Arsenal 4 (Vermaelen 25, Vermaelen 49, Eboue 59, Fabregas 90)
Arsenal completed a very positive return this week with a comprehensive 4-0 home win over Wigan. Thomas Vermaelen was the chief threat – surprisingly netting a brace – while Emmanuel Eboue deflected home Eduardo’s shot for the third goal before Cesc Fabregas completed the scoring in stoppage time with a simple finish.
Arsene Wenger made two changes to the team that fought back from two goals down to win against Standard Liege, with Robin van Persie returning to the side in place of Nicklas Bendtner up front and Emmanuel Eboue moving forward to the right wing to allow Bacary Sagna back into the team on the right side of defence. Vito Mannone kept his place in goals while Alex Song, Abou Diaby and captain Fabregas completed a midfield triangle with an excellent balance of strength, skill and creativity.
The game was virtually all Arsenal from the first whistle right to the very end. Two early chances went begging early as van Persie scuffed wide from Eboue’s cross before Eboue hilariously attempted to score with his hand and was rightly booked by the referee. It wasn’t long before we got the goal we deserved though and it from a set-piece as van Persie’s excellent corner was belted in by the head of Vermaelen.
Mannone was called into serious action for the first time shortly after when he produced a smart reflex block to keep out a Wigan header before van Persie somehow failed to make it 2-0 at the other end, swiveling the wrong way in an attempt to volley home a deft Fabregas pass. Van Persie also had another attempt saved by the ridiculous-looking Chris Kirkland (who looked like a female Korean golfer with that hat and outfit) after good work by Eduardo, which meant things went in at 1-0 at the break despite a clear chasm in quality between the two teams.
The second half was a different matter entirely as the Arsenal boys found the goals to go with their impressive overall play. Vermaelen got the ball rolling again four minutes into the second half when he collected the ball on halfway, swapped passes with Eboue and produced the sort of left-footed finish from the edge of the area that Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud of. It was superb stuff from the centre-back and despite being just eight games into his Arsenal career the Belgian has already become a huge favourite of just about every Arsenal fan I know.
Eboue then made it 3-0 when he deflected home Eduardo’s shot and Song almost added another when he struck the base of the post after a delightful run. Down the other end Paul Scharner had a goal ruled out for offside after Mannone deflected Scotland’s shot onto the post and captain Fabregas completed the scoring when he finished low from substitute Nicklas Bendtner’s firey cross.
In the end it was as straightforward a 4-0 win as you’re every likely to see and given the complexities of Arsenal’s games so far this season, a welcome relief.
The biggest talking point to come out of this game was undoubtedly the two-goal performance from Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian’s brace meant he edged out Song for Man of the Match (how many games have those two been our best two performers this season!) and since debuting in the opening round has added aggression, defensive stability and a genuine improvement on both defensive and attacking set pieces. Vermaelen’s superb technique has also seen him take on the role of chief distributor from the back and at just 10 million pounds he looks nothing short of an absolute bargain.
I mentioned Song’s performance but to refrain from sounding like a broken record, I thought I’d focus on one of the other shining lights in this game; Emmanuel Eboue.
Eboue was back to his electric and eccentric best after a difficult game at right-back against Standard Liege. Eboue’s finishing ability will always be a concern but he was a real handful for Wigan on the weekend with his unpredictable play and willingness to dash into the penalty area and given his versatility is proving to be a very handy squad player. Additional credit has to go to him for the character he has shown to fight back from being booed last season and although he will never quite be a favourite of mine on the pitch until he eradicates his play-acting and general tomfoolery, he nonetheless remains an entertaining character and effective contributor to the team.
After the games that had gone before it I think every Arsenal supporter was hoping for a straightforward win over Wigan and that was exactly what we got. Four goals, a clean sheet and (as far as I know) no injuries to speak of. Despite having a luckless afternoon in front of goal van Persie is starting to throw his body around like a real target man, the likes of Song, Diaby and Eboue are all clicking and our defence responded smartly to shipping six goals in the last two games.
Although we remain a little way off the top I have to declare myself satisfied with the performances and results of the team in the early part of the season. We’ve had a tough draw with two trips to Manchester and two additional Champions League qualifiers, but with four home games in the next five against some rather modest opposition there is a real chance for the boys to start their surge towards the top of the table. With the Eduardo dive incident behind us and the Emmanuel Adebayor performance likely to have galvanised the team spirit within the squad, things are looking a lot better than our current position on the table suggests.
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