Following a great second half display in Spain in which we had Villarreal pinned in their own half and got the vital away goal, Arsenal turned in a great performance last night to progress to the semi-final of the Champions League where they will face Manchester United.
Arsenal are not the team of old where with Adams, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn we can hold out for 90 minutes without conceding, the new Arsenal only knows how to attack. With only Toure remaining of our defence, attack was the best way of defending.
Arsenal attacked from the kick-off and the attacks were relentless, with several near misses, giving Villarreal believe that we would not score. This was not to be, Fabregas flicked Eboue’s pass to Walcott who lifted the ball high over the keeper flicked. Just as the fans were expecting to see, the ball go over the bar, it dropped inside the net to give Arsenal the lead.
The contest was not over, we all remember a similar situation against Chelsea in the year of the untouchables we took the lead at Highbury to go 2-1 up on aggregate, but Chelsea came back and won the game 2-1 to progress to the semi-finals.
As much as Villarreal tried, Arsenal’s defence was solid. It was a good game for Silvestre, Gibbs, and Fabianski to settle in and we will need them to be full of confidence for Saturday. Silvestre had his best game for us, and I being one of his sternest critics hope he is solid for the rest of the season.
The star of the game was Alex Song. He has matured and grown into his role as defensive enforcer. He ran all over the pitch harassing the opposition and playing simple balls to the attacking players.
Arsenal scored a second when van Persie, playing in a withdrawn striker’s role, found Adebayor whose deft touch took him away from the defender and he slotted the ball home.
The tie was wrapped up when Walcott teased a defender into a challenge in the box that the linesman rightly flagged for a penalty. Van Persie banged the ball home for our third.
The rest of the match was played at a canter.
Last night was not just about the Champions League, it was also about the Arsenal fans saying farewell to an Arsenal legend. Robert Pires left Arsenal in the summer of 2006, having played 18 minutes in the Champions League final. We never had a chance to say goodbye and show appreciation of a man who was pure magic. Everything he did was the work of a genius, how he kept control of the ball, how he dribbled past defenders and he created and scored goals every season. Pires was a catalyst for our successes from 2001 until 2006 and he never complained about the club or his contract or being picked, he just got on with the game. Last night the Arsenal fans chanted his name more than any other player on the pitch and I hope that one day we will be able to do the same for another legend, Henry.