Ahead of Saturday's Premier League game against Southampton, Chris Harris previews the game after speaking to the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.
“I believe that we have the strength and the number that I wished and that we can compete now on all fronts.” - Arsene Wenger
It’s not like Arsene Wenger to discard a player after he’s just scored a hat-trick, but Kanu will have to sit this one out.
The Nigerian rolled back the years in the legends match on a day that celebrated our values and history - and raised an eye-catching £1 million for The Arsenal Foundation.
Arsene Wenger wore a smile as broad as anyone’s as the fun and games unfolded last weekend, but that familiar look of concentration will return when the serious stuff resumes on Saturday.
So no Kanu, Robert Pires or Freddie Ljungberg, but the manager has at his disposal what he considers to be “the most mature squad I’ve had in a long time” for the visit of Southampton.
The addition of Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas has added quality, strength in depth and experience - indeed, Lucas turns 28 on Saturday - and Wenger is more than satisfied with our summer business.
“I believe that we have the strength and the numbers that I wished and that we can compete now on all fronts,” he told Arsenal Player.
|Arsenal: Ramsey (hamstring), Gabriel (ankle), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee), Jenkinson (knee)Southampton: Boufal (knee), Forster (arm), Pied (knee), Gardos (knee)|
“That’s what we want to show. We can focus now completely on competition, that is quite important and hopefully the victory at Watford will give the belief and confidence to our group of players to have a successful game [against Southampton].”
That performance at Watford was notable for its fluency and the determination of our attacking players to make positive runs into the box. Both Alexis and Mesut Ozil got on the end of crosses to score in a 3-1 victory.
“We want the players to score from crosses but to do that you have to go in the box and go for the goal, so I am pleased that Ozil, for example, gets in the box and scores a header,” said Wenger. “It can only encourage him to do it again.
“[International breaks] are a little bit of a problem [for maintaining fluency], so I have to analyse how everybody came back, what kind of intensity they had to cope with and the fact as well that we play three days later again.
“Certainly, for some players, four games in 10 days plus the travelling is not really feasible at the top, top level. That’s why you have a strong squad and I will focus on the players who could prepare properly for the game.”
ONE TO WATCH
The continued absence of Gabriel and Per Mertesacker suggests that Mustafi is the most likely of the new boys to start - if he can dislodge the impressive Rob Holding.
Competition further forward means Lucas may have to settle for a place on the bench for now. When he does make an appearance, the Spaniard can be expected to do his best work through the centre.
“I see him more centrally, especially that’s why I bought him,” said Wenger. “He was a little bit of a late developer and as well I believe he had big success because he changed position and he has been moved central.
“He was for a while at La Coruna out on loan because they didn’t really believe in him. Finally they kept him last year and he had a great season. He’s a left-footed player who has good movement and good link play as well.
“He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s good in assists as well and because he has played on the flanks before, he can give a good cross. He has a short backlift and is very dangerous in the box.
"He can play on the flanks because he has done it before. But my target was more to add one more player who can play through the middle.”
Wenger was in his thirties when we were last beaten at home by Southampton, but it’s been a shade over three matches since our last goal against them.
So Saturday’s game will be a test of patience as much as anything.
“They have been very strong defensively,” noted Wenger. “You could see that in Jose Fonte as he has just won the European Championship with Portugal. These are never coincidences because it was down to the quality of the players.
“Van Dijk is doing very well and Cedric, who also plays for Portugal as well, so they have a very stable defence.”
Southampton also have a notable name at the helm - Claude Puel, who played under Wenger at Monaco and has translated his tenacity as a player into management.
“He was a fighter as a player and he will be a fighter as a manager,” said Wenger. “We had great experiences together, and great years together, so I believe that he will be successful at Southampton.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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