Celtic 0-2 Arsenal
Let’s get something straight here: Arsenal’s goals may have been a tad fortunate last night (a ‘backer’ from Gallas and an own goal from Gary Scoredwell), but Arsenal earned their luck and more than merited the first English success at Parkhead since 1983. Once that first goal went in, we were in complete control of the match. In the second half, we dominated.
I thought Celtic played well, throwing everything they had at us, and it was a good, physical, high tempo scrap.
It was a very, very encouraging evening overall. Scrappy at times, yes, but we dealt extremely well with everything.
I don’t want to tempt fate here, given we’re only two games in and with Arsenal’s injury record, Gallas could easily sprain an ankle tripping over a ketchup bottle and Vermaelen could come down with scurvy, but our defence looked pretty solid. Both central defenders deserve praise – the former marauded about all night and look an absolute snip at £10m, while the latter has started the season as bright as a button. In fact, he’s now our joint top scorer.
Song and Denilson, too, have begun the campaign very well. Song, in particular, was calm, composed, crisp in the tackle and mopped up like a demon. I would have struggled to write such complimentary words, had the tail-end of last season not threatened this – and as far as humble pie goes, I’m prepared to munch it all night – but he really has come on leaps and bounds. Arsenal.com might still be listing Song as a defender, but surely last night’s performance proved that he’s really anything but. He’s a midfield anchor, at the moment.
Wenger said of him:
“In the last two games Song has played extremely well. He can win the fight, not only with physical strength but he has that sense to nick the ball from his opponent without giving away the foul. That’s a very interesting quality.”
Up front, we worked hard and carved a few chances out, but Celtic closed well and there wasn’t much doing.
It’s far too early to make any judgments about where the Arsenal are, compared to last season, but there are some really encouraging signs that there’s a hunger there, and a steely determination, and that bodes well. Whether some of these players have stepped up a gear – well again, that’s hard to gauge at this stage, but the early signs are good. We’re scrapping hard as well as creating, we’re matching teams physically, we’re defending well, and all this with the usual arsenal of injuries (a worryingly apt collective noun).
The mood is buoyant.
On to Saturday…