Arsenal cruised through to the group stages of the Champions League overnight after a 4-0 demolition of FC Twente at Emirates Stadium.
The goals came from Samir Nasri, William Gallas, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner as Arsene Wenger was rewarded for making the necessary changes to the side that lost to Fulham on the weekend. Cesc Fabregas returned to the starting team at the expense of Emmanuel Eboue while the manager also dropped Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor in favour of Johan Djourou (woo!) and Nicklas Bendtner.
Fabregas – sporting a scruffy-looking hairdo reminiscent of good friend Mathieu Flamini – was the clear difference between the two sides, spraying passes around with ease and controlling the tempo of the contest. His return to the side transformed Arsenal and gave a huge reminder of just how important he will be to the club this season.
The scoring was opened when Nasri capitalised on a good run by Walcott by slotting home a very clever goal. The Frenchman shaped to shoot on the edge of the area before taking the ball past two defenders and scuffing home a low shot into the back of the net. It was the sort of goal that Alex Hleb would never have scored and continued Nasri’s excellent start at his new club.
There were a few clear-cut chances wasted before the break, none worse than a shocking miss by van Persie. With the goalkeeper gone AWOL the striker fired wide with the goal at his mercy to continue his rather dissapointing form in front of goal. He will hope for much better going forward.
At half-time Nasri was subbed off for Eboue – the manager later revealing he was suffering from a stomach bug and had vomited in the changerooms. It’s funny, the footballing gods must really love Eboue because they seem to bend over backwards to ensure he gets as much game-time as possible. Fair play to him though because he again did well when he came on and has been relatively consistent in the first few games of the new campaign.
The second half was an absolute whitewash as Gallas tapped home after Bendtner’s shot was saved, Walcott scored a remarkably Thierry Henry-like goal and Bendtner rounded out the scoring after a close-range goal created by a clever Denilson backheel. You can see all the goals here.
In the post-match conference, Arsene Wenger was understandably delighted with his side’s performance and in particular their ability to bounce back from the weekend loss:
“It was a big game for us and I felt we were well organised, disciplined, focused and basically never really under threat from FC Twente. What was most important was not to make mistakes, be patient and score our goals. I felt the whole team was sharper and physically we were much better than on Saturday afternoon.”
Although he is right, I do feel it was the changes to the starting team that made the difference. Fabregas is arguably Arsenal’s best player and would improve most sides in the world. Djourou is clearly in better form than Toure at the moment and it’s no coincidence that the only time Arsenal have conceded this season was when the Swiss defender was sitting on the bench. And in attack, consistent early-season rotation of strikers has ensured that the front pair has been fresh and sharp for each game.
If I sound a lot happier today than in the past couple of days it’s because I am. Arsenal are into the Champions League and that is always a good thing. It was a good response and a much-needed reminder that this side’s first XI is capable of playing excellent and effective football.
More tomorrow. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for that signing…
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