In my preview of last night's Champions League home game against Shakhtsr Donetsk yesterday I thought that it was going to be a very tight game with Arsenal winning by a single goal margin. Shakhtar had a very good reputation and supposedly a good defence to go with it but watching last night's game you would never have known it.
I was surprised that Cesc started the game but I was also glad to see him play alongside Wilshere and get some game tome before Sunday's vital league game away to Man City. He took the place of Diaby in the team and the only other change from Saturday's victory over Birmingham was the inclusion of Rosicky in place of Arshavin. I was looking forward to seeing how both Cesc and Wilshere would perform as the creative forces in the centre of our midfield and I wasn't disappointed with the outcome.
The game started in a very strange manner with Shakhtar content to play the ball across the back and Arsenal allowing them to do so. There was very little goalmouth action and to be honest the game just wasn't living up to expectations. What it needed was a goal and with the help of the Shakhtar goalkeeper Arsenal managed one in the 19th minute.
Nasri took a corner from our right and the keeper came and collected the ball at the far post but inexplicably he then dropped it. Before he could recover his mistake Djourou prodded the ball towards the goal and Song tried an elaborate flick to score from three yards out. A defender blocked the ball on the line but luckily for Song it rebounded back off him and into the net for Arsenal to take the lead.
After that the game went back to the same pattern of Arsenal probing and Shakhtar not really offering too much at all. They did show a little more ambition towards the end of the half but they went in 2-0 down thanks to a fine finish from Nasri. A cross from Song was collected by Nasri in the box and bounced off a defender's leg and back to him. He found himself 12 yards out, in the middle of the goal, with only the keeper to beat and he made no mistake at all to give Arsenal a 2-0 halftime cushion.
At the start of the second half Shakhtar tried to up the pace of their game and close Arsenal down more when they were in possession. They made a good opening and thankfully Fabianski saved well when one of their strikers was played through on him. Soon after that Arsenal put the game beyond their reach when Cesc converted a penalty in the 59th minute.
Arsenal had a free kick outside the Shakhtar box and before the free was taken the referee spoke to the Shakhtar defenders as they were clearly impeding the Arsenal players. When the free kick came in, one of those Shakhtar players decided to wrestle Djourou to the ground and the officials had no choice but to give the penalty. Cesc stepped up and dispatched the ball to the roof of the net, giving the keeper no chance at all and wrapping the points up for Arsenal.
He left the pitch soon after that, having got just over an hour of action in his comeback game, after a month out injured. He was replaced by Denilson but it made no difference to the way Arsenal were playing at that stage. They continued to push forward and the fourth goal came in the 66th minute when Wilshere played a one-two with Rosicky and clipped the ball over the advancing keeper from about eight yards out.
It was Wilshere's first goal for Arsenal this season and it was richly deserved in my opinion. Just three minutes later the fifth goal arrived when Nasri clipped a ball over the defence and Chamakh took it down inside the box. He had a look to check that he was onside before he poked the ball home off the keeper into the corner. It wasn't the most convincing of finishes but they all count and he now joins Nasri on six goals as our joint top scorer.
Both Walcott and Arshavin then came on for Chamakh and Nasri as the boss looked to rest a few players ahead of Sunday's game. When the score was 3-0 Shakhtar made a substitution of their own and brought Eduardo on to a great reception from the Arsenal fans. With the score now at 5-0 Arsenal eased off a little and Shakhtar looked for a consolation goal which eventually came in the 82nd minute from a very good finish by that man, Eduardo. He got a fantastic reaction to the goal from the Arsenal fans as it obviously made no difference in the overall scheme of things.
The game finished soon after that and it was a great result for Arsenal, considering the fact that Shakhtar are supposed to be their biggest rivals in the group. The return game in the Ukraine in two weeks time will not be quite so easy but we are very nicely set up to qualify from the group with games in hand. There were a few other points of interest in the game for me as well.
First of all Wilshere again rushed into a challenge in the first half and caught his opponent on the foot but the referee warned him not to do it again as it was not a particularly bad foul. However, later in the game he let a ball get away from him and chased it, just as he had done on Saturday when he got his red card. On this occasion he decided to jump out of the way just as he reached the point where he would have jumped in on the tackle and possibly caught his opponent just like he had done against Birmingham. He said he would learn from his red card in that game and maybe he has done just that.
Another point of interest is the fact that we now have 14 goals in our three Champions League group games so far and the most any team has scored in a Champions League group is 20. With three games to go that record is well within our sights although we may score less goals if we field a weaker team in the later games, which may well happen if qualification is already secured. In twelve games this season we have now scored 36 goals and we have conceded 13. That's an average of over four goals a game and it makes for very entertaining football to watch. If we could just reduce that goals against column now it would be even better. That's it for today.
Here's the highlights from last night's game.