Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side make the trip to St. Mary's Stadium to play Southampton on Tuesday, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Gordon Simpson. MICHAEL COXAlthough Southampton’s form has dipped since their excellent start to the campaign, Mauricio Pochettino’s side remain extremely dangerous opponents.
They acquitted themselves well in their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal earlier in the campaign, battling well in midfield, and only conceding because of two preventable errors.
The key to Pochettino’s gameplan is a heavy pressing style, which requires the attackers to start the pressure high up the pitch, and the defenders to play a high line.
Southampton attempt to win the ball as quickly as possible, and an intriguing statistic from the draw at Sunderland last weekend was that Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren (injured for this week’s match), the two centre backs, were the only outfielders who didn’t make a tackle.
"Southampton are a very well-drilled, systemised team"
That duo are the last line of defence, but the rest of the side act as the ball winners, and Arsenal’s midfielders need to be assertive and confident in possession under pressure.
Southampton have the second-best possession in the Premier League, despite having only the 11th-highest pass completion rate. The reason? They win possession quickly, even if they don’t always hold on to it effectively.
With the ball, Southampton get plenty of men forward. Full backs Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw have been among their star performers - Shaw often motors forward solo on the overlap, while Clyne prefers to get involved in neat passing combinations on the right with the midfielder ahead of him - either James Ward-Prowse or Steven Davis, who play narrow - before crossing dangerously.
Southampton’s central midfield duo remain in defensive roles, although the absence of Kenyan Victor Wanyama changes the dynamic slightly. Morgan Schneiderlin feels more inclined to hold his position, while Jack Cork plays to the right of centre, and plays consistent, reliable passes out towards the flanks.
Further forward, Southampton have a trio of England internationals who combine dangerously.
Adam Lallana starts in a central position but drifts towards both flanks in turn, always finding space away from the opposition midfielders, in a similar manner to Santi Cazorla when he played that role last season.
The pacy Jay Rodriguez starts on the left flank but charges forward into central goalscoring positions, often moving in advance of Rickie Lambert. Lambert himself is renowned as an old-fashioned target man, but is actually very intelligent with his movement and link-up play.
Southampton are a very well-drilled, systemised team.
GORDON SIMPSON, SOUTHERN DAILY ECHOSouthampton had a really outstanding start to the season and were in and around the top four for a while. They slipped away a bit over December and Christmas, when they had a hard run of fixtures. I think that the club can be very satisfied when they look at where they are now. They are ninth in the league and are having a pretty good cup run too.
I think compared to last season, there is more belief that they can compete against the bigger teams. Last season was their first back in the Premier League so they were finding their feet to some extent. They strengthened in the summer and I think you could tell early in the season that they felt they were better equipped and more ready to compete with the top teams. That's shone through with the win at Liverpool and the draw at Manchester United. I guess a lot of Arsenal fans will remember Southampton giving them a tough game at the Emirates as well.
"I think compared to last season, there is more belief that they can compete against the bigger teams"
Adam Lallana is a really important player for Southampton. He's been in exceptional form this season and has been an influential player for a number of years. I think that those who have watched him would say that he's definitely been in the form of his life. He's a player that you want to try and combat when you come up against Southampton. He's not the only threat they've got by any means, but if Arsenal don't get control of him, he can cause them a lot of problems.
I think that all the games we've seen between Arsenal and Southampton have been entertaining so I don't think we're in for a 0-0 - at least I hope not!
I think it will be tough for Southampton. They will be without central defender Dejan Lovren, who has been vital to their success this season. Dani Osvaldo is out for well-publicised reasons and they've got a bit of a doubt over Rickie Lambert as well, so it's tough to know exactly how they will look tomorrow.
But, being at St Mary's, I think they'll give Arsenal a really tough game again.
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