Southampton Preview: Taking It One Louder

A lunchtime assignment in the Premier League against the most out of form team in the division with one central defender. What could possibly go wrong?

While Arsene wasn’t averse to using a full-back in the centre, if Unai Emery decides to play three at the back, it’s his two most experienced full-backs will fill in. The Spaniard is taking the banter era one louder.

It’s flippant to view it that way, I know, but is it that much of a concern? The other way to look at it is the 3-4-3 formation itself. Will the two full-backs be more aware of the gaps behind the wing-backs than a centre-back? On the left, Monreal covering Kolasinac provides some reassurance, doesn’t it?

The reality is that Emery has options. Monreal, at least, is accustomed to filling in the central duties and if either he or Lichtsteiner isn’t working out, there’s always the option of switching to a back four.

I’m assuming he won’t slot Elneny in as a ‘sweeper’ behind Monreal and Koscielny, which is the sort of leftfield Emery tactical switch we’re becoming accustomed to.

To say I’m comfortable with the full-backs flanking Koscielny is over-stating the case. But I’m not filled with fear at the prospect. That, in part, is down to confidence in Emery to find the solutions we need for a win today.

Southampton’s new boss will no doubt get some ‘boost’ from the players. We’ve been here before, infamously with Stuart Pearce’s ‘eleven outfield players and no goalkeeper’ XI at Forest.

If Ralph Hasenhüttl – not Hfuhruhurr – inspires the Saints to better performance levels this quickly, how the hell did the previous manager last so long in the job? Its football is the answer. An industry where failure is just another job opportunity in the making.

The Pushing Is Nothing New

The point isn’t lost on Emery either:

Southampton have some very good players and a new coach who has good experience and good performances in Germany. On Sunday I think they are going to push against us a lot. We need to prepare very well for the match with a very big personality because we want to be consistent. Every challenge is to continue doing that and Sunday is a big challenge and a big match, and also we are looking forward to continuing our improvement and good moment knowing that it’s difficult. 

The Spaniard’s approach is helped by Lucas Torreira’s form. Emery is impressed by the way the Uruguayan settled into the English game.

I think he has the quality and he also has our help. He’s very humble and this humbleness is good for every day, and helping him achieve both his individual objectives and those with the group. His performances have been good and, like every player, he is working with a very big commitment every day.

His comments are similar to those made by Steve Bould recently when he and Sal Bibbo were interviewed on dot com. Torreira is a player we’re going to see transfer stories about in the future even if we return to the Champions League. That’s my unsettling prediction for the future, anyway.

The other issue for Emery to decide is whether Mesut Ozil plays from the start or off the bench. While it’s easy to quip about the game being too physical for him, his back injury is debilitating in that sense. On a day with a makeshift defence in situ, is the German the kind of player we need? Or do the circumstances provide Henrikh Mkhitarayan with another opportunity?

It’s Just Numbers On Paper

There’s no doubt the Armenian is underperforming in the attacking third. However, his defensive work in support of the wing-backs is just what the coach ordered. That is as important today as anything else.

Yet the option of a 3-5-1-1 formation with Guendouzi in the centre and Ozil supporting Aubameyang can’t be ruled out. This is where Emery is an exciting coach. The predictability of recent years is gone and the tactics fit the opposition.

All of which pontificating leaves the line-up:

Leno; Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Iwobi; Aubameyang

Enjoy the match wherever you’re watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

57 thoughts on “Southampton Preview: Taking It One Louder

  1. consolsbob says:

    On this day, Saturday 10th April, 1971, Southampton played Arsenal at the Dell. The home side was 5th in the table and Arsenal were 2nd.

    As per the programme, ‘From the Boardroom’;

    “This afternoon we are pleased to give a special welcome to Arsenal to the Dell for what must be the match of the season. Our Xmas match with them at Highbury finished as a goalless draw, so this must be a decider. And no one can belittle the size of the task. This year’s FA Cup Finalists hope to be the team of the season, with their hope of achieving the double of the League Championship and the FA Cup.”

    Building on that theme an article by Tony Pullein points out that If Arsenal are to achieve that goal and become only the second team that century to do so, then, they “cannot afford to drop a single league point and, of course, they still have to beat Liverpool at Wembley on May 8th.”

    “Throughout the season they have provided the only serious challenge to Leeds Utd and even though at times the Yorkshire club seemed to have gained an unassailable lead- at one time they were 7 points clear- manager Bertie Mee always insisted that his team could catch them.”

    “Based upon a sound defence, Arsenal have great strength in midfield- where George Armstrong is having a riotous season and young protégé Charlie George is earning high praise as ‘another Charlie Buchan’- and up front. Both John Radford and Ray Kennedy have passed the 20 goal mark while George Graham is fast approaching that figure.”

    Pertinent to that piece and the outcome of the season, the ‘Football League Review’ which was usually included in many club’s programmes as a ‘freebie’ then, particularly in programmes like Southampton’s which were pretty poor, had an article on the trend of improving defences.

    ” Does it pay to score goals? Not in terms of finishing among the Honours unless you concede about half as many as you get.” This season so far, WBA had scored 46 but conceded 55 and were 7th from bottom while Liverpool had only scored 29, conceded only 17 and were 5th from top. Defences were getting tighter. The trend since the war was for goals conceded by the title winning side to be getting better.

    Another article debated the merits of Supporter’s Clubs. A help or a hindrance? The latter it decides when “…a supporters club attempts to step beyond it’s basic function… (they) can be useful as long as they do not try to gain too much power and…cause friction with the club”

    Supporters clubs having power? What were they smoking back then?

    Anybody got a copy of the 1966/67Exeter v. Chesterfield programme? Mr GP Harrington of Chesterfield will give you the 1956/57 Exeter v. Southampton programme and 10 others in mint condition for it.

    Teams for the day were:
    Southampton; Martin, Kirkup, Hollywood, Fisher, McGrath, Gabriel, Paine, Channon, Davies, O’Neil, Jenkins.

    Arsenal; Wilson, Rice, McNab, Storey, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George.

    Before and after the game the programme gives a choice of pubs, The Red Lion which is ‘An ancient monument of Olde England’ but served Watneys, so that one wasn’t a runner. Which leaves ‘The loveliest pub in town’, The Bellemoor Inn, which boasts log fires and the ‘complete atmosphere of a country inn No mention of the beer but it sounds the better bet. Although based on my last visit to Southampton this summer for the Test Match. I would give the whole Centre a miss. What a dump!

    Here is yesterday’s football result: Southampton 1, Arsenal 2.

    The winner, if I remember correctly, was scored by McLintock, very late on, sticking out a boot in the box.

  2. C says:

    Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Lichsteiner, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang

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

  3. andy1886 says:

    A back four then, but no CB on the bench (wouldn’t count Elneny). If there is a problem I would guess that Nacho goes to CB and AMN to FB?

  4. Noon Gunner says:

    consolsbob,

    Thanks for that nip down memory lane, Bob. That was the season I first decided I was an Arsenal supporter and just reading the line-up now gives me long-ago goosebumps. I was 16 and at a N Yorkshire public school where my best friend was a long-standing and very serious Chelsea supporter. He showed me I had a long way to go before calling myself a fan, but that was the season for planting and watering the roots.

  5. Noon Gunner says:

    Is Kolasinac injured or just dropped in favour of AMN?

  6. ferkov says:

    Hoping to see Micki and Iwobi tear it up first half. Up and down both flanks, run them ragged. Then if game still needs winning, bring on the heavies. And Mesut.
    COYG

  7. Noon Gunner says:

    consolsbob,

    Vintage, Bob, not old. And ours was, in my incredibly humble opinion, one of the finest vintages! 🙂

  8. Noon Gunner says:

    Mkhi lacks the confidence to run that into open space and shoot, so he slows down and gets blocked. I guess that’s something you only cure by playing under pressure.

  9. consolsbob says:

    Noon Gunner,

    Well, obviously that is true!

    I was at the Highbury match that season which was a Boxing Day fixture. Snow on the terraces and only part of the ground open. I remember flasks of spirits being circulated on the North Bank.

    One of those games when the Southampton keeper played a blinder and when Radford did get it in the net the Ref disallowed it. Nil – nil.

    To me then I thought that might have cost us the title. Fortunately not.

  10. consolsbob says:

    Well, the commentators approve of course but the Sounthampton side just seem reckless to me. Someone could really get hurt if the ref carries on tolerating it like he has.

  11. buckagh says:

    It was a quality cross but Kos should get his head to it

  12. Noon Gunner says:

    I was just writing that they’re keeping our wing play well under wraps…and good old Nacho pops it on Mkhi’s head. Confidence for both of them.

  13. consolsbob says:

    Kos has never been what I would call reliable.

  14. Noon Gunner says:

    I hope Iwobi regains his touch and close control. He’s struggled of late. I’d be surprised if he lasts 90.

  15. Noon Gunner says:

    Phew! So we go in at half time a goal down. Back in our comfort zone.

    Unimpressive from Kos for both goals, although the passes were excellent. Leno looked hypnotised – could he not have ached it?

  16. SV says:

    That was dreadful. We are getting found out here. The defenders are playing like it’s a training session. The midfield is not coping with the physicality of S. Overall, zero control of the game flow. I would take a poibt right now.

  17. consolsbob says:

    Possibly a career defining appearence for Ozil.

  18. consolsbob says:

    The defence has learnt little from the first two goals it seems.

  19. SV says:

    Made them look like world beaters (as always), conseded 3 headers.

    I was somewhat reluctant to get carried away, and I think I was right. The fundamental problems remain. A lack of physicality, goal keaping and defending for a different league, many passengers in the squad.

    A tough Christmas period awaits, and may be a season target’s reassessment.

  20. YW says:

    C

    > It had to end at some point I suppose….

    Yup. Shot ourselves in the foot and then chopped it off for good measure. Terrible defending for all three goals from defenders, midfielders and goalkeeper.

  21. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Finding it a little hard to assess. Emery definitely has us better organized and more competitive. In other seasons, our form would have been competitive (enough to knock Leicester off their year at least?). As it is, 5th looks nailed on but Champions League looks a stretch. Honestly, I think most teams would struggle with the defensive losses we’ve suffered but can we honestly say our first choice defenders look totally comfortable facing the sort of balls that undid us today? Limping to the teansfer window, hoping to minimize the damage. I would argue progress has been made but wemight end up in the same position of coming 5th and competing for the lesser cups.

  22. andy1886 says:

    Oh well, it would be too much to expect our defensive frailties to not cost us sooner or later. Given that they’ve existed for the best part of a decade you can’t expect an immediate improvement either. I’d still have Kos leaving in the summer, fair enough he’s rusty right now but regardless of that he’d been pretty average for a season or two before that.

    I’m not too disappointed to be honest, still think that we’re moving in the right direction, but forget sexy signings for the next couple of windows it’ll be all about fixing the defence.

  23. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Kos, I thought pretty culpable in all goals, so a big question is whether this was a lack of sharpness or just his level now.

  24. Woolwich Freddie says:

    andy1886,

    I’m happy to forget sexy signings. I think those we have will thrive the more beasts we have in the squad. Emery, at least, seems like he gets this.

  25. Woolwich Freddie says:

    BTW, I know Sir Stephan is no saint himself but did anyone else feel like the lad who took him out was lucky to escape with a yellow?

  26. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Woolwich Freddie,

    And Shane Long, of course, escaped with a similar punishment for his traditional cheap shot. I can’t stand that little shit.

  27. Welsh corgi cardigan says:

    Oh ffs, Charlie Austin 5 goals vs the arse and none against the rest for 36 Months or something.
    Watching kos, and Ozil it felt like a Wenger team and sure enough fucking Charlie Austin scores a winner.

    Fucking shampton again and yes, even Shane long had a goal in. Think we would have learnt something of that. Nooooo, no, no, no. This was pure and simple painful.
    Sell Özil and cut our losses. Don’t let the loss ride and hodl.

  28. SV says:

    These players score against us for fun, because we can not cope with a tall physical opposition and with areal threat, whereas for any other EPL team it’s the bread and butter of defending. We are still a squad created by Wenger to show them all how to play proper football. A lot of work needed to undo this delusion.

  29. consolsbob says:

    Not too bothered really.

    We know the issues with the defence.

    The unbeaten run wqs becoming a burden, to me anyway.

    Defeat makes them re focus. No doubt that we need reinforcements but,again, we knew that.

  30. C says:

    Massive blow with reports Bellerin could be out for a couple weeks. It does help that Mustafi and Sokaritis only miss today and we have Lichtsteiner.

  31. C says:

    YW,

    It certainly was self inflicted. Understand Captain Kos coming back but he should have done better. The true measure of if Emery really has changed the culture will be what happens next.

    I know its not everybody’s cup of tea but I would like to see maybe get back to the XI who played a portion of the unbeaten run to seehow they respond.

    Leno
    Lichsteiner—Mustafi—Lichtsteiner—Sead
    Torriera—-Xhaka—–
    Mhkitaryan or Iwobi—–Ozil——Aubameyang
    Lacazette.

  32. Dalm says:

    Didn’t see any of it but radio 5 say Saints the better team.

    As an aside following previous posts I’ve tried looking for punk on radio 6 – all I seem to get is rubbishy f knows what it is music…

  33. andy1886 says:

    One positive is the way Emery comes out and says we have to do better. If it was Wenger we’d hear endless droning on about injuries, being unlucky, anything apart from taking responsibility and determination to learn and improve.

  34. Bill says:

    Just saw the result. Obviously disappointing to lose to a team that has really been struggling. We are probably not going to repeat that sort of unbeaten run. The problem is that Emery has had us playing well as we possibly can but we a 5th place team. Its evidence of the talent gap that we need to start closing in the next few transfer windows if we ever want to compete with Liverpool or man city or any Europe’s big teams. Even Emery can’t work miracles

  35. C says:

    andy1886,

    Agree with you on that.

    Beyond the loss though, the injury to Bellerin is for me, the worst news of the day. Sure Lichtsteiner can do a job, but Bellerin has been superb up and down that flank all season both attacking and defending.

  36. Jonnygunner says:

    Bill:
    Just saw the result. Obviously disappointing to lose to a team that has really been struggling. We are probably not going to repeat that sort of unbeaten run. The problem is that Emery has had us playing well as we possibly can but we a 5th place team. Its evidence of the talent gap that we need to start closing in the next few transfer windows if we ever want to compete with Liverpool or man city or any Europe’s big teams. Even Emery can’t work miracles

    Too many draws

  37. ferkov says:

    Dalm:
    Didn’t see any of it but radio 5 saySaints the better team.

    As an aside following previous posts I’ve tried looking for punk on radio 6 – all I seem to get is rubbishy f knows what it is music…

    Yep . You’ve found it then.
    It is the BBC mind. They don’t have an old grey whistling punk show. But weekdays ,Mark Riley, Tom Ravens, and Don Letts have some good new stuff on.
    Weekends are a bit iffie. Proper Djs are out out see.

  38. Bill says:

    C:
    andy1886,

    Agree with you on that.

    Beyond the loss though, the injury to Bellerin is for me, the worst news of the day.Sure Lichtsteiner can do a job, but Bellerin has been superb up and down that flank all season both attacking and defending.

    C

    You have been telling us all season that Bellerin Torriera and Leno have been absolutely brilliant and Xhaka has really improved and kolasinac and Mustafi are much better then we think and yet we are on a pace to concede more goals then any Arsene Wenger team ever did. Either the defensive players are not as good as you think or the manager has done a really poor job of organizing and training them. There are no other realistic options.

  39. ferkov says:

    C,

    Agreed, but could be an opportunity for AMN in yet another niche.
    Shame he didn’t get much ball today. His pace and drive is one of the ingredients this team needs. Not sure of his positioning,/ culpability for the goal, but I doubt he should have been able to be involved. C , you’ll know.

    Iwobi only looks a player when he’s running at people. As soon as he looks backwards, there’s like a fracture In time.. Wengered.

    Poor Old Kos. He’s getting some stick. And he was culpable. No doubts. But a hiding to nothing , after 70 minutes of shit preparation. I feel for him. That’s not to say i hope to see him in the next XI.
    Spuds on Weds now then. Stick or Twist?
    Can’t put lambs to the slaughter against them…. Surely not.

  40. Bill says:

    Jonnygunner

    Unbeaten runs are great but the only thing that matters is how many points you end up collecting. The table doesn’t differentiate between points dropped with draws vs losses.

  41. C says:

    Bill,

    Some of the goals scored have not been Leno’s fault nor has he been at fault. Sure a couple he should have done better but he is also adapting to the PL….take a look at what was said in both Courtious and De Gea’s first couple seasons and its a very different story to the players we know now. Questioning Bellerin and Torriera is madness mate and Xhaka has been a different player. Mustafi, like Sokaritis and even Holding have done well but have had lapses. Sead, he has done well attacking and at numwrous times been good defensively but our defenders are undoing years of neglect and it is showing coupled with learning a new GK.

  42. ferkov says:

    Early morning,bleary eyed thought. Apart from, I shouldn’t have opened that last bottle, let alone finish it.
    When Redmond was picking up the ball and turning, it felt like we had our Arsenal back. Except, not the one we want to sing about, but last seasons, where none of the defenders are sure enough of each other to step up and take him on(out). I suspect Papa would have sorted that out pretty early on, and kicked fucking Romeu In the air a couple of times too.
    I hope we don’t show such weakness again. Au revoire, as they say …..,somewhere.

  43. ferkov says:

    Well that’s a lovely little CL draw to brighten up a Monday after.

  44. Bill says:

    C

    The number of goals we are conceding certainly points to a different reality then the everyone is playing great scenario that you see when you watch the games. According to what you had said earlier this season Emery has not favored a back 3 formation in the past but I suspect part of the reason emery switched to the back 3 system is because neither Bellerin and Kolasinac are very strong defensively and they are less exposed when they are playing as wing backs. Its also not realistic to suggest that your GK has been brilliant when the ball is flying past him into the net as often as it has been

  45. C says:

    Bill,

    As you haven’t watched many games I would imagine and only watched highlights, its not the best to simply make judgements. For instance, Bellerin has actually been arguably Player of the Season and its not all about his attacking. Sead has played well but I didn’t say he’s been great because he has had his wobbles but he has also played quite well. Leno, while still adjusting, has kept us in and saved us on a number kf occasions. Simply looking at goals scored, while its how they are judged, doesn’t tell the full story of a GK. I mean if you watch some of the goals, Leno didn’t have a chance to save them. I’m not saying everybody is playing great but to say that Torriera, Bellerin and Leno haven’t been very good to superb for us is a bit of a headscratcher.

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