Arsenal verses Alkmaar 2009: this was not a beery, blood and guts affair of Tottenham in the League or a high energy, alcoho pop fuelled Carling Cup encounter with Liverpool, this Champions League game was a fine red wine for the football connoisseur.
An excellent selection by Wenger: a blend of player that complemented each other with the depth of Gallas and Vermaelen and the much anticipated combination of Fabregas, Arshavin and Nasri. No sooner had the bottle been opened we knew we were in for some smooth, sophisticated, controlled football, nothing was done in a rush, all was measured. But, like all good wines they need some time to breath and the same was true to this game; for twenty five minutes we sat back savouring the aromatic football until in the twenty sixth minute it burst into life with a goal of precision, twenty five yards out from our noble Captain.
This broke the ice and gave the signal for the soiree to loosen up a bit, we didn’t have to wait long for the waiter to come around to top up our glasses again when a delightful pass from the Russian maestro found the returning Nasri who swivelled then poured forward before opening a low drive, with the power of a cork being released from a Champagne bottle, into the corner past the helpless goalkeeper.
The party began in earnest with the conversation largely made up of excited speculation of just how good a year this could turn out to be. The interval took nothing away from the tonight’s tasting — this game had depth. More bottles were opened and more goals were scored; Fabregas being put through by Arshavin fired the ball home with aplomb.
The forth gave me the most satisfaction. This goal took me right back to Highbury: the back heel from Eduardo was pure Bergkamp, the run and the cross from Arshavin was Pires and the control and finish from Diaby was Henry – yes Henry.
The ball did not arrive in front of Diaby, it was slightly behind him, giving him a lot more work to do than should have been necessary but he did it superbly well, at speed; gathering it with his left foot before moving it to his right foot and then finishing in style, vintage 2004. This French phenomenon is not to everyone’s taste, many people argue it is too early, he is not ready. But, despite having been subject to a larger range of criticisms than there are wines in France, when he gets in front of the goal he rarely disappoints.
A special mention to Big Raddy, I wish you both happiness for the future.