Southampton 0 – 5 Arsenal
Theo Walcott will grab the headlines with his homecoming hat-trick but it was Danny Welbeck who was the star of this Arsenal show. Watching on from the stands, Arsène Wenger can only have been impressed by the ruthlessness displayed by his youthful and exuberant line-up. Ten changes were rung from the laboured and fortuitous win over Burnley; we’ll have this XI out every week if this is how they combine.
From the outset, Arsenal imposed themselves on a Southampton side which was barely out of nappies in footballing terms. Claude Puel rested most of the team which won magnificently at Anfield in the EFL Cup, a bemusing decision in some respects since, like Arsenal, cups represent the only genuine chance of silverware this season. His choice and boy, did he pay the price.
Arsenal were almost imperious. Southampton caused very few moments of concern, Shane Long enticed Ospina in a mad dash out of the penalty area into no man’s land but beyond that and a flying save in the first half, the home offered nothing. By then, Arsenal were home and hosed.
Danny Welbeck grabbed two early goals which settled his nerves on his first start in nine months. It crowned an exquisite passing movement, sixteen or so at the last count, but hinged on the gorgeous flick from Lucas Perez which set Welbeck free. As the goalkeeper advanced, he chipped it over and into the net, via the underside of the bar.
A bit of work on the celebration though Danny; it didn’t look any better second time around.
The second came from what would become a familiar source. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pinged an exquisite pass over the top of the Saints defence, Welbeck killed the ball with his first touch and slotted past the advancing ‘keeper.
2 – 0 and not even a quarter of the game played. We had to wait for the third and this time Welbeck turned provider. Collecting Lucas’ pass, the England striker pulled the ball back where Theo Walcott taught the dawdling defender a lesson by nipping in front of him to score from close range.
Any fears of what might happen to a young and inexperienced squad had long been dispelled in Arsenal minds but for the home side’s supporters, knowing that Alexis Sanchez was on the bench, they were a very real concern.
And rightly so. Arsenal turned the screw and Theo Walcott might have grabbed a hat-trick sooner than he eventually did after Oxlade-Chamberlain had twice sent him clear of the defence. Twice though the chance disappeared before the finishing touch could be applied.
Alexis joined the fun and having buzzed around, chased the ball to the goal-line, cutting the ball back to Theo, who buried the chance to make it four. The Dell could be a cacophonous arena but St Mary’s turned into a morgue beyond a little corner of north London.
Number five came from the same combination; Alexis seemed alone but with the conviction of a world-class player, held the ball up and The0 arrived to seal his third.
Listen, Southampton weren’t good but we were excellent. A very professional performance and one to tuck away in the folder marked, “Good day in the office”.