Arsenal show London rivals money can't buy you class

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LONDON, Sep 20 (Reuters) Arsenal showed London rivals Chelsea, beaten Champions League opponents Sevilla and anyone else who is remotely interested, what soccer class was all about on Wednesday.

A day after Chelsea played out a drab 1-1 draw with Rosenborg Trondheim in their opening Champions League match in front of less than 25,000 unhappy fans at Stamford Bridge, matters were rather different across London at the Emirates Stadium.

While Arsenal were oozing class in their 3-0 demolition of Sevilla in their opening Champions league tie in front of 60,000 fans, Chelsea were imploding with coach Jose Mourinho leaving the club after one bust-up too many with billionaire owner Roman Abramovitch.

Arsenal, like Manchester United, have been overshadowed by Mourinho's Chelsea for much of the last three years, but it appears that the natural order of things is about to reassert itself.

Chelsea, serial under-achievers throughout most of their largely mundane 102-year history, have had their greatest period under Mourinho. Now he has gone it is hard to see them maintaining their level of success.

Arsenal may have dipped slightly as Arsene Wenger has re-built his team since they lost the Champions League final in 2006.

However, on the evidence both on and off the pitch this week, Arsenal have regained their dominant position not only in London, but also possibly in England.

They are currently top of the early season Premier League table, and judging by the way they demolished arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the league on Saturday and Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday, it will take something special to stop them ruling Europe by the end of the season.

Unlike Chelsea, they are also against the idea of a Russian billionaire taking them over. Arsenal have been one of England's top clubs for nearly 80 years. They know it takes more than money to buy long-term success.

MOSCOW DREAMS Wenger was delighted by Wednesday's display and said afterwards that Arsenal have made ''almost the perfect start to the season.'' ''There is still room for improvement of course and we must keep our feet on the ground,'' he said.

''But we have improved from two years ago without a doubt.

''The challenge of this season is to show how far we have come.

We have mental strength and when we were under pressure we did not panic tonight. It shows how much we have matured.'' Although it is early days Arsenal appear to have coped with the exit of Thierry Henry well.

''I never wanted him to leave,'' said Wenger, ''but he decided to go and I would have loved him to stay.'' None have responded better than Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal's Spanish midfielder, who at just 20, is now the heart and soul of the side.

He scored the first goal against Sevilla, albeit with a lucky deflection, and had a hand in both the others as Robin van Persie and late substitute Eduardo added the others.

Wenger could have this season's Champions League final in Moscow in his sights.

That is a real possibility for Arsenal on their early season form.

Reuters SSC GC1639

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