Arsenal 6 – 1 Southampton
1 – 0 Hooiveld o.g.(11)
2 – 0 Podolski (31)
3 – 0 Gervinho (35)
4 – 0 Clyne o.g. (37)
4 – 1 Fox (45)
5 – 1 Gervinho (71)
6 – 1 Walcott (89)
A bit later this morning than expected, a Bandcamp half hour to wake up and feel the groove turned into a Bandcamp hour which is the beauty of the site, click on a tag at the bottom and a world of unknown bands (to me at least) is at your sonic control. But you don’t want to talk about music, you want to talk about footbal although the two do combine beautifully in the first forty-four minutes of yesterday’s performance, a footballing Bandcamp if you like when you are surfing the aural waves until every now and then something unpalatable turns up on your doorstep; entitling an EP, “Beach, Girls & The Ramones” and you need to deliver…
I’m guessing that, on the whole, Arsène will be enjoying the sixteenth anniversary of his appointment – of course you read it every morning as regular as clockwork, don’t you – as Arsenal manager; it would be churlish not to I suppose but that will tinged with the knowledge that there is still work to do. Relieved that the awkwardness in front of goal has seemingly disappeared but concerned that the defence is still chancing its arm every now and again. Probably scared that Alan Hansen praised the defence. I genuinely could not recall that happening in the past and had to retreat to the drinks cabinet for a Licor 43 to soothe my fears that the end of the world was nigh.
Arsenal started brightly, Southampton forced further back than they were already planning on the playing. Rather than the cynical parking of the bus which occurs normally, the visitors were tempted into a passing match and combined with their naive defensiveness, they were made to pay. The gaps were there to be exploited and Arsenal did so, Kieran Gibbs in particular making hay in the Autumnal sunshine and with Southampton offers the gaps at the back, they were duly exploited.
Two changes from the impressive display at Anfield, no surprise that Mannone made way for Szczesny nor that Giroud was replaced by Gervinho. Playing the Ivorian was different to expectations and paid dividends with the Ivorian grabbing two goals. I am sure that Giroud was itching to get onto the pitch but perhaps there is a more poetic first goal to come on familiar turf in this week’s Champions League. What message Theo Walcott derives is only known to him but disappointment will come into play somewhere, seeing another centre forward at the club…
Southampton had been warned by efforts from Podolski and Cazorla of the footballing storm to come, the German brought the first waves crashing onto their shore. Fighting for the ball against tepid defences, he battered through the midfield before splitting the defence with a finely weighted pass into Kieran Gibbs path. The full back rifled his shot across Davis before Hooiveld Keystone Cop-ped the ball into the net.
Per Mertesacker retained his place ahead of Laurent Koscielny and I suspect that had as much to do with the change in goalkeeper as the German’s form. Don’t get me wrong, Per has played well, out-per-formed expectations per-haps but the reality is (or was) that Koscielny is the preferred central defender; has Thomas Vermaelen’s elevation to captaincy altered that dynamic? Whatever the case, the Frenchman almost looked on from the bench at his place in the side becoming more distant with Mertesacker’s header gratefully clasped by Davis.
With fifteen minutes to go to the interval, it started raining goals – Hallelujah! – as Podolski curled a sumptuous free kick into the net before Arteta lifted the ball over the visitors defence for Gervinho to gallop into the area and lash home the chance. The fourth was a more comedic version of the opener if that was at all possible, Clyne summing up the feeling that it was not going to be Southampton’s afternoon by scything Gibbs cross into his own net.
Then the worm turned. Szczesny blundered into a high cross, the communication between himself and Jenkinson non-existent with Fox slotting home the loose ball. Whereas Mannone had been saved at Anfield by his flapping over an orbital cross, the Pole was woefully out of position to collect the ball and duly punished. The bench was unamused, summed up with the observation that the first choice goalkeeper was less of a clear cut decision than believed. Had Ricky Lambert scored early in the second half and Szczesny might well have been missing on Tuesday night.
As it was, he didn’t and Aaron Ramsey joined the party at Coquelin’s expense. The young Frenchman did well and was economical with the ball yet for me at least, did nothing to support his presumption that he was on a par with the club’s more experienced midfielders. Plenty of youthful promise, for certain, but not a regular starter yet. Similarly, I wonder if a fully fit Theo Walcott will be chosen ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the very near future? The youngster is performing well but dipping in and out of games, underlining Hodgson’s strategy of replacing him around an hour or so into games. Arsène concurs, the same happened yesterday.
Ramsey’s introduction paid quick dividends, dancing through the Southampton midfield and defence he was unfortunate to see his prodded effort rebound off the post. Gervinho didn’t care, having the time to control the ball before slotting home. Similar deflation and disarray was evident from the visitors when Theo Walcott scored the sixth.
The fewest goals conceded in the division, the most scored, the best goal difference; this was notThe Plan, this is not how Arsenal were supposed to fall apart following another Summer of Love but it is what it is. There is nothing premature in welcoming in the form thus far because it is those two words which are key; enjoy the moment and what has gone before, there is more work to come, anguish to mix with the pleasure but why torture yourself with what might be?
Live for today, worry about Manchester City next week. Montepellier are the supporting act before then.