What a difference a couple of days make. Arsenal are back on track after their weekend blip against Hull City, smashing four goals with no reply past a hopeless Porto side at the Emirates. Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor got two goals each as Cesc Fabregas gave a masterful midfield performance, tearing the Porto defence apart with his exquisite passing game.
Arsene Wenger had hinted that changes would be made from the side to Hull, but in the end he only made one – Samir Nasri returning from a knee injury to replace Emmanuel Eboue on the left. As a result, Theo Walcott shifted to the right to complete what could arguably considered the strong first-choice team available to the manager at the moment.
Despite the one-sided nature of the final score it was Porto who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the early stages. But they were denied first by the crossbar, then by a fine Manuel Almunia save and finally by a dramatic clearance off the line by Gael Clichy. From that point on it was virtually all Arsenal and it was no surprise when the boys took the lead just after the half-hour, van Persie sliding home after a lovely through ball by Fabregas and a measured cross by Adebayor.
Things got even better shortly after when Arsenal doubled the lead, van Persie swinging in a corner (I know! I know!) and Adebayor heading down and up and past Porto goalkeeper Helton. It probably should have been dealt with by the keeper but anyone who watched the game will know what a shocker of a night he had. I got a message from my little brother halfway through the game saying that he thought that Helton reminded him of an NBA player and I had to agree, so we nicknamed him PJ Helton-Jackson. I hope it sticks. Top bloke, but what a clown he was.
Anyway, the boys went in at the break 2-0 up and it was virtually game, set, match. All that was really left to see was how many Arsenal would rack up and, much to my pleasure, they got a third just a few minutes into the second half. Van Persie was the scorer again, capitalising on a woeful clearance to breeze past a Porto defender and flick the ball home with the outside of his left foot.
It was becoming a procession and the manager took the opportunity to make a couple of changes to the side. Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue replaced van Persie and Nasri just after the hour mark and both made an impression, the latter by running around doing stepovers like a silly bugger and the former by winning a penalty that Adebayor easily converted. I had this sneaking suspicion that he was going to miss the kick, but it proved to be unfounded as Helton continued his indifferent performance by diving the wrong way. Adebayor and Eboue celebrated in typical fashion, doing the sort of dance that would get me arrested if I brought it out in public.
As soon as the fourth went in the manager brought on Carlos Vela for Theo Walcott, who had a very interesting game. At times he looked a world-beater, using his pace to breeze past defenders, but at others he looked confused, choosing wrong options and losing possession when there were teammates in better positions. He reminds of one of those beetles that go blind because they run so fast – I’m not crazy, look here – the faster he’s going the more scattergun his distribution seems to be. It will improve over time, for sure, and the most important thing is that he’s playing with real confidence at the moment.
The boys continued to play wonderful football in the final twenty minutes and could have scored a hatful more. Walcott and Eboue were guilty of a couple of astonishing misses while Adebayor did his best to make sure he didn’t pick up a second hat-trick of the season, firing a simple chance just wide. But it mattered not as Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 win, one which the manager was particularly happy with following the match:
“We did not concede a goal tonight and we scored four. Maybe we could have scored a few more but it was most important to win the game and respond quickly in a convincing way and that is what we did.”
And you can’t ask for more than that. As a team I thought the response from the weekend loss was superb. There are still a couple of defences concerns to iron out – will we see Johan Djourou this weekend? – but in terms of technique and attacking adventure there is very little that this team is doing wrong.
As a final comment, I thought that for the first time this season Fabregas had a really great game last night. His touch on the ball was exceptional and his long and short passing game was a joy to watch. He brings out the best in Adebayor’s height with his long raking passes and involves the small, nippier players like Nasri and Walcott in the game with crisp distribution through the middle of the park and out wide. Well done, Cesc.
And that, my friends, is that. I can’t see us getting into as big a debate as we did in yesterday’s post but I’d still love to hear your thoughts on the win. Have a great one.
PS. Well played Kolo Toure :p
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