Well, the football pundits may have been correct earlier this summer when predicting that Arsenal’s strikers might struggle to score goals with Emmanuel Adebayor gone and no replacement yet brought in.
With rumors throughout July and August that more of Arsene Wenger’s stars were considering to leave the Emirates, and with a supposed lack of cash available to bring in big-name signings, the Gunners were viewed by many to lack the talent to challenge for the Premiership title and fall outside the league’s top four places this season.
After three games against league and European competition, Gunner forwards have netted only once thus far, with Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin all yet to score a goal.
But it’s only their personal goal tallies that seem to be suffering, as Arsenal certainly look like trophy contenders after a third successive dominant performance in a 4-1 win over Portsmouth on Saturday.
The goals again came from the midfield and defensive positions, with Abou Diaby’s early brace setting the stage for another convincing win in the Gunners’ first match in front of home supporters.
Defender and former captain William Gallas scored for the third time in three games, while substitute Aaron Ramsey rounded out the scoring with his first Premiership goal for Arsenal.
Looking dangerous from the start, Arsenal opened up the Portsmouth defense at will to create chances on David James’ goal in the opening half. Eduardo da Silva, employed on the left flank of a three-man front, set up the first goal by sprinting past his fullback before cutting the ball back for Diaby to blast home.
Three minutes later, a classic Arsenal counterattack provided the 2-0 advantage. Arshavin collected to the right of Manuel Almunia’s box, finding Cesc Fabregas near the center of midfield. The Arsenal captain then floated a perfect pass out wide for the streaking Emmanuel Eboue, who centered for Diaby to slot home.
The match then looked more like an exercise on the training pitch for Arsenal, with Fabregas, Arshavin and van Persie all having excellent chances to build on the lead. The Dutch striker had a number of chances throughout the match, but was thwarted by some solid saves by the Portmouth keeper.
Against the run of play, it was Pompey who netted next, as Younes Kaboul rose above a slow-reacting Almunia to head home a cross in the 37th minute.
Fabregas was replaced at the break due to precautions related to a hamstring problem (more on his condition will be announced on Monday), but the Gunner attack was not slowed down. Arsenal continued to dominate possession and chances on goal, though John Utaka and Frederic Piquionne each had opportunities on the break for the visitors in the opening minutes of the second half.
Gallas’ goal in minute 51 — coming off yet another deflection at the end of a free-kick situation — restored the two-goal advantage and the sense of comfort for Arsenal.
Playing their free-flowing game with confidence again, the Gunners looked capable of equalling the six goals put past Everton the previous Saturday. Ramsey was put through by van Persie midway throught the half to rifle one past James for the 4-1 advantage, but that served as the final tally in a comfortable home opener for Arsenal, putting them top of the league (on goal differential), if only for 24 hours.
Still, the four scored against Portsmouth bring the total to 12 goals in three matches — all wins — for Arsenal. And while only one has been netted by a recognized striker, no one is complaining, including manager Wenger. “I feel we create good space for our midfielders to run in and to go into the box. On that front we look more dangerous.
“Our strikers at the moment are providers. For me, in a good team everybody can score and a good striker scores and provides,” added Wenger in an interview on arsenal.com. “At the moment, they provide more than they score, but I know that Eduardo and Robin van Persie will score so I am very happy that at the moment they don’t score and we still score goals.”
Asked whether he would like to prove the critics wrong who predicted Arsenal’s drop down the table this season, he said: “It would give me a lot of satisfaction, but you have to accept in our job the opinion of everybody and there is only one way to respond: win your next game. In our games it’s ‘shut up, let everybody talk and win your game’. That’s the best you can do.”