There may have been a two-week International Break sandwiched between this game and the last, but Arsenal picked up where they left off at Newcastle to produce a performance of real class and quality to beat Manchester City 2-0 at The Emirates.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas were back in the side after one and four-month absences and the paired combined for goals. The first came after just 8 minutes when Adebayor headed home a free-kick by the captain while the second came four minutes after half-time, Fabregas lifting another superb pass to allow Adebayor to round the Shay Given and sidefoot home.
In between the two goals both sides had chances to score. Micah Richards forced Manuel Almunia into a good low save early on while Gelson Fernandes blew City’s clearest opportunity by clipping the post after being put clean through by Shaun Wright-Phillips. Arsenal had chances too as Kolo Toure danced his way into the area to work Given and Alex Song allowed Andrey Arshavin a shot on goal after a clever backheel. Once again Given was in the way.
After going 2-0 up there was only ever one side in it as our boys continued to create chances and the City attack simply dried up. Song went the closest to making it 3-0 when he headed over a corner but there were numerous other opportunities created for Theo Walcott and Adebayor among others.
With injuries to Eduardo and Robin van Persie the manager resisted the temptation to play Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner together and the result was a highly mobile 4-5-1 that brought the best out of Adebayor, Arshavin, Walcott and Fabregas. I thought the balance in the midfield was superb with Song and Denilson providing the defensive platform for the aforementioned quartet to exploit.
Despite missing almost four months with a knee injury our captain looked like he’d never left. His passing was incisive and inventive and if anything, he looked refreshed rather than lacking in fitness after an extended period on the sidelines. It bodes very well for the run in and the return of a fully-fit Fabregas may be just what turns this very good side into Champions League or FA Cup winners.
The other two players returning from injury – Adebayor and Walcott – were, with Cesc, the standouts in this performance. Adebayor was very “last season”, running his socks off and causing the City defence problems with his pace, strength and overall commitment. Meanwhile Walcott looked as comfortable on the ball as he has ever been.
Next up is the trip to Spain for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Villarreal and what an exciting opportunity that promises to be. In a complete contrast with Arsenal, our opponents had a shocker of a weekend in their domestic league, falling 3-0 away to 12th-place Almeria and losing one of their true stars, striker Santi Cazorla, to a broken foot. If there was ever a time to play Villarreal then it is now.
A good result there could see us with one foot in a semi-final which will surely be against Manchester United. I mentioned last week how excited I am by the prospect of playing United at this stage and this has only intensified after they came back to beat Aston Villa last night. I know I should be happy that Villa lost given the points situation but watching a Manchester United side who barely deserved a point snatch all three through the infuriatingly poor Cristiano Ronaldo and a 17-year-old Italian was cruel and unjust. Oh, how I hate you United.
Anyway, that’s it in a wrap-up of what’s been a pretty good weekend. I’m off to daydream about Alex Song crashing in a 30-yarder to knock United out of the Champions League on away-goals. Good times.
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