By Richard Clarke at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal stormed to a sensational 6-1 win over Southampton at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Before the victory at Liverpool last time out, Arsène Wenger’s side had been accused of being goal-shy having failed to penetrate the defences of Sunderland and Stoke in their opening two games of the campaign.
Today, they laid that particular ghost to rest with a three-goal salvo inside five minutes late in the first half.
Arsenal already led through Jos Hooiveld’s own goal before Lukas Podolski planted an expert free-kick past Kelvin Davis in the 31st minute. That would be followed quickly by Gervinho’s first of the season and another self-inflicted wound, this time from Nathaniel Clyne.
Southampton were stunned but Daniel Fox did fire home after Wojciech Szczesny’s slip just before the break. They rallied somewhat after the restart but Gervinho’s second ended the argument 19 minutes from time and substitute Theo Walcott stroked home a sixth at the death.
This result was as satisfying as the scoreline suggests. Arsenal have looked controlled and efficient all season - only now they are getting the results to match.
In the past few weeks, Southampton had pushed both Manchester clubs all the way but they were no match for Wenger’s men this afternoon.
Arsenal are up to third in the nascent Premier League table and it is starting to look like they will be in that position all season.
Or maybe higher.
Wenger made two changes from the side that had won so handsomely at Anfield a fortnight ago. The manager erred on the safe side with Abou Diaby and omitted him because of a muscular injury. Francis Coquelin replaced his compatriot but in a holding midfield role which allowed Mikel Arteta to push further forward.
The other change was Gervinho for Olivier Giroud and this was a straight swap. Somewhat surprisingly, the Ivorian was used as a central striker so Podolski would once again attack from the left.
Southampton were better than their rock-bottom position suggested. But then Arsenal had not even conceded a goal this season, let alone looked like losing. They had oozed composure and confidence at Liverpool.
The only concern was that the international break would affect their focus.
Very quickly that fear would be allayed. And by the half-hour it was utterly extinguished.
The two new signings caught the eye once again. Cazorla had been outstanding at Stoke and Liverpool but Podolski was prominent today.
The German’s tenacity was at the heart of the first goal after 11 minutes. He refused to lose the ball in midfield before spreading it wide to Gibbs on the left. The full-back’s low shot was half-saved by Davis at the near post but the ball trickled away from him and Hooiveld nudged it into his own net.
Arsenal were ruling supreme. Their control in this game was a steel fist in a velvet glove. They were sharper, stronger and more fluent than their opponents.
After 20 minutes, Gervinho darted through to win a corner. Kelvin Davis failed to gather Cazorla’s ball in but the keeper recovered quickly to clutch Per Mertesacker’s powerful header after he had been set up by Coquelin’s clever chip.
It was simply all Arsenal. They just needed the goals to reflect their dominance.
And those would arrive quickly and in great number.
The avalanche began in the 31st minute. Steven Davis clipped Coquelin 25 yards out and Podolski curled home a ferocious free-kick.
Two minutes later, Arteta lifted a pass down the right-hand channel for Gervinho to race onto. He slammed his effort past Kelvin Davis at the near post.
After another two minutes, Arsenal got their fourth. Again the supplier was Gibbs, only this time his swinging cross was turned into his own net by Clyne.
The Southampton defence was now on a hat-trick.
However, the visitors would show a little bit more at the other end as half-time approached. Jason Puncheon fired their first real shot of the game just wide in the 39th minute and, on the whistle, he supplied a hanging, far-post cross for them to score.
Szczesny spilled the ball on to the head of Carl Jenkinson and it sat up nicely for Fox to slam into the unguarded net.
It was a disappointing way for Arsenal to concede their first goal in five-and-a-quarter hours of football this term.
Nigel Adkins had made one change during the first half. He made another at half time – debuting big-money signing Gaston Ramirez. Southampton improved and, in the 56th minute, Rickie Lambert had a super chance to pull his side back into the game. But he slid the ball past the far post.
Arsenal were still the better side – Gervinho was still dangerous and Oxlade-Chamberlain bundled an effort wide – however, the gap had now closed.
Wenger saw it and changed things. Aaron Ramsey replaced Coquelin and, within 10 minutes, had cleverly set up a fifth for Gervinho to poke home.
It put paid to any chance of a Southampton comeback – and the visitors' second-half display had at least re-introduced the possibility.
Arsenal scented blood once more and Oxlade-Chamberlain lashed a cross-shot at goal. Kelvin Davis just about batted it wide.
In the final minute, the home side did find another. Thomas Vermaelen’s effort was blocked and Walcott thumped home the rebound.
The former Southampton striker barely celebrated the goal and, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain, another ex-Saint, saluted the visiting fans at the full-time whistle.
That pocket of around 3,000 supporters sang their hearts out all game but it was the remaining 57,000 who went home much the happier.
- Vermaelen (C)
- Coquelin 67
- Podolski 75 Goal!
- Gervinho 74 Goal! Goal!
- Andre Santos
- Ramsey 67
- Walcott 74 Goal!
- Giroud 75
- Clyne Goal!
- Hooiveld 29 Goal!
- Fox Goal!
- Davis 46
- Lallana (C)
- Lambert 76
- Yoshida 29
- Ramirez 46
- Rodriguez 76