be shown and today sees Arsène face a former colleague. He lavished praise on Claude Puel, as you might expect from a manager to a former player. And one he evidently regarded highly.

With Perez, the decision on whether he plays is less straightforward. Much will depend on how Alexis shaped up after a long flight back. It’s a test of Wenger’s belief that he has his most “mature” squad in some time. It isn’t just physically where maturity counts; it’s mentally as well. Part of that would be a player ‘fessing up that he isn’t in the best shape following a long flight home. Whether that’s happened or not is another matter.

The major additions this summer are certainly tried and tested. There’s a risk with every signing that it may not work out but Granit Xhaka seems to be adapting quickly, we need the two newcomers from La Liga to do the same. Experience ought to mean that we handle pressure better than before but with Arsenal that isn’t always the case. Yes, the pressure of qualifying for the Champions League has been swatted aside in the same way that we have seen the squad crumble at the prospect of being champions at the end of the season.

Returning to starting XI this afternoon will also be Olivier Giroud. The French striker enjoyed the summer have endured spring. We wait to see which Giroud will turn up: the goal-shy attacker we’ve seen for most of this year at club level or the hungry, enthusiastic striker the French had at Euro 2016? Arsène highlighted Lucas Perez’s versatility yesterday, almost emphasising that the Spaniard can “play down the middle”; a veiled threat to Giroud or general observation?

The line-up is fairly predictable for this one with few changes from the Watford match:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Cazorla; Walcott, Ōzil, Sanchez; Giroud

It’s an XI which ought to be good enough to win comfortably. We made relatively short work of Watford and at the moment, I think Southampton are playing at their level.

Inevitably, yesterday’s press conference turned to Jack Wilshere’s loan to Bournemouth. Wilshere, Wenger believes, will sign a new deal at the club, as early as Christmas this year apparently. The praise was effusive from the manager – Jack’s world-class, an Arsenal man, a football man who could manage Arsenal at some point and who will stay in football his whole working life. If football is work, of course.

It’s easy to question why Wenger sent him on loan if he’s that good. Fitness is the issue and stories emerged that Jack wasn’t training full-time with Bournemouth yet, preparing for matches with rest as much as exertion. Whether it’s the right move is another matter. Certainly Wenger’s words run contrary to the view that Wilshere won’t be back at Arsenal.

Platitudes, of course. Wenger was hardly likely to say that Wilshere was in the shop window, is he? Jack, like Giroud, seems to be a player people love or hate. I understand why there is frustration but it seems born of persistent injuries than lack of ability. The move to the south coast is a test for him in that respect. Get fit, get playing and then come back to challenge for a place in the team.

Of course, if he stays fit that raises some awkward questions for Arsenal to answer, particularly if he gets anywhere over 30 games in the Premier League…

That’s for another day though. Today is matchday and that’s all that matters. That and three points…

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

138 thoughts on “Southampton Preview: Saints Or Sinners

  1. Orson Kaert says:

    There seems to be some doubt as to the legitimacy of the penalty award. Can anyone who saw it say either way?

  2. G4E says:

    Limestonegunner,

    I have to see it again, but it seemed like a lot of confusion there.

    I’m not complaining, we get lucky to get the 3 points…..but having a little bit of luck on a bad day is something we lacked in the past. So it’s nice for a change.

  3. C says:

    Really good result, thought Theo played well and Santi wa brilliant.

    Kos and Mustafi in the early days looked a good CB pairing no doubt. Pere did well, thought he seemed to deal with the physicality of Fonte and Van Djik(another one we shoyld have pounced on) and then in the 2nd half really started to show himself and causr problems; excited to see him with Sanchez. Ozil struggled and seemed to be unsure of the movement of players but seemed to grow unto the game with Sanchez.

    Giroud did well and put himself about, for me, thats his perfect role as a CF2 to come in late in matches.

  4. Limestonegunner says:

    C,

    I agree. Battering ram. I hope Perez starts v PSG again. This time with Alexis and Iwobe/Theo.

  5. HenryB says:

    Orson Kaert:
    There seems to be some doubt as to the legitimacy of the penalty award.Can anyone who saw it say either way?

    Orsey, if we got it — its legitimate — who cares?? 😀

  6. C says:

    Limestonegunner,

    Yup, think Perez/Sanchez/Theo or Iwobi is the front 3 moving forward(naturally a choice between Theo or Iwobi). I would love to see them start against PSG with Xhaka/Santi or Elneny/Ozil.

    The one thing that was promising is that Perez dealt with and seemed to at times relish the contact and physicality; early days but most certainly promising.

  7. Limestonegunner says:

    Orson Kaert,

    There was a shirt tug but it was the sort of play OG whined about when not called and you wished he would stop it. This time he got the call.

  8. Wavey says:

    There was a shirt tug in amongst the wrestling between the two players. Giroud made a bit of a meal of it in the way he went down, but the ref seemed to buy it and under the new rules decided that there was enough shirt pulling to warrant the penalty. If you were a Southampton fan you would be checking for your wallet as you left the ground. Pretty disappointed at how few shots we actually had. Definitely too much dwelling on the ball when snappier passes would have given us a clearer sight at goal. Ozil looked out of sorts today and was probably more guilty of dwelling on the ball than anyone else. There was an argument for him coming off and Cazorla moving further up the field, because Santi was much more effective. Playing together a bit more should hopefully sharpen us up a bit. Three points is the main thing.

  9. Wavey says:

    Thought the BBC report on the match was harsh on Perez. They summed his performance up as “63 mostly ineffective minutes”. I didn’t expect too much from him in his first PL match and he would have had a goal, but for a good interception on one of the crosses.
    There weren’t any good performances up front today and the other players have a lot more PL experience than Perez, so I wouldn’t have singled him out.

  10. Ak says:

    Can’t complain about Perez but honestly think Ox and Theo need to step up. They keep producing below par perfoomance repeatedly. For all their experience

  11. ArseneWenger says:

    If that’s there assessment of Perez it is very harsh indeed. I believe he played well, he worked hard for the team. Not everything came off for him and at times he was unlucky but I think he’ll come good.

  12. Colts says:

    Theo? Surely you mean Chamberlain. Theo had a ok game, was involved and made some smart plays. The ox on the other hand, wow, that dude needs to calm down and focus cos his final ball is not good.

    The wiz stunk the place out but it’s not often we get to see that so he gets a pass.

  13. Ras says:

    I thought Santi showed a lot of bottle in taking the penalty.

    Still to profligate in front of goal.

    Mustafi is quite verbal in defence. Can only be a good thing.

    3 points.

  14. santori says:

    A tad lucky in the end for the penalty.

    Press commentator was an idiot the one I was listening to. Did not think Santi’s yellow card was harsh but was complaining about the ref giving one to Soton for a more obvious foul (Santi didn’t touch anyone)

    Still he commentated that the ref was fantastic. Until the penalty award then he went silent.:D

    I think Giroud and whoever it was from Soton were ina 50-50 tussle but the Soton bloke stuck his foot out and left it dangling when Giroud tried to go for the loose ball. That’s where it was awarded.

    Fair enough.

    Plenty of character to come back from the unfortunate Cech goal.

    Coquelin I thought had a good game (Santi just seems to bring something out in him…or maybe its just Santi is incredibly good)

    Santi MOTM for me. We missed him so much last season.

    Walcott was decent. Ox the frustrating thing is he gives us the ability to beat 2 of their players at a go. Fantastic pace and control. But somehow his final ball always seems to be poor. Its a question of application/experience and he will get better.

    Perez I thought went about his business OK considering its his first game in the PL. He’ll need to get use to how quick he gets closed down and will need a bit of time to adapt.

    The whole argument of whether he or GIroud should start is frankly retarded. It depends on the opposition we face and the situation. Giroud can also be effective starting depending on strengths and weakness on our side too.

    Perez can also come on late and cause damage with his pace when the game opens up.

    I think this match was more a factor of us having to rotate because of the Tuesday game.

    The point is choice/option is the crucial thing and now we have two different weapons.

    Finally Mustafi. Seems one of the other positives we have with him is he allows Bellerin to push forward more (since Skhodran naturally also covers @ Rback). Wenger again has brought him in for a reason.

    I thought he was good bar one poor pass early in match. Naturally there are still communication issues to iron out with koscielny but considering its the first game in, it was decent.

    And oh Le Boss, what a good goal. If Gabriel comes back and we have a striker issue, you know who we can call.:D

  15. Orson Kaert says:

    Right that’s it for football as far as I’m concerned for this evening, it’s over to that great British tradition, the Last Night of the Proms.

  16. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    I always feel for defenders on their debut for Arsenal, never quite no if they should be doing what other defends do and clear their lines or trying to pass it out….

    Ozil looked quite tired today, surprised he wasn’t rested and Xhaka was given a start

  17. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    santori,

    Santi lets anyone who plays beside him do their thing, the one area he excels in over Ozil is his ability to create space when it seems he’s stuck. He was MOTM by far. Teams shaping up quite well, refreshing to see Alexis, Xhaka, Giroud and Owobi on bench as options and not overplaying them.I think for me the best Combination is Xkaha and Santi in midfield i’ve seen, Xhaka just keeps us ticking over really well and better range of passing

    Mustafi looked good, solid but needs to grow a bit more! Both he and Kos lost a few headers that if it were a Costa or Ibra we’ve be in trouble with

  18. Limestonegunner says:

    MesutsLeftFoot,

    I saw a good CB who is going to be challenged aerially in this league. He is not very big. But overall he played rather well.

  19. C says:

    MesutsLeftFoot,

    I think the one thing was the headers but I wonder if that was simply him adjusting to CF’s actually challenging him in the air; when you look at La Liga, not many can. I’m actually not worried because I saw a CB that adjusted as the match went on. Mustafi is exactly what we have been missing without Mert; that organizer and vocal leader plus I think he and Kos will actually do really well.

  20. C says:

    Colts,

    I actually agree with you about Ox; he was constantly beating his man (as he does most fo the time) but his final ball and decion making is what was lacking. I really hope he does get it together because with Perez playing at CF, that means Sanchez is still playing on the flanks, Theo has shown form and is working hard for the team and Iwobi overall is a better more technical futboler but is still learning. So Ox has to figure it out before he falls down the pecking order.

  21. C says:

    Campbell scored for Lisbon while on loan

  22. Columbus Arsenal (MA) says:

    We did get lucky on the penalty, but then Fonte having hold of OG’s shirt was simply dumb. The mandate had already been stressed to officials to be more on top of shirt pulling and thus doing so in front of the ref was plain stupid. Foster getting booked for time wasting having already been warned, just stupid. Arsenal’s finishing, just stupid.

  23. Wavey says:

    C,

    I think that’s going to happen anyway and I think Ox knew it when he was subbed off yesterday. The look on his face suggested he was’t all that happy with his own performance. Dead man walking.

  24. Damon says:

    Only got to see the highlights last night, so perhaps my observations aren’t quite fair, but my two pennies worth would be…

    We got a fairly big slice of luck yesterday, but that took balls to put the penalty away. It helped the keeper went so early. If he keeps hitting them down the middle, keepers are going to start staying put fairly soon!!

    I thought the team selection hinted Arsene had more than one eye on PSG. Which pisses me off a tad. We’re chasing in the Prem, so I would’ve put my strongest team out. Especially when you consider that we still seem to have major problems braking a team down that score first. Yes, they got behind their goal and tried to defend it, but we weren’t exactly battering it down to get back in?? Not from what I saw?

    The new blood looked useful though

    Looking around the Prem, I think we have cause for concern. Yes, very early days. But. The Manc clubs look strong. City already have the foundations and I expect them to grow. They have some very special players there. United showed yesterday they already have more mettle under mourinho than anyone since Fergie. At two down they should’ve been dead and buried, they weren’t in it. Didn’t manage to claw it back, but they got bloody close through sheer effort

    Liverpool absolutely decimated the league champions. It could’ve been a cricket score if they had their shooting boots on and the on in reply was a gift from a defensive howler. The Scousers attacked with urgency and flair. They appear to have goal threats from a number of players too. I took that as a real marker put down yesterday. We watch this space

    The Middlesex pub team look like they’re going to be a nuisance again this season. Haven’t quite hit the ground running in top gear yet, but the room to grow is equally concerning

    Hazard looks to have his form of the season before last back, which is enough to carry a team, let alone one with as much talent as that squad has

  25. HenryB says:

    Hold the ‘Phone!

    Hold the Back Page!

    Mouthy Mourhino is Fuming Over The Referee!!!!!

    Now that is a total shock — did the creep lose or something? Well I never. 😀

  26. peter says:

    ‘by the skin of our teeth’.. all I need to say

  27. andy1886 says:

    Looked exactly like many of last year’s performances, and the year before that TBH. Plenty of possession, neat passing, lack of penetration, and difficulty hitting the target. Not the first time we’ve been saved by a late, late goal. Three points but papering over the cracks (again) for me.

    Lat year we were made to look better than we were by the failings of others, as Wavey points out this season is probably going to be different. Unless our new boys settle quickly and have a good first season then it’ll be the usual battle for fourth. A title tilt doesn’t look like it’s on the cards based on the evidence to date.

  28. Jonnygunner says:

    HenryB,

    Mornin’ Henry….the boxing ……did you take my advice and put £50 down on Golovkin in the 6th round ?……..tsk ?

  29. Jonnygunner says:

    Henry …it was the 5 th actually…but I think I said last week Brook might get to the 6th at most………

  30. HenryB says:

    JonnyG,

    Your prediction was spot on!
    That was a hell of a fight – and went just as you said it would. Ferocious fighter is that Mr Golovkin. 🙂

    Brook put up a brave effort but was always out-matched.

  31. Limestonegunner says:

    Agree with Damon and Andy. Looks like a daunting league season. We’ve given good teams a cushion with our lack of preparation and are starting late. We are a work in progress. 4th place will likely be a fight unless we improve quickly. Resting ahead of PSG suggests that AW understands the league title might be out of reach already? I hope it was more about the intl break. Tbh, Ozil looked like he needed a rest.

  32. Jonny says:

    First season in 6 where I have not put money down on a top 4 finish.

    I imagine we will be scrapping with Liverpool, Tottenham and a few others for that 4th spot.

  33. Wavey says:

    Jonny,

    Hopeful that a settled back four will provide a solid base for the team, but I am still concerned that I don’t know where the goals will come from. We only had two shots on target yesterday (converted both of them though). The list of quality managers with cash to spend is growing and the big guns were not going to give everyone another free season to go for the title.
    It will important to win the games against the mid table teams as its likely that those at the top will nick points off each other which should even things out.

  34. C says:

    Wavey,

    Yup, interesting times ahead for him because Iwobi is showing he is more than capable and I would imagine that’s who he is battling with.

  35. C says:

    Le Coq had a good game, he doesn’t offer the range of passing or quick transitions but when he does his job, he does it well.

  36. C says:

    From what I saw yesterday, and so far, have to tip my hat to Arsene for the players bought. Sure its early days but all have shown well.

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