Date: 14th September 2012 at 1:56pm
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With the international break behind us, it’s time to get back down to Premier League business as Southampton make their first ever visit to Ashburton Grove. Southampton are the only team without a point in the Football League after a tough start, taking in narrow defeats to the Manchester clubs. Meanwhile, Arsenal have come over uncharacteristically stingy as the only club in the Football League to have their goal unbreached.

Games come thick and fast for Arsenal now, with 7 games in 21 days, across three competitions. Arsene is going to have to start using the squad and, you’d expect, disrupting a pretty settled back line that has produced toangible results in the opening blows of the season.

Vital Quotes:

As is his style, Wenger has been effusive in his pre match appraisal of his opponents, particularly their enterprising style.

“They were impressive in the two games I`ve seen. The one against Man City and the one against Man United.

“In the end you wondered how they lost both games, so we are on alert because we know it is a team who plays with a positive attitude and can score goals.’

Arsene also had time to praise his adversary Nigel Adkins, ‘It shows you that there is no predetermined way to get to the manager`s job – it is just down to someone`s qualities,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

“He had a very peculiar [route] to get the job but he has done well. I had the chance to see him when we played down at Southampton in pre-season.

“He is a very interesting man who wants to get information, and did that in a very convincing way. I am impressed with how well he has done and the way he has done it.”

Meanwhile Saints boss Nigel Adkins says his side won’t just be defending on Saturday, ‘We have to impose ourselves,” he stated. “Arsenal keep the ball more than anyone else and can wear teams down with their retention of the football. Importantly when you have the ball you need to keep it and create opportunities for yourself to go and score goals.

“Arsenal are a great counter-attacking side, a lot of teams might sit back at the Emirates because they have so much possession and they have been the masters of it for many years, but we tend to be good at that as well.”

Arsenal Team News:

Arsenal will leave Abou Diaby out as a precaution, after feeling a slight muscle toghtening above the hip playing for France last week. Wojciech Szczesny returns from a rib injury, but Lukasz Fabianski picked up a shoulder problem training with Poland, so Vito Mannone will at least have a place in the squad.

Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong are still out. Theo Walcott trained with the first team on Friday following a virus.

Player to watch: Olivier Giroud

The focus appears to be very much on Olivier Giroud at the moment having committed the cardinal sin of not scoring for two and a half games for his new club. By all accounts he didn’t have a good night for France either on Tuesday.

It’s a well rehearsed statistic by now that Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie all scored their first league goals for the Gunners against Southampton. With Podolski and Cazorla off the mark, Giroud will want to be on the score sheet too.

Southampton Team News:

New signings Maya Yoshida and Gaston Razmirez look to be involved for the first time. Danny Fox faces a late fitness test. The game comes too early for Jack Cork’s ankle injury.

Player to watch: Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana is meant to be the next hotshot off of a pretty rich Saints production line. The winger earned a call up to the England squad this week in the absence of fellow Saints academy graduate Theo Walcott. He’ll be looking to show that that was well earned and he’ll be key to Saints’ counter attacking game plan.

Match Facts & Stats

There have been 70 league fixtures between the two teams since our first meeting in 1966.

Arsenal have come out on top 35 times, drawn on 19 occasions and been beaten in 16 games.

This is the first meeting of the two sides in seven years.

The two sides met in the 2003 F.A. Cup Final with obert Pires’ goal edging it for Arsenal.

Arsenal have allowed their opponents the joint-fewest shots on target in the Premier League (7).

Southampton have allowed their opponents more shots on target against them than any other team (19).

The Gunners have won none of their last four Premier League home games.

Ref Watch:

Saturday’s match official is Kevin Friend. Let’s see if we consider him any kind of ‘friend’ at 5pm Saturday!

Match Prediction:

I’m going with a narrow 2-1 win for the Gunners. I think Cazorla and Vermaelen will score for Arsenal and have a funny feeling Ramirez might score on his debut for Saints.

Next Fixtures:

Arsenal play away at Montpellier on Tuesday night and then are away at Manchester City next Sunday.