After a reasonable start to the season and a couple of ballsy displays by the squad (Montpellier and City away) we had the right to start believing we had as good a chance as any of the other contenders for a title tilt. Chelsea at home….no problem….they hadn’t really had a test yet, we’d been away to the Champions and bossed them for ninety minutes, save an unfortunate occurrence at a set piece, ah defending set pieces, more about them later.
The big surprise of the day was seeing Mertesacker sitting on the bench. I advocated Koscielny and Vermaelen starting today’s game, but Arsene very rarely agrees with me. Koscielny had put in a good performance at City and Vermaelen as Captain has to start the big games if fit. However Mertesacker has not put a foot wrong this season and has every right to be annoyed at being left on the bench for the game.
With Chelsea’s new playing style (ie not lumping it up front to Drogba) it was understandable that Wenger decided on our two more mobile and pacier centre backs over the positional strength of The BFG. Torres runs across the line, and from midfield Chelsea have Mata, Hazard and Oscar all able to move at speed with and without the ball.
Arsenal lined up in our now traditional 4-3-3 formation whilst Chelsea appeared to adopt a more fluid 4-2-3-1. This made it very narrow on the pitch and swamped the midfield but the movement of the more advanced players means they pop up everywhere. From the kick off Chelsea controlled possession well, but they were not overly threatening in the opening stages, the final ball normally being picked up by a red and white shirt before getting to the real danger areas. What they did do well was press our players high up the pitch when we had possession, this resulted in hurried passes, and we seemed to lack the movement and options to get out of our half quickly. Something that up until now has been part of our success this season.
The first strike on goal was from a Luiz free kick from over 30 yards which Mannone gathered comfortably. The next two chances fell to Arsenal, Cazorla shooting over when well placed and in space on the edge of the Chelsea area, and Diaby making space for himself to produce a shot which was saved by Cech. Sadly for Abou this was to be his last meaningful contribution as he appeared to tweak his thigh on shooting.
The change took a while to make as the ball seemed to take an age to go out of play, in that time the easy decision to drop Ramsey back to midfield and put Ox on to right wing was made, but there seems to be a fault on Bouldy’s iPad app, as surely it should have a very loud alarm that says “WARNING: Oxlade Chamberlain 5ft 11 – David Luiz 6ft 2 (plus hair) you may want to reconsider”.
Very soon all Gooners in the Emirates and those watching at home were ruing the negligence of the iPad app as we all watched in horror as the Ox tried to mark up Luiz at the next set piece. The free kick had been awarded for an unnecessary foul from Vermaelen on Hazard, we were well set and there was simply no need for Vermaelen to lunge in as he did.
Mata delivered a high ball into the box, which cleared the head of Luiz and found Torres at the back post outmuscling Koscielny and hooking the ball into the net. Two set piece goals in two premier league games.
Chelsea know how to defend, they are a well organised unit, and they do not lose their shape very often. So the task of equalising was not easy, Arsenal set about finding the goal we started to control the ball further up the pitch and for longer periods. There was little goalmouth incident as Chelsea marshalled the area directly in front of the goal, and allowed us to keep putting crosses in to a crowded area where blue shirts outnumbered the red ones.
It looked like we would be going in one down until following good work on the wing the Ox produced a low cross that nutmegged Ashley Cole and found Gervinho who had lost both Terry and Luiz by standing still. The Swerve took one touch and with his second rifled it into the roof of the net as he turned, a well deserved equaliser and a fantastic strike for this seasons leading scorer.
In truth Chelsea looked a little rattled after the goal and the half time whistle came too soone as Arsenal started to dominate the play. After the break we continued as we had left off attacking and creating opportunities, both Cazorla and Ox missing the target with half chances.
To gift one set piece goal is foolish, two gift second is suicidal in this league. Vermaelen chasing back from the edge of their area (answers on a postcard as to why our centre back was on their 18 yard box in open play) bundled Torres over for another soft free kick. The delivery from Mata was vicious, Gibbs could probably have put a head on it if he hadn’t have been pushed over by Ivanovic, and Koscielny trying to stick anything he could the ball could not stop the ball going in the far post. A comedy of errors from start to finish, well at least it would be a comedy if it was happening to any other team, as its happening to us it’s a tragedy.
After Chelsea’s second we had to commit more players forward in search of the equaliser this led to Chelsea looking more threatening as they broke in numbers into open space when they regained possession, that said they didn’t create another clear chance on goal from memory.
We created the majority of the chances in the rest of the game, Podolski saw Cech palm a looping header away, Giroud saw Cech somehow get a strong enough hand to a deflected shot from Giroud, Cazorla had a very nice position to equalise but pushed his shot the wrong side of the post and finally Giroud had another chance after being played in by Cazorla, he tried to round the keeper but Chelsea were back in numbers and scoring was not easy (unless of course your the fan who likes a scapegoat then it was a yard out in the middle of the goal and there was not a defender or keeper within a mile of him and it was harder to miss than score).
So do I think we deserved a draw then? The answer to that simply is no. And the reason it’s a no is that you cannot give two dreadful goals away and say we deserved a point. Unfortunately when you give goals away you get what you deserve, and it’s been happening for too long now and for me it’s very easy to fix.
Its simply a question of where we hold the bloody line for free kicks from outside our 18 yard box. Time and time again we set our line and are pushed back by the opposition. It happened on the first one, but to a lesser extent with only Koscielny being pushed back, this was compounded by Luiz getting the wrong side of the Ox which meant that Luiz had a free jump, which also meant Mannone couldn’t come and claim the high ball.
The second goal is much worse in my opinion, the only ball that Mata can play that position and threaten the goal is the one he ended up playing, the whipped cross to the far post that the keeper can’t commit to because of runners in front of him. If we had taken our line two yards outside our 18 yard box that ball offers far less threat, be braver and hold a line five yards outside the box and it poses no threat and he wouldn’t play it. When that ball was delivered we had already retreated to our penalty spot. I know I played a much lower level of football but if anyone of my defenders even thought about entering the 18 yard box before a free kick was taken they would find themselves on the receiving end of a short sharp kick in the arse. If they held their line the free kick generally got played to between the 18 yard box and penalty spot, if they dropped within the 18 yard box the ball generally arrived just outside the 6 yard box and the only thing that results from that is danger.
The scoreline flatters Chelsea. They did not do enough in open play to win that game, the stats from Sky are below, we won every major stat apart from the important one and tackle success. We gifted that game to them today and that is what disappoints me most.
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||5|
Mannone 6 Needs to learn to organise the players in front of him, other than the goals had little to do.
Jenkinson 7 What we are coming to expect, another solid game, confident on the ball, no danger came from his side of the pitch defensively and helped out the attack with constant running and making himslef available.
Koscielny 5 Outmuscled by Torres for the goal, failed to organise the back line for the second.
Vermaelen 3 You are a Centre Back, let’s concentrate on that part of your game first before you start popping up on the opposition 18 yard box in open play. Too eager to go to ground, must take charge of the back line at set pieces.
Gibbs 7 Some good crosses and linked up well with those in front of him. Some very good tackles to win back possession.
Arteta 7 Found it difficult to find his normal passing and was left slightly exposed.
Diaby 7 Too brief an appearance
Cazorla 7 Not his best display but was still the most creative player on the pitch from either side.
Ramsey 6.5 Struggled to find his rhythm in the second half, looked like he was tiring early.
Podolski 7 some good runs early in the second half, very quiet first half, very unlucky with the looping header
Gervinho 7.5 Well taken goal, tended to drop a little too deep in the first half.
Ox 7 So young, but so much is expected of him, a lot of learning still to be done, but he always threatens, good cross for the goal
Theo 0 Didn’t see him
Giroud 7 Made himself available got into a couple of good positions, unlucky with a couple of decent efforts.
Gooner in Exile