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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Crisis? What crisis? Arsenal's early season jitters were massaged away last night with a comfortably comprehensive victory over FC Twente that secured their place in the group stages of the Champions League. In today's hyper-sensitive, overly-neurotic game, it doesn't take much to put that 'c' word in circulation. An away defeat at Fulham will do the trick, but the only scenario that would genuinely necessitate its use would have been a heavy defeat here, and there was never any chance of that.

FC Twente, so impressive in the first leg and so unfortunate to have lost by two goals, were absolutely dreadful. Steve McClaren's side could barely get out of their own half for the first hour and it was only Arsenal's apparant boredom that allowed them a brief period of possession as the game dragged on. Left-back Jeroen Heubach was torn apart by a ferocious performance from Theo Walcott and he didn't reappear for the second half, presumably after bursting into tears, locking himself in the toilet and refusing to come out again.

Another player who stayed in the dressing room after the break was Samir Nasri, but the young Frenchman had nothing to be ashamed of. Once again, he was as diligent and responsible in his defensive duties as he was incisive and clinical at the other end. He fully deserved his opening goal, which came after another excellent run from Walcott on the right. It's two in two at The Emirates for Nasri now, so it's of no surprise that the fans there have already composed a song for him.

Walcott doesn't yet have his own ditty, the fans prefering to chant 'Theo' in raucous Anglo-Saxon style, but after this performance he might be worth a verse or two. The common consensus is that this season is 'make or break' for the strangely-sideburned, young whippet and he certainly broke the Dutch side's spirit with his pace. Walcott has often been criticised for his poor decision making, but he was selfless here, always looking to create until he finally plucked up the courage to go on his own, scoring the third goal with the kind of composure that was the trademark of the last Arsenal player to wear the number '14'. More of this, more ruthlessness in front of goal, and he won't have to worry about keeping his place in the team.

The inclusion of Cesc Fabregas in the starting line-up for the first time this season hints at one reason for Arsenal's early wobbles, the other being the lack of a new Flamini, but his return meant a sharp improvement in the standard of passing. The play that was static and blunt against Fulham was swift and sharp here, though the incompetence of the opposition cannot be overstated. Nevertheless it's the win that counts, it's a third clean sheet in four games and, surely, surely, it's an end to this daft 'crisis' talk.