Written by Mean Lean on Monday, 17 September 2012 12:14
It is not common place to watch an Arsenal match and feel so comfortable but Arsene's new look Arsenal team brushed aside promoted Southampton without needing to press the clutch down and touch the gear stick.
As is often the case, we all had a guess as to what Arsene may do with his selection before the game. Before kick off, there were rumours of Oliver Giroud taking a place on the bench and Lukas Podolski playing as the central striker. When the team sheet was announced, we all assumed that to be the case.
Arsene had a surprise up his sleeve. Lukas Podolski continued on the left, in the position that he played so well in at Anfield and it was in fact Gervinho who had replaced Giroud who had been feeling the pressure for not joining Arsenal's list of goalscorer's so far this season.
I was instantly intrigued to see what Gervinho would bring to the team from that area. He had looked impressive against Manchester City during the pre season from that center position and caused Toure and company all sorts of problems with his dribbling and pace.
It took me back down memory lane, I remember being frustrated at our manager for dropping an aging but quality Davor Suker who had scored roughly a goal in every 2.5 games for his new club but instead moving a left winger into center forward, a left winger who didn't exactly look like a goalscorer. I didn't follow the rest of that guy's career so I'm not quite sure how that move turned out for him.
On a serious note, I am not calling Gervinho the new Thierry Henry, especially based on one fixture against what was on the day a poor Southampton team. That said, they didn't look so poor against the Manchester teams who finished above us last season. But the Ivorian can give us strengths not seen since the great man left for Barcelona.
You cannot argue against the talent and technique of Robin van Persie but what I have always said, even when he was pumping in goals for us was that I missed a striker with pace. How many times did we see balls over the top that were taken away from van Persie by a quicker center back? A fair few times.
Replacing van Persie and for this one game at least, Giroud for Gervinho switched a focal point into fluidity. Fluidity that was just too much for Southampton to handle. Gervinho played the width of the pitch, much in the way Thierry Henry did at his prime. Pulling out wide leaving two center backs twiddling their thumbs not quite sure what to do allowing Lukas Podolski to drift into goal scoring positions via the backdoor.
While the game was going on, I started to envisage darting movements from Gervinho and creative passes from Arsenal's current cream of the crop, Santi Cazorla. It didn't transpire on Saturday but that combination is certainly one to look out for should Arsene persist with this type of team, especially away from home where space is easier to come by.
Gervinho who reminds me of a Cheetah in build. I think it is the arch in his back and slim but very strong frame. He is able to burn past opponents from a standing position. His first goal reminded me of Samuel Eto'o of old. Short movement in the box gave Mikel Arteta an option and his delightfully chipped pass fell into Gervinho's stride, he could have taken it down and looked for the cut back but instead drove it into the near post past the diving keeper. His second goal was a goal that even Gervinho of last season wouldn't have missed and by gee, he has missed some sitters in his short Arsenal career.
It is this aspect of his game where the doubts remain and will do so until he can prove that he can finish consistently. As we can see by his wonderful solo goal against Mali in last season's African nations cup, he is technically very capable of it. Poor defending aside, that was indeed Thierry Henry of old. Look at the quality of the first touch to poke it past the defender before his zooming run. The finish was not snatched or blasted, it was placed in the inside side netting where it couldn't be saved.
Gervinho has the technical capabilities to do it perhaps he needs more of what is just as important to a footballer as ability, confidence.
He needs to know that he will score before he takes the shot and that can only come from scoring goals. I am not suggesting that Gervinho is our new superstar striker and banish Giroud to the reserves. I mean, I got all excited when Arshavin played well and scored in his first game as our striker against Stoke City I think and that didn't turn out so well but I certainly like this option and would love to see it against stronger opposition.
It gives Arsene something to think about over the next few weeks. Do you disrupt an attacking system that purred through out, moving a man who scored two goals just to allow a new player to start against his old club? Or do you rotate before our big game against Manchester City and Chelsea? In the same way that Arsene hasn't brought back in our best center back from last season, I am not sure tinkering with our forward line is such a good idea for Tuesday but I guess we have many games to think about and not just Tuesday.
As for the rest of the team on the day, I was impressed with all of them. Szczesny was not at his best but I feel that many a being a little harsh on him for his error. He has missed football this season and is out of the rhythm right now. Catching crosses has been his strong point last season, an area of the game we have been weak in before he became number one. A Szczesny who had played all the games would have caught that. Vito Mannone does not look as assured from crosses in general and I back the managers decision to bring Szczesny back into the team as number one.
Big goalkeepers have dropped crosses in the past. Jens Lehmann dropped a few, Edwin van der Sar dropped a few. David Seaman dro... actually no he never. He really never but you get my point. His distribution needs work. it always has but as others have said, that will improve the more he does it.
Kieran Gibbs is currently a ticking England senior call up time bomb. Or something. His performances so far this season have been fantastic and he looks to be very consistent. His overlapping runs lead to both own goals. It seems as if own goal has come as part of the van Persie deal and that was very much under the radar. (wasn't smart enough to come up with that myself, read it somewhere)
Carl Jenkinson is showing the consistency that games give you on the other side of the pitch and that is great.
I have fallen in love with Santi Cazorla. I wanted some time to get over van Persie and steer clear of footballers for a while but this guy is a magician. Everything looks so damn simple to him. One first time lay off to Gervinho from Szczesny's goal kick on his (so called) weaker side looked so easy but that is because it is Cazorla. Like I keep saying, you wait until he has Rosicky and Wilshere to play with. Jeez.
Podolski is a fighter, love his work for the team. He is no silky genius but a great team player who will score goals and give his all. His free kick last season would have been blasted into the stands by a bloke who used to play here but his curling effort found the net. Perhaps not the best keeping in the world but on target and plenty of power. With Cazorla also standing over the ball, hopefully we can score a few more of those this season.
I could go through every individual and praise them but the long and short of it, is that the team was the real star on the day. The opposition were not the best on the day but as that annoying saying goes, you can only beat what is in front of you and we did just that.
Those who live to find fault with the team are struggling for complaint and that can only be a good thing. Even pundits are jumping on the Arsenal are impressive bandwagon.
This achieved without Diaby, Wilshere, Sagna, Rosicky and Walcott from the starting line up. There is a strong case for each of those players starting more games than not.
It's too early to shout, far too early but whisper it. We are looking good so far.
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