Laurent Koscielny said that at times on Wednesday night the ten other Arsenal FC players were no different from the fans in the stands – watching on in admiration as Cesc Fàbregas strutted his stuff to mastermind a dispiriting Group H defeat for newcomers SC Braga.
Arsenal captain Fàbregas put any worries about his early-season form firmly to bed with a real leader's performance, scoring twice in a 6-0 victory and laying on two other goals. At times the Gunners toyed with the Portuguese opposition who were given a real lesson on their UEFA Champions League debut.
"Everyone respects [Fàbregas] and this evening we took a lot of pleasure in watching him," Koscielny told UEFA.com. "He's a really great player. He gives lots of good passes for his team-mates and he scores goals, so he has all the qualities to be become an even greater player."
The Spain midfielder said he was "disappointed" with his performance at Blackburn Rovers FC on his return to the Arsenal side after his post-FIFA World Cup break. But this was a vivid demonstration of the way he can run a game if the opposition stands aside and leaves him to dominate the stage.
Fàbregas started the ball rolling by helping engineer the ninth-minute penalty with an astute pass to Marouane Chamakh and then by converting the penalty which resulted from goalkeeper Felipe's mistimed lunge at the French striker. He added a second-half header to the goal tally and came close to grabbing a hat-trick.
There is an even stronger Gallic flavour to Arsène Wenger's squad these days with Chamakh's arrival in attack and Koscielny and Sébastien Squillaci's new partnership at the heart of defence. In fact it was a back four entirely made in France and the former FC Lorient central defender, who made his first UEFA competition appearance on Wednesday, says it is helping him to quickly feel at home in north London.
It's clear that there are quite a few French players at the back, so the communication is straightforward," Koscielny explained. "It works well in training and therefore in matches.
"It was a good start for us tonight in the Champions League. We just tried to play our football, our passing game. We scored quickly and it made the task more easy going 3-0 up quite early. We continued to respect the opposition and didn't let any goals in."
Braga's task now is to quickly absorb the lessons of defeat and formulate a plan to bring about improvements when they welcome FC Shakhtar Donetsk in two weeks time. It was difficult to recall a moment when Manuel Almunia was under pressure and winger Alan said: "
We lost against a team of real Champions League quality but we're going to keep going for it. We lost a battle but we can still win our home games."
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