Arsenal 6 Southampton 1: Expect the unexpected from Arsenal
Report of match 7th May 2003
Reporter Brian Dawes
Arsenal opened this match with a line-up that included probably no more than three of their expected starting eleven destined for Cardiff. The Saints did similar, opening with I'd guess, about five of their Cup Final starters.
Ginger must be relieved that Jermaine Pennant is cup-tied and therefore won't even make our subs bench, because in a 10-minute spell that saw him score the Premiership's fastest ever hat-trick he destroyed Southampton. Ryan Garry, wearing the 40 shirt, took up the left back slot and looked far more comfortable than the rather erratic (a kind use of words) Stepanovs playing in central defence alongside Luzhny. Ray Parlour captained the side with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm equal to Vieira's. Ray was superb and although we all know it won't happen on recent form and commitment he deserves to lead the team out in the Millennium Stadium.
The match started with a rendition of 'Stand up if you hate Tottnum' which both sets of fans joined in with gusto. The match under the control, if that's the correct word, of the whistle happy Uriah Rennie flowed in spite of his blowing for every early contact although ultimately it probably meant that the Saints gave up the idea of tackling, or at least it seemed that way. Anders Svensson earned the first yellow for nothing much at all although it went into the book as dissent. With a back four of Toure, Luzhny, Stepanovs and Barry the Gooners could be forgiven for expecting the worse, but that wasn't to be. The opening goal came when Kanu found Parlour who's strong shot was parried by Jones only to see Pires score on the follow up from a fairly narrow angle. 1-0 Arsenal.
Stuart was called upon to make a good save at the feet of the rather flabby Davies. Henry beat their feeble offside trap but was pushed wide and could only find the side netting. Soon after the ball was worked across from left to right thanks to neat play from Kanu, Henry and van Bronckhorst who found Pennant. Jermaine gleefully rifled home low just inside the far post. 2-0 Arsenal said the scoreboard, it also said that Jermaine was number 22 despite the number 21 on his back. Kanu struck from range after a piss poor clearance from Jones to win another corner. From the corner Kanu played it short to Henry who's shot was deflected to Pennant, who being in the right place at the right time poached his second of the evening. 3-0 Arsenal, the game was over and there was a long night ahead for Ginger.
The Saints had the odd counter but nothing that really threatened. Arsenal however were in fast-flick, mazy-run, high-speed, quick-inter-passing and demolition modes all at the same time. The fourth came when Parlour, Kanu and Henry played some sweet stuff to set up Pires to make it Pires 2, Pennant 2 or as the scoreboard indicated 4-0 Arsenal. Davies had a shot blocked before Pennant claimed the match ball with his third goal a ten-minute hatrick scored on his full Premiership debut. It came from an angled pass by Henry after some excellent piss-taking magic; the ball was perfectly teed up and saw Pennant once more drive in a low shot inside the far post from the angle. 5-0 to Arsenal with twenty-six minutes on the clock. I suspect it was at this point that Strachan decided that his team would be wearing brown trousers for their pre-match pitch inspection in Cardiff. I should have them wearing brown shorts too if I were you Ginger!
Fernandes off Baird on, he wasn't electric either so it couldn't have been Logie. Some fine solos from Kanu and Henry followed. Thierry was devastating and had been heavily involved in all of our goals, poetry in motion may sound a bit naff but if poetry in motion could be combined with shit off a shovel and some seriously cool twists, turns and flicks you should get the overall picture. Parlour was supreme, our curly haired workaholic ran the show and he almost didn't need Gio's support, able though it was, in central midfield. We continued to boss the game with Kanu forcing an excellent save from Jones before Steps failed to cut out a Bridge cross and the hard working Tessem slid in to make it 5-1. Bridge hit a free-kick into row TT seat 102 of the North Stand, that's an estimate by the way, and after this even Stepanovs began to settle down. Arsenal's reserves had been the biz in this first-half demolition of the Saints. How easy it is to play when there is no pressure on you to achieve, makes you wonder why the Scum are still so crap week after week doesn't it?
The second half could only be a relative disappointment, nether the less the North Bank warmly applauded Jones onto the pitch, presumably for conceding five goals in the first half. The best goal of the night, and a goal of the season contender, came when Gio slid a fine ball to Rob who having seen Jones marginally off his line hit a first time exquisite long range chip that went in just under the bar. Absolutely brilliant and 6-1 to Arsenal. Not only that but a bonus of something I've never seen before in 47 years of following the Arsenal - two Arsenal hat tricks in the same match. Has it ever been done before? I have no idea, if it has I certainly don't remember it.
Henry shoved Prutton into the advertising hoardings to earn the only other yellow card of the evening. A chant of 'Arsene, Arsene give us a wave' ..no reaction.. so the Clock End booed, someone told Arsene what had happened so he waved. Oleg replaced by our young Greek under 21 International Stathis Tavlaridis, number 27. Davies was at the same time replaced by Beattie who failed to capitalise on a pretty well untried Arsenal back four. He came close though with a powerful angled drive that Taylor tipped onto the bar. Pennant was replaced very late on by Justin Hoyte, wearing number 42, for another debut. Justin didn't have time to show, but I suspect that with both his parents being rather tasty sprinters in their day he may be a tad fast.
In the end we didn't overdo it and the final score remained 6-1. A nice way to end our home League season. The squad, minus Vieira came out for a lap of honour and got a fine ovation from the waiting fans. With eighty-one League goals to date, which is 9 more han the Mancs, 15 more than Bluescum, 21 more than Liverpool, 30 more than the Scum and almost 4 times as many as Sunderland I'd say they deserved it for providing us with an entertaining season.
I'm not going to Sunderland so this will be my last League match of the season. Should you happen to be going to the Final and notice an Arsenal fan wearing a shirt with GOONER 48 on the back in Cardiff do please say hello, because that will be me. Enjoy the day out, and I hope your team wins.
|Competition: Barclaycard Premiership Kick Off: 19:45 Venue: Highbury Attendance: 38,052|
Pires 9, 23, 47
Pennant 16, 19, 26
|6 - 1||Southampton
|Sorry, there is no commentary available for this match|