Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nothing like a good old-fashioned blow-out...

There’s really no better morale booster than a swashbuckling goal-fest, especially when it arises from a situation where your back’s against the wall as a team. Such was the case tonight as Arsenal did justice to the Wenger philosophy that any group of players can perform well under the Frenchman’s system, and you’ve got to admit that in the absence of such key players as Fabregas and, can we say an established striker, the system ran pretty well. Nasri, officially in the central role he seems to drift into so often, morphed into a kind of mini-Cesc while Bendtner grabbed 3 goals despite playing like an absolute donkey on Saturday. For the first time in what seems like a long time, free-flowing passing yielded a free-scoring performance and you’ve got to say it felt really, really good.

On the other hand, you’ve also got to say that Porto were really, really bad. The supply to their offense ran dry and their defense/midfield seemed to be in two-minds about whether or not to press Arsenal or attempt to bunker down against the likes of Arshavin, Nasri, and pretty much any Arsenal player that managed to lose a man or two and then waltz into the final third. Fucile in particular was having an absolute nightmare against Arshavin, who was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet against a defense that seemed to be in a generous mood.

So then I’m uncharacteristically full of positives after tonight’s win. It was the perfect performance ahead of a string of 3 Premiership games (before our next Champions League fixture), not just because it blazed a trail into the next round, but rather because it did this in the absence of our usual talisman. In Cesc’s absence Samir Nasri was absolutely brilliant, both in the way he dictated play and created chances but also in the way he simply jumped into the spotlight with mesmerizing skill and, something we really haven’t seen from him since Man U at home a year and a half ago, ruthless finishing. Heading into the home stretch we’ll need all the ruthlessness we can get, and if both Nasri and Bendtner can maintain their levels of confidence that are no doubt sky-high after tonight’s game, we might just have the firepower we need to brush aside our remaining opponents while the likes of Man U and Chelsea try to cope with theirs.

With a substantial number of games left in the Premiership, Arsenal now need to set a precedent like this domestically. Our emotional win at the Britannia sent a message, but unfortunately our performance against Burnley last weekend was not the emphatic win Arsenal fans were looking for, especially considering that it took place at home. Let’s hope then we can carry over tonight’s Champions League performance to this weekend’s game against Hull and put in the kind of insistent display that will set the tempo for our following 8 games.

Be sure to check out the podcast this weekend as Arsenal Review USA catches up with the Boston Gooners at the Blackthorn Pub during half time of the Hull game.

Until then…keep on supporting the best team in the land!