A match day and a potential signing you say?
Yep, we should get the official confirmation on Odergaard today and apologies if I spend the next six months not putting the diagonal line through his name, but in many ways I am a lazy man and given it is not right in front of me on my keyboard, going that little bit further and trying to find out where on earth it is that you add that through a search is a little too much effort.
But that signing is merely a side note today, because we play tonight away to Southampton at St Mary’s, having been there at the weekend and suffered a limp 1-0 exit in the FA Cup. The squad selection was questioned by many – fans and pundits alike – at the weekend but there are some of us, me included, who could understand the rotation we have. However that will all seem rather frivolous if we get beaten tonight that’s for sure. If we lose this evening – not beyond the realms of possibility given how patchy we are as a side this season and given how Southampton already have a psychological advantage with the win at the weekend against us, then Arteta’s rotation decision will be massively called into question.
Which is why I hope that those fresh legs to come in – of which there will be a few – will be able to make the difference for us this evening. Certainly in terms of the quality that was exhibited on Saturday compared to what we have seen in the prior games. Tierney for one will be better at getting beyond his man and his delivery from the left can’t be any worse than Cedric’s balls miles out of play that we saw in the FA Cup. There is also the fact that Walker-Peters is out injured having picked up a knock at right back so Tierney will be facing up against I believe Van Valery, who has played 11 minutes of football in the Premier League this season. Unless Hassenhuttl looks for a makeshift option, that could be an opportunity for us to create pressure on the full back channels and with Bertrand suspended on the left, there is also an opportunity for whoever plays there to line up against another Saints youngster in Vokins, who has only completed one full game this season at left back in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury last week. The Southampton coach talked him up ahead of the game and with McQueen being their only other option and currently injured, there is perhaps ahgain another opportunity for us to see if we can exploit those flanks.
But let’s not get too cocky in what needs to be done elsewhere, because I think Hassenhuttl will set his team the target of going hell for leather in the first half of this game to see if they can get a goal or two up. He played his strongest team at the weekend and so naturally there might be a bit of fatigue towards the end of this game, which is why I am expecting Southampton to be full of energy and drive to see if they can get ahead in the opening exchanges of the game. That’s where we need to be sensible and we need to be able to get as much control as possible. They will press us high and intensively and we have to be clever enough to get around that press. What does that mean in terms of Arsenal personnel starting tonight? For me it our best available team this evening is Leno in goal, Bellerin at right back, Holding and Luiz as the centre halves, Tierney at left back. Sitting in front of them needs to be Xhaka and Partey and in front of them the three behind the main striker of Lacazette (I am assuming Auba not ready to play given his personal family problems) should be Saka, Smith-Rowe and Martinelli. Martinelli played less than 60 minutes on Saturday and so hopefully is ready to give more in tonight’s game because his high work rate and pressing could help to force errors in young and experienced full backs.
That Arsenal team needs to show just why they are the first XI to those that failed at the weekend. We need speed of movement with the ball and without. We need to isolate Southampton’s full backs and if Tierney and Martinelli play then they need to create overloads on the left. If Bellerin and Saka start on the right then we replicate against the inexperience of the Southampton left back.
Arteta rotated to keep legs fresh and that is what he should have tonight so there can be no excuses if these Arsenal players deliver a similar performance to the limp one in the FA Cup. I don’t think we will because we are putting in more players that are in form. But we need to be mindful of what Southampton have in their attack. Ings is in form, Che Adams is a physical presence and Walcott already has one counter attacking goal against us this season and will fancy his chances if left one-v-one against either of our centre backs. Do we draw Southampton out and hit them on the counter? Maybe. But it feels a dangerous game.
What I do want to see is a much better attacking display. On Saturday it just felt like we weren’t really creating enough chances given how often Nketiah, Pepe and Willian were given them and so we need to make sure we take them if presented to us. I am not 100% confident that we will win but I am confident of a better performance from the team than at the weekend.
Now it’s up to the team to deliver.
Catch you all tomorrow.