Awesome Arsenal restore faith in beautiful game
There’s an awful lot of rubbish served up in the name of good football and a lot of hype is shovelled out by self-interested media types desperate to promote “the product”.
One TV anchor man was so desperate to sell the sport he regularly described tedious goalless draws televised live on his show as “fabulous”, “amazing”, “what a great advert for the game,” when everyone watching knew they were absolute dross.
In total contrast anyone watching Arsenal’s 7-0 demolition of Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Tuesday knew they were watching something so special they will speak about it for years to come.
It was one of those performances that can define a season, define a team or even define an era in a club’s history, although the way Arsenal are playing right now, it might not be the last time they demolish their opponents in such awesome fashion.
Sports journalists, if they are lucky enough to stick around for long enough, periodically get lucky and see these defining moments unfold before their very eyes.
I can reel off a few personal favourites.
Greatest game: the 1982 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and France which the Germans won on penalties after Harald Schumacher sent Patrick Battiston off to hospital with an elbow in the face.
Greatest goal? A toss-up between Ricky Villa’s slalom through the Manchester City defence for Spurs to win the 1981 FA Cup final replay OR Zinedine Zidane’s thunderous volley which gave Real Madrid their ninth European Cup final success in Glasgow in 2002.
Greatest devastating seven minutes of attacking football which produced three goals to renew your faith in the beautiful game? Arsenal on Tuesday night at the Emirates Stadium.
My pick of the three was the one Aleksandr Hleb scored after the most amazing pass from Cesc Fabregas. Or perhaps it was Fabregas’s which rounded off a sweeping Arsenal move from one end of the field to the other, or perhaps it was Theo Walcott’s with the outside of his right foot. I’m not sure yet, each one was as good, if not better than the other.
Don’t worry if you missed them. They will be shown repeatedly on TV for a while yet.
Arsenal were simply awesome on Tuesday. Their passing was spot on, their teamwork almost telepathic. Ahead 3-0 by the interval they could have rested on their laurels, but that is not coach Arsene Wenger’s way. He told them to score more if they could — and they did.
In essence, there was very little to fault in their display. But as I left the press box I overheard one fan say to his mate: “Shame about that Rosicky shot that hit the bar. He should have scored that.”
Some people are just never satisfied. Arsenal had just scored seven goals to equal their own European winning margin, and equal the all-time record established in the Champions League when Juventus beat Olympiakos Pireaus in 2003.
Perfection is rarely achieved in football, but Arsenal came as close to anything I have seen for a long while on Tuesday.
Mike Collett, Reuters Soccer Correspondent, London
PHOTO: Arsenal’s Theo Walcott celebrates after scoring against Slavia Prague during their Champions League Group H soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London, October 23, 2007. REUTERS/Toby Melville