The start to the season thus far has been positive, and perhaps the biggest contributor is 0 major injuries during the international break! Wilshere, Sagna, Frimpong, Rosicky - all are on the road to recovery, while only Diaby seems to have picked up a small injury for France last week. Other than that, we're all good.
Coming back to Arsenal's uncharacteristically neat start to the season, these stats powered by Stats Zone, on Arsenal.com really tell you why the defence has held up so well so far.
The opening graph speaks for itself - more tackles than any other team, but for me the deciding stats lie in Figure 2. We have Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Abou Diaby among the top 5 tacklers this season. The protection offered to the back 4 is immense, something that was virtually missing last season. Vermaelen, as expected, has been the rock at the back. 18 clearances and 3 blocks in 3 games - impressive.
Now, here is the top 5 tacklers:
Notice something? That's our full backs + our central midfielders. Our central defence doesn't feature, and the reason is that the midfield shield has done the work for them.That's enough about Arsenal, now the focus shifts to Southampton. One look at their league position, 20th with no points, by no means tells the whole story. Among the three matches are two against the Manchester clubs, both ending in 3-2 losses for the Saints, matches where they arguably deserved at least a point each. Nevertheless, scoring 2 goals against United, or at the Etihad for any club is quite an achivement, let alone a promoted club!
Like Swnasea did last year, Southampton have shown everyone that they're not afraid to go out there and attack - we can expect much of the same at the Emirates.Nigel Adkins has played a variation of the 4-3-3 formation so far, with Rickie Lambert being the danger man up front, and captain Adam Lallana, boosted by an England call up last week, being the key playmaker. Southampton have laid a lot of emphasis on the wings, and coupled with Lambert's physicality in the box, the tactic has got them goals. However their they themselves have been quite vulnerable on the wings, so it's something to think about for Wenger.
Does he give the wing backs the green light and let the wings be exposed? Or does he tell them to stay back and try and break down the visitors through the middle with just the front three and a bit of help from the midfield?I, personally, would go for the latter tactic. I honestly don't think that Gibbs and Jenkinson, however impressive they have been this season, will provide something spectacular on the wings in terms of attacking the opposition. In this game, the key will be the wingers. Can Gervinho/Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski and co. provide the crosses/passes to Giroud? And going a step back, can Cazorla and Arteta link up with them successfully?
Much like the game against Liverpool, Arsenal will need to get the ball up on the sides, that's where the two goals came from last time. By wing play, not only do I mean the old fashioned crosses into the box, but it also includes approaching the goal from the sides instead of the conventional centre. That will be the key.
It's going to be a layered approach - the grey lines that divide the field need to be the stages of Arsenal's attack (dotted lines indicating a more or less integrated layer).
-> Arsenal 1-1 Southampton
-> Giroud to finally score
-> Oxlade-Chamberlain to start
-> Lambert to score
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