Arsenal made a mockery of everybody who slated Arsene Wenger for his team selection against Southampton by absolutely hammering them.
Southampton could have become the first team to knock Arsenal out of both domestic cups in the same season since Manchester United in 1982/83. When the teams were announced people wondered if Wenger had gone too far with his changes making this a real possibility. Before the game, I highlighted how the Arsenal manager has won this competition more than any other manger in history, perhaps we should trust his selection and see what happened, especially given the state of the Southampton team.
Speaking before the match Wenger admitted his midfield of the Ox, the Jeff and AMN was a possible problem, but his hand had been forced. Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin were not available (despite this not being mentioned at the press conference), Granit Xhaka suspended and Mohamed Elneny at the AFCON.
Arsenal were impressive from the start. Pressing high, attacking with pace and with a front five buzzing around like a bunch of annoying mosquitoes.
It took 15 minutes for Danny Welbeck to mark his first start since May with a goal. A lovely flick from Lucas found him running into the box, and as the keeper advanced he simply lifted it over him and into the net.
Seven minutes later it was two for Arsenal and Dat Guy. A superb ball over the top from The Ox found Danny bursting through once again. He controlled it to take it wide of the keeper and made no mistake with his finish.
Southampton weren’t without a threat of their own, but they were a number of gears below what we’ve come to expect of them this season. Arsenal’s young and inexperienced midfield were spoiled for time and space in the middle. It was not what most were expecting from our latest south coast adventure.
The third came with 10 of the half still left and it was Danny the provider this time. A sweet move that showcased passing accuracy, pace and determination from all involved. Welbeck raced to get the ball before it went out of play. Theo matched his desire to get around the Saints defender when badly placed to ensure it was his foot that made contact. Two-nil and Arsenal were cruising with time to spare.
The second half was a much quieter affair, which is understandable. Arsenal had the game won and Southampton knew the game was over for them.
The major talking point of the half was the introduction of Alexis with the game already won and 25 minutes left. It was a puzzle, with many speculating that he must have some sort of ‘always has to play’ clause.
Of course, he had an assist within four minutes of coming on, pulling it back for Theo to grab his second and everybody stopped caring why he was on the pitch. And it was that man again – Theo, not Al – who scored Arsenal’s fifth, grabbing his hattrick and moving within one of 100 goals for Arsenal. It was another Alexis assist, too.
Southampton now have a cup final to prepare for, and the last time they made the final of the League Cup they were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal – who went on to win the competition (1979).
I’ll take that. I’m pretty sure they will, too.
The draw for the fifth round will take place on Monday at around 7.20pm. Ties will then be played between Friday, 17 February and Monday, 20 February.