Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium on Thursday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Arsenal have already faced Southampton twice this season, and therefore should now be accustomed to their style of play.
"Clever movement and quick passing will be crucial if Arsenal are to start 2015 with a victory"
Ronald Koeman’s side use an aggressive defensive line, pushing the opposition away from goal. In theory, this means Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck should find space in behind, although Arsenal found it difficult to take advantage of this in the reverse league meeting early in December, a narrow Arsenal win.
Southampton are capable of playing this way because they press excellently in midfield, although star man Morgan Schneiderlin is out suspended - he missed the game at the Emirates through injury, too. Therefore, expect Victor Wanyama and Steven Davis in the engine room.
Schneiderlin’s absence forces Koeman to change his system slightly, and Southampton are less cohesive and fluid in the middle with just two central midfielders and a fourth outright attacking player.
Nevertheless, Davis is enjoying a particularly fine campaign, and was the game’s stand-out performer during Southampton’s 2-1 Capital One Cup victory at the Emirates earlier in the campaign. Wanyama has also been in fine form recently, and puts in some tough tackles.
Going forward, Southampton’s attacking play is based around tricky winger Dusan Tadic, who loves twisting and turning before driving crosses into the box. The target is often Graziano Pelle, a good all-round centre forward capable of holding the ball up.
The change in system means both Sadio Mane and Shane Long should start - Mane was fielded in the No 10 role against Chelsea, and continually sprinted beyond Pelle to provide pace in behind. His runs must be watched carefully.
Arsenal have rarely performed well against Southampton over the past couple of years, partly because the Saints are so good at denying the opposition time on the ball. Clever movement and quick passing will be crucial if Arsenal are to start 2015 with a victory.
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