Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Southampton

The week before the international break was a tough one for the Gunners with some high profile fixtures but they came through it with reasonably good results. The next game is against a club that doesn’t have as big a name as the preceding trio but will undeniably pose as big a challenge.

Defensive solidity, derived from team work, structure, and discipline, has given the Saints an excellent platform from which to contest their games. If you can’t win, don’t lose. And Southampton are slowly becoming very good at not losing. It’s given them confidence and they’ve gone on to convert many tough fixtures into noteworthy results.

It’s too early right now, and the levels are vastly different, but in terms of playing style Southampton are a bit like the Premier League’s Dortmund. They are energetic, press cohesively, and make it very hard for opponents to build their attacks through the midfield. In attack, the Saints rely on combination plays with the attacking midfielder and left winger often looking to make runs in behind while the striker is developing into a very useful all-round contributor.

In tactical terms then, the Gunners will face similar problems as those posed by the Germans in the Champions League, although United probably executed the game plan even better when they denied the Arsenal players any time or space on the ball. Southampton will attempt to repeat that and the first half, in particular, could be a very tight affair. Wenger’s side will have to, firstly, make sure they don’t lose possession cheaply in areas conducive to quick transitions. Then they’ll have to work hard without the ball to get into spaces that will only appear fleetingly. The success of this and their technical efficiency will determine how quickly they can move the ball. That will form the crux of their offensive game. A quick tempo will be absolutely vital to getting past the first line of defence in order to push their back four deep or get in behind.

Southampton’s back four have received plaudits this season for keeping their goal secure and Boruc behind them has been excellent in games when he’s been called into action, but I have a feeling they can be troubled if Arsenal can break their well-spaced, cohesively moving pressing system.

At the back, the Gunners will have to watch for clever one-twos and runners getting in behind from wide areas or the midfield. The players worked hard against Dortmund and were able to defend the crucial zones and once again Arteta’s role is likely to be decisive. Concentration is easier to maintain when playing against bigger names but could prove equally costly if lost against intelligent and technically adept, even if less renowned, individuals from relatively smaller teams.

Southampton have also retained their previous strength of back post crosses and Lambert provides a good target in the box. I won’t be surprised if he pulls towards the back post to duel with the full-backs in the air, particularly Gibbs. Arsenal will have to deal with his knock downs because the visitors’ well-knit system means they can get bodies forward in numbers.

A couple of players returning from injury provide more options to Wenger but lack of match fitness will probably limit their chances of starting this game.

We might see,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Arteta, Ozil, Ramsey – Wilshere, Giroud, Cazorla.

Gnabry and Rosicky are other options for the right flank. I’d prefer the German youngster because he can bring something different to the attack in terms of engaging defenders and going behind them. Wenger will probably prefer the more experienced Czech star if he’s fit.

Walcott could be a decisive substitute in the final half hour or so if the game remains tight.

This game has that banana-skin feel to it because the opponents don’t have much to lose and are on a run of form where everything seems to be clicking for them. For that reason, three points would be immensely enjoyable and could help consolidate the lead at the top but should not be taken for granted.

14 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Southampton

  1. Bee Man says:

    Excellent match preview, as usual. I always look forward to your insights.

  2. kay says:

    Good post again Desi. I always look forward to your analysis. Starting Rosicky in this game will be a good option because he brings pace to our attack from the midfield. Good and quick exchanges in the midfield would be vital in thus game to get the high pressing of the opponent. I expect a win at all cost. Guns out.

  3. gotzereusozil says:

    agree. Carzola should improve from now if he wants to be in 11, rage being carried for two week, our players with fresh legs, i’m more postive, are to lead 2 goals.

  4. Antique Gunmen says:

    Maybe we should invite them first, make them comfortable, and then counter them with the speed of Walcott and Gnabry. Both players can penetrate very deep, and some of their cross will get through. I hope Giroud has found his scoring boots to make us of it.
    The determine section of the match will lay on our midfielders as a unit. If this section bounce back after their collective poor againts United, I think we will nail Soton with 2 goal margins minimum.
    Come on you Gunners.

  5. santori says:

    Start Walcott please.

  6. Saint Nick says:

    I reckon that sums it up reasonably well. I’m slightly riled at a few references of ‘Set up not to lose’. That’s a West Ham tactic under Allardyce. Not true in our case, we start every game to win. That included Liverpool (success), and United (semi success). The unit is *incredibly* well drilled at what they do and are very comfortable on the ball. The only teams who were successful this season (WHU (draw), Sunderland (draw) and Norwich (loss)) stifled the life from the game. You won’t be doing that at home for sure. That’s often to our advantage. I can’t believe what a different side we are (watching since the 80s). My head would tell me loss, but it did at lfc and mufc. I hope you have a tough day. If you win, fair play, if we do, please try not to pull the ‘big’ teams ‘sicky’ of we were poor. maybe, just maybe, Saints are good? Very good? (Thanks for the write-up)

    • wayne says:

      Being a coach and watching last season even under Adtkins who I said couldn’t take us any further. I disagree I also disagreed in Romerez and Wanyama ( I think Cork is better but Wanyama is a good sub) and Osvaldo who seems not to be able to adapt to the team play and is greedy which would be OK if he could walk the walk.
      However two players who haven’t been mentioned in the twenty plus articles I’ve read will have the biggest say is Clyne and James Ward-Prowse who will deliver danger

  7. red cannon says:

    Good preview , IMO. I think these are tough opponents, as tough as they get..I like the comparison with Dortmund……but then, we are the AESENAL!!! …

  8. wayne says:

    It’s amazing hat you Arsenal Walcott fans haven’ noticed that he takes about 4-5 games to come back. I’ll also comment truthfully that if we are like the Dortmond that should have stuffed you in the first half… Laters! But I don’t think we are as good as dortmund so generally it’s a good artice

  9. jolly says:

    l dont think wilshere will b in the starting line up rosisky will be on right flank if we are winning he wil mos probably take off ramsey and play him along arteta then carzola for nacho

  10. jcloud says:

    It’s good you didn’t mention “I’ll be surprised if the gunners will keep a clean sheet”! That’s encouraging:) I’d take 1+2 own goals (like last year) to make it 3:0.

  11. Right Cross says:

    Thanks Desi,

    Agree with your analysis. The option of a more direct player on the right is a good one. Rosicky should probably start to help us weather the ealry storm but Gnabry or Walcott could be very effective in the second half as the pressing starts to decrease and space
    opens up.
    The fact we have had games against Dortmund and United should help to prepare us well for the tactics this afternoon. It will be a tough game but we have the quality to win.

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