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Arsenal vs Southampton: Match Preview
Arsenal host Southampton and look to get back to winning ways against one of the most average teams in the Premier League.
The last couple of fixtures have been a gut punch.
I was growing cautiously positive about the team, the stats were still mixed overall but if you squinted you could see things turning in the right direction. After the last two performances, things have gone from mixed to pretty uniformly bad and the trend is not pointing up any longer.
Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, Arsenal have back-to-back 8th place finishes, and coming in I thought they were about the 6th best team. The 6th best team will have rocky periods and if Arsenal are actually closer to the 8th place team, well that's even more struggles.
If you want to read more about where Arsenal are compared to the last couple of seasons I wrote that up earlier here.
Now let's look ahead to Southampton.
Southampton Team Radars
Southampton are a very "fine" team. Looking at their attacking stats they are very close to the 50th percentile in most of them. On defense, they match up well with my mental model of a decent team that presses; they suppress shots and are hard to pass against but that comes at the expense of allowing more good chances than average.
Overall my model rates them as the 11th best team in the Premier League, with the 10th best attack and the 10th best defense. It is all very average but given that they are probably in the 12th to 16th range for what they spend in wages that is pretty good.
Southampton are one of the more "unlucky" teams in the Premier League right now. Overall they are 8 goals behind their expected goals, with a big chunk of that coming from what they have done in open play.
For them, the problem has been getting their shots on target, with just 28% of their shots finding the target with a bigger problem for their high-quality shots. Maybe it will be good for them to face Arsenal who are currently allowing the highest percentage of shots to find the target.
Their main threats appear to be Nathan Redmond and Kyle Walker-Peters on the left-hand side of their attack, who feed in balls for their two strikers to attack.
This might be a match where Takehiro Tomiyasu doesn't venture forward nearly as often and Arsenal see more of the asymmetrical shape that we saw at the start of the season.
In the build-up phase, most of Southampton's actions go through the center backs and Midfield (not surprising)
One thing that makes Southampton stand out is that they press high.
When Southampton do look to win the ball back, they will look to intercept rather than tackle. They will also look to put the passer under pressure (19.5% of the open play passes they face are pressured, 3rd highest) looking to force a misplayed pass or a long ball that they can win.
Players of note
Redmond has looked really good playing all around the attacking line and would be the main attacker that I would game plan around if I were coaching on Saturday.
James Ward-Prowse is still around and still doing mostly fine in midfield but he is still one of the best deadball players and that will be another area to watch out for.
I am significantly under the betting markets in this projection and I think that is driven by the fact that Southampton had to go out and sign an emergency goalkeeper for this weekend.
This is a match that Arsenal drew last season so it gives a chance for Arsenal to pick up points in the chase to beat the 61 points that they were able to accumulate last season. Plus it would be great to try to shake off the crisis funk, even if only for a couple days.