What a difference a year makes! This last time I wrote for this site ahead of a trip to the Emirates both ourselves and the Arsenal were shite!
Look at us now, mocking those tin pot clubs like United and City who can’t keep up with us. Yes I am getting carried away but who can blame me!? This is the best football I have ever seen being played by my beloved Southampton FC, and for this reason, much like my trip to Old Trafford a few weeks ago, I genuinely look at Saturday’s game without any of the fear or dread that usually bestows a Saints fan for these types of occasions.
The season so far has been great for us. Particular highlights include a win at Liverpool and a last minute equaliser at United, but my own personal highlights have been our last two home games. Both first half performances against Fulham and Hull have been outstanding. The team is really working hard and for each other, and the feel good factor around St Marys is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
It’s great to see three of the big performers rewarded for their fine form with England call ups. Although I was slightly surprised with Jay Rod’s call up, I certainly wasn’t about Adam Lallana’s. His form last season was a bit patchy, mainly due to injuries and niggles that plagued him all season, but this season he has excelled and become one of the best creative players in the Premiership.
Probably the most impressive part of our game at the moment is how tight our defence has become. In my eyes our player of the season so far, Dejan Lovren has been a major reason for this. He’s a natural leader, something we were crying out for last season, and with two quality wing backs in Shaw and Clyne, a very good goalkeeper in Boruc and an ever improving Jose Fonte playing alongside him, Arsenal will have to work hard to break them down. Another new signing who’s done well after a slow start is Victor Wanyama. Although his passing is pretty poor, his ability to break up play is exceptional and he’s got a massive role to play if we are going to get something from the game on Saturday. I’m rather surprised Arsenal didn’t go in for him in the summer to be honest as he’s the type of player that I feel you guys could do with.
The less we talk about last year’s game at the Emirates the better. It was one of those games where you wish you weren’t there, 6-1 and it honestly could have been ten. I remember the best player on the pitch for a lot of the game was old boy Gervinho! I don’t remember much else. I tend to block those kind of games out of my memory. I’ve been to some great games away at Arsenal. A couple that stick out are when we nicked a 1-1 draw at Highbury. Wiltord scored and then late in the game a very average midfielder of ours Jo Tessem scored a header. Another that sticks out is a 2-2 draw when some kid called Robin Van Persie scored a 95th minute equalizer after Rory Delap had scored two identical headers from corners late on. A game that still haunts me now is when Arsenal were 5-0 up against us after about 25 minutes, I’ve never been to a game and seen supporters walking out after half an hour. I remember Robert Pires was near un-playable.
I’ve been very impressed with Arsenal so far this year, Aaron Ramsey especially. The boy has almost come from nowhere this season and his volume of goals already is incredible. I have a lot of admiration for Oliver Giroud as well, his movement is superb and he works his socks off. Mertesaker coming back is a huge plus for you guys ahead of the game as I quite fancied Lambert up against Vermaelen. I think that the January transfer window is huge for Arsenal if they want to seriously challenge for the title this year, the squad is a little thin compared to title rivals and I think a centre forward and a defensive midfielder are must buys.
Do I think Arsenal will win the league? no. Do I think Saints will finish in the top four? no, but I think Saturday is going to be a belter.
Probable Saints line-up:
Clyne Fonte Lovren Shaw
Ward-Prowse Schneiderlin Rodriguez Lallana
Prediction 1-1 Ramsey and Lambert to score.
Every now and then we’ll be having writers and fans from the following game’s opposition team giving us an interesting insight into their current situation, their expectations and their Arsenal related memories. Up first a few words from Saints fan James Callen.
After what seems like an eternity in the lower divisions I’m finally starting to feel like a fan of a Premier League Club once again. After getting back to back promotions, the away trip to Arsenal was a game that I was probably most excited about. We’ve never played at the Emirates and from what I’ve seen on TV the stadium looks sensational.
From our point of view if we can get anything from the game then that will be a massive result. We’ve had a very strange start to the season, sitting at the bottom pointless. The general consensus, not just Saints fans but fans of other teams and the media, is that we are playing really well. I’m hoping that the manner in which we lost to United wont have a lasting effect on the players, and if we can perform like that for the remainder of the season we should be fine.
The positives so far this season have to be how well our young players have stepped up, 17 year old James Ward-Prowse has slotted into the centre of midfield and been brilliant. Against United he had Cleverly firmly in his back pocket. He plays alongside 22-year-old Morgan Schniederlin who has a wonderful touch and passing range. On the wings we will have Adam Lallana who is from the same youth team that had Walcott and Bale in it. He decided to stay with us through all the hard times (Spurs tried to sign him about 5 times) and is now a quality quality player who has deservedly been made Club captain and been called up to the England squad.
Rickie Lambert is showing what almost all Saints fans already knew, he can score goals at this level, and last week he gave Vidic and Ferdinand a torrid time. He obviously will continue to get comparisons with Grant Holt, but I think if you’ve watch him play you can see that he has a lot more to his game then your standard ‘big centre forward’. Hopefully our new record signing Gaston Ramirez will make his debut at the Emirates, 12 Million quid spent on one player is just unheard of for a team like us.
Although all the buzz is about Ramirez, I think that a much more important signing for us was that of Japanese international Maya Yoshida. A tall centre back who can play a bit is just what we needed because to be honest our defence is shocking. If it isn’t sorted out soon we’re going to really struggle. We also signed ‘the new Drogba’ Emmanual Mayuka, a young Zambian forward. His C.V is good, top scorer at this year’s African Cup of Nations, he led Zambia to victory and has a decent record playing in Switzerland. He’s only 21, but I’m going to have to see something pretty special to believe all the hype surrounding him.
I’m looking forward to seeing the Ox and Walcott play again. Arsenal’s usage of Walcott has really frustrated me. Theo was always a much stronger player when playing up front through the middle. His pace and movement can rip defenses apart. Unlike the Ox, Walcott’s final ball has never really been very good It’s a shame to see so many Arsenal and football fans in general writing him off as failed potential. Santi Carzola looks like a serious player. I’m guessing we will pack the midfield like we did against United and City, which has seemed to work to an extent.
I’ve been to some great games away at Arsenal. A couple that stick out are when we nicked a 1-1 draw at Highbury. Wiltord scored and then late in the game a very average midfielder of ours Jo Tessem scored a header. Another that sticks out is a 2-2 draw when some kid called Robin Van Persie scored a 95th minute equalizer after Rory Delap had scored two identical headers from corners late on. A game that still haunts me now is when Arsenal were 5-0 up against us after about 25 minutes, I’ve never been to a game and seen supporters walking out after half an hour. I remember Robert Pires was near un-playable.
So as you can tell I’m really looking forward to the game on Saturday. I know there are a lot of disgruntled Saints fans out there because we’ve only been given 2900 tickets that sold out in less than an hour. My heart says it’ll be 1-1 but my head says it’ll be a 3-1 defeat.