Ahh match day, that sweetest of things and whilst I can’t make the game itself today because of my current location, I still feel the same levels of excitement when it comes around.
Southampton at the Emirates for a 3pm kick off means I’ll be watching from an Irish bar in the Algarve, with a reserved seat and a hope for three points, because we really need to get our season underway now. The international break feels like we’ve got a fresh new start after an indifferent first two games, we are now in a position where we have our squad in place, our new signings made and we need a win to feel like we can start to drive towards the title. Whilst all eyes are in Manchester for those lot to battle it out, we have a job to do and if we do it as we’re supposed top, then we’ll all have a lovely weekend.
Southampton won’t be easy though. They’ve had a habit of making life difficult for us and with Fraser Forster confirmed as being available by manager Puel today, you know we’re in for another afternoon where he will invariably have the game of his life. It’s almost predestined to happen. They’ll be missing their new signing Jeremy Pied won’t start, so I suspect they’ll line up with the same team that played before the international break, including Shane Long, who will run around all day and leave his foot in where possible. He’ll be their main threat up top, but Tadic has always had a decent game when he’s played us, so I’ll not expect anything different today.
The Arsenal selection decisions are numerous. Dos Arsene throw in both of the new boys straight away? Can you leave a £30million centre half German international on the bench? This may sound weird, but there’s part of me that hopes he does, because I think Holding has been in fantastic form and Wenger has already previously given an indication that he might be willing to choose Holding, after the Watford game. I think the rest of the defensive unit picks itself, but then when we move forward in the line up, more questions remain. Does Arsene pick Xhaka and Santi again? Given we’re at home, given that we’re up against a Saints team who I think will look to sit deep and hit us on the counter, I don’t see the value of playing Coquelin. To me he’s a technically inferior player who will cover ground, but given the way Xhaka played and the distribution he had against Watford, I’d like to see more of that today.
What I loved about that game was the ability of the team to have two players with fantastic vision playing deep, with Ozil able to operate within the lines and find those pockets of space. The space will be truncated into one third of the pitch today, so if we have more players who can thread the eye of the pass, I say ‘all the better’.
There is then also the decision on who plays on the flanks. At first glance you’d say Theo and potentially Alexis, with Giroud up top now he’s back to full fitness, but I’m just not sure about Theo in this type off game, you know. They loves green grass to run in to. He loves it when he has space to get in behind the back four and I just don’t think that space will be available today. I think Southampton will sit deep, will look to be well organised and if Theo has to play in close-confined quarters with other players and Southampton players close to him, I don’t know if it works. I don’t think that means Perez will play, because I think Arsene will look to give him a bit of game time as a sub at some stage, but I wonder if Arsene will give Iwobi or the Ox the chance on the right. If he does, you’d have to say Iwobi looks a better bet than the Ox right now. Oxlade-Chamberlain looks very down on form and it’s showing in his lack of confidence. Iwobi may be a bit more of a wild card, but sometimes that works.
The return of Giroud will be interesting. Whether he takes the positions that Alexis operates will be one cause for concern, and better bloggers and writers than me have commented on their incompatibility together. We just have to hope that the two players can iron said compatibility from their respective games.
Right, that’s it from me. Here’s to three points. I’m off for some Sagres.