Alkmaar Capitulate As Arsenal Has A Good Night’s Work
UEFA Champions League Group Phase, Matchday 4
Arsenal 4 – 1 AZ67 Alkmaar
1 – 0 Cesc (26)
2 – 0 Nasri (43)
3 – 0 Cesc (52)
4 – 0 Diaby (72)
4 – 1 Lens (82)
When the draw was made for the Group phase, the group was deemed to be very much a straightforward exercise in qualification. It is being made thus. Bar for a late slip in Alkmaar, that objective would have been sealed last night. As it is, we wait until the visit of Standard Liege in three weeks time for that aim to be achieved.
It was a win where class shone through, as Ronald Koeman admitted afterwards, even if he did fall into the trap of believing that experience was still lacking from a team of internationals. Yet it was the tenth straight home win this season and if that is not a club record, then it must surely be very close to it. Never will the wins have been delivered with such style.
Such was the comfort with which victory was achieved, Arsene was able to substitute his trio of jewels in the crown with time to spare, no doubt much to the chagrin of Mick McCarthy. Fabregas and Arshavin were the undoubted headliners, two goals and three assists respectively are not to be argued with.
Arsenal set about the Dutch side from the kick-off. The midfield spiders spun their web before feeding van Persie on the edge of the area, his angled shot appeared to be saved but no corner was given, barely four minutes on the clock. Before the quarter hour mark, the Dutchman would have his chance when Romero handled a backpass. Refereeing decisions often attract the opprobrium of the masses and not forcing the wall onto the goal-line is one such way of doing so, van Persie striking the barrier.
Alkmaar’s problems were sitting too far off Arsenal; failing to tackle when a team with the technique and comfort on the ball is inviting trouble. Had no-one told Koeman and his charges that Arsenal are not typically English in their outlook? A bigger liability emerged in the shape of their goalkeeping hero last time around. Romero may have produced some astonishing saves in Holland but to allow Fabregas’ opener to crawl into the corner of the net was almost as shameful as the space that was afforded William Gallas.
His paseo covered the length and breadth of the pitch before finding the mercurial Spaniard in space. Twenty five yards out and he concentrated on keeping the ball down and getting it on target. Whilst the new design makes the flight difficult to judge, Romero cannot offer such an excuse for failing to stop Fabregas’ shot. The net barely rippled as the ball came to rest.
Chances were arriving on a regular basis for the hosts. AZ67 had a couple of shots which failed to trouble Almunia, principally because they were either straight at him or wildy wide. As the interval twinkled fluttered its seductive eyelids, Gibbs was freed on the left, his centre met by Fabregas but alas no increase to the lead. That came through the returning Samir Nasri. Arshavin slipped the ball to the Frenchman who swayed his hips in a manner that caused Jessica Rabbit to turn green with envy, Moreno left gawping as Nasri strode into the area and slotted home. Breathing space with barely two minutes remaining in the opening half.
If the first half was one-sided, the second showed no tendency to diverge from that path. Whilst neither side entirely dominated the opening exchanges, the visitors offered little resistance. Eight minutes in and the fatal blow was handed to Alkmaar although there is merit in the argument that prefers the kick-off to be that serious to the Dutch side. Eight minutes in and Fabregas added his second for the evening.
Diaby snaffled possession, releasing the ball to Arshavin. Artfully dodgy trouble is a trademark of the Russian, his mind alive to the opportunities whilst defenders seek to recover position. This time Fabregas was the benefactor, free in space on the left before racing into the error and sending the ball into the near side of the goal whilst furtively glancing to the far post.
Alkmaar almost responded in kind. Pelle found himself free on the edge of the six yard box, Almunia had his ‘Banks’ moment, turning the ball onto the bar. If Green and Foster could do it to Arsenal, Almunia proved we can do it to others.
If Fabregas showed finesse in finishing, his goal was outdone by Diaby. The Frenchman has garnered a lot of interest and media coverage this past week, deciding to prove his manager correct in his assertion that the midfielder’s instincts are to attack. Eduardo had just joined the party and provided a neat little piece, an outrageous backheel that sent Arshavin into space. The Russian squared to Diaby, albeit apparently too firmly. Diaby produced a Gadget-esque extension of his leg, controlled the ball and finished with some aplomb.
Rout complete, now we waited for the game to be closed out or a soft late goal to be conceded. It was the latter and soft does not even begin to describe how it looked. If Almunia produced a Banks moment earlier, this was pure Robinson. Lens, the club, proved a barrier in the past for Arsenal in Europe but last night the player was an irritant. Irratingly for Almunia, he shifted his weight too much in guessing where the shot was going and guessed wrong, watching as forlornly as a commuter seeing his train pull out of the station, the ball sliding past the Spaniard into the other corner.
The opposition was so poor that criticising player performances is an exercise in futility. Arshavin and Fabregas were outstanding, Nasri excellent on his return to proper first team action although Liverpool were a sterner test than Alkmaar. Gibbs and Eboue were fine as full backs, revelling in the space and time afforded them going forward. Little surprise that there is a growing feeling that Gibbs may yet go to South Africa to work next summer as his recovery speed and tackling is excellent.
Forward to Wolverhampton on Saturday, momentum gathering just as the international break approaches. Keeping it going once that break is over will go a long way to deciding how successful this season will be. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on November 5, 2009, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, AZ67 Alkmaar, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 236 Comments.