The way I see it - Arsenal v Southampton

Last updated : 09 February 2004 By Jason Hogan

I expected the Arsenal to be confronted with a cup-tie atmosphere and that's exactly what we got. The last time I remember us playing in atmosphere like it was when we played down the road at the Hawthorns in the league last year. Every time Arsenal so much as misplaced a pass or lost out in a tackle, the Molineux faithful roared their heads off.

And, although Dennis did put us in front early on with a clever finish to a pretty good move and both he and Henry went pretty close to extending our lead, the fact was that Wolves did equalise and for their sheer competitiveness and effort they deserved to be on level terms at the break.

As usual, I ranted and raved at my rather nonplussed other half in the interval moaning about Gilberto being out of position (and why he was actually in the team for that matter), how we were just not coming to terms with what we were up against and key players like Pires and Henry largely went missing in the first half.

However, as things turned out, I wasn't the only one left in no doubt that a few fingers needed to be pulled out because given the way we played in the second half, Wenger had probably given one or two of his players a rocket as well. Pires, who was totally anonymous in the first half, decided to shake himself out of his slumber to such telling effect that in the space of ten second half minutes, he helped turn a game that started out as a bit of an ordeal into an eventual stroll.

As a result yet more records were broken. Not only have we now broken the club record of 23 unbeaten league games we have also amassed more points in the history of the Premiership than anyone else after 24 games in the process.

Yet, whilst I wouldn't dream of denying anyone connected with the Arsenal the sense of pride that derives from such feats, I really think that we cannot afford to lose focus for a split second.

You can bet that the press the media will use every trick in the book to undermine us for a start and it was particularly interesting how sections of the press, instead of talking mainly about the game in Monday's papers, zoned in on Wenger being somewhat animated at Molineux and made a big issue of the fact that he was not displaying his usual calm. If I didn't know better, I would think that they were trying to play the mind games of Old Purple Nose on his behalf!!

Still, as Wenger himself has said, if we carry on getting results then there is nothing that anybody else can do which brings me nicely round to Tuesday night's game at home to Southampton.

In recent times Gordon Strachan and his men have definitely found out what it's like to go through the "what might have been" scenario. They could have easily been coming to Highbury with six points under their belts from their last two matches but have only actually picked up just one.

When the Saints went to Old Trafford to play ManUre the other day, they were live on the box. What a joke, I thought. This was Sky giving ManUre the opportunity to engage in another live propaganda exercise once again before a nationwide audience and the likes of Andy Gray to indulge in another ManUre love-in session at the same time.

With half time fast approaching in the game, the Saints were 2-0 down and my decision not to bother watching the game appeared justified but then, on the stroke of half time, Kevin Phillips pulled one back. Mmm, interesting, I thought. Then, early on in the second half, Phillips scored again to make it 2-2 and that point I switched off my PlayStation and turned the TV back on.

Sadly for Southampton (and not least for me), they eventually ended up leaving Old Trafford somewhat controversially with nothing when they deserved a point at the very least.

That frustration carried over to this Saturday when they faced Fulham at home. Edwin Van Der Sar was the man who had quite literally saved Fulham from getting a hiding at Highbury earlier on this season and he was at it again down at St Mary's as the Saints had to settle for a point.

So, even though the results have not reflected it, there is little doubt that the Saints are not playing too badly at the moment. I have to say that Kevin Phillips seems to have a hit a decent vein of form and I like the look of Brett Ormerod. In terms of style, he reminds me of Craig Bellamy minus the mouth and the brash, crass attitude. There is also the James Beattie factor to consider as well, of course.

As for us, well, the word on the street is that Bergkamp's injury isn't as bad as first feared and though he may not be risked against the Saints, there is a strong chance that he will return for the cup game against "the Russians" next Sunday.

Again, I think there is an element of intrigue attached to this game. It's worth remembering that the Saints not only pushed ManUre to the limit at Old Trafford, they also won at Anfield earlier on in the season as well.

In other words, they have shown that they are not afraid of big stages and they have enough firepower to give them a fighting chance. Some would have this game down as a home banker on the coupons. I would say that if Arsenal take liberties and do not approach this game in the right manner it could prove to be anything but.