Saturday was a case of déjà vu for the Saints and a brilliant vindication of Arsene Wenger’s continued faith in his team and methods.
Jos Hooiveld turned in Kieran Gibbs’ cross into his own net to open the floodgates for the Gunners. Lukas Podolski and Gervinho (two) added to Nathaniel Clyne’s own goal while Theo Walcott provided the icing on the cake.
Daniel Fox pulled one back for Southampton before the second half, but Saturday night was all about Arsenal.
A truly dominant display over Nigel Adkins’ Southampton shows that Arsenal can go one further and challenge for the English Premier League title this season.
Here are five reasons why. As usual, please feel free to have your say in the comments below.
Pass, pass, pass. Counterattack.
Arsenal have long espoused the virtues of a passing game and indeed have been known as the masters of the beautiful game in English football.
Technically sound, with pace in abundance, makes them a fearsome unit on the counter; the Gunners now resemble a complete team.
Suddenly, Wenger’s system seems to be working and ingrained in his players.
Simply put, Southampton were given a footballing lesson at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, and the final scoreline did not flatter Arsenal at all.
To add to their passing approach, it seems Arsenal have also strengthened the physical side of their game.
Assistant coach Steve Bould has received plenty of credit for his work on the Arsenal defence. He should be equally commended for instilling a newfound discipline and resilience when handling their more physical opponents.
A key indicator of this was, of course, the Stoke City game, where Arsenal impressively held their own against erstwhile “rugby players” of an opponent. Against Southampton they showed more of the same.
Per Mertesacker, previously just a touch too slow for the Premier League, and Thomas Vermaelen, who has returned to his best, have been rocks in the center of defence, while Carl Jenkinson has shown a marked improvement over his hesitant debut season at right-back.
A lot was made of Robin van Persie and Alex Song’s summer departures, when the reality is Wenger prepared his team much better for the potential loss of a superstar this summer.
With Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski now on the books, Arsenal have enjoyed an impressively productive summer in the transfer window.
The beauty of their summer activity is that, in Podolski and Cazorla, Wenger has signed two players tailor-made for this system who have hit the ground running.
The only one we have yet to see fire is Olivier Giroud, who must have been kicking his heels on the Emirates bench.
It goes to show that shelling out for some much needed talent is sometimes necessary—and can pay off handsomely.
On the Emirates bench on Saturday was Vito Mannone, Arsenal’s reliable stand-in for Wojciech Szczesny in the first few games of the season.
There was Laurent Koscielny, still on his way back from injury, and Andre Santos, a decent attacking left-back.
Also present was Theo Walcott, whose sixth goal capped Arsenal's night; Aaron Ramsey, whose driving run led to Gervinho’s second goal; and Andrei Arshavin, whose talents can win a game on their own.
And there was Olivier Giroud, Arsenal’s other big-money signing this summer.
Suddenly, this looks a much deeper squad than it has the past few years.
For all the flak that Wenger has taken for his economic approach to running his football club, could he be onto something with this team?
While considering Arsenal’s strength in depth, don’t forget that Koscielny, Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere aren’t even back from injury yet.
When these three starting players in Wenger’s first-choice return, they will offer that big a difference to Arsenal’s overall quality and results.
If they've already dished a handing down to Southampton without even breaking sweat, what are they going to look like with a classy Koscielny rotating with Mertesacker; Sagna providing experience on the right; and Wilshere (hopefully) living up to his new No. 10 shirt?
Oh, and Francis Coquelin filled in for Abou Diaby—who was so impressive against Liverpool—on Saturday.
Of course, it’s still in the early days for Wenger, but all the signs are there for Arsenal to really mount a challenge of the higher order. We’ll find out in the coming weeks whether they can live up to this newfound hype.
What do you think? Do you think this is all just an overreaction? Or do you think Arsenal might actually end their silverware drought this season?
Let us know in the comments below.
Also check out: How Arsenal Can Cement a Top-Four Finish This Season