Pfff, what can you say? That was just awesome to watch. A 7-0 (seven goals) win equals the Champions League record and really sets us up wonderfully for the big games to come against Liverpool and United.
Some of the football we played was just of the highest class. From a different planet as Robin van Persie might say and while Prague were not particularly good it was as much down to us making them look poor as anything else. The first goal after just 5 minutes was a sign of things to come. Really clever play by Hleb on our left and his beautifully weighted pass allowed Cesc the time and space to curl it past the keeper for his 8th goal of the season.
The second was an own goal when Hleb’s shot was deflected in and Theo Walcott, starting up front, took advantage of a Lehmannesque howler by the keeper for his second Arsenal goal, his first European goal and his first goal since the Carling Cup final. 3-0 at half time and it was just as comfortable as the scoreline suggested. But it was a 7 minute spell early in the second half which put paid to any chance Slavia had. Hleb got the 4th after the ball was worked nicely through the midfield, Cesc played him in, he faked to shoot with his left, went back on his right and drilled it home for the goal his performance deserved.
And it was Hleb who set up Theo for his second and our 5th and the finish with the outside of his right foot was coolness personified. The 6th was the pick of the bunch though. If ever a goal summed up a football team it was this one. From a Slavia corner the ball was headed clear and Hleb took it on and drove into their half, played it to Adebayor who turned inside, passed to Theo who dinked a beautiful little pass into the path of Cesc, who had run the length of the pitch, and he stroked it home. It was a thing of beauty. If you could paint it it would hang in the Louvre for generations and people would never tire of looking at it. There are very few teams in the world that can score goals like that and we’re lucky enough that the team we support is one of them.
At 6-0 up and with half an hour to go the boss made changes, bringing on Gilberto, Rosicky and Bendtner for Adebayor, Flamini and Hleb. Theo could have had a hat-trick but for a very good save by their keeper, Rosicky hit the post but the 7th came from Bendtner after a neat flick from Eboue on the edge of the box and he bundled it over the line. A really incredible scoreline and one that was completely deserved. We played great football and destroyed a team who have proved tricky for both Sevilla and Steaua Bucharest. They won’t be looking forward to seeing us again in a couple of weeks time though, you can be sure of that.
It’s hard to single out any players when the whole team does so well but it was great to see Theo get a couple under his belt and those goals will do him the world of good. It also shows he can play up front and with a bit more experience he could prove to be a very potent weapon up there. His pace is incredible and as I was saying after the Bolton game he seems a lot more decisive and sure of himself which can only be a good thing. The manager reckons he can do a job for England but I’d rather see him stay with us and grow slowly than have all that expectation heaped upon him again. Alex Hleb deserves serious props too, his ability to create space and time on the ball for himself is uncanny at times and he’s repaying the faith the manager showed in him all along. He’s been consistently good this season and it’s good to see.
Afterwards the boss was understandably pleased with the performance and while he again made sure nobody was getting too carried away he couldn’t resist a little dig at those who were writing us off before the season began, saying:
We just remind everybody that two months ago I was crazy not to buy players and we were not even rated to be in the top seven. We have no reason to be carried away, because exactly the same people who will now say we can win the European Cup said we would finish 15th two months ago. We have to be realistic and just prepare for the next game and show we can win it.
To be fair the preparation for the Liverpool game couldn’t have been any better than that and the Scousers will have sat up and noticed what we did last night, no question. You could say the game on Sunday is the first ‘real’ challenge of the season but I don’t necessarily buy into the assertion that we haven’t played anyone of real quality this season. Sevilla, Sp*rs (despite their awful start are always difficult in a North London derby), Portsmouth are a good side, Manchester City are a good side and Newcastle were beaten by our Carling Cup side so we’ve had tests. This is a traditionally bigger one though and there’ll be a fuller preview later in the week.
The mood pre-game was spoiled a little bit by Jens Lehmann’s comments to the German media. My original thoughts are here in the columns section and with a bit more time to think about them they don’t get any better. In one way I hope he’s been misquoted because they’re just so disrespectful to the manager who has shown him nothing but respect when others might have hung him out to dry, and to his team ‘mates’ who can’t be happy at the way they’re being talked about by the German. Lehmann’s mood (already bad enough for him to walk off the training pitch in front of the press on Monday as the players practiced shooting with Almunia) won’t have been helped by another clean sheet by the Spaniard, who also made a couple of good saves.
About his comments Arsene said:
There is no purpose to humilate anybody. I have said many times that I respect him a lot. That is how he experiences things, but that is not my purpose at all. I do not know how and why this has come out. I have not read what he has said and do not give too much importance to that. What is important tonight is to praise the players who have done well.
Fine stuff from Arsene. Anyone who knows him knows he’s not a petty man who would deliberately humiliate one of his players and won’t resort to the same childish tactics as Lehmann, but the message in his comment is clear. What Jens says is not important to him. The only thing that counts are the players who play, who are willing to be professional and represent the club properly. It’s a shame that Jens seems determined to finish his time at Arsenal on such a sour note. He’s been a big part of the club for the last four years, and has provided some great memories, but he’s seriously blotting his copy book at the moment.
The sarcastic ‘dear manager’ comment has really annoyed me though. Just after the manager praises his keeper’s professionalism he comes out with something as shabby as that. Arsene has never been one to wash his dirty laundry in public and he doesn’t deserve the bitterness directed at him by a selfish, arrogant man unable to come to terms with the fact that his star, such as it was, is fading fast. I would be very surprised if Jens ever played for us again. His only way back in now is if Almunia gets injured and I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. He’s completely out of order and he needs to get his head straight and his mouth shut because he can’t go anywhere until January.
Still, in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important and it can’t detract from the good stuff which continues to be very, very good. You wonder, even if he consistently talked about the potential of this team, if even Arsene is a little surprised at how well they’ve started this season. The results have been fantastic but some of the football we’re playing, when you consider the relative youth of the squad, is like the icing on the cake. If you can consider good football a cake. Of course there’s still a long way to go this season and we’ve won nothing yet but we’re playing the kind of football that’s going to make other teams just a bit nervous before we play them. And that is good.
So that’s it. Today is a day for basking in the glorious glory of that glorious win and for possibly ripping the piss out of Jens Lehmann. A bit of ying and yang, so to speak.
Don’t forget you have until Thursday to enter the FM2008 competition and there have been loads of entries already. Winners will get a copy of the game and a goody bag with a key ring, a mug and a water bottle (water not included). See Monday’s blog for details of the question and the email address to which you should send your answers.
Now, I’m off to watch that 6th goal again. *drool*