The Inter-lull is over and The Arsenal are back. Although Tuesday night’s International football did provide some entertainment, club football is a different kettle of fish.
We welcome a strong Southampton team to the Emirates today, who find themselves third in the league. A win for them and if Liverpool fail to win, will see Southampton top the table. From Arsenal’s point if view, after defeat at Old Trafford last time out its important to bounce back with a win today.
In terms of the team news, Theo Walcott is in the squad, fit again after a lengthy enough lay-off. The players who were struggling with the flu seem to all be recovered and Aaron Ramsey has shaken off a knock picked up on International duty. Mathieu Flamini will miss the game due to suspension.
I’m actually quite pleased Flamini will miss out today, not because I don’t rate him in the team but because it forces the boss to name a more attacking line-up. We played 2 holding midfielders against United and while it restricted their number of shots, we failed to produce many opportunities. Playing 2 holding midfielder is a good option away from home but when we play at home we should bring the game to the opposition.
Theo returning is a huge boost, not only does he score goals and provide assists but he stretches opponent’s defences and creates space for our other midfielders. A starting position might be out of the question as he is eased back into first team football so Serge Gnabry, who was rested for the U21s midweek could start on the right.
Projected line-up: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Gnabry, Özil, Cazorla, Giroud.
The only real decision to make, assuming Walcott starts on the bench is whether to start Wilshere or Gnabry. Jack looks to have his sharpness back and I think we’ll see him back to his best coming up to Christmas. His link up play with Özil and Cazorla is a joy to watch but Gnabry offers a different option. Like Walcott he will run in behind the defence, and also take on players and put in crosses.
This Southampton team will be hard to break down, amazingly they’ve only conceded 5 goals in their first 11 league games this season. We’ll need to be at our best to beat them and after the International break that can be tricky. Luckily for us some of our players were rested in midweek so hopefully they will be sharp today. We are top of the league, so let’s keep it that way.