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Gunners fire on all cylinders

Published: Saturday 27 October 2007, 10.56CET
Arsenal FC go to Liverpool FC on Sunday on a high from a record UEFA Champions League defeat of SK Slavia Praha and Mathieu Flamini is enjoying the ride.
by Matthew Spiro
from London features

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Published: Saturday 27 October 2007, 10.56CET

Gunners fire on all cylinders

Arsenal FC go to Liverpool FC on Sunday on a high from a record UEFA Champions League defeat of SK Slavia Praha and Mathieu Flamini is enjoying the ride.

Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC have had many high-stakes encounters over the years, but Sunday's contest at Anfield between the Premier League's two unbeaten teams comes at a good time for the visitors. While Liverpool, in fourth, are coming to terms with another UEFA Champions League defeat by Beşiktaş JK, Arsenal equalled the biggest win ever in the competition, 7-0, against SK Slavia Praha on Tuesday, their 12th victory in a row.

'Party atmosphere'
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini is certainly enjoying Arsenal's exceptional run, as they sit a point behind leaders Manchester United FC with two games in hand. "Everyone in the stadium had a great time [on Tuesday]," Flamini told "We're enjoying our football and the fans see that. Our spirit rubs off on them and that's why there was this party atmosphere. Playing in this team is a real pleasure." The fans showed their appreciation by singing songs for each player, raucously acclaiming Theo Walcott on the night the 18-year-old came of age with his first UEFA Champions League goals, and even treating manager Arsène Wenger, who turned 58 on Monday, to a hearty rendition of 'Happy Birthday'.

Attacking football
"A joy to watch" was how Wenger described the display. Few predicted such a positive start to the season during the summer when Thierry Henry joined FC Barcelona and Wenger was criticised for failing to make big signings. "Two months ago [the English press said] I was crazy not to buy players and we would not even finish in the top seven," he reminded journalists this week.

Youth policy
Arsenal fans have long since learned to trust the Frenchman, who has already delivered three league titles and four FA Cups, and the feeling is growing that the current side could add to that impressive haul. Seen by many as their achilles heel last year, Arsenal's youth are now proving their great strength, with Wenger's policy of investing in and blooding young talent unquestionably paying dividends. Against Slavia, the likes of Fabregas, Gaël Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Bacary Sagna played like seasoned campaigners, and teenage forwards Walcott and Niklas Bendtner weighed in with goals.

Strength in depth
"People will have to stop calling Arsenal a team of kids," said the 23-year-old Flamini. "We may be young but we've accumulated experience. We've been playing together for a while and developed an understanding. The results we've got have given us confidence and when look at our squad you can see the depth is now there."

But how has this been possible without former talisman 'Titi' Henry? Flamini claims only the team's style has changed without the French striker. "Now everyone is taking responsibility and showing what they can do," he said. "Not many people would have bet on us scoring seven goals without Titi. I just hope we can carry on causing surprises." Not that another awesome display at Anfield would be much of a shock.

This is a revised version of an article from this week's Magazine. To read in full click here.
Last updated: 28/10/07 18.22CET