Southampton 0 – 5 Arsenal
Get the bunting out of the cupboard, Maud, we’re off to Wembley. That’s what history tells us, anyway. The fourth victory over Southampton in the FA Cup and in the three previous meetings, we’ve gambolled up Wembley Way. OK, one of them was Millenium Way, but you get the drift.
In the end, Arsène’s touchline ban means nothing. Years ago, two old blokes in the stands with earpieces at the end of long cords meant one of two things: they were listening to Radio 2 to keep abreast of the Saturday afternoon action, or they were deaf. Now, it’s just Arsène and Borat keeping an eye on proceedings, and when your side goes 2-up inside the first quarter of the game, you can lean back and put your feet on the seat back in front of you.
To be honest, it was a canter to the extent that it was something of a surprise that he didn’t lead the away fans in a chorus of “She wore, she wore…” from the director’s box. Typical of the modern game, Wenger and his crew scooted up the steps well before the final whistle was blown; just to avoid the traffic, like. The reality is that touchline bans are likely to become a thing of the past. Clubs always run rings round the FA and even the horse has bolted on this occasion, they are unlatching the stable door already.
Danny’s Wel-back (chortle)
We found out yesterday that Arsenal’s squad depth is better than Liverpool’s and Southampton’s, two of the eighteen clubs below us in the Premier League. Danny Welbeck’s inclusion in the starting line-up was a breath of fresh air up front. Not that it was particularly stale beforehand, simply that he returned to the XI determined to make up for lost time. A motivated Welbeck vs. an under-pressure Olivier Giroud. It’s either going to end up going horribly wrong with neither giving the desired response, or we’re going to see a hatful of goals between now and the end of the season.
Two goals in seven minutes quelled any nerves. The first stemmed from a peach of a pass from Lucas. I suspect Danny Welbeck’s thought processes as the ‘keeper advanced was, “Wait from him to go to ground…wait for it…get the ball over him…yes…it’s going…oh sh*t, it’s hitting the bar…” before it brushed the underside and rolled down the net. The second relied on the Ox’s pass; inch-perfect and given the appropriate finish from Welbeck.
That was, I think, the most impressive aspect of yesterday’s performance; the passing from deep was impressive from Ox, Jeff, Lucas and Maitland-Niles. The three double-barrelled surnames played like six players in the midfield. All of them moved well, were sharp and the younger players adapted to the occasion. Maitland-Niles, in particular, is proving a genuine find in his adaptability will either be a curse or blessing in his career. At the moment, it’s getting him into the first-team squad, so he won’t be overly concerned about playing out of position.
Three-O Walcott (ho-ho)
Even after substitutions interrupted the flow of the game, Arsenal’s range of passing never faltered, even if some of the finishing left a lot to be desired. Lucas Perez probably dreams of passes like the one the Ox gave him; scores from them as well. He didn’t yesterday, but it didn’t matter; Theo had reminded everyone he was playing.
It’s a rare occasion that you score a hat-trick, only to find a team-mate grabbing the headlines. Yesterday was that moment for Theo. Not that he will mind, as his polite applause of the Southampton supporters still in the ground showed. Three striker’s goals from the England international. The first created by Welbeck showed a predatory instinct coupled with a burning desire to find the net. It came at a good time, just before the interval, effectively killing any hopes of a second-half comeback. 2 – 0 offers that hope; 3 – 0 crushed it. The iron hand in a velvet glove, such was the smoothness of our passing and movement.
Wenger summed it up in his press conference afterwards. “It was pleasant to watch,” he said, “because we had individual strong performances and collectively as well.” In particular, he agreed that the younger midfield players did “very well”. He didn’t argue that they were just like a new signing, sadly.
Theo’s trio got a passing mention, “He is a good finisher”, but maybe Arsène feels that Danny needed to be told he’s “special” and Theo knows it already.
It was a great performance and I don’t worry or concern myself with the state of Southampton’s XI. Arsenal into the fifth round draw was the objective and for once, we achieved that with consummate ease.
There’s a new post on Dad’s Jukebox later today. A trip down Memory Lane with a difference.