So at last the international break is over and we can get back to the real football. I don’t think we could have picked a better time to face a Southampton team that are going through a transition period. I am sure Claude Puel will get his team playing his way soon, but their one point from the opening three games shows that they have not quite cottoned on to his formation and tactics just yet, or perhaps what worked in Ligue 1 simply won’t work over here?
On the other hand Arsenal now have their full team back and available as well as some very interesting new additions, and we are looking stronger depth-wise than we have for many a year, as even Arsene Wenger admitted. “I believe that we have the strength and the numbers that I wished and that we can compete now on all fronts,” he gushed.
“That’s what we want to show. We can focus now completely on competition, that is quite important and hopefully the victory at Watford will give the belief and confidence to our group of players to have a successful game [against Southampton].”
The win over Watford was convincing and much needed and I am sure that our players that were thankfully not picked for the internationals will be desperate to use this chance to stamp their mark today, as Wenger has stated that this game will be mostly for players that stayed and trained rather than flying around the world. He said: “[International breaks] are a little bit of a problem [for maintaining fluency], so I have to analyse how everybody came back, what kind of intensity they had to cope with and the fact as well that we play three days later again.
“Certainly, for some players, four games in 10 days plus the travelling is not really feasible at the top, top level. That’s why you have a strong squad and I will focus on the players who could prepare properly for the game.”
So that gives us a big hint as to who will be starting this afternoon. So Cech is certain, even if he hadn’t retired from international football. There is much talk about Mustafi being thrown straight in, but I believe that Holding has impressed Wenger enough to start as Koscielny’s partner in the centre of defence. Bellerin and Monreal are shoe-ins as well.
The midfield is always going to be trickier to predict with so much quality, but I’m going for Coquelin and Santi Cazorla to start, with of course Ozil must play. He is economical with his movement so I’m sure he will be okay after playing for Germany.
Giroud played twice for France so we will get to see Lucas Perez for the first time, and I am glad to hear that Wenger wants him to play as a centre-forward rather than a winger. “I see him more centrally, especially that’s why I bought him,” Wenger said about Lucas. “He was a little bit of a late developer and as well I believe he had big success because he changed position and he has been moved central.
“He was for a while at La Coruna out on loan because they didn’t really believe in him. Finally they kept him last year and he had a great season. He’s a left-footed player who has good movement and good link play as well.
“He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s good in assists as well and because he has played on the flanks before, he can give a good cross. He has a short backlift and is very dangerous in the box.
“He can play on the flanks because he has done it before. But my target was more to add one more player who can play through the middle.”
So that just leaves the wingers, and with Ramsey still out I am expecting Walcott to start on the right (although I would prefer the Ox myself at the moment) and Iwobi on the left in place of Alexis.
As for the score, I am expecting Arsenal to come out of the traps flying and race into a 2-0 lead by half-time. And then sit back and score one more at the death. An easy 3-0 win for the Gunners!
What do you think?