Abou Diaby – 50/50 to meet the Saints
Arsenal v Southampton 3 p.m.
After two nil-nil draws, the knives seemed to be out against an impotent Arsenal side. Fast forward a week, and all of sudden the Gunners are solid championship contenders after a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield. And so, after the international break, it’s a home game against Southampton that everyone expects will herald three points for the home side.
However, last season, Arsenal had trouble with some of the promoted sides, and free flowing Southampton are not likely to face many teams that will allow them to play football like Arsenal will, making it a potentially tricky tie. And they only lost 3-2 to both Manchester sides. And while they sit at the bottom of the table without a point, they have scored twice as many goals as Arsenal this season.
Mikel Arteta continues to showcase his value to Arsenal in the middle of the park. He’s put in more miles than any other Gunner so far this season with 18.62 miles according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Keiran Gibbs continues to show he is stepping up to the plate at the back for Arsenal. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index ranks him as being successful with 85% of his 13 tackles this season. His fellow fullback Carl Jenkinson, although often criticised, has been similarly consistent in his defensive duties. He’s given away only one foul from 17 challenges to complement a 76% tackle success rate.
Southampton were desperately unlucky not to take anything away from their last game with Manchester United. Two goals from Ricky Lambert and Morgan Schneiderlin were not enough to cancel out a hat-trick from former Arsenal frontman Robin van Persie. Southampton are clearly prepared to work hard to retain their place in the Premier League on their return to the top-flight. They’ve run further than any other team this season with 195.18 miles covered, 10 miles further than their nearest rival according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Saints’ record signing, Gaston Ramirez, may also make his debut in the game, and will be looking to repay his hefty price tag.
As for team news, Wojciech Szczesny is again fully fit, leaving manager Arsene Wenger with a decision to make between the posts. The back four may also see a potential change, with skipper Thomas Vermaelen carrying a knock. With Laurent Koscielny again fit, he may start in the Belgian’s place. Otherwise, expect the back four to remain unchanged.
In the middle of the park, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby are both doubts, meaning the middle may consist of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Arteta, with Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla rounding out the side. Francis Coquelin, in the news for his ‘play me or I’ll leave’ rant, may get a chance to show his value, or may find that the response to public statements is sitting on the bench. Arsenal fans will be hoping Olivier Giroud gets off the mark in the game, although to suggest he’s a bust is ludicrous so early into his career. It wasn’t that long ago that Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres were both suffering long goalless streaks, so Giroud’s lack of production after three games is unimportant as long as he is working hard and contributing to team victories.
Referee for the game is Kevin Friend, who has been drastic with the plastic so far this year, dishing out a whopping 15 yellows and two reds in his three games. So it all points to lots of action, lots of goals, the end of Arsenal’s clean sheet run and a few cards being shown.