On average, the ball is in play for about 50-55 minutes a game - that leaves at least 35 minutes for replays and arty portrait shots so why do them when something is actually happening in a game (obviously I couldn't be there because of business or something). It was almost as annoying as a referee who deemed every bit of contact in the second half to be a foul. Fortunately, a couple of moments of inspiration from our two full backs meant that a potentially tricky tie was negotiated and a comfortable home leg should be expected - until Sparta take an inevitable lead at the Emirates…
Jens Lehmann - 7 - Despite another, um, senior moment when Gael hurled a throw-in back to him, Jens had a fine game making excellent saves at either end of the match and having the vision to set up what should be a vital second goal.
Bacary Sagna - 7 - It's not just that his hair goes so well with the white kit that makes our new right back fit in. Despite being targeted for some rough treatment early on he was solid at the back and produced an incredible run and deft pass to set up Hleb in the last minute.
Gael Clichy - 6 - Was not having his best night - he was sloppy at the back, needing the feet of Jens to bail him out early on and didn't get forward with his usual verve - but one piece of brilliant play inspired the victory. Will have better games but may not make a more vital contribution.
Kolo Toure - 6 - None of his usual swashbuckling runs but safe at the back.
William Gallas - 7 - Led his defence well and was generally sound. Shooting needs some work.
Emmanuel Eboue - 5 - Little penetration down the right flank and was shown up by the energy of Sagna.
Mathieu Flamini - 5 - Little wonder that Diaby and Denilson have ankle injuries with Flamini snapping at their heels in training. Wonderful spirit but both his tackling and his passing lacked the necessary control at this level.
Cesc Fabregas - 7 - Footballistically not his best performance but a well-taken goal, a vital last-ditch tackle and having the balls to stand-up to the loathsome Repka just show how important he is to this side.
Tomas Rosicky - 5 - Was guaranteed a warm welcome and certainly got it on the pitch, but couldn't real get into the game.
Alexander Hleb - 6 - Squaring up to meathead centre backs, expertly timing runs into the penalty area to score vital late goals. There's no doubt Hlebbie is the new Freddie - can't you just picture him posing in his underpants now? On seconds thoughts don't.
Robin Van Persie - 6 - Thankless task up front on his own with an idiot of a referee penalising him all the time, but showed his class in the second half with a shot on the turn that could have won the match.
Alex Song - 3 - Passed the ball straight out of play, almost scored an own goal, brought on to shore things up.