Arsenal 3-0 Sparta Prague
Another European night, another win, and Arsenal are through. Only two teams have gathered up all twelve points from the opening four matches, and we of course are one of them (Olympique Lyonnais being the other).
OK, OK, calm down – our group is arguably the easiest of the eight, but still, last night we played some beautiful stuff, scored two exquisite goals and you can’t say fairer than that. Henry was marvellous, as was Bergkamp, while van Persie was – again – a revelation when he came on. That boy has talent.
And let’s not forget the subject of much debate over the last few days – Jose Antonio Reyes. Back on the left wing, he was permanently busy and – dare I say it – looked a lot more comfortable.
When Arsenal click as they did at times last night, it’s great to see, and it’s especially so when you consider we’ve struggled for form in the league. Obviously, much of the skill and confidence pours through Thierry Henry, so let’s hope he can now stay fit. If we want to make an impression in the later stages of this competition, we need him. It really is as simple as that.
Must I take negatives from this? Well, Almunia, for me, was not convincing (I’m not picking on him – it’s just the truth). He did make one good reflex save, but his kicking was appalling, and he just gives off the aura of being a flapper. Against better opposition, there’d be more pressure, so for me he remains as he has always been – unconvincing.
Now I wasn’t there, but from my vantage point (a chair in front of a telly), the atmosphere seemed strangely subdued too. I know Highbury has been getting quieter and quieter for years, but when the commentator quipped that “there have been noisier graveyards”, you know what he means. My theory is that we’ve been so impressive for so long that, as a group of fans, we find it hard to rouse ourselves against all but the toughest opposition. Thus, you get crackling atmospheres for the top five matches, but not much at other times. It’s just a theory, but there’s some truth in it.