Published: 28 January, 2017
By RICHARD OSLEY
FA Cup, Fourth Round
SOUTHAMPTON 0, ARSENAL 5
WHILE Arsenal's north London rivals Spurs scraped past bottom division Wycombe Wanderers today (Saturday), the Gunners were as good as through to the next round of the FA Cup by half time against Premier League opposition.
It's a small point, both teams are in the hat, but you know how things are in the famous old rivalry. Arsenal, it has to be said, were perhaps fortunate that their trip to Southampton, often a hazardous assignment for the club, was made easier by the home team resting some of their more established first-teamers.
Arsene Wenger rested some of his regulars too and fielded a line-up that included the unheralded Jeff Reine Adelaide and Ashley Maitland-Niles, but Southampton seemed more than a little distracted by their midweek exertions at Liverpool, which had earned the treat of a league cup final at Wembley next month. It was almost as if only one match matters for the Saints now for the rest of the season.
Members Arsenal's second string enjoyed the invitation to play, but that may be unfair term forr the returning forward Danny Welbeck, who wants to be a regular first teamer. His enthusiasm and determination is perhaps the product of too many months on the sidelines through injury, and he opened the scoring after a one-two with Lucas Perez split Southampton open, providing the space to dink the ball over the keeper and in off the crossbar.
It was representative of the run of the play, and it was not a spectacular surprise when Arsenal added to their lead with Welbeck's second. He picked up a long through ball, stuttered at first but then clipped the ball past Harry Lewis in the home goal. It was the quickfire passing of Welbeck and Perez which created the third before half time for Arsenal, and with the Southampton defence dazzled, Theo Walcott was able to steal in to finish a passing move.
There were rounds of applause from a nodding Arsene Wenger as he watched the stands, where he was serving a touchline ban for his loss of temper against Burnley last weekend.
You wonder from up there whether he had wholly sanctioned the arrival of Alexis Sanchez onto the field at 65 minutes, with the result not really in any doubt. If the club's best player had fallen injured, an inquest would have ensued. As he came on for Welbeck, it was almost as if Sanchez had told the bench that he wasn't going to come 80 miles to the south coast just to sit in a big jacket on the sidelines.
He's a player who just seems to love to play, whatever his energy levels, whatever the importance of the match, and almost as soon as he was on, he had battled his way through the Southampton defence and cut the ball back for Walcott to apply an easy finish. And Walcott had Sanchez to thank for a hat-trick match - three goals which took his total career tally to 99 - when the Chilean striker raced through the gaps in the Saints defence, before holding up the ball and passing to Walcott, who drilled home for a convincing 5-0 victory.
ARSENAL: Ospina - Bellerin, Gibbs, Mustafi, Holding - Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide (Iwobi 71), Lucas Perez, Walcott (captain) - Welbeck (Sanchez 65)
Subs not used: Jenkinson, Martinez, Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel