After the midweek result against Villareal, it was back to the rigours of the Premier League, and the fear of fatigue might play a part in the performance.
Midweek saw us losing Almunia, Gallas and Clichy to injuries, in came their replacement and rotations.
Full lineup read Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Gibbs, Denilson, Song, Fabregas, Arshavin, Walcott, Bendtner. Nasri and Adebayor dropped to the bench as part of the rotation to keep them fresh for the midweek home tie against Villareal.
The home side took the game to the visitors in determined fashion. First half saw Arsenal coming up second best in most department, perhaps fatigue had indeed played a part in the performance.
Mido was proving a handful for our centrebacks, causing all sorts of problems with his power and pace.
The first goal came in the 18th minute, a result of chaos in the defence. A corner was floated in and after some ricochet, the ball fell to Mido, and he took lashed home the ball in an acrobatic scissors kick, deflecting in off Fabianski. 1 nil to the home side.
Arsenal suffered another injury blow when Djourou had to come off with a knee injury. Silvestre came on and more injury worries ahead of the Champions League game.
Gibbs was trying his best to fill in for Clichy, and perhaps inexperience showed when he was involved in a controversial moment in the game. He was adjudged to have fouled Valencia outside the box while chasing for a long ball. It was a crucial decision as he was the last man in defence. Referee showed Gibbs a yellow card, much to the relief of the away fans. Perhaps a close by Silvestre had played a part in the decision by the referee.
From the resultant freekick, Watson curled a freekick against the post, with Fabianski beaten.
Arsenal survive the first half with just a one goal deficit.
Second half saw the game resume in the same vein, the home side pushing hard for the second goal to kill the game off.
A mix up between Silvestre and Fabianski saw Mido challenge for a loose ball. But all he got for his troubles were a whack in the head by Fabianski. After a lengthy treatment, Mido came off to be replaced by Kapo. One thorn removed from our side.
Arsenal were now slowing forcing their way into the game, and the equalizer duly arrived, much to the determination of Arshavin. Arshavin tried to dribble his way into the box and after being hauled to the ground by defenders, he instinctively pushed the ball through to an unmarked Walcott. He needed no second invitation and steered the ball home. 1 – 1, game on.
Arsene sent on his big guns, Adebayor and Van Persie in place of Denilson and Walcott to complete the comeback.
The substitutions had a visible impact on the players, the swagger missing so far had returned, and Arsenal were attacking with sharpness.
The lead finally came the way when Fabregas stole into the box and slipped the ball across goal, with Silvestre on hand to sidefoot the ball home. 1 – 2 to the Arsenal.
Arshavin finally got the reward he deserved for his industry and overall display. A breakaway by Adebayor saw him sprint the length of the pitch and slip a ball towards Fabregas, only for Koumas to cut the ball out. However he undid all his good work by giving the ball away to Arshavin at the edge of the box. Arshavin needed no second invitation and steered the ball home with his first touch. 1 – 3, the result is assured.
Song added further gloss to the result in the final minutes, dancing his way into the box and firing a shot into the far corner, out of the reach of the diving Kirkland.
It was a great result, but if Gibbs was sent off in the first half, thing would have turned out very different.
For now, enjoy the result, and next up Villareal at the Emirates.