Sublime Spaniards drive Arsenal win

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Arsenal are unlikely to have an easier game in the Premier League this season. Southampton were hit for six and despite conceding a goal for the first time this term, we cruised to victory over the new boys.

In the early stages it looked as if Southampton were looking to play a more cautious, defensive game, getting 10 men behind the ball (and we know how that can frustrate), but an own goal after great work for Podolski meant the game had to open up and Arsenal took full advantage.

And it was the two Spaniards, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, who controlled the game. Arteta's metronomic passing and disciplined patrol of the area just in front of the back four was again outstanding, while Cazorla's range of passing and simple football intelligence meant we threatened time and time again. His ability not just to retain possession in tight areas but make something happen from it is reminiscent of Fabregas at his best, and the pair combined successfully 28 times during the game. When you consider they've had just four games to craft an understanding this good, it augurs well for the future.

It's increasingly obvious that partnerships are beginning to build. At the back Mertesacker and Vermaelen complement each other perfectly, and it's noticeable that as Arsenal's defensive records improve the Belgian is much less gung-ho than in previous seasons. His forays upfield are far fewer and it's hard not to see the influence of Steve Bould there.

Mind you, Arsene Wenger did raise some eyebrows with his team selection. Gervinho was chosen as the central striker -- preferred to Giroud or even Podolski -- but the Ivorian eased fears with two goals and, probably, his best performance for the club. He looked more direct and assured, worked his way to the byline on a number of dangerous occasions and the finish for his first (Arsenal's third) was superb. I'm not sure many would have been surprised if he'd flashed it high and wide, but the controlled but powerful finish to the near post smacks of a player feeling a bit more confident about himself.

The only slight nag would be the worryingly rusty performance by Wojciech Szczesny. He was at fault for the goal and his distribution, something he worked on a lot last season, was hit and miss. And that's being a bit kind. With more troublesome opposition than Southampton coming up, and soon, Arsene Wenger will be hoping for a more assured performance from the Pole on Tuesday night.

Overall, however, it was a hugely positive result and performance for Arsenal. There's a lot to be encouraged about and the gripes are very minor indeed.

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