Arsene Wenger spoke of change, but there was little in terms of personnel, but only Samir Nasri came in for a much improved Emmanuel Eboue. While he appealed to the media’s demand for drastic change in his words, the boss knows what he wants and that was focus from his team. Fabregas showed this focus with a sharp tackle to stop any chance of a Porto spell of possession. There were signs of anxiety with the ball being give
 n away twice in quick succession, but both Porto attacks fortunately broke down for the nervous Arsenal defence.
The first Arsenal move saw the ball being switched from left to right, with Adebayor feeding in Walcott, whose near-post shot was saved by Helton for a corner, which as usual was unsuccessful, despite causing some danger. Arsenal were playing at a high tempo and some good possession culminated in a curling Van Persie effort, which was palmed away by Helton, who cut an imposing figure. Porto showed their threat in a counter-attack on ten minutes, with birthday boy Christian Rodriquez finishing a sharp attack, by heading against the bar, with Almunia well beaten.
Patient possession by the home side resulted in Fabregas spotting a Van Persie run and supplying the Dutchman with a lofted ball, which Van Persie drove into the ground and the ball looped over the bar, as the Gunners began to exert their influence on the game. Fabregas was on form, with a one touch pass straight into the path of Walcott whose subsequent cross was blocked for a corner. A well-worked corner by Arsenal happened again, with a short pass to Van Persie was followed by a drop of the shoulder and a swift turn, but his cross was met by a weak Adebayor header.
Once more, William Gallas raided forward, but Nasri was unable to feed him. The Gunners were sold short at the back once more with Almunia forced into a diving save against Lisandro Lopez. The resulting corner highlighted our set-piece difficulties, with Clichy having to clear off the line and Toure forced into a last ditch clearance. The threat was evident and to quell it Arsenal would have to remain concentrated, with Denilson’s pointless flick and loss of possession deviating from the focus the manager called for.
Yet the attackers were focussed and clearly in the picture, unlike on Saturday, as Fabregas fed an onside Adebayor, who paused and waited for the near post run of Robin Van Persie who stabbed the ball home for a 1-0 lead. The strikers combined well, with criticism of their inability to link up in attacking play notable in recent days. The officials were consistent in their ability to give corners on two occasions where the goalkeeper did not get a touch on the ball (first from Walcott’s effort, then from Costa’s shot). Yet from a corner which was rightly given, the other criticised striker in Emmanuel Adebayor headed down into the ground, with the ball bouncing in off the bar. Arsenal finally scored from a set-piece, after being awarded a huge number of corners this season.
Nasri continued to lift the mood on his return from injury, escaping the attentions of two Porto players with a delightful turn and nutmeg. The first half ended with Arsenal leading, but it was not without worrying moments for the Emirates outfit. Porto reacted by bringing on club talisman Lucho Gonzalez, who missed the weekend game through injury. I’ll admit, I was very critical of Robin Van Persie over the weekend, but having taken Walcott’s pass, he ghosted past Bruno Alves and prodded the ball into the far corner. This is the striker we want to see, and even on a bad day, he needs to at least impress through work rate. Soon after, Walcott sprinted down the flank and crossed for Nasri, who was beaten to the ball by the defender. Arsenal toyed with the Portuguese champions, who created havoc in their on box, due to some desire not to clear their lines. Soon after Toure, who stayed up from the resulting corner after a strong period of pressure, fed Walcott, who shot wide, with the whole goal to aim at.
Nasri had a similar attempt, after a remarkable counter attack from a shanked clearance from Toure, which soon ended up at the feet of Walcott. The young winger outpaced his marker with much to spare and cut back, but the ball arrived at an awkward height for Nasri. The Marseille favourite knocked the ball wide with his thigh as he tried to outdo Walcott’s miss, which was considerably worse. Soon after Adebayor volleyed Sagna’s low cross wide. Then both clubs made a number of changes, with Nasri and Van Persie off for Eboue and Bendtner. On the Porto side, Hulk came on for Raul Meireles. Arsenal continued to knock on the Porto door as Helton spilled a Fabregas shot, but the big Brazilian recovered well to block Adebayor’s follow up. The goals continued as Guarin made an impatient hack on Bendtner, with Adebayor sending Helton the wrong way to make it 4-0.
Surely the celebratory jig between Adebayor and Eboue was worth the entrance fee alone. Walcott came off having taken a knock a few minutes earlier and on came the fans’ latest hero, Carlos Vela. The brilliant Mexican dribbled past a number of players in the box and laid it off to Bendtner, who had his initial effort blocked and having fallen off balance, he swung a leg at the ball and his effort went out for a throw in. Even Arsene Wenger could see what there was to laugh about in a comic high point of an assured second half performance. There was even an Adebayor offside and it took 81 minutes!
Bendtner showed direct, aggressive running as he drove into the box and slipped in Adebayor who slid his shot wide. Eboue comfortably added his name into the award for the worst miss of the evening whilst also attempting a trick and forgetting the ball. At least there’s never a dull moment with the Ivorian. The game ended 4-0, but should have been more. The Champions league campaign will rely on the home games and this was a good start and an antidote to THAT game.