At last a football performance to measure the fragrance of potential that has been sprayed in the North London air for many years. Finally on a big European stage it could be smelled in from afar cities as Barcelona, Milan and Manchester.
Arsenal’s 5 star unleaded performance against Porto was arguably the best all season, in particular Nicklas Bendtner. Now as an Arsenal fan, I find I am regularly trying ways (with work colleagues) to defend the inclusion of Bendtner who deserved his hat-trick, to be blunt he is frustrating, very frustrating. But at the same time Arsenal fans best get used to it!! “Why?” I hear is the cry? Because ‘number 52’ is the only man in Wenger’s locker who hasn’t got twinkle ‘Fred Astaire’ toes and runs like a Road Runner! He does however hold the ball up well, allows Arsenal to play a more direct approach and has a knack of getting in the right place to score (or miss as he did against Burnley) goals.
His first and second goals on Tuesday night were evidence of that, the first was a sheer desire to get there before the Porto defence – thanks to Arshavin’s tenacity – and the 2nd was knowing exactly what the Russian was going to do, right place, right time.
The real stars of the night were Alex Song and Samir Nasri who poly-filled the ‘Fabregas’ role with ease, and all night was getting beyond the Porto defence and with a wonderful goal that showcased his individual ability and poured cold water on Porto just as they were starting to create pressure. This is exactly what Wenger and fans wanted to see, a player who can take the mantle without heavily relying on Fabregas to carry the team, Nasri has that.
As for Alex Song, he will have a massive part to play if Arsenal is going to be successful this season. Tuesday night’s role was to sit and protect the back four, break up loose play and get Arsenal going forward. Again, full marks. He is aggressive, strong with very good technical ability – Song and Diaby complement each other very well in midfield and were too much for Porto to handle.
Along all the celebrations and plaudits they still have defensive issues that will need to be addressed. For the first 15 minutes of the second half Arsenal looked nervous as Porto had dominated a passage of play and were threatening to score and change the game completely, albeit none of the chances were clear-cut. Clichy is still not showing his best form since returning from injury and Campbell was clearly nervous making his home debut at the Emirates. They will need to learn to ‘tough it out’ and ‘shut up shop’ because future opposition will prove to be a tougher test than the Portuguese champions.
Overall a great night for Arsenal and Nicklas Bendtner and a clear message of the quality they posses to win European football’s biggest prize.