It’s a beautiful, crisp sunny day in Bristol. Boosted by the irregular occurrence of having an entire weekend to myself, I’m looking forward to watching the game today. With all the bizarre times fixtures are played these days in conjunction with the whim of money-bragging sponsors, there’s still nothing better for me that kick-off at 3pm on a Saturday. Not one for tradition ordinarily, I make an exception just this once.
Now all the interminable tedium of the international break has finally been cast aside, it’s time to focus on ‘real’ football. A few people seem to take offence at that remark, as if the use of the word ‘real’ unfairly casts aspersions on the World Cup and qualifiers. It probably does, but I don’t care. Give me The Arsenal over any England fixture every day of the week.
Arsenal welcome back Theo Walcott from injury. He’ll most likely find himself on the bench today and be reintegrated into the team gradually. Theo’s pace and constant threat to sluggish defenders is an asset we’ve missed – especially away from home. At The Emirates when the opposition come to sit deep and prevent Arsenal’s passing game from flowing, he isn’t as much of a threat. He needs space in order to flourish. However, it’s good to have him back. The Ox and Podolski are still plodding along the road to recovery and should be available in a month or so. Sanogo and Diaby have left the Club to start their own circus. The Flame has been naughty in recent weeks and misses the game through suspension.
My guess at the line-up:
Today we face a very good team. Perhaps it’s a little easy to dismiss Southampton as they’re not perceived to be one of the so-called “big clubs” challenging for honours. To do so would be a huge mistake. Under Pochettino, The Saints have developed an impressive style of play; silky passing and an emphasis on pressing their opponents. In Lallana and Schniederlin, they have two very good players and a excellent team ethic. Arsene Wenger has himself confessed to being impressed:
“All teams want to press and win the ball back quickly, Southampton maybe do it better than others.
“Pochettino has done very well without speaking too much. You have to give him credit for that.
“It’s absolutely tremendous what Southampton have achieved. They can be very ambitious.”
An Arsenal team fresh and firing on all cylinders should win this game. In attack, we have the talent and vision to score goals against anyone. I’m not certain Southampton will turn up and park the bus. A defensive strategy of some sort is likely, but I think we’ll see a team eager to win the ball back quickly and midfield and hit us on the break.
I’ll predict a cagey game to begin, with things opening up as the minutes run down. Victory today is important to keep up our lofty perch above everyone else. A draw wouldn’t be the disaster some would make it out to be. A win is ideal, anything else isn’t. It’s that simple. I’m going to say 3-1 to the Arsenal, with Southampton taking the lead early on, just to get us all nervy.
Lastly today, Arsene has spoken of January transfers and our options up front:
“Theo gives us an opportunity to be a mobile striker. If we lose Giroud today we have nobody with body weight up front, apart from Bendtner.
“I think Bendtner has the level, but at the moment he doesn’t get enough games – and as well, in his head, is he here or has he planned to go (in January)?”
“But it is always difficult in the middle of the season. If somebody is doing well somewhere, the clubs do not necessarily want to sell him. They can wait until the end of the season”
I said so previously, I don’t think we’re going to see much more than a loan deal in January. Bendtner doesn’t have the inclination to play for Arsenal, so the quicker we get shot of him the better. Arsene is not known for making his deals or pursuits public knowledge. There is sure to be a plan at some level of the Club to do business and bolster our options. However, as Arsene said, at this time of the year our options will be very limited.
It’s difficult to predict what will happen, or to have an idea of a player we will attempt to bring in. I’d be fairly certain we’ll do something. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Who knows, might even be Thierry Henry on another brief loan…
That’s all for today, folks. Enjoy the game from wherever you are in the world. The comments are below and await your thoughts on the team news and starting XI? Would you do anything a little different? Would you start Theo? Let me know.
As always: thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.