September 16, 2012
A day out at the Emirates, soaking up the last droplets of the summer sunshine to watch a fiercely entertaining Arsenal side smack six past the opposition.
What’s not to like?
Well I suppose I could have done without the goalkeeping howler that prevented us from going a record breaking four games without conceding at the start of a season. But that’s just nitpicking, right?
We were excellent yesterday. And yes I know all the caveats. It was ‘only’ Southampton and at times they seemed to be doing their darndest to serve victory up on a platter for us but as the old saying goes you can only beat what’s in front of you and we did that yesterday with consummate ease, a bundle of style and what seemed like quite a lot left in the reserve tank.
It was a surprise to see that Olivier Giroud had been left out in favour of Gervinho as an unorthodox centre forward. AW later explained that he felt there was too much pressure on his shoulders recently and he could do without any more. I felt it might have eased the pressure considerably to start in a game we ended up winning so comfortably and potentially get his name on the scoresheet but there you go.
In the event you couldn’t really argue that the Gervinho experiment wasn’t a success. There were a couple of occasions early on where I felt his lack of a striker’s instinct was a tiny bit costly, particularly seeing Cazorla break for the touchline looking to whip in a cross and finding Gervinho taking a step back and treading on Podolski’s toes rather than making a dash for the vacant near post.
But what he did provide was pace and movement and a lovely fluidity to our game as he interchanged with the German on the left hand side and left the Saints back four chasing shadows for most of the afternoon.
Podolski was the star of the show for me. At the moment he gets about ten percent better with every game he plays. Obviously he missed the pre-season so it’s understandable but I’m desperate to see if he’s got yet more gears to go up. Yesterday he was pacy, strong, good in possession and demonstrated that sheer will to win that’s such a vital commodity for any team looking to end a season with silverware.
For the first goal it was all about him. He showed brilliant tenacity to win the ball in midfield before moving forward and waiting…waiting…waiting then releasing Kieran Gibbs with a perfectly weighted ball into the box. The shot was parried but the unfortunate Hooiveld couldn’t stop himself from bundling the rebound over the line. But what was most impressive was that even if he hadn’t done, Podolski had continued his run into the box and would have earned himself the simplest of tap-ins anyway.
On 30 minutes he stepped up to curl home the sweetest of free kicks from 25 yards out. It wasn’t just the placement but the pace on the shot which impressed me. I watched him taking some practice swings in the warm up yesterday and the man really can hit a ball. It’s one of the most powerful shots I’ve ever seen and a hopefully that’ll be a huge weapon from dead ball situations this year. It just added to the fun yesterday but in really tight games against teams that we’re struggling to break down, the ability to get a goal like that out of nothing will be invaluable.
Arteta then sent Gervinho through on goal with a sexy old ball over the top but I’m sure the Saints back four wouldn’t care to see that again seeing as how easily Gervais was allowed to turn them. I was scared that with options square of him he’d prevaricate and blow the opportunity but thankfully the man kept his head and slammed the ball home at the near post. It’s the kind of confidence boost that he needs after an impressive start this season. There were times when he was going past defenders like they weren’t there yesterday and if he can add a goal threat to his game this could yet be a big season for Gervinho.
After Gibbs repeated his trick of forcing an own goal from a whipped in ball, this time through Nathaniel Clyne, to give us our fourth before half time we saw the only minor stain on an otherwise flawless day.
Wojciech Szczesny had a bit of a stinker all told. His distribution was dreadful – on at least three occasions he simply passed the ball out directly to the feet of the surprised looking Saints forwards. If he does that against Chelsea or Man City we’ll certainly pay for it. But his inability to hold on to a simple ball into the box just before half time was unacceptable. He might blame Carl Jenkinson for standing in his way but the fact is a top class keeper can’t be dropping balls like that. In his defence he’d had very little to do all afternoon up to that point but that’s going to happen if you’re an Arsenal goalkeeper. Right at the top of the required skill set is the ability to concentrate even on quiet days.
It’s only his second game of the season and you get the sense he needs a run of games to get his head right. But with tough games coming up he needs to do that quickly.
We held off a little bit in the second half but still managed to add a couple more following the introduction of Ramsey and Walcott. Ramsey to me showed how much easier life could be for him this season playing with a lot less pressure on his shoulders. He came into a midfield in place of the impressive Francis Coquelin alongside Cazorla and Arteta. That makes his life easier already. And it gave him the base from which to express himself.
His flick over the shoulder of the defender and subsequent run into the box and little jabbed shot was a joy to watch and Gervinho gratefully snaffled the rebound off the post. Walcott then took advantage of a rare Thomas Vermaelen foray and shot by slamming the parry into the back of the net. His celebrations were muted presumably out of respect for his former club.
After our goalless first couple of games of the season there was understandable concern at a team that looked like what they were – a bunch of players who’d never stepped onto a football pitch together before. Only two games on and you start to see what a difference it can make when players start to understand each other’s game. That one touch interplay and fluidity of movement between positions will give better defences than Southampton’s sleepless nights this season I’m sure.
After a game like yesterday’s I’m desperate to see that understanding develop even more. I can’t believe I have to wait until Tuesday to see this team again.
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