CESC FABREGAS inspired Arsenal to a Champions League thrashing of Braga as the Gunners opened their Group H campaign with a 6-0 win at the Emirates Stadium and then warned of tougher battles to come.
Fabregas scored twice and Carlos Vela also hit a double, with the other goals coming from Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh.
“It was good training because in the Premier League and the Champions League we will have games where we will not have it easy,” Fabregas said.
When asked if he was happy to be at Arsenal after the summer speculation over a move to Barcelona, he said: “I’ve always felt fantastic here. I’m very happy to be here.”
Fabregas admitted he was disappointed not to complete his hat-trick.
“I am a bit disappointed because I wanted to do it, it’s the thing I haven’t done as a professional.”
Three goals in the first half and three more in the second paved the way for the Gunners to reach the knockout stages for the eleventh year in a row – a record not even Manchester United can match.
Such was Arsenal’s dominance that there was not a single moment in the match when the final result was in any doubt; and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was delighted to see young midfielder Jack Wilshere shine alongside Fabregas.
“It’s difficult to compare the two players but both have an exceptional talent,” Wenger said.
“What is fantastic for a player like Wilshere is to see a player like Fabregas and to play with him.”
Wenger admitted it would be hard for Arsenal to continue their good start to the season but said: “I believe what is important is to keep a high quality but we can do even better.”
Asked about Fabregas, he added: “I believe it was not easy for him because he was under a lot of pressure.
“I never had a doubt that he loves the club. He wants to do well, he is a leader.”
Substitute Vela enhanced his reputation as a finisher of the highest quality with his two goals while Andrey Arshavin, a real influence all night, and Marouane Chamakh also found their way onto the score sheet as Wenger’s side cruised to victory.
Crucially Wenger resisted the temptation to make the kind of wholesale changes that tripped up Manchester United in their goalless draw against Rangers on Tuesday.
Instead his first-choice team set about Braga from the first whistle with Fabregas and Wilshere producing a mesmerising parade of skills.
Fabregas had already had two penalty shouts ignored before Arsenal took the lead, the impressive Chamakh clearly brought down for a spot-kick that Fabregas converted with little fuss in the 10th minute.
Wilshere had a volley well saved before number two arrived; this time the mercurial Arshavin finishing instantly after a wonderfully-threaded pass from his captain. And it was 3-0 before the break when a clever back-heel from Wilshere allowed Chamakh to slide home another.
Poor Braga didn’t know what had hit them and they were duly finished off after the break when Arshavin’s cute cross was headed home at the far post by an unmarked Fabregas for 4-0 with just seven minutes gone.
Number five was a clever finish from substitute Vela, set up by a combination of Arshavin who also hit a post, and Fabregas, who was denied a hat-trick by a clearance off the line from Braga defender Moises. And there was still time for Vela to round things off with a sixth, once again inspired by Fabregas.
Arsenal subs: Denilson for Song, Vela for Chamakh (both 63) Eboue for Arshavin (70).
Braga subs: Mossoro for Hugo Viana (55), Lima for Mattheus (60), Barbosa for Paulo Cesar (70).
Picture: Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin celebrates scoring
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