Saturday, June 15, 2024

Southampton preview: This blog will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3 …

A 12 noon kick off makes the shelf life of this blog so short I’m wondering is it even worth bothering with. Especially when you wake up later than you’d wanted to on a Sunday morning, but if there’s any morning when waking up late is acceptable it’s Sunday morning so now I simply have ire directed towards the Premier League and its broadcast partners.

We’re currently down to sixth after results yesterday – results which should get Mark Hughes the sack, if you ask me. Or, if not the sack, a good thrashing with a willowy, yet remarkably solid, branch – but there was a nice outcome in the West Ham/Chelsea game which we should be looking to take advantage of.

With Shkodran Mustafi out Arsene Wenger has a decision to make. Does he replace him like for like, bearing in mind we don’t have anyone who looks like Hank Scorpio, but we do have other defenders who can play in the middle of a back three. He could use Per Mertesacker, or shift Laurent Koscielny in there and bring in one of Rob Holding or Calum Chambers (to face his former club).

He could also do what he did on Thursday night and play a back four, thus allowing him to use an extra midfielder. It could allow him to shift Mesut Ozil to a more central position and replace him out wide with Danny Welbeck or Alex Iwobi, for example, but for a game away from home I’d be surprised if he changed the formation. He says he will use it again, but what he says suggests he’ll stick with three central defenders today:

That formation will certainly come back at some stage. It was also to make the team flexible because, even against Manchester United, we moved to a four at the back. We’ll switch more, of course. It always depends on the nature of the games. At the moment we’re playing with three at the back but all these players have to be adaptable to any kind of system.

Still, despite some grumbles about recovery time for teams who have to play midweek, the manager has the luxury of being able to field a team today who didn’t have anything to do with the Europa League game and who should be fresh and ready to get on with today’s job. That job, of course, is taking the performance against United last week, replicating it as much as possible, but being a bit better at taking our chances.

For example, if we have 33 attempts on goal, we’d be well advised to score more than one of them if we want to win the game. We did on that Wednesday night, tucking away six of the 23 shots on goal we had against BATE Borisov. I realise they were far inferior opposition to Manchester United, but as we’ve spoken about on the podcast recently the manager’s word of the season is efficiency and we need to bear that in mind today.

St Mary’s has often been a difficult place for us to go, although we won there twice last season – in the league and the FA Cup. Southampton have also been a more solid team than they are this season. They’ve won just four of the sixteen games they’ve played, and it’s fair to say they’re struggling a bit.

Given that, given how fresh our players should be, and how we played last week, anything less than three points would be hugely disappointing today. That front three has the quality to cause any defence problems, and assuming we can avoid doing stupid things like giving goals away, letting the opposition score because of our mistakes, shooting ourselves in the foot to give Southampton gifts, and not letting goals in because of our own carelessness and stupidity, then I think this is a game we can feel pretty confident about.

We’ll have team news, match report, player ratings, reaction and all the rest on Arseblog News later on. In the meantime, get this blog while it’s hot because it’s out of date in about two hours and forty minutes.

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