Missing Robin van Persie? You just have to be joking. Even allowing for the paucity of Southampton's defending, Arsenal produced a sizzling masterclass of attacking football to demolish the visitors before half-time. The rest was simply an exhibition as Arsene Wenger's remodelled north Londoners ascended to the top four of the Premier League in stunning style.
There will, of course, be tougher tests than that posed by Southampton's Premier League innocents, starting with a Champions League opener in Montpellier on Tuesday and continuing with stiff league examinations by Manchester City and Chelsea.
Yet life after Van Persie, last season's 37-goal hitman, looks eminently palatable, especially with two-goal Gervinho seemingly reborn in a new central striking role, Lukas Podolski, lurking on the left, delivering another menacing performance and, stationed just behind, Santi Cazorla applying his fluid Spanish touches.
Wenger said: "The first 45 minutes was of a high level, a good combination of pace, speed of passing combinations. Movement was excellent. The second half we lost a bit of urgency but we controlled the game. There is a positive energy in this team, a desire to play well together so it is very exciting."
"They were ruthless today," admitted Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, whose side are locked into bottom place after opening the season with four successive defeats. "We were playing a very good team. Today just highlighted the very high standard in the Premier League and what we have to aspire to."
Arsenal took 11 minutes to start the rout, having delivered due warning with a mesmerising opening spell of pass and move that pinned the visitors deep in their own half. The inevitable came when Podolski moved the ball left to the overlapping Kieran Gibbs, whose fierce shot was pushed away by Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis into the path of defender Jos Hooiveld, who cold not avoid diverting the ball over his own line.
It was just the start of a comprehensive footballing lesson, for the Premier League rookies. They may have put up a fight against the two Manchester giants but this was a mismatch.
Just after the half-hour mark, Steven Davis's foul on Francis Coquelin allowed Podolksi to curl the sweetest left-footed free-kick beyond Kelvin Davis's right hand. Shell-shocked Southampton were finding Arsenal too hot to handle and four minutes later they were split open when Mikel Arteta's lofted ball was taken on by Gervinho, who cut in from the right to drill a low shot between Kelvin Davis and his near post.
A devastating six-munute spell concluded with Arsenal's fourth goal, Gervinho again at the hub. He played in Podolski and the German's powerfully struck cross clipped the luckless Nathaniel Clyne and the ball flew past the wrong-footed goalkeeper.
There was a small measure of consolation for Southampton just before the interval. They had scarcely existed as an attacking force but were gifted a goal when Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny unaccountably spilled Jason Puncheon's deep cross, presenting Danny Fox with an easy chance from eight yards, with which he wrecked the home side's perfect defensive record this season.
It was to Southampton's credit that the second half brought a marked improvement. Adkins introduced Gaston Ramirez, his pounds 11.2?million deadline-day acquisition from Bologna, and for a time the visitors held a better shape. They might even have further trimmed the deficit just before the hour mark, when Rickie Lambert steered a presentable chance wide.
Arsenal stirred themselves again. Substitute Aaron Ramsey twisted around Clyne and was unfortunate to see his shot hit the base of the post. Arsenal, as they did so often, had the right man in the right place, and there was Gervinho to touch in the rebound. Another substitute, Theo Walcott, rounded off the afternoon with a thumping finish against his former club two minutes from the end.
"I've had a conversation with the players in the changing room, and the reality is the first four games was a challenging start to the campaign," Adkins added. "But we believe we've got a good group of players who play in the right manner. We've got belief we can play in this division. We will analyse this game and move quickly on from it to the next game."
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Meertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Coquelin (Ramsey 67), Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski (Giroud 74); Gervinho (Walcott 74). Subs: Koscielny, Santos, Arshavin, Mannone (g)
Southampton (4-1-4-1): K Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld (Yoshida 28), Fox; Schneiderlein; Puncheon, Ward-Prowse, S Davis (Ramirez h-t), Llallana; Lambert (Rodriguez 76). Subs: Gazzaniga (g), Richardson, Mayuka, Chaplow.
Referee: K Friend (Leicstershire).