There is always something special about the first home game of the season: making your way along a familiar route to the stadium, meeting up with friends, drinking cold beer, getting excited about forthcoming fixtures, shaking hands with acquaintances, all of which you may only ever see at football.
As I took my seat at the sun baked Emirates, everything was following the usual pattern; that is, except for one noticeable difference: I felt no tension at all. We were playing Portsmouth, a team who after only two games were everybody’s favourites to be relegated and even more so after three — this team are poor.
I can only assume that they arrived at the Emirates from the South Coast by train because there certainly did not have what it takes to park a bus in front of the goal.
Wenger made sensible changes bringing in some of the Carling Cup team probably with one eye on the midweek game against Celtic, although, certainly with both eyes on the United game next Saturday. Gibbs and Eboue were drafted in to give Sagna and Clichy a breather. Song was also rested in favour of Diaby and Bendtner was moved to the bench to make way for Eduardo.
With 60,000 red and white scarves being waved in the air, the team took to the field brimming with confidence and proceeded to give a master class in control and accuracy; they stroked the ball around the pitch with Bergkampesque precision. It wasn’t high speed Wengerball but the more controlled training ground version.
Everybody had read the script, nobody doubted the out come and we all knew that goals would come — and so they did: after 18 minutes Eduardo performed a trick I didn’t know he possessed on the left wing to, not only, go passed the right back but to make a complete fool of him, before cutting the ball back for the on rushing Diaby to power it home for our first.
Diaby was our ideal goal scorer, no other player on that pitch needed his confidence lifting, in the way that a goal would do, more than him; in fact, it was lifted so much he repeated the feat, four minutes later when he scored another equally good goal.
This was my favourite of the day: it has been a while since we scored on the break, this kind of goal used to be a regular part of our repertoire but has become more and more of a rarity in recent times: Fabregas played a pass of such accuracy, that, well only Fabregas can do, to Eboue, moving at speed down the wing who slid a perfectly weighted pass to Diaby who, bursting forward, slotted it past David James.
The game was over as a competition, players like Arshavin were having trouble keeping interest and concentration; it was show boat football with more back heels and flicks than an exhibition game. If this game were a heart machine it would have been flat lining; Portsmouth scoring was the necessary shock that the game needed to bring Arsenal came back to life.
Unable to kick on, Portsmouth offered no real threat in the second half, Ramsey, replaced Fabregas, which is our only cause for concern; we can afford to do without him against Celtic but we will obviously want to be at full strength against the mancs. Gallas got a tap in which makes him our leading goal scorer and Van Persie played a deftly weighted pass to split the Portsmouth defence for Ramsey to very coolly slot the ball past James.
So, that’s ten goals in two games, I can’t wait until our attack starts gelling.
Almunia: 6 only seriously called upon once this afternoon when a high ball was lofted in to the far post but instead of punching it clear, to prevent Kabul from scoring, our Spanish waiter dropped the plates.
Eboue: 7 playing in his preferred position he put in a very competent performance.
Gallas: 7 our top scorer with three goals to his name, although, from where I sitting it looked as though he was lucky to still be on the pitch. I was imagining the team of tossers on MOTD rubbing their hands in glee at how they were going to be able to lay into Arsenal and Gallas for not being sent off and also how gutted they must have been after studying the incident from every angle and realising that he didn’t actually trip the Portsmouth player.
Vermaelen: 8 yet again, another commanding performance.
Gibbs: 7 did everything right including making a goal saving challenge mid way through the second half.
Diaby: 8 so the answer seems to be to spend the summer in the gym, I wish he had popped down there a bit earlier.
Fabregas: 8 the orchestra leader is starting to get his band to hum in unison. Please let him be fit for the mancs.
Denilson: 9 statman is my Man of the Match today, he patrolled the area just in front of the back four with authority; his tackling was crisp, his passing precise, this man arrived today. I don’t care what it looked like on telly, this was a very, very commanding performance.
Arshavin: 8 another classy performance from our Russian gun.
RVP: 7 ten goals and our main striker hasn’t even scored…..but he will. The Boy Wonder is getting better and better as he becomes more familiar with his new role.
Eduardo: 8 I don’t remember him being so good on the left, I always got the impression that he was frustrated that he wasn’t playing centre forward, perhaps his injury has taught him patience, today he showed us all what we had been missing.
Ramsey: 8 yet another first team appearance that will do his confidence the world of good and a goal to boot.
Merida: 7 well done Fran, more of the same please.
Bendtner: 6 we were the ones in red, Nikki.