Chelsea v Arsenal
Well let us get the nasty bit out of the way first. We lost.
Why did we lose?
The simple answer to that is, because Chelsea did the necessary things better than us.
They defended better.
They scored when the opportunity came their way.
We defended well.
We had some chances, but not clear cut, or with accurate shots.
They had 11 players. So did we.
Were their players better than ours …. Best not go there?
But let me give an overview of how things went, and come back to individuals.
The kick off was delayed by 15 minutes as Arsenal fans coming into the ground were either discovered to have flares with them (presumably from departing Galatasaray fans?), or one or more were let off before they got in. Either way, it meant that the players had some minutes to kill, having done all the warm-ups. However, AW asked the ref if they could go out on the pitch again. This granted, we had the bizarre situation of the Chelsea team lining up from the dressing room side meeting our lot coming the other way off the pitch.
AW did have another surprise in store .. he changed our line up for this game!
Out went the 4-1-4-1, in came the 4-3-3. Team was this:
Szcz, CC21, Mert, Gibbs – Santi, Le Flam, JW10 – Mesut, Welbz, Alexis
With the front three helping out in defence, it was something for Chelsea to think about. No doubt about it, for nearly half an hour we gave as good as we got.
Alexis got a shot away from distance, which went wide. Around the 10 minute mark, Wilshere played a delightful ball for Alexis to run on to, but his first touch was a tad heavy, and Courtois came out to gather it near the edge of the box. Alexis tried to jump over him when he realised he couln’t stop, at the same time as the ‘keeper tried to carry the ball clear, rugby style, ball in chest head down. His momentum forwards took the side of his head into direct contact with Alexis’s oncoming hip bone. Whilst he looked uncomfortable, he did not seem to be knocked unconscious. The club doctor duly allowed him to continue.
When play got underway again, Chelsea were probing our defence mostly through Hazard down the left. Remarkably, Costa hardly had a touch during the first half, and Fabregas was not receiving the ball very often either. So apart from the usual type of niggly fouls, it was pretty even-Steven. But then Cahill came on to Alexis late and dangerous, possibly as a result of the Courtois clash, which was very accidental. This was not! Not only a clash right knee to left knee, he followed through, studs up on Alexis’s standing leg. Very lucky to get just a yellow?
That sparked the off-field clash between AW and Moo. In order to get to the injured Alexis, AW had to walk in front of the Chelsea dugout. Moo tried to push him back, and things became heated when AW returned the push with interest. Both were warned by the ref that next time it would be the naughty chair in the stands.
Relations did not improve, and the 4th referee was well occupied in keeping them apart.
Things on the pitch carried on much the same, with Calum preventing Hazard from breaking away in the clear, and he took his 5th card ‘for the team’, and is now banned from the Hull game after the interlul.
Then Moo was having a charades moment when Szcz was about to take a GK to alert the ref that Courtois was in need of help. With apparently blood coming out of his ear, possibly suggesting a fractured skull, he left in an ambulance for a precautionary scan. The meant Cech came on wearing his head protector. Perhaps they should all wear one?
Chelsea seemed to step up the pace a little then, and although Fabregas will be credited with the assist for the goal that followed, he actually did little more than pass the ball to Hazard. The rest was all Hazard. A quick start got him past Santi on the edge of box, change of direction took him away from a reluctant challenge of Chambers. This left Kos to stick out the obligatory leg to give away the penalty, which he dispatched with ease. Kos was a tad lucky to only see yellow, but it was the presence of Gibbs in the box that probably saved him.
This time we did not go ‘mad for it’ trying to level the score, amid the multiple fouls from both sides, including a head clash between Kos and Hazard. Luckily Kos’s cheekbone is made of sterner stuff and he was able to continue. Towards the end of the half you got the sense that Chelsea were the happier to get in and regroup as we pressed more and more.
The second half carried on where the first left off, with fouls and cards following each other. Chances were fewer and farther between. Santi sent a shot wide after nice build up play. At the other end, Szczesny made a super reflex save at his near post when Hazard(again) beat Chambers to the byline, got the cross in at pace, which hit Santi on the knee: it was going to be a fluky own goal but for the gloved hand snapping out to turn it around for a corner.
Surprising substitution was made when Ox came on for Santi, who was not a happy bunny: understandably, as he was having a very effective game. The logical choice would have been Ozil, but it was not him; or Jack, who was having a good game, but opened up the argument of when he plays, he plays down the middle, and either takes space away from Ozil to run into, or forces him to operate wide. However, with Ox on in the middle, and Jack out to the wing, it seemed, at the time, to be the worst way of trying to reconstruct all the good things that came out of the Galatasaray Game?
They responded with Mikel for Schurrle, and were prepared to shut up shop.
However we were keeping steady pressure on them until Fabregas did his second thing of note. From the middle of his own half, Cesc flicks the ball over to the middle of our half, where Costa lurked between Kos and Per, and beat them both for pace. He finished it off with a nice touch that drew Szcz out into no man’s land, and lobbed the ball over him.
Having kept him quiet for an hour, this was the kiss of death. Alexis was subbed almost immediately, who was equally miffed at coming off, given it was Poloski who replaced him. Not quite replacing like with like regards work rate? And a few minutes later, Jack was replaced with Rosicky.
Chelsea replaced Oscar with Willan, who had just been booked.
It ended 2-0.
The stats tell much of the story: 60% possession, twice as many shots – 10 to their 5 – but crucially 3 of their 5 were on target, and we had none.
Sorry, I write that again: 94 minutes and not one shot on target?
They edged us with the most fouls – 14 to our 10, and cards to a similar ratio – 4 to our 3.
The last one to get a yellow was Welbeck on Fabregas. A two footed, studs up lunge at that. The Cahill yellow earlier may have saved ref Atkinson some ‘Untold grief would it have been a red, which to be frank, they both deserved?
That was the story of the game. Players all came away with some credit, although Ozil had a bit of a ‘mare, mostly losing possession. He had two things different today from his previous good games. A, The players moved off the ball quite well, but were also marked a lot better by the Chelsea defenders. B, Jack Wilshere.
Szczesny – had his reflex save, two shots straight at him, and the goal. Whatever he did, he probably would not have saved from the ‘Killer’.
Gibbs – Usual good stuff in defence, and got more use made of him in the second half.
Chambers – after his booking followed Hazard like a shadow. Given the difference in their experience, it was a great shift he put in.
Mertersacker – Masterclass of controlling our back line.
Kos – unlucky with the pen, but never gave an inch in defence, but Costa just had too much pace.
Flamini – amazingly missed a booking. More by luck, but still a solid game.
Wilshere – was behind much of Arsenal’s best approach work, and tried his best to change the script. One more game showing an all round improvement.
Cazorla – far from being ‘found out’, he worked his socks off. He was always quick to get away from defenders, and with quick passes he had one of his best games for so little reward.
Ozil – it seemed he could barely do the simple things right, and with the German team manager there to watch? Definitely a game to forget … and that is being kind?
Welbeck – found this much tougher but it did not stop him trying
Alexis – he was here, there, and everywhere. Not quite as effective going forward, but at least he made the defenders work hard.
Ox – strangely went into the middle when he came on, but did join up with Calum down the right some of the time. Not a lot happened for him though.
Rosicky – was also only fleetingly looking like the player of last year.
Podolski – would have had more openings early on, but they were closing the shop when he came on and he never really got his foot in the door.
Strange unused sub was Martinez? Presumably Ospina has travelled early for international duty?
Overall, we were beaten by a team who have all the players in the right boxes. We are still a couple away from that, but this was no 6-nil thrashing. The team worked hard and are much closer to them this time. Just two pieces of brilliance, the solo effort of Hazard, and the Cesc pass and Costa finish, was what separated the sides today. If anything, AW can look forward to the return fixture and a full strength squad as we progress some more.
Shame about the result, but full marks for effort.
Written by: Gerry.