First of all, a very Goonerific, Goonerible, Goonertastic, Goonerous, Goonerent, Goonery, er..that’s it..out of Gooner adjectives. Just have a brilliant year, all you Gooners out there.
So, the first day of the new year, and I am pretty sure all you have been making resolutions. Yes, I am kidding. Everyone’s just waiting for the Premier League to kick off from where it ended last year. That strange realization when you know you have nothing but football to cling on to.
A late realization occurred last night to me as well. And it was pretty clear and simple. Too much addiction to football and blogging could leave you nowhere socially, and probably I may end up being a single fat noob, watching football, sitting on the couch, while devouring pizzas and drinking beer. The pangs of being a single football fan.
Anyways, enough of my heart wrenching stories. Southampton today, and we will be going into this game on a high, having won 4 games on the bounce. Of course, that counts for, umm, nothing. There is still bucket loads of work to be done, considering we are already languishing in 5th in the standings.
While the title race may be well and completely out of our hands, it is time the side bucks up and makes a real game out of finishing as high as possible in the standings. Finishing 3rd or 4th may not be our idea of a succesfull season, but that’s what we have endured for a few seasons now, and I am afraid it may be the case this time too.
The transfer window should give us some time to bolster our squad. Like I have mentioned in the Newcastle preview, Arsenal need some presence in the centre of midfield, and a goal poacher up front.
Against Newcastle, Arsenal suffered for vast parts of the game, because the trio of Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla just couldn’t stand up to the physicality of the Toon midfield, which had set themselves up as 4-5-1. Cheik Tiote, Gael Bigirimana, Sylvain Marveux, Papis Cisse and Gabriel Obertan managed to outrun Arsenal, and most of the times the Gunners had to rely on quick counters.
Newcastle’s high line meant that it was live feed for Walcott who loves to run into space, and he got plenty of that. That may not be the case against stronger and fitter opposition, who set up well in midfield, and have a disciplined backline, and that was the case in the game against Wigan.
The Latics relied on shoring up midfield, and playing a deep backline, thus preventing Arsenal from barely troubling their keeper. Arteta has a good vision and great distribution, but the physical requirements of playing as a defensive midfielder is taking the breath out of him. It is a very taxing job. And, that is why I feel, it is one key are where we need much strengthening.
Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby would have been the ideal candidates for taking that spot, and the latter proved himself well, in some early games of the season. But, poor form has struck the former, and injuries have struck Diaby, while the only other possible option, Emmanuel Frimpong has been loaned out. Never the less, he is probably too young, raw, in-disciplined and full of Dench to take up that role.
I had also identified that signing a striker should be on the agenda as well. With Huntelaar out of the scenario, and the manager ruling out signing Demba Ba, the focus has since shifted to Spanish strikers Adrian Lopez and David Villa.
David Villa has been rarely on Barcelona’s plans this season, after his recovery from injury, and has cut a frustrating figure on the bench. He has demanded a move away from the Nou Camp, to secure first team football, and the Catalans have slapped a £16 million asking price against him.
Adrian Lopez, usually playing second fiddle to Radamel Falcao at Atletico Madrid, and according to the rumor mills, the Gunners have £10 million. I will be honest and tell you, I haven’t watched much of the guy, but whatever I have seen is quality. On the other hand, he doesn’t offer anything extra from what we already have.
While Arsenal scored 7 against Newcastle, it more felt like papering over the cracks. Newcastle’s defending was mediocre, and their midweek exertions didn’t help them at all. Olivier Giroud seems to be showing why he is considered to be a top striker, and Walcott proved his credentials as a centre-forward.
Buying another striker, that too of the calibre of David Villa, would only push the others to perform better. Villa would also provide another dimension, plus help us see out what will be a tricky period in the coming months.
Right, team news then. Per Mertesacker, should be back in the squad, after having pulled out of the Newcastle game, through illness. But, I expect to see Laurent Koscielny to start, as a precautionary measure. Apart from that no injury worries for the Gunners.
Captain Adam Lallana is out with a knee injury, but Gaston Ramirez could start. Nathaniel Clyne should be on the bench as well.
Here is how I expect the teams to lineup.
Southampton play an expansive style of football, and they love their attacking. Gaston Ramirez is a tricky customer, and he has the bulky Paul Lambert up front. Southampton often leave wide spaces open because of this, and usually result in conceding many goals as well.
Arsenal will have to again rely on their counter attacking pace to win today’s game. Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will relish the prospect of playing against their former club. Walcott feels it is a special ocassion for the duo.
Arsenal may have to deal with Paul Lambert, and again the defence will have to be at their best. Southampton gave the Manchester clubs a mighty run for their money, leading them 2-1 in their games, before eventually losing 3-2 in both.
All, in all it promises to be another goal fest. Enjoy the game wherever you are!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!