15/09/2012: Arsenal 6-1 Saints

The search for the first points of the season continues, with Saints going down 6-1 to a rampant Arsenal. Nigel Adkins's men had no answer to the home side's attacking flair. The Gunners enjoyed a large chunk of possession from kick-off, cutting through the Saints midfield with ease. The visitors could only hold out for 11 minutes. Arsenal opened the scoring when Kieran Gibbs' cross-shot was bundled in by Jos Hooiveld for an OG. That goal came from the left flank, an area Arsenal targeted with great effect throughout the first half. The Gunners put on a great display of crisp passing, never allowing Saints a moments peace on the ball, constantly pressing. Saints in contrast were slower in possesion, and failed to stem to flow of the Arsenal front-line. On the rare occasions the visitors did get the ball they would often look to go long towards Rickie Lambert, with little success. On 20 minutes Kelvin Davis made amends for his initial error at a corner to save from a Per Mertesacker header.

The pace of the game slowed slightly as the half wore on, but Arsenal remained in control throughout. On 31 minutes it was 2-0 when Lukas Podolski curled an unstoppable free-kick past Davis. Four minutes later Arsenal had a third goal, with Gervinho smashing in at the near post. The Ivorian lost his marker Yoshida with ease before scoring. Saints rarely threatened during this time. The away side won a couple of corners, but did nothing with them. On 37 minutes it was 4-0 when Gibbs' fizzing cross was unfortunately deflected in by Nathaniel Clyne. Saints did give themselves the tiniest glimmer of hope on 4-1 minutes when Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny spilled a Jason Puncheon cross. Danny Fox volleyed in for his first Southampton goal.

Adkins introduced new signing Gaston Ramirez to proceedings for the second half. Ramirez replaced Steven Davis in midfield, but was initially deployed in a much more advance role than the Irishman. The change brought about an immediate improvement. Ramirez dictated play and added some much needed verve to the Saints attack. The Uruguayan drifted around the pitch throughout. Naturally the Gunners had taken the foot off the gas slightly by this time too. The visitors still only created a small number of chances, which were all squandered. The best of those fell to Lambert, who failed to convert an excellent Ramirez cross. Puncheon and Ramirez had a couple of long range efforts, but it wasn't long until Arsenal regained control. It was 5-1 on 71 minutes when Gervinho converted from close range, after Aaron Ramsey's shot had come back off the post. The Gunners continued to steam forward at every given opportunity during the final 15 minutes. They had numerous opportunities to add to the scoring, but eventually settled on 6-1, with Theo Walcott netting against his former club.

Saints have troubled both Manchester clubs in recent weeks, but didn't even come close to matching Arsenal today. In some respects we were unlucky to lose by such a large margin, given that some of the goals came from unfortunate deflections. Make no mistake though, Arsenal were far superior in every department. It was a harsh lesson, but sometimes you just have to accept the team you are playing is simply better. Yes, perhaps Saints could have done better in certain areas, but on that type of form Arsenal look simply unstoppable. The manner of defeat was disheartening, but this was never a game we would have expected to pick anything up in. The real time to judge this team is from next week, when we come up against teams like Aston Villa. There were a few positives to take from today's game. Gaston Ramirez looked like a class act and should provide us with that extra bit of magic required in the final third of the pitch. Maya Yoshida didn't fare quite so well, but showed just enough to suggest he could well be a decent acquisition once he's settled.

Attendance: 60,097

Match Ratings:

Davis: 5. Made a few decent saves, but still slightly weak when it comes to defending his near post

Clyne: 6. Bit of a difficult one to rank. Given the run-around in the first half, but also some absolutely brilliant challenges and good work going forward on occasions

Fonte: 6. The best performer in the back line

Hooiveld: 5. An own goal and a below par 25 minute display, in large part to the injury which forced him off.

Fox: 6. A decent goal, but a bit of a mixed performance. Fairly strong in the first half, lethargic in possesion in the second.

Schneiderlin: 6. A level below his best. Didn't impose himself on the game like he usually does.

Ward-Prowse: 6. A fairly tidy showing. Didn't have it all his own way, but didn't disgrace himself either

Davis: 5. Started brightly, but struggled to find space in a congested midfield

Puncheon: 7. Involved in most of Saints' good attacking moves. Played a role in the goal and created a few other openings

Lallana: 6. The occasional neat bit of play, but overall very quiet

Lambert: 5. Was given little service in the first half. Missed a good chance to score early in the second. Made little impact

Substitutes:

Yoshida: 5. Looked shaky early on and was at fault for the 3rd goal. Did improve as the game wore on. Looked comfortable on the ball

Ramirez: 7. A class above his teammates. Added a bit of creativity to the side, but also made a few good defensive contributions. Will only get better with more game time

Rodriguez: 6. Looked sharp in the final 15 minutes