Arsenal v Sevilla

by JAMES CURTIS – With 10 minutes left on the clock and Arsenal 4-0 up at Molineux, a friend asked me who I thought was man of the match? Arsenal were scoring at will once again so you’d think it would be easy to pick a star man.
There were plenty of rewarding individual performances. Cesc Fabregas was incisive once again in his supporting role from midfield, scoring another goal to take him level with Van Persie as top scorer on eight in all competitions.
Cesc’s goal on the stroke of half-time was set up by the Dutchman with the deftest of lay-offs; a cushioned assist for a Spanish King. Van Persie was once again showing how acclimatised he is becoming in the forward role by linking nicely with those around him.
Add to that Andrey Arshavin’s well controlled snap-shot in the 66th minute that swung sweetly into the bottom corner and you have another contender, even if he didn’t quite replicate his three-assist running over of AZ during the week.
Still, with all these options the truth was I couldn’t find an answer to my friends question. However, this was only testament to Arsenal’s intricate tea-time team effort yesterday, and the man of the match award went straight to Arsenal, the collective individual.
After the game, Arsene Wenger stressed once again that there is a strong desire in the team.
“We want to strengthen our belief, but I think the most important factor is that we play for each other as we do, we focus on our performance, and that we continue to develop our style of play,“ he said. “To play at a high pace, our collective game.”
Wenger has always prided himself on building a winning group of players. Merely investing in one player because he is world class is not sufficient enough for Wenger. The player must be able to improve those around him and add to the team game. Yesterday, the ingredients of a combined effort were on show.
Last season – perhaps one before that – the pleasure of entertaining with eye candy football was missing at the Emirates. Yesterday was a sign that it is back. The group must love to do it, and I sense the male camaraderie is thriving in the dressing room as much as on the pitch.
Coming out after half-time Manuel Almunia was the subject of ridicule from his team-mates, probably an inside joke about his skunk-like hairstyle.
There were more smiles on the pitch when Van Persie pulled back a ball from the bye-line into Cesc’s path before the Spaniard ballooned it over. Substitute Samir Nasri had been placed better just behind Cesc yet saw the funnier side in his team-mate’s dismal attempt.
When Arsenal are smiling, they are often enjoying their football. A beaming Gunners team is often a relaxed one. It is healthy to see.
It’s also good environment for players such as Aaron Ramsey to enter too. The 18-year-old Welshman looked comfortable in his starting role yesterday, roaming about the pitch in Cesc-style with an eye to keep the ball moving forward.
It is an Arsenal education to spot spaces and move into them and Ramsay seems to apply this to his game. For Arsenal’s second – the first had been a Zubar own goal from Arsenal’s first corner – the teenager moved off knowing that if Arsenal stole the ball he would be slipped in on the counter-attack.
Ramsay guessed right and with a little help from a poorly placed referee Arsenal gained possession. With two touches Ramsay and Eduardo found themselves outnumbering the last Wolves defender. A little interchange and Eduardo attempted a chip which was fortuitously helped over the keeper and into the net by a faint deflection.
For the first 20 minutes Wolves had been on the offensive and Arsenal had to reign in their typical thirst for perpetual attacking and concentrate on not falling behind to an early goal.
When the ball was in play attackers made a willing effort to track back on Wolves. It was jittery but Arsenal worked industriously, getting tight on their men and staying alert for lose balls.
Arshavin – one player questioned for his neglect of defensive duty – was putting in a determined effort to hound midfielders. It was an improvement in his game and as a unit Arsenal withstood the pressure. You sensed it was only a matter of time before Wolves would tire and the Gunners would capitalise.
As the game wore on Arsenal stroked the ball around in training ground fashion. Wolves had made the mistake of trying to play against Arsenal with a high tempo from the outset and forgot to defend themselves when Zubar switched off.
After this Arsenal played a short passing game, linked up nicely with each other and brought their goals scored tally up to 36 for the season.
The only downer then was another late goal conceded, this time from a corner. In essence was a small blemish on a superior performance, but it will give teams in future games a small incentive, a weakness to expose Arsenal with. Stamp it out quick and teams like Wolves will be clutching at near to nothing.
Anyway, for those of you still wondering, Bacary Sagna was the official man of the match. It was his guided cross which had fallen pin-point into the feet of Van Persie for Arsenal’s third.
His right back position was a dead-end for Robbie Keane against Spurs last weekend and there was rarely any danger down his side against Wolves. Sagna often goes unnoticed and his award yesterday was in many ways just.
However, Arsenalinsider Man of the Match Award goes to: Arsenal.
You don’t get more official than that.