Have you ever driven an automatic car along a motorway when for some reason you need more speed and you’ve gunned the thing: that’s pressing the accelerator to the floor which makes the car drop a gear, the result being that it takes off. As the car powers ahead the force of the surge creates a heady combination of excitement and satisfaction. You know where I’m going with this one don’t you?
Fabregas returned and boy did he show us how much we missed him. Our captain walked onto the pitch to eager applause, gave a mid-field master class, which included two assists, and then departed after 75 minutes to a standing ovation.
I’m old enough to remember Liam Brady who I idolised but probably with a young fan’s adoration rather than fully appreciating the depth of his talent. Fabregas, on the other hand, I have watched develop and, like a fine wine, I have savoured every minute; he is simply the most talented Arsenal midfielder I have ever seen.
The team selection was interesting it could be easily dismissed as a 4-5-1 but there were some subtle differences: it seemed more like a 4-2-3-1, something I have never seen before. The back line picks itself but it was what happened after that is where it got interesting. Wenger seemed to opt for, not one, but two defensive shields. Denilson and Song where placed just in front of the back line like two well trained, disciplined guard dogs.
Ahead of the two Rottweillers was Fabregas: given a licence to roam but with the cautionary warning of not to waste precious energy by tracking back, that was the job of Denilson and Song who oozed confidence completely secure in the knowledge that their job description was to break up play and give the ball to their Captain.
In front of Fabregas was Adebayor the loan striker who was reinforced when needed by Walcott and Arshavin.
At first sight the formation seemed unnecessarily cautious and then the penny dropped, it was a dress rehearsal for Tuesday when Wenger will play this new 4-2-3-1 formation in the Champions league against Villareal, although, Nasri will obviously replace Arshavin.
Arsenal controlled the game from start to finish which was made easier by Mark Hughs breaking the golden rule when playing Arsenal at the Emirates: don’t try and play football against us. The other rule they broke was letting us score early: Robinho looking bored of being in the EPL and playing even more slovenly than usual gave away a free kick out side the box close to the by line which Fabregas floated in for Adebayor to score an excellent header.
Scoring an early goal, as we are all familiar with, forces the opposition to come onto us, which is exactly what City did, this created the one thing Theo loves and needs more than anything — space.
Looking fitter than a butchers dog Walcott made the most of it running turbo charged rings around Bridge until he limped off and City realised that the only way they were going to stop him was by hacking him down which they tried every time the got the ball. Apart from a couple of lapses of attention by the defence we went into the break deservedly in the lead.
I have heard rumours that Wenger’s half time team talks often consist of reminding our players that they are better than their opponents and that they can afford to play higher up the pitch and apply more pressure. Well if that was what he said it certainly worked as they came out for the second half, moved up a gear and within 5 minutes of the restart Fabregas had played a chip to Adebayor of such quality that superlatives fail me, Adebayor for his part controlled it perfectly went round the goal keeper to score his second.
Arsenal may have powered up the metaphorical M1 motorway in the first half, bursting past Aston Villa, but in the second, after having secured the points, they cruised back home in the open top red machine, sun blazing, to sixty thousand very happy fans in the Emirates stadium.
Almunia: it is much easier to criticise than it is to write constructively, which is the only reason I can come up with as to why people still doubt his talent; another top drawer performance. 8
Sagna: there should be a default setting on my keyboard that I press and it automatically writes “Sagna gave another first class performance.” 7.5
Toure: I love it when Kolo goes on his powerful runs into the opponents half, we had the pleasure of a couple of gems yesterday. 7
Gallas: made one mistake but that was the exception that proves the rule – he is a truly world class defender. 7
Clichy: all Arsenal’s back line are destined to live in the shadow of the famous back 4 but not having felt the pain of defeat for four months this defence is going to have to start getting some recognition. 7
Walcott: he no longer looks like the lost little boy on the wing; ever since he has returned from injury he commands his starting position. 7
Denilson: played with a smile on his face. Freed form the pressure of being expected to link the defence with the attack – he shone. 7
Song: powerful, confident, while most dismissed him there were some supporters brave enough to say, wait, it is too early to write this player off, he has more to give, which has proved to be the case. 7
Fabregas: God: 9
Arshavin: he seems to have changed from wanting to control everything in a captain of Russia kind of way to sitting back and looking at the situation and asking himself hmmm how does this work? 7
Adebayor: David Villa would probably be better suited to our play but we don’t have David Villa we have Adebayor and his job is to score goals, he scored two: credit where credit is due. 7.5
Bendtner: still does not offer as much as Adebayor but he will. I see him as someone patiently learning his trade. 6
Eboue: made some good runs, better than usual but as soon as he arrived in the box he got confused and blundered 5
Ramsey: I’m convinced that he knows that he made the right choice in coming to Arsenal. Nowhere else would he have received the opportunities that he has so quickly here at THOF. 6