Arsenal 3 Charlton Athletic 0: Charlton taken apart

Last updated : 19 March 2006 By Brian Dawes

Celebrations following Hleb's goal
Although it's somewhat tedious I'll run through the current injury status of the squad, if only to explain today's line-up. Sol Campbell (ankle problem) is nearly but not quite ready. Jose Antonio Reyes (hamstring), Freddie Ljungberg (calf) and Abou Diaby (ankle) were all out. Still out were Pascal Cygan (hamstring), Ashley Cole (ankle) and Gael Clichy (foot), Kerrea Gilbert (back injury) and Lauren (out for the season). Apart from the nine mentioned we're ok it seems, apart from Van Persie who is back but not quite up to a full game yet. Still it's nice to have a settled defence for a while even if no one would have predicted our current back four prior to the start of the season.

Up front for today's teams there were two in-form strikers: Thierry Henry and Darren Bent. Either of whom were well capable of winning the match, but only one of whom got a look in, guess who? On a bloody cold day with the wind whistling straight at the West Stand just three Gunners took to the field without gloves; Cesc, Philippe and Mathieu and as is our wont we all wore long sleeves. Charlton wore mainly short sleeves and it served them right. They started cold and we started as we finished, passing the ball around in a controlled manner with quite a bit of pace. Charlton by comparison played the fast ball as well, only theirs was the long punt upfield.

Jerome Thomas on Hleb from behind early doors. Thomas had a good game today, probably their most effective player, but he like the rest in white shirts were unable to trouble Jens and on this showing he'd still be 3rd or 4th reserve at Highbury had he stayed. Adebayor was on target with a half-chance from a bouncing ball as we attacked the North Bank and Cesc nearly squeezed through soon after. The wind made high balls hard to judge because it swirled unpredictably at times. A Pires break, a Charlton counter but Bent was offside. A killer cross-field diagonal ball from the man to Hleb on the right. Adebayor just marginally offside in our next fast break.

We were well on top and it seemed to be only a matter of time before we went ahead. The goal when it came was slick and fast. Adebayor to Henry, who skinned his man in turbo mode, took it to the line and cut back a peach of a pass for Pires to slam home. A killer move and a clinical cutback to Rob. 1-0 Arsenal and you would have thought game over.

Fabregas to Hleb who crossed for Henry, who as ever showed great control and sold a dummy to a dummy before firing past the post. We were in that mode that just clicks into place and blows people away. Another brilliant move involved Pires, Fabregas and Henry whose cross to Adebayor was headed just past the post. Handball from another fine move gave Thierry a free kick ten yards outside the box. He whipped this one onto the roof of the net. Close but no cigar. Gallagher failed to spot Hleb being tripped on the edge of the box, hard to say quite why given that everyone else saw it.

Senderos tackles Bent
‘We're the East Stand' We're the North Bank' as Lehmann had to take under pressure, but his was generally a very quiet day at the office. Arsenal broke, Hleb won a free kick but he still had the ball and had actually beaten his man – so crap use of the advantage rule by Gallagher. We continued to press and one of Adebayor's many runs into space paid off when Henry picked him out. The big man recovered from a stumble/slip/push to stab home our second from close range. 2-0 Arsenal and two assists to the main man.

We were all over Charlton who had their moments though, as when Thomas made a brilliant tackle on Eboue who was storming into their box with extreme intent at the time. We continued to pressurise their defence but sometimes over-egged the passing bit. One more fine move before the half saw Henry play Cesc in on a well-timed run but he could get no power on his shot. Thomas was late on Eboue just before the break but his team-mates had been pretty well blown away all over the pitch and not just by the cold wind. Half time: 2-0 to the good guys.

Bartlett replaced Hughes at half time but the new man was only really noticeable for his consistent backing-in and one shot. Flamini was taken out by Kishishev, as Arsenal took up where they left off before half time. Hleb almost got Adebayor in and there was an outlandish back-heeled clearance by Gilberto before we scored a third following another fast break that featured Hleb. He charged forward down the middle, Adebayor found space and had two shots blocked before Hleb lashed it home following the second block. 3-0, game over and at this stage we may have throttled back just a tad. Bartlett had a chance on the turn that eluded Arsenal's very solid defence for once but Jens was there in close attendance to make what was either a lucky or clever save, on recent form let's say it was clever.

From here on in we remained on top but were often trying to walk it in. Hleb went down again on the edge of their box but Gallagher was unmoved. It was all Arsenal. Henry on a long one-two passing run won us yet another corner. On the increasingly rarer Charlton breaks their best bet was to back into defenders and hope something would break. Bartlett backed in often, but nothing broke. An approximate two-thousand pass move was rounded off when Hleb played in Rob who won a corner as his shot shaved the outside of the post. A hundred-or-so pass move swiftly followed and this time Henry shot wide. Cesc on a run was shoved over but Gallagher wanted to even the game up I imagine, so declined to give it.

A Henry solo, to Adebayor, to Pires and it was still all Arsenal as Van Persie warmed up. At one point when there was a lull for an injury the whole stadium was chanting ‘Thierry Henry' and so they should! Thomas limped off to be replaced by Holland who I still have not forgiven for his blatant dive at the Valley a couple of seasons or so back. A big midfield header won by Rob saw him land awkwardly, but he recovered.

Jens under pressure
A double Dutch substitution saw the arrival of Dennis and Robin to replace Adebayor and Hleb. Dennis almost immediately picked out his fellow Dutchman with a great pass. We were still in charge as Van Persie tried a solo up field on a long break and Flamini had a run down the left. Rommedahl fired well over with a long-range shot, but let's face it Charlton had little or no chance of getting in a close range shot did they?

Alexandre Song came on for Cesc who had pulled the strings throughout. No praise can be too high for our young Spaniard who is already a world class player in my book. Inevitably: ‘One Song, we've only got one Song'. Dennis went to right back for a spell when Eboue pulled up at the far end of the pitch, but our latest right back came back after treatment. Van Persie nearly stole a goal and then hit a fabulous corner to the far post. We were still over-doing the passing and the screams to ‘Shoot' were increasing. A fine move involving, amongst others, Robin and Thierry saw Henry try to put Dennis in with a backheel. A Kolo Toure solo saw him storm three-quarters of the length of the pitch before winning yet another corner.

One of our final pleas to ‘Shoot' had Gilberto bend one towards the corner flag from range. So maybe they had it right after all. Thinking back Young was booked at some point, which I forgot to mention, but then why would I possibly want to remember to mention a wanker like him? This was a solid display, a confident display and a match in which we rather eased back after the break. It had been a bitterly cold afternoon at Highbury but I for one was very much warmed by the football.

There is now just a minimum of five games left at Highbury including just one night game for certain. Not very many to go are there?