Firstly a quick Merry Christmas to any readers who celebrate December 25th, hope you had a good one. Usually I write a Christmas post but this year I have been struggling on limited sleep and then traveling half way around London to visit family and eat loads of food.
I had a quick check at the fixtures from last season because for some reason I had in my head that we played Southampton last Boxing Day when in fact it was New Years Day.
I had a quick glance at the team that took to the field that day and my word, how things can change in the space of less than 12 months. I mean only two from the team that started that day started in our last match. I would imagine that it will only be those two (Koscielny and Mertesacker) who will start again at St Mary's this evening. The team that day looked like this
Debuchy Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
Oxlade-Chamberlain Cazorla Rosicky
The game will be remembered for Szczesny blunder(s) and some post match puffing. We were also missing a whole host of midfielders, not sure why that sounds familiar. We had to draft in that no hope Coquelin who found his level at Charlton. Calum Chambers had to step into a unfamiliar position for him in midfield. We looked a little lost that day so defensive errors at the back really did not help.
But after that game we were somewhat reborn, going on to become the best team in 2015. It may not be a trophy (you have to qualify these things, these days because Arsenal fans like to lose their sh*t) but it does show positive growth of the team. Out went Szczesny, Coquelin grew from strength to strength and our injured players came back firing for the second part of the season. The unity and chemistry of the team grew from then until today.
Meanwhile the Southampton line up is far closer today (last match against Tottenham) compared to that fixture last season against us. Four players including their two centre backs will be different to last season but the team is configured much the same. While their personnel is very familiar their form is down the toilet. I mean it is pretty poo.
They have lost 5 of their last 6 games, the only point they managed was a 1-1 draw to bottom of the table Aston Villa during that sequence. They were thumped 6-1 at St Mary's on December 2nd by Liverpool and they have not recovered. So I am very much in two minds here. Part of me says we should batter them after our confidence boosting 2-1 win against Manchester City and the Saints woeful form but the worried part of my brain says that teams love to bounce back against Arsenal.
With Manchester City taking on Sunderland in Manchester, we will need to do all we can to take the 3 points to remain ahead of them. Leicester City have to go to Anfield so that should be a fun game to watch.
As for our team line up, I imagine we will use pretty much the same team that beat Manchester City last Monday. I guess Arsène could rotate a little in both our next fixtures, spreading it out a little but I doubt that somehow. Unless a player is struggling with fitness behind the scenes then I fully expect the same team that put City to the sword.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
I'd sign up for another totally professional display tonight. Keep secure at the back, frustrate an out of sorts Southampton in front of their fans and use the likes of Özil, Walcott, Ramsey, Giroud and Campbell to pick our moments and pick them off. All sounds so simple doesn't it from my keyboard? That's because it is. Fingers crossed it is a straight forward evening for the players and le Boss.