Southampton are hit for six and our season has now well and truly got the kick start it needed after two opening day stalemates. An almost perfect performance propelled us to third on the ladder, and hopefully sent an ominous warning to our rivals. Like Liverpool the previous week, everything seemed to just click and fall into place. It is still early days, but the question of whether there is life after Van Persie slowly but surely appears to no longer be of any concern.
The starting line up raised a few eyebrows. The manager stubbornly wanted to keep Podolski on the right. He admitted as much in his post-match interviewing, saying Podolski “gives us a balance on the left.” Rather than have Giroud, the obvious choice starting in the middle, the manager opted for Gervinho. Though this move was unusual it worked like a treat. Gervinho played like a false number nine, dropping deeper regularly in search of possession. In essence this left us with no real target man, which made Southampton’s job all the more harder.
Still with the benefit of hindsight we can all say it worked like a treat with Gervinho grabbing a brace. When the team was announced however it seemed like a massive gamble considering Gervinho was not considered good enough for the starting XI against Liverpool, and the fact that he’s never played centre forward for us.
The way we played against Southampton there was no real target man. Their tactics to dominate defence in the centre of the park backfired big time as they were exposed down the flanks. This allowed Gibbs to dominate and allowed the likes of Gervinho to roam freely. With Gervinho continually tracking back as a false number nine, Southampton found it difficult who to pick up, as all our attacking players were fair game for a goal. There was no out and out striker.
Oxlade Chamberlain started once again. Wenger, always the risk averse man when it comes to giving youngsters extra responsibility has ignored this rule for the Ox. It can only mean that he is a special player. Sometimes we’ll see glimpses of a young player shining, but the manager typically will not give him a regular starting place until a few years later to allow him to mature. Watch this space.
Stand out performer
Where do I begin? I mean really, its hard, and a nice problem to have. There is no MOTM, but I’ll do a few special mentions.
I have been slightly frustrated with Gibbs in recent weeks, he seems to go missing when we need to defend at left back, and I constantly see someone else cleaning up at left back. Against Southampton however there was no such problems as he was given a licence to thrill down the left hand side. He really deserved one, probably two goals. Both of Southampton’s own goals were from Gibbs’ great work.
Then there was the engine room. Arteta and Cazorla were the driving force of the midfield, with the latter controlling the game with some mouthwatering passing. It doesn’t matter that these two did not create the majority of the assists in this game, they were the heartbeat that was indirectly involved in everything. Its such a shame that we did not get Cazorla as soon as Fabregas left. He typifies everything Cesc represents, and who knows, he could even turn out better given his ambidexterity. Better late than never I suppose.
Podolski has really stood up, made his presence known and taken resonsibility in the last couple of games. The first goal was created by him as he dispossessed Southampton in the midfield. His free kick was the sort of thing that you go “Robin van who?”. We are already aware of the world class abilities he possesses during his long career with Germany and it is great to see he is producing for us at club level as well. He really looks like a player eager to impress and boss the game. The passion is evident.
Finally, Gervinho gets a special mention. The often maligned Ivorian finally got his shooting boots on and revelled in the central position he was asked to play in. He made a great run for our third goal and got into great positions regularly and was rewarded with a tap in for the fifth. He has all the pieces to become a great footballer, however, too often there would be a piece missing here or there and it would be frustrating to watch. I hope we can see more of this complete footballer this season. I did mention in pre season that the likes of Pires and Henry really only made their mark in their second season, so fingers crossed it is the same for Gervinho.
Areas of concern
It may be stating the obvious but for Szczesny to make such a dreadful error on his first game back isn’t a good sign. Mannone must feel he can challenge for the number one spot. Apart from that no major concerns.
I was very surprised to see us winning 6-1. As many an Arsenal fan would testify, the scoreboard doesn’t often tell the story. You can play well and get nothing out of the game. That certainly wasn’t the case for this particular game, but Southampton gave both Manchester clubs an almighty scare in recent weeks. I genuinely expected a tough game from these guys but it never came.
The numbers game
50% possession. Yes you read that right. Didn’t feel like it, but its good to see that when we had the ball we made the most of it.
23 shots on goal, but only 9 on target. Again, being a bit harsh given the great victory, but would be nice to see this ratio increase. Against better teams we won’t get away with too many missed chances.
We had a good combination of pace, speed in our passing, quick combinations, and the movement was excellent. We were a bit lucky as well because they conceded two own goals, but overall I think it was a level of continuity with what we have shown at Liverpool and today.
This was key. The speed of our movement and technical ability is the trump card we have, and is the philosophy Wenger stands for. When everything clicks like it did against Southampton it is just mesmerising to watch.
Good signs, good promise and a great result. Everyone pulled their weight for the second game running. It is great to have everyone in form ahead of a big game against Manchester City next week. Before that though we open our Champions League campaign against Montpellier, in what is to be a homecoming for Oliver Giroud. Carrying this momentum we have is key to being successful in these next two games.