Happy New Year to you and welcome to 2015.
It’s a tough one to call today. Southampton away has seen us draw twice in the Premier League since they were reintroduced and one suspects that this season will probably have never been harder to beat the Saints on their own turf. Currently sitting fourth in the league and level on points with us, they’ve already managed to pick up a draw to Chelski and smash Everton by three goals to nil, so anybody not thinking we’re in for a tough ride should probably think again.
They may have seen a stint of games in which they dropped points, but they appear to have steadied their ship and will fancy their chances against an Arsenal team who have given opponents plenty of hope on the road this season.
Having already picked up two wins over Christmas though, plus seven wins out of the last nine, we seem to have suddenly stumbled upon some sort of form, so I’m hoping for another victory today to put us in the driving seat for that top four spot. Perhaps surprisingly though, I find myself thinking ‘just don’t lose, a point away will be ok’. Perhaps that’s indicative of how spluttery our season has been, but with our confidence seemingly permanently standing on the edge of a precipice, avoiding defeat seems more important than anything else right now.
Southampton will be missing Schneiderlin after he was sent off against Chelski and he has been a chief catalyst for everything that has been positive about Southampton this season. Hopefully his absence is felt keenly enough from the home side and we can take advantage, but their success this season has been built on multiple players hitting form like Pelle, Ward-Prowse, Clyne et al, so I think we’ll need to stifle a few players to be successful today. Avoiding being overrun in the wide positions will be important, as Southampton like to use the pace of the full backs to quickly support the wide players. Southampton play good football and have enough about them to give us an actual game and not a clobberfest, but I think it’s good that we’ve got our first choice back four fit and ready for today.
In the middle of the park the manager might be tempted to give Coquelin a run out alongside Flamini, but with a team less likely to lump balls up to the target man, I wonder if someone like Rosicky would be more appropriate. He moves the ball quickly from front to back and was excellent against QPR and I suspect he might play today.
Our attacking three will probably be the same as at West Ham, but if Welbeck hasn’t made it fitness wise, then I think Walcott will be thrown in from the start, with Alexis up top and the Ox making up the third man.
This is a time of the year when grinding out results is everything, so I’m not expecting to see anything pretty, probably a bit scary at times, but if we pick up some points, nine of us will care come 5pm.
Come on Arsenal, let’s start 2015 off on the right foot with a win.