Arsenal vs Southampton: 3 Crucial Things To Watch For

In the first game since the end of the transfer window will there be a sense of excitement within Arsenal or will there be a repeat of last year’s Christmas embarrassment. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 08: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 2-2 during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Ethiad Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

Arsenal did a good job improving and adding much needed depth to the team on the last week of the transfer window. Wenger added a defender and a player who is capable of playing on the wing or upfront.

The only thing more Arsenal than Wenger buying these necessary players after a few horrible games to start the season, is the injury of Mustafi less than a week after making his transfer to the Emirates official.

It was news that is best described by the emoji with the face that is half blue and in awe. It was so Arsenal I actually thought it was a joke when I first heard about it; laughter followed by silence.

However, regardless of what has happened, Wenger has put together a solid team and our other defender Holding has played above expectations. With all players inching closer to full fitness, Arsenal should look far more organized and better than the first two games of the season.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Southampton

Venue: Emirates Stadium

Date: 10:00, 10 September Saturday (EST)

Arsenal, Mesut Ozil

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

1. Ozil is a man on a mission

Two weeks ago, I continued to show my faith in my favorite Gunner by telling everyone he will unlock the opposition’s defense. However, no one should be allowed to claim to have predicted what ended up happening. Ozil not only contributed to the offense and was constantly popping up on my TV screen, he also scored a goal with his head!

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As per Squawka.com, Ozil has already created two chances, scored one goal and had a cumulative passing accuracy of 84%. His influence is more significant than what the numbers say, when watching the game one can see Ozil control the speed of the game perfectly. Ozil’s control of the speed of the game is highlighted by his decision-making coupled with his touch. Showing off Arsenal’s speed up front by providing lovely weighted chips over the top of the defense or well placed through-balls to the wing backs, Ozil looks every bit like the center piece a great team can be built around.

Against Southampton, Ozil will be slightly bullied by a rather physical team but look for him to make one or two passes that determine the game. Give Ozil that No. 10 jersey because he deserves it a lot more than anyone else on this team. Ozil’s ability to influence the attack is second to none and if he can score more goals then he will be an irreplaceable force in Arsenal’s midfield.

Arsenal, Granit Xhaka

(Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

2. Granit Xhaka gives the team balance

No one will ever mistake Xhaka for Viera, to do that is just disrespectful to Viera and Xhaka. They each bring a very different style to a team, but Xhaka’s influence on the Arsenal midfield can be likened to that of Viera.

As per Squawka.com Xhaka has attempted 16 tackles, committed eight fouls and taken on seven headers. Yet he has the same amount of chances created as Ozil and has had an average passing distance almost eight meters further than Ozil. At an average length of 20 meters per attempt, Xhaka’s 85% passing accuracy is remarkable. The numbers show a player willing to hold his position and commit to tackles, yet have the ability to distribute the ball from further back and distribute the ball with accuracy!

Based on the first few games, Xhaka’s ability has given players like Ozil and Cazorla more freedom and comfort in the midfield. Both look like they are dictating play higher up the pitch and relying less on the need to go back close to the back line to receive touches. However, despite all the positive, Xhaka still has much to improve on.

Look from him to continue to improve his tackling ability and commit less fouls in dangerous areas. Against Southampton, Xhaka should get more space as Southampton don’t press on defense as much as a team like Leicester City. The extra space should give Xhaka more chances to demonstrate his pin-point accuracy and vision.

Arsenal, Arsene Wenger

(Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

3. Wenger’s tactics

Despite the new additions last week, I don’t expect to see either player play significant minutes. Even if Mustafi was fit to play come Saturday, Wenger should be adopting his approach of slow and steady when it comes to fitness.

Wenger’s affection for Holding further makes the decision to sit Mustafi easy. However, none of us should pretend to know what the Frenchman is thinking because he does what most of us think lacks logic. Regardless of what your stand is on Wenger, one thing is true, he has a team good enough to win a lot of games on his hands. I don’t think anyone will forgive him if he messes this one up.

However, after saying all of that, look for Wenger to use the same tactics. Look for nothing to change in the coming weeks. Finally, look for him to continue to fiddle with his starting 11 until he finds one that works. To that, I am one who believes in second and third chances but if Iwobi is fit I honestly think both him and Oxlade Chamberlain should be starting ahead of Walcott.

The season will only get more frustrating and intense so lets hope this is the team that can take the stress and expectations that come with playing at Arsenal!

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