At the final whistle Arsène turned to shake Di Matteo’s hand and you could feel the disdain, as has been commented many times before Arsène is an artisan, he expects both teams to at least try to win the game, Chelsea to his surprise didn’t or at least didn’t try by playing attacking football. Why it was a surprise I am not so sure, Chelsea have a history of coming to our place shutting up shop and trying to nick a goal on the counter.
Chelsea set up in what Sky ambitiously called a 4-3-3 but which the watching audience could see was a more pragmatic bus shaped formation last seen employed at the Bridge against Barca it was simply a case of driving it to the home of football, changing some wheels to preserve tyres before its long journey to the Camp Nou on Tuesday night to be positioned somewhere around the penalty spot. Thankfully they were without Drogba, so often a thorn in the Arsenal side, which meant that they used the unhappy Torres up front in the lone striker role, or in this particular formation the most advanced defender.
The game started slowly, Arsenal dominating possession as Chelsea dropped into their formation, conserving energy for any counter attacks and looking to put bodies in the way of all passing channels. On a couple of occasions in the early stages sloppy play from Ramsey and Song led to us losing possession deep in our third and gave Chelsea the encouragement to attack, solid defending by Vermaelen, Koscielny and Szczesny prevented any real danger.
The first clear cut chance fell to Arsenal, and Robin Van Persie, Theo providing a whipped in cross from a free kick that Vermaelen and Van Persie raced to meet, Robin won the race but could not find the back of the net with his touch. Had this goal gone in I think we would have seen a very different game. With the way Chelsea had set up it was imperative that we found an early goal which would surely have brought them out of their half a bit more.
Another chance from a set piece found Koscielny unmarked on the penalty spot, he flicked Van Persie’s delivery goal wards but it came back off the bar with no-one following in.
The half played out with only one more clear chance in front of goal, Song picking out Van Persie with a delightful chipped pass into the 18 yard box, Robin found space but could only fire his volley straight at the onrushing Cech.
The only other meaningful attack was a counter from a Chelsea corner, the ball eventually made its way to Oxlade-Chamberlain after some quick passing through the team from defence to attack but Bosingwa managed to recover and put the Ox in two minds as to whether he should drive for the box or cut back to find another pass, he chose the latter and Bosingwa read it well and managed to break the momentum and allow his teammates to get back.
Overall we lacked width, Sagna and Gibbs were clearly conservative, concerned that the pace of Kalou and Sturridge would be dangerous if they were caught upfield. Oxlade – Chamberlain was moving infield to find possession, and Theo was getting swamped whenever he got possession, and he had few passing options when he did have possession.
The second half started in a similar pattern to the first, Arsenal a bit sloppy in possession and almost trying to give Chelsea some encouragement to attack more to then give us more space, any danger was quickly averted by good solid defending on our part.
More chances came and went for Robin, the best of which saw him cut back twice before seeing his eventual shot blocked.
Gervinho, Santos and Diaby were all thrown into the action to try and find us a new dimension, Gervinho’s movement caused more concern to the static Chelsea defence, but they just pulled more midfielders into the back line to cope. Both Diaby and Santos retained possession better and tried to find some killer balls but to no avail.
Robin was also denied a penalty, a victim of recent refereeing blunders or too soft to be a penalty? For me Cahill puts his hands in Robin’s back and anywhere else on the pitch thats a free kick, also if an attacker does that to a defender in the box its a free kick, for some reason referees seem to believe that it has to be a bit more of a foul to be a penalty.
Another point earned on the way to Champions League qualification, a point made better by Spurs demise at Loftus Road. Three points would have been better but it wasn’t to be, several players are running on empty, and I wonder if rather than Podolski we need to find ourselves a 6ft 4 battering ram to throw on in games like this for the last ten to fifteen minutes.
Szczesny – 7.5 - Strong commanding presence as we have come to expect from our Pole in Goal. Quick to arrive at a couple of dangerous counters, good handling and a couple of solid saves.
Gibbs – 7.5 - Showed what a good engine he has, up and down the flank, and kept Sturridge quiet all afternoon
Vermaelen – 7.5 - Solid performance from our number 5, good in the air, quick across ground and quick in the tackle.
Koscielny – 8 - A number of good blocks and saving tackles, unlucky not to score, brought possession out of our half well.
Sagna – 6.5 - Not the best game from Mr Reliable, didn’t seem to have the energy to get up and down as much as normal (suffering from his lay off with the broken leg?)
Song – 7.5 - Slow start (which seems to be part of his makeup) but eventually bossed the midfield area, and almost chalked up another assist with some through balls to Robin.
Ramsey – 6.5 – Our young welshman is struggling at the moment, but there is only one place you can recover your form and thats on the pitch, he doesn’t hide and towards the end of the game as he was pushed further up the pitch was beginning to produce more threat with attacking passes (especially when assisted by Santos and Gervinho and their movement).
Rosicky – 7 - An off day for the in form Czech but it was made clear that he has been suffering from illness this week.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6.5 - Hopefully some of the over exuberance about this young talent will start to ease now, he will undoubtedly be a talent in the future but he is still young and yesterday struggled to impose himself on the wily old fox Bosingwa.
Walcott – 7 - Struggled to find room to operate, lacked the support of Sagna which he needs to thrive. Unfortunately we won’t see Theo again until next season after pulling up with what looked like a hamstring pull.
VanPersie – 7 - An off day from the skipper, he had enough chances (half and better) to win us the game but failed to find his scoring boots today, kept getting on the end of through balls and crosses.
Gervinho – 7.5 - Showed good movement played some good one touch pass and moves, was key in creating the chances towards the end of the game.
Diaby – 7 - Some touches and passes to remind us what he is capable of, a couple of tackles. He should probably get a 10 for coming through unscathed.
Santos – 7.5 - Would have raised a few eyebrows coming on in the attacking half of the pitch, but he has that side to his game and tried to find the passes to unlock the game.
Written by Gooner in Exile