It’s been a tough Summer, with key players leaving and a turn around in playing staff. Last summer, our main players who left weren’t quite replaced and it left our start to the season in a bit of disarray… We ended up going through the season lacking something and becoming heavily reliant on RvP… This Summer, despite the change around, you have to feel that we have a better group of players in terms of quality and motivation – Santi Cazorla and Lucas Podolski are just two examples of the quality signed and replacing players leaving with new players ready to play.
Last time out, against Liverpool, it was an impressive display throughout the team, and definitely a step in the right direction and the challenge for the team was to build on it and continuing improving. Our line up yesterday was:
Jenkinson – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs
Arteta – Coquelin
Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski
Giroud had been dropped to the bench and Gervinho favoured in a different position – with the fit again Szcznesy replacing Mannone, who hadn’t conceded a goal in the Premiership so far this season. A surprise inclusion on the bench was Arshavin, who was named alongside Mannone, Koscielny, Santos, Giroud, Ramsey and Walcott.
Southampton gave Man United a scare last time out, going 2-1 up before losing 3-2, and if that game told us anything, it was that we need to focus on playing our game to the maximum of our ability. And what a great start it was. From the off, we really got going and the little Spanish maestro was in the heart of everything.
The first goal came through some excellent work through Podolski who wrestling the ball from a few players, charging into the box before sliding it to Gibbs who shot at goal, forcing a defender to push it through his own net, 1-0 to the Arsenal. And Cazorla, Podolski and Gervinho combined with Gibbs a lot in the opening stages, putting some really good moves together.
The second goal was absolutely sublime – after a lot of pressure from us, Coquelin was fouled outside the area – Podolski stood up and took the free kick and it went round, high and in – 2-0 to the Arsenal… but there was more – Cazorla holding the ball, releasing Arteta who played in Gervinho to make 3-0, a drive at the near post… and then it was 4, when some good work between Podolski and Gervinho saw the second own goal of the day… 3 goals in 5 minutes…
4-0 up and Southampton looked like they were crumbling… but they did get one back just before half time, with some bad goalkeeping from Szcznesy saw Fox tap it into an empty net – the Polish number one fumbling a straightforward cross.
We took the pedal off the gas in the second half, but we eventually made a break through for the fifth as Cazorla pulled the strings again in midfield, putting substitute Ramsey in on goal – some nice footwork saw him evade the defender and shoot on goal, the ball hitting the post and Gervinho tapping into an empty net…
And there was still time to make it 6, when fellow substitute Theo Walcott scoring against his former club after Vermaelen charged into the area, Cazorla found him, a thumping shot and the rebound falling into Walcott’s path.
6-1 to the Arsenal, some positive vibes in the team, the fans all smiling – tough summer? What tough summer? Le boss was obviously quite happy and praised the team after the game:
Especially in the first 45 minutes we had a high level. 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.
For me, Podolski and Cazorla have stolen the show this season – but there is also a better balance about the team, with Arteta really making a difference and on today’s performance, Gervinho looks to have turned a leaf…
You know we transform all wingers into central strikers and all the strikers into wingers! I decided that during our tour of Asia when I tried to play Gervinho there against Man City in that position. I liked what he did and it was in the back of my mind. It is interesting because he is such a great mover and he is so quick so when he is central, once he gets ahead of the central defender it is difficult to catch him back.
We travel to Montpellier on Tuesday and then Man City on Sunday – it’ll be an interesting next 7 days, but the feeling about it all is very positive indeed. Let’s enjoy the moment, and prepare for the midweek game, it’s been a good start to the season and we’re really getting into our stride…!