Do not anger Vito Mannone.
Arsenal v. Southampton
Saturday 15 September 2012, 3PM BT/10 am ET/7 am PT
Emirates Stadium, London
Form: Arsenal DDW | Southampton LLL
TV: None Online: Foxsoccer.tv
Does SBN have a Southampton fan? No they do not.
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On to the preview!
IT'S BACK EVERYBODY HEY LOOKIT THIS REAL ACTUAL LEAGUE FOOTBALL IS BACK FINALLY!!!!!
Anyway. You could look at the table and see Southampton down there at the bottom, the only team yet to score a point, and say "wow, they're really bad, this is going to be an easy win for Arsenal isn't it?" But you'd be wrong. Southampton, over the first three games of the season, has played some really solid, attacking soccer and they were unfortunate not to beat either Manchester United or Manchester City. Their defense is somewhat wobbly, which led to Manchester United's comeback win two weekends ago, but Southampton are not afraid to press and to attack and to take the game to their opponent. This week, they take the game to the Emirates.
The Southampton midfield is run in large part by the awesomely named Jason Puncheon and the less awesomely named but still solid Morgan Schneiderlin. This is a midfield that isn't afraid to push forward and try to make things happen; against Manchester United, they were always moving and dictating the play. While their defending ultimately let them down a bit this is a team that will scare a few teams this season, and it is not a game Arsenal should take lightly.
Arsenal emerge relatively unscathed from the international break, with Diaby's case of Ryan Giggs Syndrome being the only even slight injury worry. At the time of writing it is unsure whether Mannone or Szcz will get the start in goal - as of this morning, Szcz is "in the squad" but no idea whether he's match-fit - but Mannone's performances as well as the solidity of the back four over the first few games of the season mean I'm not as worried about that as I maybe would normally be.
This seems on paper like a game Arsenal should relish - Southampton is the type of team that Arsene loves to play against, because it's a lower table side that likes to play and doesn't just hunker down. Arsenal need to be wary, though, because even though the Saints are last in the table, they haven't played like it, and if Arsenal aren't careful things could go very wrong very quickly. I still think Arsenal will win, but I'm by no means taking it for granted, and neither should you. I'm guessing a slightly nervy 3-1.