Scouting Report: Arsenal vs Southampton
Southampton’s fixture list to start the season hasn’t been the most welcoming on their return to the Premier League. They’ve had to face both Manchester teams and now have a trip to the Emirates ahead of them. They’ve had nothing to show for their efforts so far but if they’ve proven anything, it’s that they don’t lie down and take a beating.
There’s no doubt that the match this weekend will be open as the Saints look to strike lucky. They have the attacking talent to pull off the upset so Arsenal will have to look to surpass their performance from Anfield over a week ago.
Southampton play a 4-3-3 formation with the wingers often dropping deep to turn it into a 4-5-1 with Rickie Lambert isolated up front. It leaves them more players in midfield so that they can keep possession and build up attacks at their own pace. The team even look to build attacks from the back if there’s nothing on.
Teams often used to look to exploit Arsenal’s high line on the counter. It’s something that cost us a lot of valuable points in 2011/12. This term with the defence sitting deeper, it may be the only option Southampton have in any case.
On the other end, Southampton themselves play a very high line. This has left them exposed at times in their opening matches though they do play the offside quite well for the most part, it can definitely lead to a few good chances.
As mentioned before, Southampton are not a team that’s going to just roll over for the opposition. They do try to “play football” much like, well.. one and a half of the newly promoted teams from last season. It’s not unusual to see a team who have fought hard to make it to the top flight, sit back and try to protect that right by throwing everyone behind the ball. Southampton aren’t necessarily like that though.
They do defend in numbers with their wingers often dropping very deep to allow the fullbacks a chance to play more compact. They close down and cover spaces very well and when the two go in tandem there’s only a small chance that you’ll find your way through. At least for parts of the match.
Southampton are a very spotty team, in that they have a potent attack and a solid defence for spells but can easily be overridden by the opposition. In just their opening trio of matches Southampton have conceded four goals in the final ten minutes showing the effects of fatigue on their defensive set up.
Their attacks are a little tougher to predict since it changes based on which striker is playing. If Lambert starts they usually go down the wings as they look to take advantage of his aerial prowess. Guly Do Prado on the other hand is more prone to dropping into midfield to get the ball delivered to his feet, turning the focus of the attack onto the overlapping wingers.
The more advanced midfielder plays an important role in this side’s attack, filling in the gaps that the wingers leave when they move out to the touchline. It creates the same problem in offence that the extra man in Schneiderlin creates in defence. Drawing the midfield forward may be the best way to break down this defence, who I should point out again, attempt to play a dangerous high line.
It goes without saying what a threat Rickie Lambert is. The big man up front was given little chance by pundits but has already proven them wrong by getting himself a pair of goals early in the season. He has the height and strength to be a good hold up man, a job he does have to carry out on counters while the wingers fall back to help out in defence. He also has the skill to create chances for himself either by dribbling or by shooting from range so he needs to be marked closely.
Like any good defensive midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin’s work goes almost unnoticed. You’ll find him sitting back just in front of his defence but the explosiveness is what we need to be wary about. Schneiderlin is very good at rushing out of a defensive position to close down the man on the ball, often winning it in the process and sending his team on the counter attack. It wouldn’t be farfetched to compare him to Arteta as he does pass the ball well, rarely ever losing possession.
The Weak Link
The center back partnership of Hooiveld and Fonte have their moments of clumsiness. The duo have already given away two penalties in just three games (though if it’s some consolation to them, neither went in thanks to two horrible spot kicks). Drawing Schneiderlin out might expose this weakness.
This should inevitably be three points in the bag although I’m sure Southampton will make it an exciting match and might even grab themselves a goal in the process.
EDIT: That Gaston Ramirez bloke is pretty good too.