Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side play Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at St Mary’s at the start of 2015, but Ronald Koeman’s side are not in as good form now - struggling in the bottom half of the table, and without a victory in their last five games.
Still, this is a well-organised side with technically-gifted attackers, and Southampton shouldn’t be underestimated merely because of their league position.
"With Southampton determined to get the ball into attack as quickly as possible, Arsenal must be wary of the Saints’ counter-attacking"
Koeman continues to use a reasonably high defensive line, and while he recently experimented with a three-man defence in a defeat at Crystal Palace, don’t expect anything other than a traditional four-man defence on Boxing Day.
Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk have formed a reliable centre-back partnership and Ryan Bertrand continues to excel at left-back, although Cedric Soares is better going forward than defensively, and can sometimes find himself out of position.
Victor Wanyama is a tough-tackling central midfielder but is more exposed without Morgan Schneiderlin alongside him - Jordy Clasie is a talented footballer but more attacking, and yet to completely settle in Premier League football.
Steven Davis, who was superb in a 2-1 Capital One Cup victory at the Emirates last season, will play at the head of the midfield trio and make regular runs into attack.
Going forward, Southampton have three fine attackers. Graziano Pelle leads the line but usually comes short to receive passes into feet. In terms of goalscoring he’s a pure penalty-box poacher, as his shots from this fixture last season suggest:
His service is often provided by Dusan Tadic, who twists and turns before delivering excellent, whipped left-footed crosses - he’s likely to start from the left flank here.
Arguably the biggest threat, though, is the extraordinarily quick Sadio Mane, who curled in the opener in this fixture last season. Playing from the right in recent weeks, he’s also capable of being a second striker, sprinting in behind the opposition when Pelle comes short towards play.
With Southampton determined to get the ball into attack as quickly as possible, Arsenal must be wary of the Saints’ counter-attacking.
Copyright 2024 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.