Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Southampton on Wednesday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
"Southampton remain proactive without possession, and command the midfield zone with their 4-3-3 formation"
Southampton have already won at the Emirates this season with an impressive 2-1 victory in the Capital One Cup, so Arsenal are well aware of how Ronald Koeman has intelligently evolved the style introduced by Mauricio Pochettino.
Southampton don’t press so energetically in the opposition half, but remain proactive without possession, and command the midfield zone with their 4-3-3 formation.
The midfield battle will be particularly interesting on Wednesday: usually Arsenal are guaranteed to control this zone in home matches, but Southampton’s cohesion here is extremely impressive.
Morgan Schneiderlin is expected to miss the game and that's good news for the Gunners - the France midfielder is Southampton's key midfielder. In his absence, there will be more onus on Victor Wanyama, who breaks up play well, and Jack Cork, who buzzes around the pitch playing simple passes and encouraging others forward.
Up front, Graziano Pelle will lead the line. The Italian is a good all-round striker, capable of getting on the end of crosses, or coming deep to link play, and has proved an immediate hit in English football.
Two attackers will support him from wide. Dusan Tadic is a tricky dribbler and a fine crosser of the ball, and can play on either side. He often turns twice - going outside, then darting inside - before delivering balls into the box. On the opposite flank, expect either Sadio Mane, a quick and direct forward, or Shane Long, a willing runner and capable of exquisite control.
At the opposite end, Southampton have been even more impressive - and it’s worth examining a few statistics in this respect. It’s particularly interesting that, despite making the most tackles in the Premier League because of their pressing, they also have the best disciplinary record. The Saints have also won the most offsides in the division because of their high defensive line.
Arsenal and Southampton are the two Premier League teams that concede the fewest shots, but Southampton’s goals-against record is better. They defend high up the pitch, but the full backs Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand remain close to the centre backs, Toby Alderweireld and Jose Fonte, when the opposition have possession.
Finding gaps in the Southampton back four is difficult, although Arsenal might fancy their chances of getting quick players in behind. The goal Southampton conceded at Villa Park last week came after goalkeeper Fraser Forster failed to intercept a long ball when sweeping, with Gabriel Agbonlahor racing through to score.
Arsenal might need to play more directly than usual to trouble the division’s meanest defence.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.