Next generation Arsenal prove they are the real deal
Last night Arsenal completed the job of knocking the famous Real Madrid out of the Champions League by competing in a thrilling - and yes its an oxymoron! - nil-nil draw at Highbury. The enormous sprit, the attacking style of play, and the visible growth in confidence across the team that was evident in both matches are all so heartening for this Gunner - and I'm sure all other Gunners' - to see.
Every Arsenal player - just as in the first leg - played their hearts out, knew and looked confident in their assigned roles, and played the Wenger vision of total football that must be close to anyone's definition of beautiful football. Arsene Wenger's next generation team is - as already said last Saturday by the Fulham manager Chris Coleman - ready now.
Eboue and Hleb have showed in the last fortnight that Arsene Wenger may have found a right-hand side combination that can be the offensive equal of our excellent left-hand side. Eboue is a superstar in the making. He has absolutely everything: heart, pace, strength, excellent defensive awareness, strong tackling ability, thrilling attacking drive, confidence, composure, good passing range… as I said he has everything! And Hleb came out of the shadows yesterday to show everyone his massive potential: his attacking dribbling and ability to beat a player in tight situations is fantastic. Once he gets a bit more composure when playing his final pass, plus loses his reluctance to shoot when in good positions, he could become REALLY good.
Fabregas was outstanding in a packed midfield and looked to relish the challenge of taking on the superstars of Madrid. His passing, running effort and intelligence on the ball was simply superb; and he has shown over both legs that he has the special character to raise his game in the biggest matches.
Toure and Senderos are only 24 years old and 22 years old respectively. Yet they faced up to the attacking pressure inflicted by Madrid with a concentration, application and reading of the game that belies their young years. This is a partnership with massive potential.
And a note for young Flamini who typifies what the Arsenal spirit should be all about. He put in a huge effort in an unfamiliar left back position, and proved to be a huge inspiration for the team because of his visible huge determination to fight hard for the cause.
The experienced heads of Captain Henry, Ljungberg, Gilberto and Lehmann brilliantly led by example, and I really liked to see how each one seemed to be constantly talking to and guiding their younger teammates.
But my biggest mention is for Arsene Wenger. Coming up to his tenth year at Highbury, he has bought Arsenal two doubles, an unbeaten league season, a record breaking league run, a scintillating brand of total football that is a joy to watch, and now he has blended youth with experience to knock out the famous Galacticos of Madrid.
He may not always get every decision right (but who does?), but his principles and practice of playing total football are unbeatable and I will always consider him as being simply fantastic. For me, he deserves to have seen his vision of play vindicated on the biggest stage in the last fortnight. Well done Arsene, and well done Arsenal!
P.S. I would like to add that EFT is one year old today! So, on behalf of everyone at EFT, I'll briefly take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has supported our site in its first year. Long may it continue…!!