Thursday 16 September 2010

Sumptuous stuff – now don’t waste it

Arsenal 6 Braga 0

428 words. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 30 seconds.

If they ever make Football – The Stage Show, displays like last night’s would make Arsene Wenger a shoe-in for choreographer.

We become blasé about the movement and rhythm Arsenal are capable of producing when they are allowed to operate with the kind of freedom Braga afforded them. But the tricks, flicks, balance and flexibility - summed up by the intricacy of the third goal - was outstanding at times and showed the balletic nature of Wenger's team at their best.

It is a sign of how far the club has come since the beginning of Wenger's reign that I now take nights like this for granted. It is the third win by five goals or more in the Champions League since we moved to Ashburton Grove and who can claim to be surprised that we wiped the floor with Braga who looked out of their depth. How many other clubs in England, or Europe, manage to produce such consistently devastating football?

The ultimate question, of course, is when this team is denied that freedom can they still win? There is no point attempting to draw conclusions from games like last night's but so far this season it looks to be stronger by five or 10 per cent compared to last year.

Judge it by the standard of our third-choice centre back. Now it is probably Koscielny and I would invest far more faith in him than Silvestre. Up front has been strengthened too with the addition of Chamakh. Even if Wenger opts to make Van Persie the first-choice striker - a mistake in my view given Chamakh's qualities - the Moroccan is still a more reliable option than Bendtner who still has much to learn.

And then there is Fabregas. I asked on Sunday whether we have someone in our ranks capable of winning games on their own. That was before I'd seen the highlights of the Bolton match and realised just how influential Cesc was. Last night he again dominated everything that was good about our play. What we need is 10 to 15 more performances like that, including in the 'biggest' games, where his talent and desire to win creates a clear path for his teammates to follow.

'Media narrative' is a horrible phrase but it neatly sums up how things are portrayed and perceived. Performances like last night and our goal-heavy start to the season means our media narrative is no longer 'are they too young?' to 'they are big game bottlers'.

It is 17 days until we find out; 17 days until Chelsea.

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