Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.

Arsène Wenger and his side face Southampton at Emirates Stadium on Saturday so, to find out more, tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Gordon Simpson gave their pre-match views.

Scouting Report - Tactics

In Arsenal’s previous home fixture they faced a frustrating Sunderland side that defended with 10 men behind the ball, but Southampton will be keener to attack. Their main quality is going forward, demonstrated by their two goals against both Manchester clubs.

Nigel Adkins has played a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation so far this season, which might be well suited to the challenge of Arsenal at the Emirates, where the home full backs will push on, leaving spaces into which they can counter-attack.

Southampton’s main problem this season has been in defence, where they have conceded eight goals in three matches. It was notable that all three concessions against Manchester United came following crosses, although the back four can legitimately blame a lack of protection from further up the pitch - the wingers can be slow to get back and defend, allowing opponents space on the flanks.

Right back Nathaniel Clyne looked vulnerable to high balls against United, although in one-on-one situations on the ground he’s excellent, and Lukas Podolski will need to offer more than raw pace to get past him.

On the flanks Southampton have great quality. Captain Adam Lallana should drift inside from the left flank - he lacks raw pace so often takes plenty of touches on the ball, but his appreciation of space is very intelligent. Record signing Gaston Ramirez could make his debut on the other side - Arsenal must watch for him cutting inside and thumping the ball towards goal with his left foot.

Up front, Rickie Lambert is more than a pure target man but likes receiving long passes and battling with the centre backs. Both goals scored against Manchester United - one scored by Lambert, one by Morgan Schneiderlin - came after crosses towards opposition full backs.

Scouting Report - Tactics

I imagine this is going to be quite an entertaining game given how Southampton have played so far. You only have to look at the Manchester City and United games with five goals in each. They haven't been afraid to attack the big teams they have faced so far.

I expect them to do the same here but with Arsenal's attacking power you can imagine they will be looking to get a couple of goals themselves. I doubt we're going to see a 0-0.

Everybody has been encouraged by what they have seen so far, particularly in those aforementioned games. Wigan was a little bit disappointing because it was a close game and could have gone either way. But they have had an incredibly daunting start and realistically they were not expecting to have many points after the first four games.

With the way they have played, however, I think they have surprised people a little bit with just how well they have stood toe-to-toe with these teams.

Rickie Lambert has been Southampton's big threat for the last couple of seasons and he has started incredibly well already with two goals. He is obviously a serious threat in the air and Southampton identified that as a way they could hurt United.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Saturday because they have a couple of new faces who could play against Arsenal, the most notable of those being Gaston Ramirez.  Their record signing is likely to start out wide presuming he comes back from international duty fit and healthy. People are quite excited to see that combination if Ramirez and Lambert play together.

I think the wings are where Southampton are likely to find their biggest opportunities. Adam Lallana has also been boosted by his England call-up this week and he is a real threat. If they can work him into space then he has the ability to hurt anybody in the division.

They have gone with a new formation this season with one central striker and two wide men supporting and it has obviously been an area over the summer that they have tried to strengthen. I think those two positions are key to the way they are trying to play.

I think that Southampton will give it a good go and again will have some spells where they put Arsenal under some pressure. But I also saw Arsenal play against Liverpool where they looked pretty fantastic, and I think they will just edge it. I'll say 2-1 to Arsenal.

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14 Sep 2012