Morning everybody, as we gear up for our clash with the Saints. I’m just glad that the return of the EPL marks the end of the most tedious two weeks of September, the international break. Where players travel half way around the world to play in a bog, come back injured and tired, and say how proud they are to play for their country. Enough of my rambling pessimism, let’s move onto the task at hand.
I’ve simplified this game into two key battles, and they involve both sets of attackers and defenders. The reason why I think midfield isn’t a key part of this match, is that Southampton rely on quick build up play, so most of their possession is held by their attackers. Should everything go to plan, our midfield will stifle theirs, and we’ll see a lot of the ball.
Where things get interesting for us is defense. Thomas Vermaelen has had a lot of knocks and bumps in the past two games, and having just come off international duties, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit this one out. Still, he is the captain so I could be wrong. Let’s assume for the time being that either Koscielny or Vermalen won’t play, which sees Per Mertesacker slot into place of one of the two. Mertesacker’s main weakness is dealing with powerful, quick forwards. We saw it at Anfield, as Luis Suarez made life difficult for the big German. He’s good in the air, not great, so it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with Rickie Lambert and friends. Either side of our centre backs are Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, so I’m not worried. The young duo has done well this season, so there’s no need to worry. Have faith and they will reward you.
In midfield, the only thing that worries me is who will partner Arteta. If we opt for Francis Coquelin, the two could get their roles confused. I peg Coquelin as a hybrid player that we’re not quite used to seeing. Yes, there are the likes of Yaya Touré and Alex Song in the game, but never have I seen a player who uses his skills so well to supplement his versatility. Coquelin is a tough tackler, he’s quick, he can pick a pass, and can dribble with some of the best of them. Aside from the wings and striker, I’m sure he could play just about anywhere. His best attribute is part of his downfall though, as the one size fits all approach to football has never worked, and probably never will. It’s the reason why there are only a handful of excellent box to box midfielders, why there are only so many old-school wingers. It all comes down to strengths, weaknesses and using what you have to full effect. Coquelin almost has too much in his locker, which is why he gets left behind in the squad for players with a specific function. Still, he’ll probably start the match, as Abou Diaby is injured for the weekend, and The Ox is tired from his escapades with the Three Lions.
In my eyes, Lukas Podolski could be our most dangerous attacker today, as he goes up against the stuttering Nathaniel Clyne. He’s had some nightmare errors these past few weeks, and too many of those will dent anyone’s confidence. Hopefully we can capitalize on a generally weak defense to score early, and see out the rest of our game doing what we do best: passing and moving.
So that’s it. Hopefully we can keep yet another clean sheet and get Olivier Giroud on the score sheet at the same time, we all know our record with past greats against Southampton.