After an absolutely exceptional performance from Arsenal, the most obvious thing to do is bask in its glory. A Fabregas penalty started proceedings before Arsharvin, Chamakh and Vela also added their names to the score sheet.
Second in the Portuguese league, Braga were riding high into this game. They recently dispatched Celtic 5-0 and saw of Sevilla on their road to London; if only it was at Wembley and not Ashburton Grove. Arsenal entered this game the clear favourites, but many noted on the prevalent complacency Arsenal have shown in recent years and Braga entered as hopeful underdogs.
The stage was set tonight as the much contested Emirate's atmosphere appeared to be on show. It only took a few minutes before it became apparent how this game would run. In these few minutes Arsenal had a stonewall penalty denied, along with a respectable shout soon after. Both of these brought on by the Arsenal skipper. At the time I pointed out that referees do not like giving penalties in the third minute, my dad responded with "the third will be given". And so it was after a released Chamakh was fouled by the Braga goalie. Fabregas stood up to take the penalty and blasted it beyond the reach of Felipe, the Braga goal keeper.
Arsenal's passing game was beyond measure tonight. I know I'm incredibly biased and riding the waves of a glorious win, but it really was. Every player, with the exception of Arsharvin, seemed telepathically connected to one another. And, in the case of Arsharvin, his desire to prove his worth was what led to a few stray passes. However, this all culminated on the 30th minute when Fabregas, given enough room to turn an oil tanker, beat two defenders before passing to Arsharvin who beautifully slotted it to the keeper's right.
Four minutes later all hopes of a contested game were unceremoniously dumped when Chamakh and Wilshere linked up to allow Chamakh to, once again, beat the keeper to his right. Notably, Wilshere performed his one two by backheeling it to Chamakh. Impressive enough on its own. But what he did was akin to when Henry would draw back his right foot before boggling the mind by shooting with his left.
After the break there seemed to be a little more complacency about Arsenal as they continued to dominate but without the same perfection to their play. Fabregas continued to pull the strings as he found his blocked shot fall to Arsharvin. The little Russian created an easy, but precise cross for Fabregas to head freely into the net. The world was now willing a Fabregas hatrick.
On the hour, Song and Chamakh were replaced by Denilson and Vela respectively. The little Mexican appears to be bulkier and stronger than in previous years and it shows on the pitch. A lovely pass by Arsharvin was turned into a trademark chip as Vela looked to impress Le Prof. The play was, by then, dominated by players trying to allow Fabregas room to score his third. He found himself one on one with Felipe at one point, but brilliantly got a hand to the ball allowing a defender to clear. However, the real chance, the moment of pure glory came in the 84th minute when Fabregas had room to turn a defender and shoot. We all drew our breath as he...passed to Vela who slotted it inch-perfect in the bottom corner. And for the fans, this was better than a hatrick, because Fabregas was unselfish and put the team first.
Wenger was delighted. The fans were delighted. The smiles at the sixth goal were ones that showed our team to be truly well formed. Even the commentators were willing Fabregas to score. But he reminded us why he is captain. His post match interview was wonderful in that he reminded us of his love for Arsenal and pointed out areas he needed to work on.
One thing that stuck out about Arsenal was the fluidity of positions. Apart from a few anchors, the whole team was able to attack knowing that there was someone who'd take their position.
Now that my match report/completely-biased-yet-true-report is over, let us look at the Arsenal players.
Almunia- Had a slightly shaky start, no mistakes which was good. He grew in confidence and made some excellent decisions in a quiet game for him.
Sagna- Quietly strong and useful, as always.
Squillaci- I'm really impressed with this guy, he seems to have the ability and form that would make desirable in almost any starting line up.
Koscielny- Has something brilliant about him. He partnered Squillaci very well and shows promise to be a real asset to Arsenal in the future.
Clichy- Put in his best performance for a long time. He's been slowly regaining the confidence and form that has eluded him since 2008. Much stronger defensively later in the game.
Wilshere- The kid reminded us why he is our future. Absolutely excellent. Worked extremely well as a midfield anchor and provided some of the crosses that proved so dangerous.
Song- Was actually our weakest performer on the starting XI. Not because he was bad, but because everyone else was so good. He did put in a couple of odd tackles that would be more appreciated in games where a yellow is worth less than a goal.
Fabregas- Was given tonnes of space and pulled the strings from all over the pitch. Wonderful game on his part.
Arsharvin- Misplaced a few passes and seemed on a slightly different wavelength at times. However, he scored one goal and provided two assists, so who cares if he looks slightly sulky?
Nasri- Not a glittering game but a solid one as he fights his way back into the Arsenal team. Will he be displaced by Rosicky? I hope so because Rosicky really deserves game time.
Chamakh- He was brought to Arsenal to do a job, and he's doing more than we bargained for. On a free transfer, he will list as one of Wenger's best bits of transfer dealings ever.
Vela- Is working hard to get recognised and, having bagged 3 goals this season in a few appearances, he seems to have the right idea.
Denilson- Will never be Fabregas. That said he puts in solid performances and creates a midfield shut out that Braga simply could not penetrate.
Eboue- Didn't do too much in his limited game time.