Southampton vs. Arsenal: Opposing fan’s view

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrate with the Community Shield on the pitch after the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrate with the Community Shield on the pitch after the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) /
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This Sunday Southampton welcome Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side to St. Mary’s in the day’s earliest kick-off.

The Saints go into the game looking for their first league win against one of the PL’s ‘big six’ in over 18 months, having gone from giant killers to giant prey since Ronald Koeman left.

Despite just one win in three, supporters have seen a significant improvement in the players’ attitude and set-up in recent games, with the 4-1 over Everton seemingly proving to be a catalyst after several stuttering performances.

Arsenal go into the game just a point behind Liverpool in fourth, and with a game in-hand on rivals Tottenham who emphatically beat Stoke earlier today. Despite being within touching distance of the Champions League places, it’s not been the smoothest of campaigns for the Gunners.

Lifelong Arsenal fan and Sport Journalism graduate Reece Peacham is positive however, believing insisting the start hasn’t been disappointing:

"“In my opinion the league is tighter than ever this season so I can’t say I’m too surprised that we’re sitting on the edge of the top four given we only made one major signing this summer.”“What I would say is an underachievement is how far we’re behind league leaders Manchester City but then again you could say that for most teams that are so far behind Pep Guardiola’s side.”"

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – MAY 10: Jack Stephens of Southampton applauds the fans after the Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium on May 10, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – MAY 10: Jack Stephens of Southampton applauds the fans after the Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium on May 10, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images) /

With a large portion of the fanbase wanting him out and talk of him being ‘washed up’ circling through social media, Arsene Wenger changed his long-serving formation last season and the Gunners have since deployed a 3-4-2-1 set-up.

It means that summer signing Alexandre Lacazette can play with the support of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil as inside forwards, making Arsenal extremely dangerous going forward.

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"“I think our front three are really starting to click and despite the loss against United, all three generated a huge amount of chances. Those three will obviously be our biggest threat on Sunday and Southampton will go along way towards getting a result if they can keep all three quiet. “Outside of the front line I think Aaron Ramsey has really upped his game this season.”"

Southampton’s best chance of winning will come from success in the middle of the park – especially if Mario Lemina returns to the starting XI. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Reece believes that Aaron Ramsey’s partner in midfield will be the side’s weak link.

"“Despite some impressive performances and great passing stats I still worry about Granit Xhaka. His quality means most moves start with him but if Southampton press him in the right way he will struggle as we saw in the Liverpool match and at times against Leicester. “He also still has shaky moments whilst defending or trying to clear his lines so Southampton can try to exploit him.”"

The game against the Gunners marks the first of another run of three games within a week for Southampton, with a game against former boss Claude Puel and Leicester City this coming Wednesday.

Arsenal meanwhile face West Ham in midweek, with the Hammers set to have plenty of confidence after a positive result today. Tomorrow however, Reece is predicting a draw between the two sides.

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"“Arsenal versus Southampton matches are always hard to predict for me, especially since the 4-0 result which turned out to be Southampton’s only win in about 15 games a few years ago. Form goes out the window and it all depends which team turns up. “If Arsenal take this seriously like they did last year I think we’ll sneak a win but if not it could be another painful result. I’ll be boring and go for a 1-1 draw.”"

Arsenal vs. Southampton kicks off tomorrow lunchtime, starting at 12PM with St. Mary’s Stadium the venue of choice.