Imagine you are the Southampton manager. You have taken an exciting young team into the PL – a huge achievement . You wait for the fixture list all summer. You get your first look and you see that your team will be playing the Top 3 clubs in your first 4 matches. What do you do? Do you think “Excellent, we will show them just how well we play ” or do you think “Bum, that is a swine of a start”?
Fair play to Nigel Adkins, he has stuck to his football ethics and played attacking entertaining football, giving both MC and MU problems and in both cases being unlucky not to take at least a point. But, and here is the rub, they have Nul Point, di nada, niente, ingen, zero, nothing, to show for their fine play. The defence has conceded 8 goals in just 3 games and the prospect of playing at the Emirates Stadium against a confident Arsenal must be a cause for concern.
What is my point? Well, given these circumstances would you tell your team to go out and express themselves or would you say, “keep it tight at the back and see if we can get through without conceding”? So ….Parkere Bussen eller Ikke?
What do you expect to happen if Southampton play an open attacking game? Be honest, you would expect a healthy Arsenal victory. I know we can point to Norwich etc from last season but this is a different AFC – one with defensive discipline. Can you see us conceding 2 goals today? I can’t. (writes BR with fingers crossed). Other bloggers have predicted an end to end proper game of football but I have my doubts. On the open spaces of Ashburton Grove the burgeoning genius of Santi Cazorla and friends could run riot and Adkins will have noted how Sunderland’s negative tactics nullified our attacks.
Southampton: Adkins has made a fine signing in Ramirez, we can expect him to be a significant figure through this season. Lallana was called up to the England squad and at just 24 has made huge strides, he is an attacking midfielder with a deft touch. Ricky Lambert has scored against both MC and MU – let’s hope he doesn’t continue his fine form. Mr Wenger is a great admirer of Southampton’s Youth Project, he says of the club , “It is unbelievable. First of all, it is fantastic scouting and they have a good development and coaching programme with young players” Another supposed Arsenal target is Luke Shaw an exciting 17 y.o left back but with Gibbs just settling in I would be surprised to see Shaw bought.
As to our team. Not an easy call what with the CL trip to France on Tuesday. Will Mr Wenger risk the rejuvenated Diaby? Or the young but powerful Ox? I expect to see Ramsey start, though I would equally happy with Coquelin; Ramsey will be a top player but I thought he was too young and raw to take the weight of creative responsibility last season; rotation in midfield will greatly assist AR’s development and this is just his sort of game.
The biggest dilemma for AW is the return to fitness of Koscielny, a man who in my opinion was the most improved player at the PL last season. If he plays who will he replace? Both BFG and our Captain are in fine form and have yet to concede; what kind of reward would a bench seat be for such sterling work? The Corporal is settling into his position so it would make little sense to play Kos at RB. Furthermore, Santos is fit and ready to reclaim the LB slot; is he better than Gibbs who is developing into a decent defender even if his final ball is poor? Then there is the return to fitness of our first choice keeper. Mannone has done well but TPIG should play when fit.
This team will change for the Montpelier trip with Kos returning and probably Santos and O-C, but surely it is too early to change a defence which functions so well. The prospect of a fit JW, Sagna and TR will further enhance what looks like an excellent squad. We have quality cover everywhere (except perhaps for Arteta).
I was at Highbury the last time Southampton beat us with a Danny Wallace goal – it was a salutary experience and not one to be repeated, but I was also there the day we beat them 6-1 with Jermaine Pennant scoring a hatrick on his debut.
I would like to dedicate this post to the above mentioned Danny Wallace. A fine player whose career was ended at just 30 y.o. by the awful disease multiple sclerosis. Any man who can run the London Marathon suffering from MS and take 5 days to do so (which he did in 2008) deserves the utmost respect.
We need to score at home. We need to see Giroud open his account and I need Podolski to score to win my bet with Didit. Cazorla will score with a free-kick. All of which predicts a healthy victory secured by our new signings.
I wish Southampton well through the season and hope they can stay up keeping faithful to Adkins footballing philosophy, but just for today I wish them a humiliating defeat!
Written by Big Raddy