Top of the table Arsenal face an in-form Southampton side at the Emirates on Saturday, with Arsenal looking to extend their lead at the top of the table and Southampton looking to go level on points with the Gunners.
Southampton have impressed under Mauricio Pochettino this season, winning six, drawing four and losing just one of their opening eleven Premier League games, conceding just five goals in the process. They have taken 22 points from their opening 11 games and find themselves 3rd in the table, with a win at Anfield and a last gasp draw at Old Trafford being their highlights so far.
However, Southampton have played 8 games against teams from the bottom half of the table so far this season and face a real test against Arsenal whose home record against the Saints is exemplary. Southampton have only ever won 2 away games at Arsenal in their history, with their last away win coming in Novemeber 1987. Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 8 games against the Saints in all competitions (home and away) and will want to continue this run in their first game back since the International break.
Arsenal find themselves two points clear at the top of the table, after Manchester United ended Arsenal’s impressive run of results that saw them win 9 of their 10 Premier League games after their opening day defeat to Aston Villa. The Gunners will be looking to get back to winning ways against Pochettino’s side and extend their lead at the top of the table, especially with many of their rivals also facing tough opposition this weekend.
Aaron Ramsey is expected to be fit after missing Wales’s game in midweek, while Theo Walcott is expected to return after his spell out with an abdominal problem. Jack Wilshere faces a late fitness test but Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby all miss out.
Jack Cork and Guly do Prado are the only absentees for Southampton.
- Mikel Arteta has the best passing accuracy for all players to make 75+ passes this season (93.92%)
- Southampton have faced fewer shots on target than any other side (31)
- Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud all have the joint most assists this season (4)
- Olivier Giroud has created more clear clut chances than any other player this season (5)
- James Ward-Prowse and Mesut Ozil have both created a chance every 29 minutes this season
Aaron Ramsey has been in inspired form so far this season, scoring 6 goals and getting 4 assists in 11 appearances so far in the Premier League.
The Welshman has scored 6 goals at a rate of a goal every 154 minutes in the Premier League this season, hitting the target with an impressive 74% of his 19 shots and has converted an impressive 32% of his chances.
The midfielder is also the top tackler in the Premier League this season, winning 84% of his 51 tackles and has made a tackle 11 minutes more often than he did during the 2012/2013 season. Ramsey has entered into ground duels and aerial duels more often than last season, winning 3% more of his aerial duels and 8% more of his ground duels as he adapts to his new role in centre of midfield.
Used mainly as a utility player last season, Ramsey found himself playing on the right hand side of midfield more often than not and it wasn’t until Wenger played him alongside Arteta at the end of last season and Flamini at the start of this season in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield that we started seeing the best of him.
However, with both Flamini and Arteta returning to the side recently it will be interesting to see if Wenger keeps Ramsey in the centre of midfield or play him further forward, in which he also has competition from Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and the returning Theo Walcott but it is impossible to keep Ramsey out of the side on his current form.
While all the focus has been on Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez this week after making their England debuts, it is Morgan Schneiderlin who has been the unsung hero for Southampton this season.
Schneiderlin has completed his transition into a ball winning midfielder in recent seasons, but has also retained his ability to dictate play and keep hold of the ball. His fitness and work rate have improved under Pochettino, which has helped him keep up with play and implement the mangers high pressing defensive line with ease.
The Frenchman’s main role in the side is to win back possession of the ball, aggressively pressing the opposition until the ball is won back and then distribute the ball to start Southampton’s attacks, looking for vertical and diagonal balls to feed the wide players.
This has shown in Schneiderlin’s statistics with the Frenchman making the 4th most tackles in the Premier League this season, winning 77% of his 43 tackles and making 21 interceptions, the second most in the Southampton squad. Schneiderlin has also made the most accurate forward zone passes for Southampton this season (258) and has completed an impressive 80% of his 323 passes in the opposition half and 96% of the 239 passes he has made in his own half.
Morgan also has the best long ball accuracy in the Southampton squad (74%) and has excelled at both winning the ball back and keeping hold of the ball this season and remains one of the key players in the Southampton squad.
Southampton have excelled defensively this season and it will be down to Ramsey, Ozil and co to break their stubborn defence down, which will be no easy task.
Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat to Manchester United and prove a point that they are the team to beat this season.
It will be an incredibly close game, but I think Arsenal will just about do it.
Arsenal 1-0 Southampton