Because less players equal more space to pass and move

Arsenal Smash Braga

Having chosen not to attend the first two home games of the season due to conflicting events I decided to make my season bow at The Emirates for the Champions League tie against Braga. After enduring a long day at work I hopped on the train to Marylebone and partook in the ritual of a couple of pints in the Allsop Arms in between Marylebone and Baker St where I can be regularly found before home games. I never felt any sort of nerves towards the fixture and to be honest I expected a comfortable victory.

Having missed kick off due to the delays on the tube I managed to get to my seat just in time for the first penalty shout when Fabregas was tripped, but the ref and his assistants from Luxembourg thought none of it and allowed play to continue. It was at this point I wondered if anyone was left in Luxembourg seeing Uefa have now employed five match officials with the experiment of having a ref behind the goal at either end of the pitch to keep a close eye on goings on in the penalty area.

Five minutes later Chamakh burst through and was brought down by Braga ‘keeper Felipe who earned a yellow card for his sins. Up stepped ‘El Capitan’ Fabregas to drive the ball home for an early lead. Arsenal had their tales up and it was the man of the moment Fabregas who showed his twinkle toe ability by gliding past two Braga defenders before executing a pin-point pass for Andrey ‘Meerkat’ Arshavin two lash home for a two goal advantage. Simples.

Another five minutes later it was three and in my opinion this was the most pleasing goal of the lot. Arshavin, involved again, picked up the ball from the highly impressive Jack Wilshere and returned it to the young pretender to Cesc’s throne as the king of the Arsenal faithful. The ball was played at chest height to Wilshere but he expertly controlled it on his chest and somehow managed to find the oncoming Chamakh with a beautiful back heel who then calmly placed the ball out of reach of the helpless Felipe. It was game over and we hadn’t reached half time.

Arsenal began the second period just like they ended the first, camped out in the Braga half. Some sloppy defending from the away defence allowed Fabregas to pinch the ball, lay it out left to Arshavin who clipped the ball between the centre back and full back to allow Cesc to nod home a free header. It was schoolboy defending by the Portuguese club. With Saturday’s game away at Sunderland looming Wenger withdrew Alex Dimitri Song Billong and the impressive Maroune Chamakh for Denilson and Carlos ‘one foot’ Vela, though this was not to derail the Arsenal freight train that was continuing to pile forward, and after Arshavin hit the post he laid on a perfectly weighted pass to the Mexican Vela who scored with a delicate chip over the oncoming Felipe. Does Vela ever score a goal that is not chipped? Well with the game heading towards its dying embers Fabregas unselfishly gave up the chance of a hat-trick to lay on a simple ball to the free Vela who beat Felipe on his near post, sans chip (so in answer to my earlier question: yes he does) to make it 6-0 and the humiliation was over.

Allowing Arsenal to play in the fashion they did done Braga no favours at all; a mixture of class from Arsenal and woeful defending from Braga was always going to spell disaster for the Portuguese side. It’s great when Arsenal play in this manner and the plaudits we received for the performance have been fantastic but in the back of my mind the whole time was the upcoming game away at Sunderland on Saturday evening. This will be a completely different kettle of fish from the midweek game and Sunderland boss Steve Bruce knows that to beat Arsenal you need to get up at them in their faces. I fully expect the game to be a rugged affair where flicks and tricks will need to be at a minimum and Arsenal will need to show their resolve when going in for the tackle. Arsenal came through their first ‘they don’t like it up ‘em ‘oop north’ challenge away at Blackburn with a new found strength so let’s see if they can continue to mix the flair with toughness to give themselves a decent shout in this year’s race for the Premiership.