There was a degree of mockery in some quarters when Ivan Gazidis this week suggested he wanted to extend Arsene Wenger's stay at the club. "Seven years + zero trophies = new contract" was one headline. Yesterday showed why Arsenal's chief executive believes his manager still has the right formula for long-term success.
While it would be wise not to read too much into this demolition of a newly-promoted club who are bottom of the embryonic league without a point, both Manchester clubs trailed Southampton before finally putting them away. By contrast Arsenal's victory was never in doubt. A brace of own goals, by Jos Hooiveld and Nathaniel Clyne, did not help the Saints cause but both were the result of waves of Arsenal pressure.
In addition Gervinho, flourishing in a rare outing at centre-forward, scored twice, and Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott once. The only irritating note for Arsenal was an error by Wojciech Szczesny which allowed Daniel Fox to score the first goal Arsenal have conceded this season. Nevertheless, they head into an important week – with matches against Montpellier in the Champions' League on Tuesday, and at Manchester City on Sunday – in fine fettle.
"In the first 45 minutes we were at a high level, with pace, movement and skill," said Wenger. "We continued what we showed at Liverpool [in winning 2-0 in their last game a fortnight ago]." Wenger added: "In the second half we lost a bit of urgency, which is human, but we controlled the game."
"We played a very good team who were ruthless today," said Nigel Adkins. The Southampton manager added: "The scoreline is not ideal but we'll analyse it then quickly move on. We have belief we can play in this division."
Arsenal were again without the fragile Abou Diaby, rested ahead of Montpellier after being injured on international duty, but Francis Coquelin proved an able deputy. With Walcott recuperating from the virus that kept him out of action for England, and Olivier Giroud taken out of the firing line for his own good ("he was feeling the pressure," said Wenger), Gervinho found himself leading the line flanked by Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It was Podolski who started the rout. Having dawdled in possession and being surrounded by a trio of opponents he recovered to evade them all before releasing Kieran Gibbs on the left. Gibbs' cross-shot squirmed under the body of Kelvin Davis and Hooiveld, running back, was unable to prevent the ball bouncing off his knee and over the line.
Hooiveld then limped off with a calf injury to be replaced by Maya Yoshida, a Japanese defender signed for £2m from Venlo in the Netherlands. Yoshida only returned from international duty on Thursday and had yet to play for Southampton. It proved a baptism of fire as Arsenal scored three goals within 10 minutes of his arrival to kill the game. The first came from a 31st-minute free-kick awarded when Steven Davis clattered late into Coquelin. Podolski, more than 25 yards out, whipped a free-kick over the wall and past the poorly positioned Kelvin Davis.
Then Yoshida stepped out at the wrong time allowing Mikel Arteta to lift the ball over his head for Gervinho to run on to. The Ivorian thumped his shot inside Kelvin Davis' near post. Two minutes later Gervinho was marginally more alert than Jason Puncheon in midfield and pinched possession. He fed Gibbs, whose cross was deflected in off Clyne.
To general surprise Southampton reduced the arrears before the break when Szczesny dropped Puncheon's cross and Fox blasted in. "He will be disappointed," said Wenger of the keeper who had been restored to the side after injury, during which Vito Mannone kept two clean sheets.
The error denied Arsenal a fourth successive blank in defence, a feat they had never previously achieved at the start of a season , not even during the George Graham era when "1-0 to the Arsenal" was the chant.
The second period was quieter. Rickie Lambert may have made it more interesting but failed to reach a mis-hit shot that Gibbs allowed to drift across goal. Gervinho, stabbing the ball in after Aaron Ramsey hit the post, and Walcott, following up after Vermaelen had been denied by Davis, completed the scoring.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Coquelin (Ramsey, 67), Arteta, Cazorla; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho (Walcott, 75), Podolski (Giroud, 75).
Southampton (4-5-1): K Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld (Yoshida, 28), Fox; Puncheon, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse, S Davis (Ramirez h/t), Lallana; Lambert (Rodriguez, 76).
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the match: Gervinho (Arsenal)
Match rating: 7/10
Half-time: 4-1 Att: 60,097Reuse content