The 4-1 thumping of Alkmaar in midweek was an immensely satisfying affair, a triumph of footballing philosophy over the defensive nous of coaches such as Ronald Koeman, and yet another demonstration that this Arsenal team is serious about combining footballing beauty with tangible success.
But prior the the match, there was a definite sense of relaxation amongst the fans, as if the game really didn’t matter, so assured was our progress regardless of the result. On the one hand, the simplicity of the group combined with seven points from three games made that view understandable, but on the other hand, consider this:
a) The weekend after matchday five, we face Chelsea at the Emirates
b) The weekend after matchday six, we travel to Anfield
Chelsea confirmed their qualification on Tuesday, and as such can rotate for their next two games, keeping players fresh for the game against us. Also, if Fiorentina beat Lyon at home in the next round, Liverpool will actually have nothing to play for in their final game, and will also rest players.
Results elsewhere meant that the Alkmaar victory did not guarantee our qualification, but only mathematics get in the way, and a draw at home to Liege will render the tricky trip to Olympiakos meaningless, the ideal situation given the domestic fixtures surrounding those two games.
All of this means we can shift our focus away from European competition for a while, while allowing those who aren’t getting many games (Eduardo comes to mind) valuable time on the pitch. In certain areas of the field, notably up front, we have huge resources at our disposal, and we need them ready and sharp for the busy Christmas period.
The match itself was tremendous, Cesc’s two goals and Arshavin’s three assists perfectly summing their displays up, while Nasri slotted seamlessly back into the side after his injury. It was a joy to watch.
Away from the field, Stan Kroenke has purchased a further 200 shares, half of which have come from Peter Hill-Wood, as ringing an endorsement as you’ll likely to hear from the current board. Kroenke is now right on the line of having to make an offer for the entire club, but for all the media speculation, there is nothing to suggest this is forthcoming, or even that the offer would be accepted if it arrived.
The story continues to rumble behind the scenes, but the board are the custodians of the club, and if they are happy with what they see (and they seem to be), then I guess we have to trust them to a certain extent. The ‘Silent Stan’ moniker is regularly bandied around, but you can be sure that his communication lines with the likes of Hill-Wood are fully open. Watch this space, I guess.
And that’s it for now. I’ll be back later with a Wolves preview and a new round-up feature for the blog. Stay tuned.