Arsenal must beware Southampton’s new secret weapon
Saints’ record signing Gaston Ramirez could be set for Premier League debut at the Emirates
After winning promotion for a second successive season in May, there was no shortage of excitement at St Mary’s when the Premier League fixtures were released over the summer.
Being back among the big boys is what all Saints fans wanted, but there is a sense that maybe they were given too much too soon, having been asked to face Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal – last season’s top three – in the opening four games of the season.
That they have no points from their meetings with the Manchester duo was hardly surprising, but the fact that they led both games 2-1 in the closing moments and ended up losing both 3-2 has been a harsh lesson to learn for Nigel Adkins’s new boys.
In between those games the Saints were beaten 2-0 at home by Wigan, which is the kind of result they need to avoid repeating if Premier League survival is to be achieved come next May.
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“We’re going to remain positive, we knew looking at the first four fixtures that they were going to be challenging,” said Adkins after the United defeat.
“[There are] loads of positives. The chairman’s done great to bring a few more players in the transfer window. We want to play football a certain way, we want to pass it about.”
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One of those players Adkins was referring to was the Uruguay international Gaston Ramirez, who became Southampton’s record signing when he joined from Italian side Bologna on deadline day for a fee believed to be �11m.
He should be in line for a debut on Saturday, although having faced Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, Adkins may not risk the 21-year-old from the start after his return from South America.
A target of both Liverpool and Spurs over the summer, Ramirez surprisingly chose Southampton and could be just the kind of star addition they need to compete with the big boys in the top flight.
As they showed against United, Southampton like to pass but they also like to get the ball on to the head of Rickie Lambert, the former Bristol Rovers striker who found the net against both United and the champions City.
In Adam Lallana and James Ward-Prowse Saints have two of the most exciting young midfielders around, while the signing of Steven Davis from Rangers also looks a smart purchase.
At the back the duo of Portuguese defender Jose Fonte and Dutchman Jos Hooiveld have struggled so far with Saints shipping eight goals in three games.
Verdict: Southampton have let goals in, but they have scored them too. It’s all set for an entertaining afternoon at the Emirates.
Having scored twice against both United and City, the Saints will fancy their chances of being the first side to breach Arsenal’s defence this season. Wenger will be wary of their threat.
Prediction: Arsenal 2 Southampton 1