View From The North Bank: Arsenal 6 Southampton 1
After our positive mood had been interrupted by yet another International break it was back to proper football and straight back into our stride.
Southampton had started their Premier League campaign with plenty of ambition but their goals against column suggested they were there for the taking. Many of us expected goals but the glut that followed was a welcome bonus.
All the talk before the game was of Gervinho starting through the middle with Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain either side. It seemed an unusual decision given Poldi appears the more natural focal point and that Giroud was also available; as it turned out, it was an inspired piece of jiggery pokery from Le Boss.
Gervinho has often flattered to deceive at Arsenal. He’s an incisive runner and, personally, when he has the ball I always back him to drive past his man and into the danger zone. The problem has often been with composure and decision making. The spin and no nonsense finish for his first and appearance on the spot for his second highlighted arguably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt.
Maybe the Ivorian was boosted by a chance to occupy the more central role, albeit as part of a fluid front four. Whatever it was that lifted him, this looked more like the player we signed from Lille and who made a promising start in his first few months in the Premier League. A couple of goals will do him good.
Probably the most interesting and encouraging thing about this weekend was the fact that the front three, probably very few Gooners’ first choice, played so well. It suggests that players are looking to cement first team places, fully aware that there are options on the bench who will come in and steal that place if they don’t perform.
Aside from Gervinho, Podolski deserves a special mention. He appears to be settling into life in the Premier League very quickly. I’ve personally been hugely excited about his acquisition since it became clear he was on his way some months ago. He is exactly the sort of player we’ve been crying out for.
Whilst we have often excelled at bringing in unknown youngsters and turning them in to Premier League regulars it’s been the drive and experience of a few seasoned pros that has been missing. Alongside Cazorla, Arteta and Mertesacker, we now have a number of seasoned performers who, for all their knowhow, still have something to prove.
Perhaps the only down point of the day was our first concession of the season. It made it all the more frustrating that the goal was eminently avoidable. 99 times out of 100, Szczesny catches that which I suppose should offer some consolation. Had he fumbled an effort because of a technical deficiency then we might be worried but it looks like all that is needed is a bit more game time and better concentration. Some time working on distribution probably wouldn’t go amiss either.
I still wonder whether we have enough depth in our stock of keepers. I spoke earlier about the benefit of competition for places and maybe that is lacking in this department. Mannone did well to keep two clean sheets, but as soon as the Pole is fit, he’s straight back into the side. This suggests that Szczesny has no serious competitor for the No1 spot. Mannone gets another opportunity tomorrow night against Montpellier due to Szczesny’s ankle injury, and it would be encouraging if he showed form – not just to safeguard a result but also to truly pose Wenger a question.
Anyway, that’s a pretty trivial grumble on a very pleasing weekend. Whilst we should remain positive after an unbeaten start, the real tests are, as they say, around the corner. The trip to Montpellier should see some rotation as we keep one eye on Manchester. For once, it feels like we have enough players available to take on these challenges and enough players with a motivation to stake a claim for regular Football.
Keep The Faith.