Arsène Wenger recalled last night how he listened to Tony Blair's Labour Party conference speech yesterday on the nature of change over the past decade and, just for once, allowed himself a brief moment of reflection on his own 10 years in charge of Arsenal. "He said the world had changed in the last 10 years," Wenger said, "and I thought, 'Yes, our world has changed too'."
A change that includes a new stadium and a brilliant young team (with only one Englishman) who last night were capable of flicking aside the champions of Portugal without even exerting themselves. Arsenal may have failed at the last hurdle in the Champions' League final last season, but the defeat of Porto had the insouciance of a team who at least thought themselves worthy of being champions.
"I thought, 'Is he talking about me?'" Wenger said as he listened to the Prime Minister look back - the leader of the Labour Party will have to hold out until May for his 10th anniversary at No 10, Wenger only has until tomorrow to celebrate a decade in charge of Arsenal. The goals came from Thierry Henry and Aleksander Hleb but it was the style of victory that made you think this is a team who believe they are now part of Europe's elite.
The bad news was that William Gallas limped off a minute before time with a hamstring injury that will rule him out of Saturday's visit to Charlton and Johan Djourou must also be a doubt after he was withdrawn during the warm-up. A defensive injury crisis is nothing new at Arsenal, but they saw enough of Gallas to decide he will be a class act in Europe this season.
There is nothing special planned, Wenger said, to mark his 10th anniversary at Arsenal tomorrow, though four wins in a row and Henry's 50th career goal in European competition is not a bad attempt at an anniversary present. Even with Djourou's late withdrawal, and Gallas shuffling over to cover in his preferred central defensive role, Arsenal looked fluent and dangerous when necessary. At times you had to wonder if they really were the Portuguese double winners looking lost in front of the 59,861 crowd, certainly Jose Mourinho would not recognise many of his 2004 champions in this Porto team, although Arsenal gave them few chances. Wenger said: "We have transformed that frustration from last season into more motivation. We were very, very close and we have a young team which can improve."
The Emirates Stadium by night is no less impressive and, this early in its lifetime, every goal represents a landmark. Kolo Touré thought he had scored the first Champions' League proper goal in the new stadium when he headed in Cesc Fabregas' ball on four minutes but the Spanish international's cross dropped out of play.
Wenger was ordered back to his seat by the Italian referee Stefano Farina, after protesting on 27 minutes and from then the home side took control. Henry could not have made it much easier for Robin van Persie on 30 minutes - he drifted past three defenders before rolling a pass into the Dutchman that left him 10 yards out with only Helton in goal to beat. Van Persie struck the ball into the equivalent of the Clock End.
Henry had barely stirred until then but it was the captain who broke through on 37 minutes although it was a goal made by Emmanuel Eboué on the right flank. The full-back nipped down the wing and crossed for his captain to head home powerfully at the back post.
They had barely returned from buying their "handcrafted pies" - another feature of the Emirates that will make it the source of national envy - when Arsenal's support were treated to their second goal, as beautifully crafted as anything in the concessions stands.
The move started with Gallas winning possession and breaking from the left and you had to wonder what had caused the French defender to break forward with the confidence of a playmaker. He answered immediately, passingto Henry who found Hleb to his right and with one swish of his right boot the ball was sent into the corner of Helton's goal. It was Hleb's first goal in Europe for Arsenal.
Not until the 81st minute did Jens Lehmann have any serious work to do and he almost fumbled a shot from Ricardo Quaresma on the left before recovering. Fabregas had a good shout for a penalty turned down on 70 minutes when he was checked by the defender Pepe but no one at the Emirates was complaining - long before the end they were demonstrating how efficiently this ground can be cleared, and they were going home happy.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Eboué, Touré, Gallas (Song, 90), Hoyte; Hleb (Walcott, 86), Gilberto Silva, Fabregas, Rosicky; Henry, Van Persie (Ljungberg, 74). Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Baptista, Adebayor.
Porto (4-3-1-2): Helton; Ricardo Costa (Raul Meireles, h-t), Bruno Alves, Pepe, Bosingwa; Lucho Gonzalez, Paulo Assuncao, Cech; Anderson (Adriano, 66); Quaresma, Postiga (Lisandro Lopez, h-t). Substitutes not used: Vitor Baia (gk), Sektioui, Fucile, Jorginho.
Referee: S Farina (Italy).Reuse content