SOUTHAMPTON welcome Arsenal to St Mary's on Thursday night in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Southampton vs Arsenal | Thursday 25th June 2020, 18:00 | Sky Sports
Arsenal make the short trip to the south coast in a rather sorry state following two poor performances and defeats since the resumption of the Premier League season.
Just when Arsenal fans start to think that the club may have turned the corner, another embarrassing on-pitch display or individual calamity pulls them right back down to earth. It’s clear that Mikel Arteta has a huge job on his hands to turn around the fortunes of his team but will need to shake off the legacy of a weak-minded, easy to beat spine that resonates through this squad of players and has done for a good 10 years or more now.
There’s some very talented players in this Arsenal squad but that talent is overshadowed by some poor signings still wreaking havoc wherever they go – David Luiz’s performance at Manchester City a week ago typifying that.
Europa League qualification for next season should be the minimum aim for the remainder of the campaign but even that may not entice the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to extend their time at the club during the peak of their careers.
To add to the woe of the Gunners, goalkeeper and rare shining light Bernd Leno will miss four to six weeks of action following a controversial collision with Brighton striker Neal Maupay during the weekend defeat. Emiliano Martinez, who impressed on loan at Reading last season, will fill in for Leno in goal but it’s another blow to Arteta who has enough defensive problems to worry about as it is.
A patched up backline will need to keep a purring Southampton team quiet after the Saints’ 3-0 cruise against Norwich to kick-off this past weekend. Ralph Hassenhuttl will likely keep faith with the same starting XI which tore apart the Canaries, a win that extend the run of impressive results away from St Mary’s this season where problems continue to persist.
As a Saints season ticket holder, it pains me to see first hand just how bad our home form has been for several years now. The most recent defeat in front of the St Mary’s faithful means the record now stands at a pitiful 19 wins in 72 home league matches since the start of the 2016/17 season.
It will therefore be interesting to see how the squad of players reacts to playing without the almost constant tension of the home crowd in attendance. It’s perhaps a little lazy and far too early to say for certain that the players will play better under less pressure, particularly with survival now all-but secured, but it wouldn’t surprise me too much if it does turn out like that either.
I’m never one to back my own team confidently enough as I know our floors all too well, but similarly I can’t go anywhere near Arsenal with the state they are in. I’ll leave the outrights alone and focus my attention elsewhere.
The betting angles
I’m going to focus in on tackles for my first bet with both sides possessing plenty of players that like to get stuck in to a challenge. The team tackle lines that are available are far too high for any value but some individuals are marked up at decent prices.
Hector Bellerin is very likely to start again at right-back given the limited options at Arteta’s disposal and will be up against Ryan Bertrand and Nathan Redmond – two men that have formed a decent partnership down the Saints left in the past few years.
Most the team’s effective play comes through those two players, with only two sides funnelling a higher percentage of attacks down the left side of the pitch than Saints’ 42%. It means Bellerin should be kept busy and I’d be confident to have a one point play on the Spaniard to land 2+ tackles, priced at 5/4 with PokerStars.
This marker landed in the weekend game at Brighton and in the reverse fixture – which Saints had much the better of – Bellerin registered three tackles at right wing-back. With Redmond back from injury and in confident mood after his goal against Norwich, he’ll fancy taking on his opponent one-on-one and drawing in plenty of attempts to win the ball back.
To back the selection up even more, Norwich’s right-back Max Aarons registered three tackles against the same pairing in Friday tea time’s fixture so 2+ at the price available looks a good way to go.
My second bet is also on the player prop front but focuses on a Saints player this time – the newly appointed captain James Ward-Prowse. ‘Prowsey', as he’s known amongst the Saints fans, was a Portsmouth season ticket holder as a boy but recognised how good Southampton’s academy was (and still is) for producing young players for the first team.
With Pierre Emile Hojbjerg’s future in doubt, manager Ralph Hassenhuttl made the decision to move the captaincy to a more long-term choice which the fans are very happy with.
Ward-Prowse, when he starts alongside the Dane Hojbjerg who plays more of the covering role, has the opportunity to get forward and influence the game further up the pitch. In the game at the Emirates earlier on in the season, JWP had three shots on target and given that he is on free-kicks around the box as well as some penalties, it’s not surprising that the numbers often back up his role.
With Arsenal’s discipline looking shot to pieces at the moment, Ward-Prowse could well have chances from dead-ball situations if the Gunners give away free-kicks in shooting range. Against Norwich this past weekend Prowse also racked up three shots on target so I’m happy to get behind the England man to register one or more – priced at 23/20, again with Pokerstars.
I would normally back goals in this fixture given the recent head to heads and the defensive woes of both teams across the season, but with temperatures expected to be above 30 degrees on the south coast, it could make for a less exciting game than it might appear on paper, particularly as this will be the third game in a week for both sets of players.
We’ll stick with the two one point plays.
Southampton v Arsenal – Hector Bellerin 2+ Tackles (5/4 PokerStars)
Southampton v Arsenal – James Ward-Prowse 1+ Shot on Target (23/20 PokerStars)