Happy New Year to all of you. Whether you’re still trying to regain your soberness or just from a crazy night of celebrating, I hope you have the best of times yesterday. No such pleasure for the boys of Arsenal as they prepared for today’s game against Southampton. It’s the sacrifice that football players have to endured to achieve success but I’m sure that plenty of celebration will be started if they secure all 3 points later tonight.
When Southampton came to us on the 4th round of the league games, they were properly hammered by us. 6-1 was the final result and the difference between a club that was continually in the Champions League and one which just came up through promotion, couldn’t be more stark. Nigel Adkins and his men were still getting used to the higher quality of play then but looked to have find the right balance in recent games.
They are still in the relegation zone but one look at their form will show that they are on the up. They have garnered 17 points thus far with the bulk of it, 12 points coming from the last 8 games itself. Compared that to the measly 5 points from the first 11 fixtures and we are assured of how this game is not as easy as it looks on paper. Goals are never a premium with never, whether it is for or against. Averaging over 1 goal a game, tonight’s game looks to be another goal-filled match.
On the bright side, Adam Lallana, who is their creative inspiration in the middle of the park will be missing out due to injury. With 4 assists and 2 goals already this season, the 24 year old will be a big miss for them. On the other hand, they could still can on their highest scorer this season in Rickie Lambert. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s not afraid to get stuck in. We managed to shackle him very well in the corresponding fixture at the Grove and hopefully we’ll be able to manage the same this time around.
To other teams, the arrangement of the fixtures meant that some form of rotation needs to be done in order to keep the team fresh. However, the situation is slightly different with us, what with the postponement of the West Ham game. A slice of luck which I’m hopeful we can benefit from. Playing on a Saturday and on Tuesday will be just like how we prepare for a league and continental cup game usually. Our next game after this is on Sunday against Swansea. With that in mind, I’m not sure that Arsene Wenger needs to refresh his team by resting any player.
It’s hard to change a winning side and because of that, I think Olivier Giroud will remain on the bench. The front 6 looks to remained unchanged. For Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, after their goal scoring exploits on Saturday, will probably be looking forward to a return to their former hunting ground. Both were Southampton academy graduates and both have since gone on to relative bigger things. It won’t be about showing the home fans that they have become too big for their club but rather, showing that thanks to them, they have been allowed to grab bigger things in the footballing world.
Having only been caught ill on Saturday, it remains to be seen whether 2 days is sufficient enough time for Per Mertesacker to recover fully and be at his 100%. In the likelihood that he doesn’t, the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen will continue to be persisted with. They weren’t a massive influence of calm in that Newcastle game but should be able to perform better after 90 minutes of reacquainting themselves again. If we were to conceded as many goals as the previous game, I doubt that we will find 7 goals this time around to still come out on top. By hook or by crook, they will have to work better with Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna to protect Wojciech Szczesny better.
We ended the year of 2012 on a relative high, what with the wining run and the reducing number of injury casualty. We have to build on this run of form. 4 wins on the trot in the league represents our best form in the season but it’s not enough to be satisfied with. We’ve got to push on and try to prolong the run as much as possible. If the ugly head of complacency rears its head tonight, then we’re in trouble. In fact, I think that should be the team’s new year resolution. Get rid of the ghost of complacency and play every game like it meant something to their lives. As good as Southampton’s form are, if we perform like we know we can, we will take 3 points from St. Mary.
Up The Arsenal.