I usually get nervous before almost all Arsenal matches, but for some reason a strange calm came over me before yesterday's match. If I was a betting man, I would have backed Arsenal to win 2-0, and, as it turned out, my optimism wasn't misplaced.
I initially felt slightly like I did after our victory against Juve in 2006, slightly disappointed that it hadn't been more of a contest. But then, as someone pointed out to me, this was largely due to our utter dominance in the match, not due to any real deficiencies on Sevilla's part.
We now seem to have a team of players who can fight as well as play. Few players sum up this transformation as much as Sagna, especially when compared to his predecessor, Eboue. Eboue was always good going forward, yet he also dived around the pitch in a fairly despicable manner, and had a unnerving tendency to forget his defensive duties.
Sagna is just as good, if not better, going forward, and defends like a lion. He wins the ball, somehow, almost every time, and if he can't then he usually commits a foul. That's what I like to see. I banged on for most of last season about how we needed a proper right-back, and clearly Arsene thought the same.
The attacking duo played better together than they have for a while, even if Adebayor needs far too many chances to find his range. It was good to see Robin get a goal, and especially a scrappy one. We haven't scored enough of those scrappy goals over the last few seasons, and they're often the moments that decides games. Eduardo's goal was also great to see, and I imagine it won't be the last time we see a Hleb to Cesc to Eduardo to goal passage of play this season.
Hleb defended well, and continues to impress, Rosicky was excellent, and Fabregas now seems to have acquired the ability to score deflected thirty yarders. It finally seems to have been taken on board that if you don't shoot, you don't score, something otherwise known as the Lampard theorem. Indeed, as Goodplaya pointed out, Cesc's goal had the whiff of a Lampard-special. Let's now hope that Cesc doesn't put on 4 stone as well.
The only negative of the night was, again, Diaby's performance. I know he's being played out of position on the left, but this doesn't justify the fact that he doesn't seem to be giving it his all. At one point he jogged, in an almost carefree manner towards the ball, only for a Sevilla player to sprint past him and gain possession. Diaby clearly has the ability, but why should Arsene give him a chance in the centre if he's not willing to work hard in other positions when called upon?
Diaby's performance was nearly the antithesis of Flamini who, very quietly, is establishing himself as a real presence in central midfield, and he seems to be happy to play the defensive foil to Cesc. The growing proficiency in Flamini's play, to go with the enthusiasm and effort he always had, make him a difficult player to drop at the moment.
Overall, it was a performance that should have been noted around Europe. Sevilla are not only one of the best teams in Europe, they're one of the best in the Champions League. Yet we simply did not allow them to play, and instead tore through them with our passing and technical ability. Put simply, playing the way we did yesterday, we can beat any team in Europe.