The gulf in class between the two sides was obvious on Tuesday night, even if there was an element of fortune about both of Arsenal's goals. I had been fairly jittery about the game, and while the pre-match atmosphere only heightened that feeling, nothing after kick off suggested that celtic could pull this off.
And so it proved, but only after a flukey Gallas goal, Fabregas' free kick hitting his back and flying into the corner of the net, right on half-time. Before this Arsenal had largely conformed to that irritating but often justified stereotype of passing in pretty patterns with little by way of end product. While our midfield was dominant throughout- and Song again particularly impressive- the front three still hasn't really gelled, and Arshavin and Van Persie both look unaccustomed to their specific roles. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to argue that celtic deserved parity to last on a night when they were largely outclassed.
Gallas' goal, and its timing, had a deflating effect on the hoops. In the first few minutes of the second half, the tie should have been put to bed, but Arsenal proved wasteful in front of goal. Thankfully this didn't end up costing the Gunners. After Diaby's introduction, the Frenchman prompted a move that saw clichy send in a low centre, and caldwell could only slide the ball into his own net. With about twenty minutes left, celtic's resistance was broken. The tie looks over.
While it looks like we're in the group stages again, and can be pleased with the night's work, I'd preach caution as ever. It's been a solid start to this season, and with solidity something that we've lacked of late, all Arsenal fans will take that. Goodison and celtic parks are difficult places to go get a result, and we've handed out one hammering, while in the second game showing plenty of grit as well as superior class. While the forward players were not as ruthless or as sharp as against Everton, a high level of graft atoned for the slight loss of craft, and that's a good sign. As mentioned in my last post, Vermaelan and Gallas look to compliment eachother very well, so far.
I still believe that the formation is an implicit acknowledgement that neither Song or Denilson are quite imposing enough to partner Fabregas in a 4-4-2. But if in actuality, as seems likely to me, Arsenal just can't afford to buy that calibre of player, this seems like a worthy and so far moderately successful experiment. I say moderately because as stated earlier our two most potent attackers, Van Persie and Arshavin, don't yet look quite comfortable.
Also, forgive my pessimism, but if Arsenal can't afford players of similar quality to compliment him, then why wouldn't Fabregas move back to Barca next summer? The Spanish gutter press are claiming a deal is already, provisionally, in place. Obviously, we should by no means take that as gospel but he'll certainly move in the not-too-distant future. It could well end up a great regret to all of us that Arsenal can't, for a multitude of complex reasons, surround him with the players he deserves.