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Football News: Southampton v Arsenal Match Preview for 16 December 2018

Southampton v Arsenal Match Preview for 16 December 2018
Image from: freelargeimages.com

Let's ignore last weekend, not just out of convenience but because, although Cardiff was his first game at the helm, Ralph Hasenhuttl (RH) only had a day to prepare the team for that match. This weekend is the real start of his legacy as Southampton FC head coach and it sees an exciting match up against Arsenal.

Arsenal have been revitalised under Unai Emery, albeit very much a work in progress. There have been some unconvincing performances as you'd expect under a new coach but they are picking up points with relative ease. They are at their most threatening when they pair Lacazette and Aubameyang together in their front three, both bringing pace and an eye for goal. Their midfield now looks more balanced with genuine dogged DM Lucas Torreira in the line-up and he is showing that ability to read the game well and be in the right place at the right time to break up opponent's attacks.

But then, there's the defence. Still the same personnel and still rather shonky. The centre backs, whoever they may be, tend to flap under pressure and make poor decisions when thoroughly tested, leading to individual errors and chances for the opposition. Sound familiar? Anyway, if you're looking for a weakness with Arsenal its their defence.

What Arsenal have done well so far this season is work hard to win the ball. They are more successful in doing this than they have been in a while. But they're still working at it and Huddersfield showed last time out that if you stand toe to toe with them, they will present you with chances and you can limit them going forward.

As for Saints, well this weekend will be the first team outing after RH has started to implement his strategy. But it will only likely be evident in part. He has stressed that goals are secondary to him at the moment as he organises the team to work together with and without the ball to keep possession or wrestle it back respectively. This week's training has seen the team working on positioning and teamwork, working on patterns of play and their positioning. So what we are likely to see is the team moving into a shape depending on the location of the ball and then moving as one in relation to pressing the ball or space for the pass to prevent fast attacks and to try to recover the ball. If that can be done for 90 mins successfully, we may create a chance or two at the other end from open play or set-pieces and we'll need to be clinical. Had Huddersfield been more accurate last week, they could have pulled off a shock.

If a team is pressing well and putting Arsenal's back four under pressure, what they will likely do is look to play direct balls over the top and release Lacazette (if he plays) and Aubameyang with their pace putting our defenders under pressure. Having deployed the press at Leipzig, RH will be aware of this tactic and as all teams will likely use it, I expect it is something he has prepared the defence for in some way, shape or form. Whether this will be through playing a high line and using the offside trap or defenders spotting when a long ball is on and dropping to deal accordingly, or a mixture of both, we'll have to wait and see.

But again, I want to stress that RH has only had this team for a week. It will take many weeks to instil what he wants the players to do and his focus is on making us hard to beat. We cannot and must not expect the team to become excellent overnight. Patience from the fans is crucial. We should acknowledge the progress of teamwork and defensive work first, an increased work rate and pressing for the ball. The players will be learning in-game so we need to give them the freedom to make mistakes from time to time without jeering, booing or demanding they be dropped from the team and even the league. The positive spin on the Christmas games coming thick and fast is that the team will have the opportunity to learn quickly and gather experience of dealing with a wide variety of scenarios that training can only partly prepare you for. Things are likely to be inconsistent for a time but if we stick with the team and cheer them on, we will hopefully see us play the football we've all longed for the last few years and climb back up the table.

Written by figodasilva December 15 2018 09:56:08

 

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