Everton 1 (Saha 90)
Arsenal 6 (Denilson 26, Vermaelen 37, Gallas 41, Fabregas 48, Fabregas 69, Eduardo 88)
As a first game for the season I don’t think you can ask for much more than that. 6-1 over Everton – at Goodison Park – and the sort of statement of intent that we were all hoping our boys would make. Thomas Vermaelen played well on his debut and even managed to score, the 4-3-3 worked tremendously well and a potentially difficult first round was made to look like a walk in the park.
As is the norm for opening fixtures the opening part of the game was a scrappy affair as both teams attempted to feel each other out. But once Denilson scored with a terrific strike it was Arsenal’s game. Vermaelen made his mark with a fine header from Robin van Persie’s free-kick while centre-back partner William Gallas repeated the trick with another headed finish from Cesc Fabregas’ delivery.
At 3-0 and with the points in the bag it would have been understandable for Fabregas’ boys to take the foot off the peddle, but the captain was having none of it as he scored two wonderful counter-attacking goals after the break. The first saw Fabregas finish off a fine move involving Andrey Arshavin, Denilson and van Persie while the Spaniard ran a full 40 yards to fire home his second and Arsenal’s fifth from outside the box.
Substitute Eduardo got the sixth after Arshavin hit the post while Everton did manage to pull back a late goal when Louis Saha scored. In truth though, it was no consolation as Arsene Wenger’s men produced the sort of performance and result that surely indicates they will be more of a threat for the Premiership than many pundits are expecting.
I watched this game at 2.30am in Australia with a group of 15 or so die-hard Arsenal fans at the Pig ‘n Whistle Riverside in Brisbane and every single one of us was blown away by the performance by the lads. To score six goals at Goodison Park was more than we could have hoped for and although it would be foolish to get ahead of ourselves, to write this off as nothing less than a freak result would be a great disservice to Arsene Wenger and his players who had clearly prepared themselves well for the game.
Going into the game I was particularly interested in the performances of four players; Vermaelen on his debut as well as Song, Denilson and Ol’ Pinky, Nicklas Bendtner; and I think it’s fair to say that none of them disappointed.
Vermaelen looked a strong player from the moment he launched himself over Marouane Fellaini just ten seconds into the game. He continued in that manner throughout the game, consistently challenging in the air a manner that suggested he had a point to prove. There will rarely be more difficult aerial opponents in the Premier League than Fellaini and Jo and apart from a couple times when he was beaten, Vermaelen was dominant. In terms of debuts this was one to remember and if he continues to show this sort of form then he’s set to become a firm favourite among the Arsenal supporters.
The Belgian was my Man of the Match given the pressure that he was under and the manner in which he performed but he was run a close second by Alex Song. The Cameroon man started in the position that suits his game so well – at defensive-midfield – and he was excellent throughout, harassing the Everton midfield and generally making the centre of the park his own. Song’s performance gave Fabregas and Denilson the freedom to roam forward and with three goals coming from the pair, including Denilson’s sensational opener, it’s fair to say the Cameroon man made his mark.
I have to admit the performance of Denilson surprised me yesterday. I make no bones about the fact that I’ve doubted his qualities throughout his time at Arsenal but for the first time in his time at the club I really thought he looked the part. I do feel that a large part of that came down to him being allowed to move further with Song behind him but the most telling improvement I saw in his game was an increase in confidence and a real will to make his mark in the final third. It was a very encouraging performance by the Brazilian and the goal will also do him the world of good.
Finally, Mr Bendtner. He looked sharp, didn’t he? I’m expecting big things from #52 this season and I firmly believe his excellent performance will not be a one off. He made Leighton Baines look like a mug for the first goal and looked, on the whole, a lot lighter on his feet than in previous times and a lot more decisive in the final third. He’s never going to be the sort of player where everything comes off for him a la Arshavin, but if he continues to put the sort of effort he did at Goodison Park then it’s going to be a great season for the Dane.
It would be unfair to finish up without mentioning captain Fabregas, particularly given my comment in the season preview that he will need to score more goals if we are to win a trophy this season. There was something very Freddie Ljungberg about his first of the afternoon and I believe with the change in formation there will be a lot more of those type of goals to come. He was particularly strong in the defensive area of the game too, Fabregas, and all-in-all enjoyed a tremendous afternoon.
Overall this was both a tremendous result and an equally as impressive performance by Arsenal. While there’s no point going over the top about the win – it’s only three points after all! – there’s no doubt that it will give our players a big boost going into a particularly difficult part of the season. It also sent out a clear message to the Premiership (and Parkhead) that we mean business this season.
I should add as my final comment that it would be a huge shame to see us fail to bring in another player or two before the transfer window closes. In my mind opinion we have a bloody good chance of challenging for the league this season however I just do not feel it will be possible to be at the top in May without at least one more defensive-minded player. There’s no denying that both Song and Vermaelen and our team as a whole looked brilliant on Everton but if we fail to strengthen it is going to put an unneccesary amount of pressure on a particular few players to stay fit throughout the season.
In saying that I don’t want to prevent anyone from enjoying the positive feelings that come with such an impeccable start to the new Premier League campaign. Arsenal have made their statement and every single Arsenal FC Blogger from around the world should be extremely happy about that.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the Arsenal FC Weekly podcast. Enjoy your week!
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