In the build up to this game, all the news relating to Arsenal focused on how unlucky we have been with injuries and how the absence of these players will affect our title challenge. Personally, I was looking forward to how we were going line up because we have got visits to Sunderland and Spurs in less than a week. Rotation should be at its maximum now and considering the fact that we already have 6 first team players out in barely one month of the football season, those fears were sort of justified. When the team sheet was released, I knew I was in for a treat, a special one.
With a bench comprising the likes of Rosicky, Vela and Denilson, we definitely had more than enough quality to see off the threat a young Braga side might pose.
The match in itself was one-way traffic with Braga managing just over 30 percent of total possession of the ball the entire game. We tend to play some of our best football on European nights at the Emirates and this game was no exception. With Fabregas at his imperious best and running things from the centre, Arsenal moved the ball around extremely well creating loads of chances. It was not long before we got our deserved opener; Fabregas threaded a ball through to Chamakh who beat the Braga goalkeeper but was felled. Penalty! The referee immediately pointed to the spot and up stepped Cesc to put us ahead with a powerful strike.
It was good to see us go ahead after seeing so much of the ball. A wonderful piece of build-up play involving Arshavin and Fabregas saw the ball end at Wilshere’s feet but he could only shoot straight at the keeper. The boys were searching for a second goal to relieve them of some pressure. In the 29th minute, Cesc took the ball just outside the box, beat two Braga men and coolly laid the ball to a waiting Arshavin who took the ball in his stride, put a lot of venom in his shot and beat the keeper at his near post. He was understandably happy with his goal as he was not having the best of games, constantly losing possession.
Meanwhile, the centre defensive pairing of Koscielny and Squillaci as well as Almunia had very little to do but they showed enough level of concentration to stand up to the Braga attack whenever the need arose. Almunia in particular showed encouraging signs of improvement with his handling. The lack of substantial threat from the opposition meant Sagna and Clichy could join the attack from time to time.
The third goal came when another Fabregas ball found Chamakh in the box, he chested it down for Wilshere who returned it with a spectacular back heel. Chamakh showed good strength to fight off the challenge of two defenders and slotted the ball into the net. This was the goal I cheered the most simply because I’m beginning to love our Moroccan man. I really hope he does well and gets us the goals required to win silverware.
The second 45 minutes was basically the same story, we kept pushing, albeit at a lower gear now but the chances were still coming and it was about how many of those we were willing to take. Braga switched to damage-control mode but it did not protect them from our onslaught. Now imagine an inspired Fabregas playing his amazing passes, Chamakh with the exquisite touches upfront, Arshavin with the verve, Wilshere looking the part and Nasri playing some good footie, there was only going to be one result: goals, and did they come?
A stray ball was intercepted by Fabregas and sent to Arshavin. Our Russian took his time to pick out a waiting Fabregas who guided his header past a hapless goalkeeper. 4-0 and just 60 minutes of the game gone. The fans at the Grove were having a night to remember and so were Gooners all around the world.
The good thing about our early rush of goals is that with an eye on our next game, Wenger could take off Chamakh and Song in the 60th minute for Vela and Denilson. Vela came on to grab two well-taken goals for himself, taking the score line to 6-0. If the likes of Vela can come off the bench to put in performances like that and add some goals, our season might just be different from the previous five. As early as the 75th minute, there were already shouts of “ole” after every successful pass by an Arsenal player; everyone was having a good time watching Wengerball. The last 15 minutes did not see any deviation from the norm: all Arsenal attack.
The referee blew on 92 minutes, six goals to none it ended and Braga can have no complaints. They were played off the park. We have our first European win of the season and what a win too.
I took a lot of positives from last night; Nasri returned from injury to have a blinder. He was everywhere last night and showed immense skill and strength under pressure at times. Also, the performances of Fabregas and Chamakh gave me a lot of reason to smile; Cesc really showed his worth to our cause last night and we realized why Arsene and everyone connected to the Arsenal were bent on keeping him. I particularly love the fact that young Jack Wilshere is getting some games with the first team; the lad is supremely talented and loves to get stuck in, so I won’t say I am too surprised.
Man United and Chelsea would struggle to get results if they had injuries like we do. But we have consistently produced good games with our players getting injured almost every week; Bendtner and Ramsey have not even featured this term. We have Sunderland away next, let’s hope we can pick up from where we left off. Man United could not win at home on Tuesday, Chelsea could not keep a clean sheet yesterday and on the same Match day, we thump someone 6 zip, not quite a bad time to be a gooner, innit?