Arsene Wenger chose to shuffle his pack for this game, resting the likes of Ashley Cole, Robert Pires and Edu from the midweek Champions League game, and this had the desired effect, as Arsenal no longer had that tired look about them which has dogged us in previous matches after a Wednesday game.
Arsenal, however, started the first half slowly. This is mainly down to the young legs being brought in, needing time to find the pace of the game, but thankfully they soon did. Charlton were still finding it all to easy to intercept telegraphed balls, and the quest for the perfect Arsenal goal continued, (with so many clever flicks in a move not coming off) when it seemed easier to shoot!
The accuracy of passing gradually improved and with Freddie (Who continued his recent rich vein of form) and Lauren linking well down the right, and Clichy and Jose linking well on the left, things were looking up. The flicks were starting to work, and the Charlton defense was visibly worried. A Dennis Bergkamp shot flashed narrowly wide firing the warning signals.
Eventually persistence told when the Gunners took the lead through a slightly scrappy Freddie Ljungberg goal on twenty three minutes. Jason Euell gave the ball away deep inside his own half, and as Bergkamp beat Kiely to the ball, he spun past Luke Young and expertly squared the ball the Freddie, who had no trouble sliding the ball into an empty net.
As in most games of this type, once Arsenal had the goal behind them all the players were chomping at the bit and showed no fear. Clichy made intelligent runs off the ball, while the front three of Reyes, Henry and Bergkamp looked likely to add a second.
The second goal duly arrived just three minutes into the second half. Some fantastic build up work involving Dennis and Reyes on the right enabled the latter to whip a wicked ball into the six yard box, which Thierry latched onto, and after holding the ball up for what seemed like an eternity, he gracefully (Does he do things any other way?) flicked the ball with his heel, sending it into the bottom corner of Dean Kiely`s net.
From then on, Arsenal never looked troubled; as Charlton's front line faltered (They just needed for Jeffers to be fit!) and their defense became to crumble away.
The total football flowed freely from the boots of the Arsenal team, with passing movements lasting 22-25 balls, with no Charlton player even looking as though they might get a touch. A third looked to be on the cards and it came in the sixty ninth minute, again through passing that footballing Gods appeared to be smiling on! Reyes and Henry were playing some simply amazing interchange balls out on the left wing, pinging the ball between the two of them, leaving defenders looking as I do when asked to divide 18503 by 13 in my head! After a good twenty seconds of passing between the two, and most of the crowd on their feet, Henry unleashed an unstoppable shot which crashed in off the underside of the bar. The fans knew they had just seen a special goal, and it seemed like Thierry knew he had scored a special goal judging by his celebration (Just shrugging at Jose as if to say "well someone had to shoot, and it just felt right, you can have the next one")
Sure enough, it was Jose who completed the rout just sixty seconds after Henry had made it three. Some sloppy play from Charlton's right side allowed an impressive Pennant to nip in and run at the defense. He slipped it to Henry, who slotted Reyes into the area and he duly obliged with a cool finish slid precisely into the bottom right hand corner.
Arsenal could have gone on to increase their lead, with Jose and Paddy both guilty missing glorious chances, but we closed out the game to good effect, and in the end cruised to victory.
Another three points and 21 out of a possible 23 is simply brilliant. The dip in form which has been evident over the past few weeks is now fading away, as Arsenal have got back to playing the free flowing football that they love to play and we love to watch!
Jens Lehmann - 7 - Rarely called into action, but performed solidly when questions were asked of him.
Gael Clichy - 7 - Stuck to his task rigidly, and let nothing slip by him. Also made some great forward runs, which saw him reach the byline on more than one occasion.
Kolo Toure - 7 - Another strong, solid performance from the man from the Ivory Coast. A performance that justified him having a new tune all to himself, and not being tagged onto Sols song!(To the tune of Lets All Do The Conga - Doo doo doo , WE GOT KOLO TOURE, doo doo doo HE PLAYS FOR ARSENAL)
Sol Campbell - 6 - Still not quite back to his best, but on a day where he was rarely troubled, he did what was required of him to a high standard. Back to his best for Villa
Lauren - 7 - That "fight" appears to have done him the world of good! He linked well with Freddie down the right, and defended to a much better standard compared to other league games this season
Jose Reyes - 8 - Relished the spaces left by the overlapping Clichy, and made some excellent runs. His goal was well taken and he seemed to be everywhere today!
Patrick Vieira - 7 - Still not the same Patrick we know and love, but he looked far sharper today than in the previous matches since his return, and stamped his authority on the midfield as only he can. Back to his best for Man U.
Cesc Fabregas - 7 - Is he only 17??? He is playing with the composure of a long serving premiership player. Cool, calm and collected, and was putting passes through the eye of a needle.
Freddie Ljungberg - 8 - His top class displays continue. He is showing the form that took us to the title in 01/02! Keep it up Freddie!
Thierry Henry - 8 - The skill, oh the skill. Created seemingly impossible openings, and scored two wonderful goals, both of which must surely be contenders for goal of the month. Another golden boot on the cards?
Dennis Bergkamp - 9 - Man of the match. Linked the midfield and strikers together superbly. Another brilliant display from the great man - can I interest you in another season perhaps?
Matthieu Flamini - 5 - Had little time to make an impact, but made a few decent challenges.
Robin Van Persie - 5 - Also had little time to impose himself on the game, but given time, will be a great. Bergkamp part 2? (Although I would never suggest there will ever be more than one Dennis Bergkamp!)
Jermaine Pennant - 7 - The first time (for me anyway) that he has come on to good effect. Helped set up the fourth and generally looked lively.