Arsenal – Southampton (Premier League)

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Arsenal–Southampton(PremierLeague)

WhentheBarclaysPremierLeaguestarted,backinAugust,fewwoulddareguessthattheclashbetweenfirstandthirdduringthisweekendwouldnotbeManchesterCityversusTottenhamHotspur,butratherArsenalversusSouthampton。

Infact,theSouthCoastteamsitamerethreepointsbehindtheLondonersandmayevenrelishtheopportunityoftoppingthetablebySaturdayevening。

Arsenalhavelookedanentirelydifferentbeastwiththearrivalofworld-classmidfielderMesut?

zil,aplayerthatstartedjustifyinghispricetagontheveryfirstmatchheplayedfortheGunners。

Despitethe(close)defeatatOldTraffordacoupleofweeksago,theteamseemtobefiringonallcylinders。

WhiletherestillaresomewhobelieveArsenalmaynotbeinforthelonghaulandthattheirformwilleventuallyfade,thereisaconsistencytotheirapproachparticularlyonthedefensivesideoftheirgamethatwasntthereforthebetterpartofthepastseasons。

Mertesackerslikelyreturnshouldofferamuch-neededstrongpresenceattheback,whilethemetronomicMikelArtetaandtheeverimpressiveAaronRamseyshouldoffergoodpassingoptionstothepredictablepressurethebackfourwillbesubjecttonextSaturday。

ThetriocomprisedofJackWilshere,Mesut?

zilandSantiCazorlawillputtheiropponentsdefensiveresolvetothetest,buttheymustmakesuretheyhelpouttheirteam-matesattheback。

ThereturnofTheoWalcottmaybereservedforlaterstagesofthematch,wherehisspeed,trickeryanddirectnesswillbewelcomed。

Ontheinjuryfront,thereturnsofMertesackerandWalcottareevenedoutbytheabsencesofPodolski,Oxlade-Chamberlain,SanogoandDiabythroughinjury,aswellasFlaminiaftercollectingfiveyellowcards。

Probableline-up:Szczesny–Sagna,Mertesacker,Koscielny,Gibbs–Arteta,Ramsey–Wilshere?

zil,Cazorla–Giroud

WhenMauricioPochettinowasappointedtoreplacetheheroicNigelAdkins,lessthanayearago,alotwasaskedoftheArgentineansabilities,butPochettinorepliedwithsomeaplomb。

Southamptonmadeariskychoice,butithaspaidoffhandsomelysofar。

Notonlyhavetheyhadthebeststarttoanyseason,buttheirdisplayshavebeenconsistentandexciting,includingvictoryatAnfieldandalast-minutedrawatOldTrafford。

Astheplayersfindtheirfootinginthemanagerstacticsandformations,someofthemhavestartedtostandout,namelythenowwell-knowAdamLallanaandJayRodríguez,butalsotheimpressiveMorganSchneiderlin,whohasbecomeadominantforceinmidfieldandwhowillsurelybeinstrumentalinSouthamptonsnowfamiliarhighpressingfromthefront(hehasthe4thhighestnumberoftacklesandhascompletedawhopping80%ofhispassesintheopposinghalf)。

Infact,theteamshigh-intensitystylemayprovetherightmedicineagainstArsenal,asidethatareusualbotheredbyphysicalapproachesthatkeepthemfromgettingintotheirpassingrhythm。

Theleadinmostgroundcovered,high-intensityrunningandfewestshotsontargetconcededmaybehelpfulexplanationsastowhytheSaintshaveonlyconcededfivegoalsintheprocessofamassingtheir22points。

JackCorkandGulydoPradowillbetheteamsonlyabsentees。

Probableline-up:Boruc–Clyne,Fonte,Lovren,Shaw–Wanyama,Schneiderlin–Ward-Prowse,Lallana,Rodríguez–Lambert

ThisshouldbeacrackerofamatchwiththetwoslickestpassingteamsinthePremierLeaguegoingheadtohead。

Withthecompetitionfacingtoughfixtures,thiscouldproveacrucialopportunityforArsenaltodistancethemselvesfromthepackandforSouthamptontoshowtheymeanbusiness。

Thestyleandapproachofthevisitors,whohaventwonatArsenalsince1987andhaveonly2awaywinsintheGunnersground,maybetheantidotetoArsenalsvirtues。


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