There’s hardly time to draw breath between fixtures at present as the rebooted Premier League continues to cram the fixtures into the calendar. The last thing Arsenal needed after two successive defeats against Manchester City and Brighton is a trip to Saint Mary’s on Thursday for a scrappy Southampton v Arsenal fixture.
There’s a feeling that with Arsenal already suffering an injury crisis, the FA have significantly increased the risk of injury to players that have struggled to maintain their fitness levels during the Covid-19 pandemic. The financial gain seems to outweigh the well being of professional players and Mikel Arteta must be looking forward to getting through an entire match without adding to his injury concerns.
It is what I guess and Mikel Arteta now has to try to juggle his squad again to find a crucial win in the Southampton v Arsenal fixture but it’s going to be tough, especially with the Saints’ Danny Ings enjoying himself against the Gunners regularly.
Anyone at this point expecting a balanced article that includes news on Southampton would be best served to look at another site because I’m only going to deal with things from the Arsenal perspective. With the storm clouds hanging ominously over the Emirates, it’s going to be a rather selfish blog.
Arsenal have had their problems at the back, made worse now that Mari and Leno are out, but it’s the midfield that is of far more concern. The lack of creativity has been glaringly obvious with Arsenal offering absolutely no threat against Manchester City.
The Gunners fared better against Brighton with Saka showing exactly why Arsenal need to secure his signature, but they were still unable to control the game or lockout a deflated, struggling, and ordinary side. It then got worse as they suffered the ultimate sucker punch right at the end of the game.
Arteta will be worried about that in particular because there is no one at his disposal to fulfill that role of creative playmaker and astute defensive midfielder. I wonder if Patrick Vieira is free on Thursday?
Joking aside, this failure is going to cost Arsenal dearly and Arteta needs a solution to an almost impossible problem. Dani Ceballos has played well, but he isn’t at a stage in his career where he can dictate the roles he’s been given.
He needs to express himself freely without bothering too much about the defensive aspects of a game. I think of the Spaniard as a front foot player, not a defensive screen.
Dare I say it, Arsenal may miss Xhaka in the DM position because they have so few options open to them and unless Arteta is about to promote a player from the academy, Guendouzi and Ceballos will play a lot of football before the end of the campaign.
Chambers has experience in the role and did well at Fulham, but David Luiz could also be used further forward because of his ability to play the ball.
Here’s a rather radical notion, what about Kolasinac? Built like a freight train and someone who isn’t intimidated by anything in human form. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
In the middle, it’s more complex. Willock, Maitland-Niles, Ozil, and Saka have all got a role to play but hand on heart, it doesn’t exactly terrify the opposition. Subsequently, the supply lines rely on the wing-backs to push up as the strikers come in off the flanks in a pincer movement to destabilise the central defenders.
This will be key in the Southampton v Arsenal game, I expect Bellerin and Tierney together with Mustafi and Holding separating them. Martinez will keep Leno’s place warm between the sticks, Ozil may have no choice but to put in a shift as a high pressing number ten. If the German playmaker doesn’t want to play or is unable to do so, then Arteta should give him the rest of the season off. Arsenal need fighters, not badge kissers!
Moving on, Saka can’t be dropped, Pepe needs another runout, so that leaves Aubameyang as the lone predator at the expense of Lacazette.
Predicted Team for the Southampton v Arsenal Game:
Martinez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney; Guendouzi, Ceballos; Pepe, Ozil, Saka; Aubameyang.
Predicted score: 1-2 Arsenal