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Gunners Hit Poor Porto For Four

Having dislocated my jaw as I left the office for the game last night and then pulled some neck muscles reinserting it, I had the awkward feeling that, contrary to my over riding feelings that we would win comfortably, perhaps it would be one of those nights. (Besides which I have dislocated my jaw about fifteen bloody times now, you`d have thought the pain would become more manageable). Anyway, enough about my oral functions (ooh err), what we needed was a response and having seen the team line ups in the Tavern reveal that only Eboue would make way from the team that haemorrhaged so badly against Hull, I was more convinced than ever that the manager had given the culprits I outlined from that game in such lurid detail a good shoeing.

Cobwebs from Saturday were still apparent in the opening minutes as the team appeared to be gripped by nerves. Though that is a slightly more assuring sign than a team in the grip of arrogance and apathy. A couple of early Porto corners had the crowd nervous, a feeling exacerbated when Almunia elected to punch a corner he should easily have taken. Indeed Port forced the first real opportunity of the game, ironically from an Arsenal corner. The Portuguese side swept down field in true Invincibles style, Costa went racing down the right hand side as Rodriguez powered into the area, Costa`s cross was pinpoint and Rodriguez connected with a firm downward header which clipped the crossbar on its way over. Fabregas had let Rodriguez drift past him, leaving Toure to fight manfully back and just do enough to rush the Uruguayan. The concerns surrounding the defensive capabilities of the midfield remain. The concerns became enlarged minutes later when Lisandro Lopez was allowed time to line up a shot from thirty yards and let fly, Almunia stretching full length to beat his effort out with a smart save. My concerns about Manuel are slowly fading. The resulting corner was not cleared effectively by Toure and the ball ran loose to Lisandro again, but his close range effort was brilliantly blocked on the line by Gael Clichy. Had any of those chances rustled our net, it might have been a different game.

But the warning was heeded and the Gunners sparked into life, Cesc and the front two in particular took responsibility. Having looked listless and disinterested since his brilliant performance against Blackburn, van Persie began to show for the ball and link with his midfield again, a priceless function which gives our attack greater variety than when we are forced to punt aimless balls at Adebayor. Fabregas received the ball on the edge of the area and threaded the eye of the needle to feed Adebayor on the right hand touchline. Ade showed a calmness in the area that he certainly didn`t have in 2006 and waited for his strike partner to come and join him. Van Persie did just that, showing an insatiable desire to meet the ball, bustling Alves out of the way to convincingly meet Adebayor`s cutback. I can only infer, but I`ve a feeling van Persie and Ade had the manager`s words ringing in their ears, because they were playing like they had actually met each other before. Shortly before half time, the two would link up again, albeit in slightly less contrived circumstances. Van Persie and Cesc stopped performing their ineffective corner routine and Robin plain old swung the ball into the mixer guv, the byword once again was desire as Adebayor craned his neck to superbly head the ball down as it bounced in off the underside of the crossbar. In fact, it was a similar effort to Rodriguez`s earlier header which hit the bar and went out. When that sort of thing goes against you, it makes you feel a bit like Bruce Banner when they hit him with gamma rays. When it goes for you, well you just tend to ignore it.
Three minutes after half time, it was very much a case of job done. A much improved Gallas collected the ball on the right hand side, tucked the ball into Walcott who had Porto peddling backwards, he slipped a disguised ball to van Persie which both van Persie and Bruno Alves seemed to let the ball run, but yet again the Dutchman showed greater desire to muscle Alves out of the way before toe poking the ball past Helton. (Who looked like he was wearing some dodgy pyjamas). I hope this signals a renaissance for RvP, who looked generally much more rumbustuous and willing to fight for the team, the fact that he bagged himself two goals in doing so was a rewarding by product of the unselfish play he exhibited so well in the games against Newcastle and Blackburn. Keep it up Robin, there isn`t a sane man on earth who`d question the man`s talent, but exterior factors still loom large, feel free to continue dispelling them.

The Gunners were on fire at this point, Toure sprinted over to Fabregas for a short corner completely untracked and cut a smart cross back to Walcott in the six yard area, who somehow managed to rebound the ball wide. Minutes later, Theo got the engine warmed up and careered down the right flank, leaving Costa trailing in his wake, his first attempted to cross rebounded back to him, leaving Theo to pick his man, firing a cross into the box which was met by Nasri, but with the force on the ball he could only thigh it wide. Nasri demonstratably bought us another dimension, his movement is constant, once he has released possession on the flank, he immediately races into a central position to become involved. This was exemplified in the first half when, in his own half and facing his own goal, he delightfully nutmegged Meireles before arcing a beautiful crossfield ball to Sagna, before racing in field to join up play.

Wenger bought on Bendtner and Eboue who made lasting impressions for different reasons. Bendtner`s first involvement was unfortunate when Adebayor tried to tackle him. But when left with free reign with the ball, he cut infield from the right before lifting a lovely ball into the path of Adebayor in the area, but he snatched at his effort as it went wide. Bendtner would again be at the forefront when he was tripped by Guarin in the area with twenty minutes left. Adebayor predictably placed his penalty low and to the keeper`s left and was again successful. The resulting dance with Eboue appears to be the only routine he is varying in this situation! The badge kissing was again unnecessary and a bit unsightly. Keep doing your talking on the pitch, when you kiss the badge you just remind everybody of what a dick you were this summer. I know that when I act like a dick I usually do my best to let people forget. By now it was party time when Vela came on for Walcott, and he immediately made a huge impression. His touch is so easy and comfortable in tight situations and he proved it with a mazy dribble through a sea of blue and white bodies in the area, he should really have passed to Bendtner in space on the six yard line, the ball scrambled its way to Super Nick anyway, but his effort was blocked by Alves. The true piece de resistance came from Eboue in injury time, having successfully executed seven light speed step overs on the edge of the Porto area; he promptly tripped over the ball. A moment worth its weight in comedy gold as most around me were falling off their chairs laughing. Had the score been 0-0 at the time I think most would have fallen off their seats in fits of rage.

At the final whistle all of the players notably made a sustained effort to acknowledge the supporters, only Gallas has executed that particular courtesy on Saturday. Given most of the press junkets I`ve seen from the players this morning, I would suggest that that was a contrived move. It barely makes up for the fact that eight of them walked off without acknowledging us in Kiev though. It was a rousing response and one we needed to lift the veil of doom that has engulfed the club since Saturday. However, it may have been a very different game had Porto converted one of their early chances and once we assumed the lead, their heads really dropped. Nobody is in any doubt as to what we can do to teams that allow us to have our wicked way, but Sunderland won`t be doing that on Saturday and it`s important that the marked improvements in performance and attitude from the strikers and Gallas continues to Saturday and beyond. This has to be it now, the players need not be in any doubt as to what happens when they allow concentration levels to drop and the manager has to make sure this is no short term geyser in the desert before settling back into comfortable complacency in three games time. The pleasing cameos from Bendtner and Vela should keep the front two on their toes and I saw Gallas get a mouthful from the manager at Bolton which suggests he is in last chance saloon. The axe must be hovering like the sword of Damocles ever o`er their heads to ensure the Hull hell is never to be repeated.LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday October 1 2008

Time: 11:48AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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now this is a proper match report. not the load of junk served on other sites
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01/10/2008 12:06:00

Great result. Ironically, we at Pompey are off to play Porto's neighbours in our first ever European away game. Exciting for us 'oldies' after 30+ years of support. Thankfully most of the team have been there & done it etc. Portugal here we come!!!
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01/10/2008 12:12:00

You could say that Porto got Eboued!
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01/10/2008 12:25:00

hope u guys finish the job u startd storagematt
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01/10/2008 12:39:00

Glass half empty or half full LD?
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01/10/2008 13:24:00

Not one mention of Denilson which pretty much encapsulated his performance, not enough character from him and didn't do enough.
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01/10/2008 13:25:00

If the glass is half full then you've been nursing your pint too long and need to get a wiggle on! Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!
Little Dutch
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01/10/2008 13:27:00

I don't support Arsenal but I thought that last night's match was extremely entertaining with football played the correct way. A joy to watch.
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01/10/2008 13:31:00

Nice match to watch, nice match report to read. Yeah Hazza I was also watching Denilson as he's supposedly the DM again. There's a few occasions where he ran up field leaving Cesc dropping deep. I'm still not sure if it's an instruction from the boss that they both shared attacking and defensive duties. But DM he is not. And Storagematt, the best of luck to you guys, enjoy the European trip to Portugal! :)
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01/10/2008 14:07:00

Let's not forget to thank Storagematt for helping add to the misery of Bottomham!
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01/10/2008 14:12:00

The badge kissing is his way of showing love for the fans. he doesn't think of it like we do. he is just a jolly African. Leave him alone.
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01/10/2008 14:37:00

I could've defended single-handedly against the Arsenal better than Porto's whole defense did yesterday!
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01/10/2008 15:04:00

Not to take anything away from your victory but Porto were quite poor. You should've played a game with them - give them the ball and counted the seconds until you got it back.
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01/10/2008 15:06:00

4:0 and we should have scored more. Great to leave the game with a smile on one's face. Thanks Arsenal!
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01/10/2008 15:58:00

Forgot to mention in the report that this no marks nine eyars since I have missed a home game. Thought that was worth mentioning :-)
Little Dutch
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01/10/2008 16:22:00

ForeverUnited, exactly right. Great result but frankly the same old problems were still there against a team that basically gave up playing.
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01/10/2008 17:25:00

We should have lost on purpose then.
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01/10/2008 17:30:00

Proper match report. That's what I've been missing. Though the start was a touch slow, I feel the lads kicked it up a notch as soon as Porto looked the slightest bit dangerous. RvP and Ade finally showed that they can be a tangible partnership and IMO the final scoreline should have been closer to 6-0. How did Eboue pick out the one spot in the goal where someone was sitting? Just waiting for the end of the season to flash our silverware in the faces of the doubters.
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01/10/2008 17:32:00

Frankly, I think we have a much, much better chance of winning the Champions League than the Premiership. I wonder if, even subconsciously, Wenger feels the same.
Little Dutch
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01/10/2008 19:11:00

Fascinating comment, LD.
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01/10/2008 19:13:00

9 years: that's some record! Good game last night but my fears have not been entirely alleviated. Highlight of the match for me: Mr Eboue's out-dribbling himself. This team likes to have fun. For all his occasional poor behaviour, Eboue is loved in the dressing-room and what i hear from ivorian friends who have met him is that he is very funny and can't stop dancing. Top man.
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01/10/2008 19:28:00

Good one LD. A much better performance and although some fans still see the same old weaknesses, perhaps, we're reading too much into it. I mean, we cannot expect a perfect performance from the team every time, and we should be able to properly celebrate a good 4-0 win. No mention of Theo's disappointing final ball, LD. I thought he terrorised the Porto left side with his pace, but his final ball and finishing composure still need a lot of work. Overall, still a good game for the lad.
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01/10/2008 19:51:00

LD and Jaelle: I feel the same too, since Hull.
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01/10/2008 20:09:00

Every team has more chance of winning the CL than the Premiership because of the less amount of games but we are far more suited to this than the Premier League. I feel that if we finished second in the PL ad in the semis of the CL fans would not have been as bothered by last season, but we were just slightly off.
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01/10/2008 20:14:00

Quite why the CL is not as difficult to win as the PL:,17033,8742_4234237,00.html
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02/10/2008 11:18:00


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