Southampton have had quite an unfortunate campaign so far, losing 3-2 to both Manchester clubs after being in front at some point in those matches. They seemingly score goals with relative ease yet the problem for them is a shaky defense, especially late on in games. Those two games wouldn't have worried Nigel Adkins as much as their 2-0 loss to Wigan, a game they needed to get something from as you would expect both teams to be fighting it out at the bottom of the table this year.
Arsenal have had a solid if not spectacular start to the season with 2 goalless draws with Sunderland (H) and Stoke (A) and a 2-0 victory away at Anfield. The only result I am not completely happy with out of the 3 is obviously the Sunderland one at home. However, I am going to let that one slide as it was the first game of the season and the attacking players were just starting to gel. A draw at Stoke is always a decent result especially given the fact that no top 4 team won there last season.
At Liverpool the players were finally starting to get into rhythm as the attacking side of our team began to gel. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski started what looks to be a good partnership with each of them setting up each other for their respective goals. Another massive positive from that game was Abou Diaby who displayed why he can be so important to our team if he just stays fit. Unfortunately he is being rested for the game today after playing for France last weekend. We haven't conceded a goal yet and have the best defense in England - in all 4 divisions - so long may that continue.
Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Frimpong and Bacary Sagna are all still out injured. Abou Diaby is being rested for the game today in anticipation to a busy few weeks. Theo Walcott is fit again after recovering from a virus he picked up on international duty, he will take his place on the bench. Wojciech Szczesny is back from a rib injury and is expected to start in goals ahead of Vito Mannone, who will be on the bench for an injured Fabianski. Other than that we have a clean bill of health.
I published an early team prediction yesterday but I have learned of a few interesting changes. Expect the following XI to line up today:
Jenkinson - Mertesacker - Vermaelan - Gibbs
Coquelin - Arteta
Chambo - Podolski - Gervinho
I said yesterday that I would personally start Koscielny ahead of Mertesacker because of Southampton's explosive counter-attacking tactics. They have some fast and strong players, including the newly acquired Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana. Ricky Lambert is a very good player, one which Arsene Wenger seems to like after watching his exclusive on Arsenal Player. We will have to be very careful and concentrated in defense, no doubt Steve Bould will be drilling that into the players. Coquelin is expected to take the place of Diaby after the midfielder publicly stated his discontent sitting on the bench. He will need to back up his words with a very strong performance today. He is a player I think can have a long Arsenal future but he must take his opportunities when they arise, so today is important for him. Up front it gets interesting. Giroud is dropped to the bench after starting for France on Tuesday and I would have thought he is being rested for his trip to his former club midweek. Podolski is being asked to lead the line, something which he didn't do all to well at against Sunderland in the last home game. However, he and Cazorla look to have bonded on the field and I would be hoping for a better game. He was excellent on the left hand side against Liverpool a fortnight ago. Chamberlain will be starting against his former club on the right hand side and will be looking to impress his old boss. Gervinho will be taking his place on the left wing.
I was right last time when I predicted a 0-2 victory away at Liverpool and I cannot predict us dropping points against Southampton at home. It is vital that we win today as we face the champions Man City at The Etihad next weekend before hosting Chelsea. These are the kind of games we lost focus on last season when we lost against Swansea, Wigan, QPR etc...
Arsenal 3 - 0 Southampton
The clean sheet continues and Olivier Giroud comes on in the second half to get his first goal for the club. Call me optimistic or even delusional - I just love my club.
Catch my match review later tonight.