Howdy folks. Match day. Best day of the week. Well, usually is, especially when it’s a home game and usually I’m off to The Arsenal but this week I have a family event that prevents me from going. I’m not bitter. Much.
It’s a religious thing as well so I’m hoping that my sacrifice that I am making today by not being able to go to my own church on a Sunday in North London means that the gods look down favourably on Arsenal today and we get some sort of performance from the players today.
Of course what we’ll no doubt get is Charlie Austin scoring against us, as he ALWAYS does, Shane Long suddenly not being a terrible footballer, as ALWAYS happens against us, as well as the Southampton defence turning in to a back four of peak Maldini, Baresi, Cannavaro and Zanetti as we huff and puff to try and break their door down.
What I’d like to see is our players looking for revenge from the defeat at St Mary’s in December in which a Southampton team in poor form and unable to score too many goals, notching up three against us and suddenly looking like a team with energy, drive and infinitely better than their league position suggested at the time. They had the dreaded ‘new manager bounce’ that day but Hasenhuttl has been there a few months now, he’s steadied the ship and whilst they currently sit third from bottom and therefore still in the danger zone I suspect they will eventually get out.
I just hope today they’re not the absolute beasts that I expect them to be.
But in order for us to keep them quiet we’re going to have to be on it and what I’m hoping for today is another attacking line up like the side against BATE at home. Unai knee his team needed goals and so he went for a more offensive formation and whilst we had a couple of wobbles against a poor team we still scored three goals. I’d like to see the same level of attacking creative options this lunchtime.
I suspect he might rotate. I certainly think Lacazette will come in but the question remains as to whether Aubameyang drops out. I wouldn’t. I’d go with Laca and Auba up top, I’d ask Özil to sit behind and like on Thursday I’d play two behind him, only those two would be Xhaka and Torreira. Then I’d be hoping that Maitland-Niles can come in instead of Lichtsteiner and I’d also probably play Kolasinac instead of Monreal. Sead has more about him going forward and I think we need that today. He’s not the best defensively but at home against a team third from bottom we should have more possession, more ball in the final third and that’s where the Bosnian can provide width and options.
The back two will most likely be Sokratis and Mustafi given Koscielny hobbled off and then you’ve got Leno to come back in behind them.
Of course what Unai could do is play Laca up top and play three behind him of Auba, Özil and Ramsey. During the unbeaten run earlier in the season we saw that but at times it looked a little disjointed and some of those players looked like they were playing on top of each other by contesting space in the middle of the park. But despite the fact it felt a little awkward we were still getting goals and were one of the highest scorers in the league. Since Christmas and this switch to three at the back we haven’t been as prolific and given our defence is so poor I think we should be subscribing to the view that the best form of it is by being as attacking as possible.
Get your best attacking players on the pitch and see if they can produce the magic against the Saints.
Of course Iwobi will probably play because he gets a free pass regardless of his performance. I actually think Iwobi and Mkhi did alright against BATE but we have better players than them and Ramsey is one so he’d be in if you gave me the choice.
Tottenham’s defeat yesterday was fun but I don’t think it allows us to look at catching them just yet. We need to get the job done at home today and then at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday before we start even mildly thinking about them. But it would be the right tonic to pick up three points today and I hope I’m smiling come 4pm this afternoon.
Up the Arsenal.