Saturday, September 15, 2012

Arsenal 6 - Southampton 1

Throughout the first half of today's match, Arsenal's attacking play was breathtaking; the players moved off the ball and strung together one-touch passes as if they were playing against no defense. To be fair, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish Southampton's defense from no defense at all. Indeed, the newly-promoted squad's defenders scored two of Arsenal's first four goals. In return, Arsenal gave up a soft goal - the first they've conceded all season - to Southampton just before halftime. No doubt Arsenal's new defensive guru, Steve Bould, will have had something to say about it during the break.

Aside from that one defensive lapse, Arsenal's first half may have been the best display of total team performance witnessed at the Emirates since the glory days of the "Invinsibles." The ball was in Southampton's defensive third of the pitch for fully 45 percent of the first half.

Almost inevitably, the second half was an anticlimax.Arsenal were more languid and not as sharp with their passing, looking more for chances on the counterattack. But the second half was a more open affair as Southampton played more attacking football than they showed at any point in the first. While that aggression did lead to few shots on goal (and one off-target chance that Lambert really should have converted), it also left Southampton open to Arsenal's counterattack.

Arsenal scored its fifth goal in the 72d minute, when some nice combination play set Aaron Ramsey free in the box; he twisted and turned a finally put a shot that came back off the post to the feet of Gervinho who even had time to take an extra touch before simply sliding the ball into the net. Having finally opened his scoring account for the season with two goals today, Gervinho will have gained some much needed confidence. He always looks threatening and displays plenty of skill, but too often he fails to get his shots on target. His first goal today was very well taken; the second, he couldn't have missed if he had tried.

Gervinho's goal deflated Southampton. From that point on it was only a question of whether Arsenal would score some more, and they did. Walcott, who came on as a second-half substitute, scored a simple goal on a rebound in the 88th minute

The match confirmed that Arsenal's two outstanding new boys, Carzorla and Podolski, are developing a great partnership, of which we had just seen glimpses before the international break. Today, the duo were absolutely brilliant in their combination play, playing series of one-two passes to open up the Southampton defense on several occasions. Cazorla may already be the best player in the Premiership.

Finally, this was exactly the kind of confidence builder (even if it was only against a Premiership "minnow") Arsenal needed going into a week when they will travel to Montpellier in the first round of Champion's League play and then to defending Premier League champion Man City.

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