Thursday, 16 September 2010

Arsenal 6-0 Braga

Arsenal and Braga play very similar styles of play with lovely passing movements and inter-play but this evening it was the London club who showed the pretenders how it is really done and ended up tearing the Portuguese side apart. Braga may have only lost narrowly away at Porto at the weekend but this evening at the Emirates was a short shrifted welcome to the Champions League proper.

Arsenal were dominant right from the first whistle and never looked back. Within three minutes they even had a penalty appeal turned down. Braga, to be fair to them, did try and play their normal expansive game rather than sit back and defend (like most teams would have done at the Emirates) but this did allow the Gunners to play their traditional, stylish brand of football.

We only had to wait eight minutes for the first goal as Chamakh was played through but brought down by Felipe in the Braga goal. The Brazilian stopper received a yellow card for his troubles and even went the right way for the subsequent penalty. Fabregas though knew what he was doing and Arsenal opened their account.

This first goal didn't scare Braga off but rather they settled into the game and began to ask some questions of the Arsenal defence. Their backline though rarely looked out of sorts and the home side continued to control the game with almost two-thirds of possession. They also persisted in stretching the Braga backline in search of goal number two. This came after 30 minutes when some fantastic work by Fabregas allowed Arshavin through and the Russian beat Felipe at the near post; a goalkeeping cardinal sin.

We then only had to wait four minutes for number three which came courtesy of yet more beautiful inter-play between the Arsenal team. It was Wilshire who eventually got the assist with a beautiful flick through which was polished off by Chamakh. It would be unfair to say Braga were clueless because Arsenal were just so good. Even when the home side weren't in possession they continued to press and the visitors simply could not maintain a period of sustained possession themselves.

After the break Braga still looked for a way back into the game but the truth of the matter was that the Gunners were far too good to concede. The game and Braga were, for me, killed off completely in the 53rd minute when the Portuguese sides defence was once again unlocked with apparent ease and a cross floated in by Arshavin found Fabregas unmarked at the backpost who had a simple header for his second and the team's fourth.

Arsenal continued to push and Fabregas, Chamakh and Arshavin all had a chance to add a fifth before substitute Carlos Vela finally did the honours only five minutes after coming on. The game was already over by this point anyway and by the time Vela got the sixth in the 84th minute a number of fans may have already left the stadium.

A dominant and confident start to Arsenal's Champions League campaign then and whilst Braga weren't awful, per se, they were vastly out-classed. The Gunners now face an interesting juxtaposition of games as they travel up North for Saturday's clash with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. It might be a fair assessment to say that this will be the harder game. Arsenal are allowed to play their free-flowing, attractive football in Europe but domestically it is teams like Sunderland that really know how to get under their skin and stop them playing by whatever means necessary. Wenger needs to learn how to adapt to this if his team are to be as successful in the Premier League as they are in the Champions League.

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