By Bulldog Drummond
That headline sums it up – we get our defence back in one piece and then the attack falls apart. At least that is what the papers say.
But of course what the papers say is an exaggeration as always. Yes we have, for the defence, a choice of any four from nine…
Debuchy, Mert, Kos, Gibbs (the obvious selection) and as backup…
Chambers, Bellerin, Monreal, Hayden, Coquelin
But in the forward line we have lost Giroud with his self-inflicted holiday, Gnabry, Sanogo and maybe Welbeck who is either definitely out or definitely in, according to which web site you look at.
If we assume that Danny is out that leaves us with
- Cazorla – who has often played on the wing in the forward line
- Alexis Sánchez – of course
- Walcott – who will either play this game or the Hull game for certain – I suspect the latter.
- Podolski – possibly, with Theo coming on as a sub.
- Campbell – who the Daily Star have announced will definitely start as centre forward
If we then don’t play Theo he can come on as a sub, and we can have Tomas Rosicky in midfield to add to the fun and games.
Definitely out are six (amazing – it is only six), with three having imminent returns…
- Arteta (4 Jan)
- Ramsey (hamstring, 4 Jan)
- Özil (19 Jan),
The longer term injuries are: Gnabry, Diaby, Wilshere
So where does this leave us? Well, actually with a guess and a half…
Debuchy, Mert. Kos, Gibbs
Sanchez, Podolski or Campbell, Cazorla
The problem is that as soon as something changes in the front line, other bits have to change because you don’t want Cazorla and Sanchez out (they are very much the men in form). Without knowing how Welbeck is doing, it is impossible to say.
Added to which with the cup match on Sunday, and what with us being the Cup Holders, we’ll need to be treating the FA Cup fairly seriously. If Danny is out for this match, he might be back for the Cup, certainly if Theo doesn’t start this one, he will start in the Cup, and I would guess Campbell would be expecting some sort of game in one of the two.
As for the opposition, here’s a jolly factoid:
St Mary’s Y.M.A. (the original Southampton club) played most of their early games on The Common where games were frequently interrupted by pedestrians insistent on exercising their right to roam.
I do like that.
Then they won the Southern League six times between 1897 and 1904 and played in the FA Cup Final of 1900 as a Southern League club. They won the FA Cup in 1976 and were runners up in the first division in 1984. But much of the time over the centuries it has been Third and Second Division fare.
Oh and there’s one other thing. On 8 December 2004 Appy Arry Redknapp and his dog Rosie were made joint managers of Southampton. On 15 May 2005 after 27 years in the top division Southampton were relegated. That’s Arry for you.
Back on present day territory, Southampton won’t have Morgan Schneiderlin, as he is suspended. Cork, Gallagher, Hesketh and Rodriguez are all reported to be injured.
Thus far over Xmas/New Year we’ve won both games – the only club in the top six to do so, but Southampton are still above us in the league. Indeed after four straight defeats Southampton have come back with two wins and a draw in the last three.
Southampton’s record is that they lost to Sheffield U, Burnley, Man U and ourselves, but then beat Everton and Palace before drawing with Chelski.
Overall our December was (starting with the oldest result)
The defeat was the 3-2 away to Stoke – that’s the game where we went 4-0 down you’ll remember.
The last three away games between ourselves and Southampton have been draws, and the last six have had five red cards. Last time we played there on New Years Day was one of the 1-1 draws, on the first day of 2013.
Southampton’s success, at least to my untutored eye, has been based on defence – they have only let in 15 – while we have let in 23. Chelsea is the only club with a meaner defence than Southampton – they have let in 14.
Our 23 looks awful, except that of the clubs below us only Villa is better off (22). And there is a simple explanation – we’ve lost most of our defence for much of the time, and our first choice in defensive midfield. Lose your defence and let in goals. Not surprising really.
Now with the proper defence back in place I think we ought to be getting back to a greater chance of keeping the opposition out. Kos has become a superb player after an average start with the club, and Mert looks much happier when playing next to him, on his favoured side.
This means down on the beach in the warm south coast sunshine we have
Oooooooooospina, Chambers, Bellerin, Monreal, Hayden, Coquelin, Podolski? Campbell? Walcott? Akpom, which is a fair old range to select from.
It could be quite interesting.
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