Sunday, September 16, 2012

Arsenal 6-1 Southampton: Saints Desecrated

Well, what a win that was, huh?! We left Southampton reeling after a 6-1 hammering at the Emirates and now sit in 3rd in the table on 8 points, behind United on 9 points and Chelsea on 10. It's a good look. It's a really good look. Any talk of Arsenal being unable to find the net this season after the sale of yer man, van Stapleton to United has been well and truly put to bed after our last two performances where we definitely didn't look shy in front of goal.

The scoring got underway as early as the 11th minute as Hooiveld put the ball beyond his own keeper as a shot from Kieran Gibbs deflected in off him. Podolski got on the scoresheet in the 31st with a cleanly struck free kick which Kelvin Davis could do very little about. It took only 4 more minutes for Arsenal triple the lead when Mik Arteta saw Gervinho making an unmarked run into the box and played a great pass which saw the Senegalese through on goal to finish with aplomb at Kelvin Davis' near post. Two minutes later? Another own goal. Southampton's Nathaniel Clyne unfortunately bundled the ball into his own net after great work from Kieran Gibbs to get the ball into a dangerous area of the box. At this point we were 4-0 up and we seemed to lose concentration. We let Southampton's fox in the box (no really, his name's Danny Fox) pull one back when poor handling from Wojciech Szczesny saw him drop a ball played in by them, to Fox's feet and he fired home into the gaping net without any trouble at all. That's how the half ended and the disappointment of conceding our first goal of the season in such a manner was all too clear to see on Wenger and Bould's faces.

Southampton came out and looked a lot livelier in the second half and threatened our goal a bit more but they couldn't really make their spell in the final third count. The game was put to bed in the 71st when second half substitute Aaron Ramsey powered his way into the box and took a shot from a tight angle. The ball came back off the far post and was easily tapped in by an onrushing Gervinho. At 5-1 Southampton were pretty much done and dusted and Arsenal took charge of the game once more. You could sense there was more on the way. Gervinho, who was given a standing ovation, made way for Theo Walcott while Lukas Podoski came off for Olivier Giroud. Walcott came on and gave the Southampton left back hell on the right wing, with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain switching to the left, giving the Southampton right back hell on that side. The final goal of the game came in the 89th when new signing Santi Cazorla played a cheeky pass to skipper Thomas Vermaelen who made his way into the box and took a shot but the keeper parried it back to Cazorla. He took a slight touch and played it to his right to Walcott who blasted the ball into the unguarded net. It was a nice show of respect by him, not celebrating the goal, but applauding the Southampton fans because that's where his football career started out. It was another example of why people always say Walcott is a well behaved young man.

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. The game was very interesting to watch. In the second half we lost a bit of urgency, that is human, but we controlled the game and remained serious.

I think one of the main reasons for our continued momentum in our team play from game to game is that the team now has belief in themselves and belief that they can achieve something big by playing together. This could be the main reason for Wenger not succumbing to pressure to sign more players as the transfer window came to a close last month. He wants to do away with the days of the team being heavily reliant on one man and as such, coasting through games because they know he'll come up big at some point. To see the goals spread around the pitch in such a performance yesterday suggests that if we can keep this going, Wenger's plan will succeed and we'll have a much more consistent crop of players this season. We can only benefit from more consistency.

It's interesting to note that Wenger started with the much maligned Gervinho as the centerfold of the attack, rather than playing him in his usual left wing spot. He said he did it to exploit his speed against the central defenders and it was a very smart move. It paid dividends as he looked a lot sharper in front of goal with his finishing and you'll hope to see him continue to finish with such confidence since he's only had 2 goals this calendar year. Another reason to note why he chose to start with him as a center forward is that he felt Giroud needed a bit of pressure off him:
I felt that he is under much pressure at the moment and sometimes to get a little breather is good. What I will do on Tuesday I honestly don't know. I just felt that the time has come for him to not be under too much pressure.
You'd have to think that he chose to give him a break here because he feels with Montpellier our next opponents, Giroud has a higher chance of scoring since it's his old club and no one in the team knows their weaknesses better than he does.

Another player whose performance stood out, but for the wrong reasons, was Wojciech Szczesny. He let in our first goal of the season due to butterfingers and Wenger said:
I think he was disappointed. That's the negative of the day, that we conceded a goal, but we can swallow that. You have to concede at some stage but it happened like it happened.

Szczesny's biggest problem is he can't stay focused when he doesn't need to be. Yeah, when he doesn't need to be. What I mean is, it's all well and good making save after save after save when the opposition is camped out in your half. Most lower table goalkeepers can do that and do that alone. What sets apart a top level goalkeeper from those is how alert he is when he can basically take a nap on the pitch because the opponents aren't posing much of a threat. Szczesny, tends to switch off when a lack of pressure allows him to then sometimes he struggles to regain focus quickly. He is a young goalkeeper though and this is not something hard for him to correct about his game so I'm confident he can improve in this area. He should be looking over his shoulder though because there are two very hungry goalkeepers who were planning to leave the club for regular playing time, who now realise there might be a three way fight on for the #1 jersey.

So our attention now turns to Montpellier on Tuesday then Man City on Sunday. There's no doubt there'll be heavy squad rotation midweek as we look ahead to City. Check back in for more thoughts on that game later this week. Until then, dust!

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