We are back in FA Cup action on Saturday when we travel to Southampton in the fourth round, and ahead of the game Michael Cox examines our opponents.
Claude Puel is something of an Arsene Wenger protege, having played under him at Monaco. After stints at Monaco, Lille, Lyon and Nice, he joined Southampton last summer as a replacement for the Everton-bound Ronald Koeman. A manager who likes structured and positive play, Southampton have occasionally been excellent on the break. The 2-0 aggregate victory over Liverpool to take the team into the EFL Cup final shows his tactical nous.
Southampton tend to play an unusual system that is probably unique in the Premier League. There’s a conventional back four, protected by three central midfielders - holding player Oriol Romeu, right-centre Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse, who plays to the left. These three generally keep to their positions.
Further forward, Nathan Redmond, Dusan Tadic and either Shane Long or Jay Rodriguez have plenty of freedom. Sometimes it looks like a 4-3-3, sometimes more like 4-3-1-2. It’s almost a 4-3-?, and Arsenal must be wary of the movement of Saints’ attacking trio.
Southampton are particularly strong in the centre of the pitch. With Romeu patrolling the defensive midfield zone and putting in some crunching tackles, teams struggle to counter-attack through the middle.
Dusan Tadic is a hugely-elusive, talented playmaker capable of creating space for himself and tying opposition defenders in knots by cutting inside and out before crossing dangerously. Arsenal must watch him carefully.
AREAS TO TARGET
Veteran centre-back Jose Fonte departed for West Ham last week, while Virgil van Dijk could miss out through injury which leaves Saints exposed at the back. Having kept a clean sheet without either at Anfield on Wednesday, however, Arsenal won’t find it easy to score.
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