Dennis finds his menace

Arsenal 4 Bergkamp 17 68, Adams 23, Wright 73 Southampton 2 Watson 24, Monkou 45 Attendance: 38,136
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The Independent Online
THIS was the day the doubters of Dennis Bergkamp's worth were routed. Arsenal's multi- million-pound Dutchman struck two spectacular goals to vanquish a Southampton side who almost raised themselves from the dead in a game of thrilling incident.

Bergkamp's debut as a goalscorer in an Arsenal jersey made it a game to remember and the quality of those goals will linger in the mind of the 38,000 spectators. Credit, though, to Southampton, who were struck by a two-goals-in-six-minutes blitz by the 23rd minute. Gordon Watson's deft header from Matt Le Tissier's free-kick a minute after Tony Adams had scored Arsenal's second stopped the game turning into a rout and, on the stroke of half-time, Ken Monkou had headed their equaliser.

In 45 minutes Arsenal had lost the same number of goals they had conceded in their first six Premiership games, and but for the excellent David Seaman, who had to be in top nick to stop Watson in the opening minute, it could have been more. These signs might have had more ominous overtones had Southampton been able to apply pressure less sporadically. Le Tissier, on his second successive visit to London, was far from being on song.

Highbury was still purring over Bergkamp's first goal in the 17th minute. His fellow Dutchman Glenn Helder, who had been profligate with a couple of early chances, finally found his range and dropped a cross on Bergkamp's right foot. The ball flew past Dave Beasant from 15 yards. Six minutes later, Adams sallied into the enemy's six-yard box to meet Steve Bould's flick-on of Paul Merson's left-wing corner to head the second.

It could have been all over then but for Watson's rejoinder almost straight from the restart and a blinding Beasant save from Helder's volley. The dice were still loaded in Arsenal's favour, however, and Ian Wright should have broken the deadlock in the 57th minute but for Beasant's inspired save and then, from the rebound, the striker's shot smacked against the crossbar.

Ten minutes later, Bergkamp did supply the decisive blow. Running at a Southampton defence retreating in confusion, he hit a 25-yard screamer that ricocheted off both goalposts before nestling in the Southampton net. Six minutes later, Wright provided the coup de grace when he had Francis Benali spinning like a top before he screwed his scoring shot into the far corner.

Relief that the Highbury investment had been proven sound should not blind Arsenal's critics to the fact that this was three points won with style and flair - graces that were never too often on display even in the recent seasons of victory and triumph. That new dawn the faithful keep hearing about might not be too far off.

The perennial lack of wit and guile in their midfield was relieved somewhat in the second half when Merson dropped deeper. He has all the attributes that the Gunners are missing in that vital area, so their manager, Bruce Rioch, may have got more from the 90 minutes than the warm glow of those outstanding goals. The manner in which the crowd moaned at the hapless Martin Keown's efforts to play the role of midfield play-maker might indicate that it is not only on the field that expectations are changing.

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