We are back from the FIFA break, within the cusps of winter and starting the long-haul towards New Years Day.
Good day all. It’s a battle between two under-fire coaches at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal takes on Southampton.
12 Premier League games in, a cursory glance at the table and seeing the Gunners 6th-placed would have some thinking, “well, that’s not calamitous”. However, Liverpool are off in the distance, we are eight points off 4th-placed Man City, have won just two of our last 10 matches and none of our last four. With performances epitomising that Unai Emery have us nowhere near the required level to get back in the Champions League spots.
Be that is it may, he does have the backing of one Raul Sanllehi, who no doubt bank on a turnaround in fortunes in an auspicious run (on paper at least) versus So’ton, Norwich, Brighton and West Ham, in hopes of getting fans back onside as well as gather steam ahead of the more trickier festive fixtures versus Man City, Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea and Man United.
On the face of it, such thinking is practical because for that would have been the idea had a new man replaced Emery. However, there lack confidence from many that Emery has it in him to make the necessary adjustments to get our top-four challenge back on track. Because, if rumours are true that he has been given a month to save his job, our run of poor results continue the fall-out would be significant as any new man would be taking over as we are about to navigate our way through a run of tricky fixtures.
Either way, if you look to restore lost confidence the teams you would probably want to play next are those 19th and 20th on the table. What could go wrong?
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints side got so many issues; winless in their last seven (D1, L6), the PL’s worst defense and barely a third of the season gone already appear to be involved in a relegation scrap. He will be well aware if he doesn’t turn it around soon, he would be out of a job by Christmas.
Three points would lift them out the relegation zone though, so we can expect them making their presence felt. They played well in a 2-1 defeat away at Mancity in recent weeks and took them quite deep, so no doubt they will be looking for a similar approach as well as adding a bit of spice. Hasenhuttl did say in his pre-match presser his boys “must go back to being a nasty team” if they want to salvage their season. So if we fail to keep them on the backfoot, they could see that as an invitation to make this game more open than we would like.
Dani Ceballos is out injured till end of December, while Sead Kolasinac and Nicolas Pépé faces late assessments for minor issues. Everyone else, including Granit Xhaka whose “mindset has improved” per Emery, are available for selection.
Usually when Arsenal goes up against 19th-placed one would think “banker”, but with so much on the line and both sides desperate for points, it’s hard to ignore the eeriness of this being “must win”.
Given our patchy form all season, Emery will be under pressure to give the Emirates faithful a commanding performance to ease some of the ill-feeling towards him. And with the Saints all out of sorts and without an away win against us in over three decades… this is one I suspect the Gunners to get all three points from, albeit not without an element of concern.