Arsenal absolutely destroyed Slavia Prague 7-0 at the Emirates Stadium to equal the record for the biggest winning margin in the Champions League and in-turn virtually ensured qualification to the second round.
Cesc Fabregas opened the scoring as early as the 5th minute, firing home a delightful effort after some quick feet from Alexander Hleb on the left flank. It was 2-0 in the 24th minute and Hleb was again involved, forcing Slavia defender David Hubacek into conceding an own goal. Theo Walcott made it three before the break after capitalising on a dreadful error from Slavia’s goalkeeper Martin Vaniak.
Things got even better after the break when Hleb finally got on to the scoresheet, finishing sweetly after receiving a pass from Fabregas and turning cleverly in the box. Walcott then got his second of the night, getting in behind the defence with great speed and producing the sort of finish that Thierry Henry would have been proud of. Fabregas then finished of a perfect piece of team football to make it 6-0, before substitute Nicklas Bendtner put the icing on the cage after receiving Emmanuel Eboue’s backheel and barging his way through to goal. You can check out all the highlights here.
This really was an unbelievable night. A lot of the pre-game talk surrounded whether or not Walcott would start up front, and indeed he did. Subsequently, Eduardo da Silva was dropped to the bench to make way for the Englishman in what was the only change from the weekend match against Bolton. The decision proved to be a good one as Walcott grabbed two goals but, although the headlines may have suggested otherwise, I felt he was not the real star of the show against Slavia Prague and those accolades should’ve been given to a certain blond Belarussian. Nevertheless, it was Walcott who manager Arsene Wenger singled out for praise after the match.
“Theo’s in good form. I wanted to give him a start. He played well. He’s calm in front of goal. We know he’s clinical and when he gets inside this position, he’s composed.”
And so he proved to be. His second finish, in particular, was incredibly well-executed. I mentioned yesterday that I really wanted Wenger to play Eduardo alongside Adebayor for this match to give the pair as much chance as possible to click before the crucial game with Manchester United in just over a week. You have to think now that it will be Walcott who maintains his position up front for the matches against Liverpool and United. Whether or not Walcott can have the same impact in those games as he did against Slavia Prague is questionable, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Hleb a cut above, Lehmann digging deeper
Going back to Hleb for a moment, I thought he was absolutely outstanding last night. It was the type of performance that makes you realise just how devastating he can be when he is full of confidence and deployed in the correct position. His speed, dribbling and creativity was a delight to watch and what’s more, he provided a consistent scoring threat throughout the match. The performance of the whole team was excellent – you would normally expect that in a 7-0 victory – but I just felt that he was a cut above every other player on the pitch. The fact that his confidence is so high at the moment will no doubt have Liverpool and Manchester United a little worried about the damage he might cause them in the coming weeks.
There was, typically, enough time for Jens Lehmann to do his best to spoil the day after he made some more ridiculous comments in a pre-match interview with a German Pay-TV company. Lehmann suggested that he has been humiliated by manager Arsene Wenger’s treatment towards him and again spoke out against his rival for the number one position, Manuel Almunia.
“I think – and this is directed towards my dear coach – that you should not humiliate players for too long. I am an Arsenal player and I will not just fade away quietly. I am convinced I will soon be playing again. Almunia hasn’t shown that he can win us matches just yet.”
I’m sorry, but to suggest that Wenger has humiliated Lehmann is just ridiculous. Lehmann humiliated himself when he made two awful errors against Fulham and Blackburn and compounded things by rubbishing his Spanish teammate. As I’ve said time and time again, Lehmann lives in his own little world and if he does not get a grasp of the reality of the situation then I really think he will be on his way out of the club in January.
Anyway, I’m not about to let Lehmann ruin Arsenal’s delightful performance against Slavia Prague. This was football at it’s very best and in all honesty, I’m feeling very confident about the side’s ability to go to Anfield this weekend and get the job done. Only time will tell.
What do you think?
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