12 Matches to win 26 points

Preview of this afternoon’s Premier League match at home to Southampton

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Arsenal’s makeshift defence conceded three goals against the Saints back in December

The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League fixture at the Emirates against Southampton

It's tight at the bottom
Let’s assume that both Huddersfield and Fulham are doomed. As the table stands, it would be Southampton joining them in the drop to the Championship. That puts into perspective the terrible result in the reverse fixture when the Saints ended Arsenal’s 22 match unbeaten run back in December. Since then, the south coast team’s form has been patchy, although in spite of taking 12 points from nine games, they have been overtaken by the likes of Cardiff, who beat them at St Mary’s in their last outing. The players had a training camp in Tenerife due to their not playing in the FA Cup last weekend. However, the bottom line is that they are relegation fodder, and nothing less than three points will suffice for the home side this afternoon. The current odds on an Arsenal win are 1/2 on the Betway app, if you want to try that out. Or if you have less confidence in Unai Emery's side, the draw is 7/2 with an away win priced at 11/2. Let's hope the bookies get this one right.

Don’t give up on the top four just yet
Arsenal sit on 50 points from 26 matches, 36 points still up for grabs. Liverpool achieved fourth place last season with 75 points. Looking back over the five campaigns before that, the following points tallies secured fourth spot: 76, 66, 70, 79, 73. The teams in fifth place across the last six seasons scored 70, 75, 66, 64, 72 and 72. Conclusion – 76 points should ensure Champions League participation next season. So that is 26 points from 12 games – enough margin for two defeats and two draws. Ideally, the defeats won’t be to Spurs and (especially) Manchester United. However, the bottom line is that Arsenal need to be winning most of their games. At home, after Southampton, Bournemouth and Man United then face Newcastle, Palace and Brighton. Let’s paint a black picture and accept defeat to United, and there are 15 points of the required 26 if they beat the other sides. That leaves 11 points required from six away matches, which are – Spurs, Everton, Watford, Leicester, Burnley and (the yet to be re-scheduled) Wolves. Pick your three wins and a draw out of those four. It’s not impossible, although I think we all accept Arsenal need to up their game, especially on the road. Hell, some optimists even think this season could see another St Totteringham’s Day after yesterday’s match at Burnley!

The Creative Dilemma
Another way of asking whether Mesut Ozil will be retained to provide some creativity. The answer to this will, I am certain be entirely dependent of the formation Unai Emery goes for. Play five at the back and the number 10 is on the bench. Play four at the back and there’s room for him. Southampton will almost certainly be focussed on a clean sheet with the hope of a goal on the counter attack. Until Arsenal manage to score, it’s going to be tense.

Who makes way for Lacazette?
Both Alex Iwobi and Henrik Mkhitaryan started on Thursday night due to Laca’s Europa League suspension. There seems little doubt the number 9 will return to the starting eleven, so we’ll see who gets the nod to be the third member of the front three. My money’s on Iwobi. Unai Emery will almost certainly be rotating certain players with the Europa League games in mind. It’s highly unlikely the same eleven will start both today and Wednesday, even though injuries are limiting the options.

History is on our side

Southampton have defeated Arsenal twice at the Emirates in recent seasons – both times in the League Cup. But hey, second stringers and all that. In the league, their last away win v the Gunners was at Highbury back in November 1987. So when Arsenal play their strongest teams, they don’t lose too often. However, the Saints can frustrate, and since that 87 win, have managed to come away with a point on six different occasions. The other 17 matches though provided wins for Arsenal. Anything but three points today would be a big blow to Arsenal’s hopes of getting back into the Champions League.

It should be a straightforward home win, but Southampton can be a tricky side. You’ve got to imagine that if Arsenal do open the scoring, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side will come out and the game will open up more. Arsenal rarely keep clean sheets, so I’m going for a 3-1 home win today. 

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  1. itsRonagain2

    Feb 25, 2019, 13:10 #113302

    Exiled - sadly, you are absolutely right i think. More of the same old same to preserve the tepid and uninspiring status quo.

  2. Exiled in Pt

    Feb 25, 2019, 12:45 #113300

    Ron - i think you probably nailed it with the modern day championship manager quote !! The prime example is sending Nelson out on loan for the season and then Smith Rowe and bringing in Suarez on loan !! Nelson could of got all the experience he needed playing regularly in the first team this season in the PL rather than playing in the German league . A proper run of games is all these players need but we have played the likes of Miki and Ramsey, who is leaving at the end of the season . These decisions alone show in my opinion the club is to scared to go with the youth en masse ! They will just tiptoe along the line of just keeping the fan base happy and still bringing in enough revenue to keep the owner happy and that is staying in the top 5 or 6 and if they are lucky top 4 . So we will buy cheap and try to sell big at the expense of our homegrown talent ...

  3. itsRonagain2

    Feb 25, 2019, 12:38 #113298

    GR - Really good points matey as ever. Bard - the principle you mention of playing 2 or 3 together is a very good one, provided theyre good enough of course. It develops a bonding doesn't it and an 'all for one, one for all mentality'. We ne not had that in truth since Rocky, Hayes, Adams, Davis and Co emerged. Arsenal have an almighty job to do tring to re kindle that type of commonality of purpose. The irony is as i see it is that while the excellent french contingent was brought in through the front door back in the time 96-2000, at the same time the historic glue that had held Arsenal together before then was seeping away out of the back door. Ive always been of the view that Wenger was anti British player for a very long time for all that he protested otherwise when challenged on the issue. His policy of cosmopolitanism brought great success of course, but his efforts to repeat the trick and than being so immovable from his inherent bias has led us to where we are now i believe. Utd and even Chelsea always persisted with their home grown core and the results are clear to see.

  4. GoonerRon

    Feb 25, 2019, 09:46 #113297

    @ John F - you’re right, it’s all about Emery and the Directors agreeing the way forward. I sometimes wonder whether the modern day Championship Manager mentality of just buying more and more players has permeated into real-life managers? I sometimes think if a CEO / Chairman said to a manager we’ll buy as manager players as you want they’d buy 15 in the summer then ship half of them out again in January just because they could get a new batch of players in. Bringing our youth through is always partly a nostalgia-filled hope as we’ve done it before and delivered wonderful memories in doing so. Truth is, in the past our homegrown talent just hasn’t had the quality to make the grade en masses for us. However, half a dozen or so of the current U-23 crop and possibly same again in the U-18’s have a real chance, so now it’s partly nostalgia-filled hope allied to a genuine chance to re-build a chunk of the squad from within which just makes so much sense on so many levels.

  5. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Feb 25, 2019, 08:50 #113296

    The two Rons, great posts, then Chelsea's goalkeeper provided a great postscript for your opinions. Players rule OK!

  6. Bard

    Feb 25, 2019, 07:05 #113295

    Excellent post GoonerRon. I have often wondered whether the issue with some young players is that they get into the team in dribs and drabs rather than playing 3/4 of them at a time. Playing with your mates makes a big difference as we all know, albeit at a much lower level. Think of the class of 92. The main reason the kids fail is a mental issue, it's not to do with ability. Playing with the friends you have grown up with must make a massive difference. Also as many have noted having grown up with Arsenal they really care about the club. How great would it be to be able to watch an Arsenal dominated by home grown players. Chelsea could have had a fantastic side with the players the have nurtured from their youth set up.

  7. John F

    Feb 24, 2019, 22:21 #113294

    Great post Gooner Ron I just hope the director s and Dic k see it the same way and do not buy cheap aged players that would block the progress of the players you mentioned.

  8. GoonerRon

    Feb 24, 2019, 20:40 #113293

    @ Ron - I think our business last summer is probably fairly representative of how we will have to approach things going forward. Modest gamble on a young unknown, mid-money outlay on early-20’s-hopefully-appreciating asset, experienced player in the last year of his contract etc. Liverpool are the closest examples of an almost self-sustaining model but received significant impetuous by Barca spending over £200m on two of their players. We probably need something similar to allow us to either invest really big on a single player or re-build a number of positions with the requisite quality - I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Guendouzi or Torreira we’re sold to PSG or Barca in a couple of years to that end. In the meantime, there’s an unprecedented opportunity this summer to integrate many of our younger players into the squad (and at the same time help pressure valve the wage bill) - Cech and Ospina are going / likely to go so promote Emi Martinez and Matt Macey from within to fight for No2. Lichtsteiner and Jenks will probably go so promote Osei-Tutu as second choice RB and or train AM-N into the position permanently. Sell Mustafi to give Chambers and Mavropanos a chance to establish themselves. Elneny is a solid pro but sell him and promote Willock, who’s got a much higher ceiling, into the squad. Ramsey is going so give his goal-getting-midfielder space in the squad to Emile Smith-Rowe. Send Suarez back to Barca (unless he turns into our saviour in the coming months) and let Reiss Nelson help provide our width. If Welbeck doesn’t get a new deal then we could keep Nketiah in as third choice striker although I’d be tempted to loan him out and that could be a position we look to strengthen externally. Selling / releasing Cech, Ospina, Jenks, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Elneny, Ramsey and Welbeck would save us around £30m per year on the wage bill and raise £30-35m in transfer fees and, in my opinion, all except Welbeck could be replaced by comparable quality from within. That would leave us with headroom in the wage bill to get the quality CB and wide player in that we need as a minimum. The manager needs to have the balls to do it and us supporters have to get behind the plan (and the looney fringe need to stop crying on deadline day saying ‘JUST SIGN ANYONE FFS’).

  9. Vaessenatthefarpost

    Feb 24, 2019, 14:25 #113292

    Have to say that ItsRon has just completely nailed the situation. I couldn't agree more with every word he's just written. Myself, as an old timer, I try to not be deliberately pessimistic or down on the club in its present manifestation but I really do struggle to connect with the club on the grounds of its invisible identity. For me moving from Highbury is central to that. However I accept its done and things move on, and just to sit here and say I want my Arsenal back is futile: ItsRon's prognosis for the how we approach the medium term and address some problems is sound. I genuinely love some of the younger players who have been sent out on loan, and ideally would have loved to see them playing this season with us, as they look like they care, and they look like young Merson's, Rocastle's, etc - worth adopting and sticking with. On another note, could I say thank you to all the people who have commented on my articles (I am aka David Fensome) - I have genuinely found every comment pertinent and interesting. My area of interest is the seventies, although I was largely too young to have gone to many games then (its when my Arsenal began though), I have really enjoyed reading the comments of guys who went to the games and have such vivid memories - I have taken them all in and they will inform future writing I hope. Hope its Okay to say this? Thank you to the positive comments too, I have managed so far to escape many rude ones! Up the Gunners.

  10. itsRonagain2

    Feb 24, 2019, 10:18 #113291

    Lads, ive just seen the debate on the other thread about Arsenal s future etc and just to say i think the comments are excellent especially from the true sages on this board, Bard and SKG et all. For me, saying this from the point of view that the owners going nowhere soon, Arsenal need to make the big decision of either, buying some genuine players who can make a difference or if thats not to be the case they must invest in and really go down the route of producing their own, starting by giving the heads up to the younger players we have. As has been said in the points of how the 71 team was built, it can be done again in my view. Investing in genuine young players (and we badly need some British ones in there) is a long route and take time and patience. Its better than than buying truck loads tokenistic type players for 30 to 40 million over the same period which can only at best keep the club where it is now and we ve got the last 10 years as a reference point to show that. An eg is the option to buy this Denis Suarez. Really? is he the route ahead? Not in my view. Hes another Hleb type space filler who wont offer anything to make things happen on a pitch. Its why his career has been drifting this lat 6 years and why hes been farmed out to us. AFC need to front up with the fans too. Go down the create yr own player route and tell the fans that's the clubs direction and philosophy and that they ll take the medicine in terms of varying results and inconsistency that inevitably follows. The fans will wear it. Many will go, no doubt and that their choice. Let them go. The end result is that a positive lead and direction will be welcomed by me, even if it does mean mid table for a few years. Arsenal will at least then have an identity and this endless speculative debate about what the club are doing and need to be doing will end at last. AFC needs to admit to itself and to the World that its no longer a 'big' club in the sense of being willing or able to take on the titans of Europe and the usual top 2 or 3 here. AFC have been a sterile make believe club for at least a decade. I agree we re in the doldrums for the next 4-6 years but if thats so, lest a t least be there with an identifiable sense of purpose. Arsenal have little respect from its own fan base it seems to me and thats the worst that it can get. Get that respect back Arsenal will you! Its doable if yr brave enough, but sadly bravery within those corridors or on the pitch there has been so thin on the ground since the move to that dreadful glass bowl.

  11. itsRonagain2

    Feb 24, 2019, 09:51 #113290

    It could the game that send Saints down. They have all the hallmarks of a club that looks like the Championship beckons and have done for a year or 2.

  12. Don Howe

    Feb 24, 2019, 09:22 #113289

    These games are going to be pretty much teeth marks on the toilet seat from now until May. We don’t have the defensive nous and we don’t have the players. The most we can do is to enjoy the good stuff that we do and the absence of an idiot sabotaging from the sidelines. I’m looking forward to going to the game today, which is good enough for me.