It may not seem like it, but Saturday’s match against Southampton was a pivotal must-win game. Arsenal had once again started off the season with subpar results, and although they were coming off a win, they desperately needed a victory to placate frustrated fans impatient with the Gunners' recent spells of inconsistency—years in the making.
A loss to Southampton would’ve been brutal but not entirely unsurprising to a North London audience that has recently seen far too many horrid performances. Arsenal’s thrashing of Southampton wasn’t just a league win—it was a statement. Here’s what the game told us.
Arsenal are Contenders:
Sure, Arsenal are still rebuilding from the loss of Robin van Persie, and for the last few seasons have seemingly been in a perpetual “reconstruction” mode, but they showed that they deserve to be considered an elite club in the Premier League.
Before this weekend’s game, Arsenal was considered an above average club fighting for a champions league spot, but now they can be viewed as legitimate contenders who can compete against Manchester City, United and Chelsea—and win.
Wenger Prefers Podolski over Giroud:
We saw this coming. Lukas Podolski has outperformed a struggling Olivier Giroud, and it was only a matter of time until Wenger publicly said as much. By starting Podolski as the main striker and having Giroud come off the bench, Wenger has given us evidence of whom he thinks the better player is. Things could change, but for now Podolski has earned the role as Arsenal’s primary scoring threat.
Arsenal have Depth:
For the first time in years, Arsenal have depth that can come off the bench. Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny are all capable of being starters, and it’s nice to know that the Gunners can relieve their starters without losing quality on the pitch.
Wojciech Szczesny is Rusty:
Southampton’s goal was the result of Szczesny’s disastrous attempt at gathering what should have been an easy ball to handle. Instead, he botched the play and gifted Southampton an easy consolation goal. It’s nice to have Szczesny back, but his play proved he’s still not ready to compete against a world-class team.
Gervinho has talent:
Surprise! It has been a while, but Gervinho finally put on a show. He looked brilliant and showed why Wenger wanted him at Arsenal. Questions still surround his play, and although he scored twice, the game was already well in hand by the time he found the net. He still needs to prove that he can play superbly against more impressive foes, but in the meantime, Gervinhno has shown that he has the talent and can now—at least temporarily—stop worrying about being criticized by both the fans and media.
Wenger still has the magic touch:
Although he’s still not out of the woods, Wenger proved—for now—that he knows what he’s doing. We should trust him, but it’s hard to resist the easy temptation of questioning the team’s recent lack of trophies and constant loss of top talent.
Gunners fans desperately want to win, but watching their top players leave and having Arsenal come painfully close to winning time and again takes its toll—and Wenger has become a convenient scapegoat. Obviously, the departure of van Persie combined with this year’s transfer pickups created much controversy centered around Wenger, but the thrashing of Southampton showed that he brought in the right players.
In fact, Arsenal hasn’t looked this sharp and dominant in a long time. Yes, it was lowly Southampton, but in previous seasons this would’ve been a game that Arsenal either barely won, drew or lost in heartbreaking fashion. Nobody was expecting a rout.
Arsenal needed this to quell the nerves, but more importantly, Wenger needed this win. He’s back in command, putting Arsenal near the top of the table and managing a club that looks increasingly capable of winning a title.