The same line-up as for the Swansea replay, saw Francis Coquelin keep his place also meaning Jack would be able to play a little further forward and Santi able to drop back into midfield to supplement the three.
- Subs Mannone, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Santos, Frimpong, Ramsey, Arshavin
The first half began with Arsenal creating the first decent chance with Giroud set up by Walcott. Unfortunately the big Frenchman dragged his effort wide of the post. This was to be the highlight of the Gunners’ first forty five.
Mata scored on 6 minutes after Martin Atkinson decided to ignore Ramires’ challenge which came crunching down on the top of Coquelin’s foot. Sagna was asleep and allowed Mata the freedom of Stamford Bridge. The midfield was sluggish to say the least and Arsenal seemed to be playing zonal marking in every area of the pitch. There was little closing down except for Francis Coquelin who must have run at least three times as far as Abou Diaby. Diaby did not have the required level of match fitness for three games in a week and, in hindsight perhaps it should have been Ramsey who started.
A succession of Chelsea chances eventually led to their second goal with Ramires again given acres of space in the penalty area by Sagna. Szczesny’s challenge resulted in a penalty and booking. The goalkeeper wasn’t sent off because Ramires was going sideways to the goal with Arsenal cover arriving. Lampard sent the big Pole the wrong way and Arsenal had a mountain to climb.
Chelsea continued to press forward but couldn’t quite find the third goal which would have put them out of sight. The few Arsenal chances were ruined by Theo running behind the line and being flagged offside.
The Arsenal team was out early for the second 45, hopefully with a blast from Wenger and Bould still ringing in their ears. I expected to see Jenkinson on for Sagna who appeared to wish he could still be indoors with the lovely Ludivine.
The change in attitude was immediately obvious. The tempo was treble that of the first, closing down all over the pitch, teammates making themselves available and pressing Chelsea back into their own half. Mertesacker had a limp effort with his left foot straight at Cech after the ball had dropped to him on the penalty spot. Walcott hit a low drive straight at the keeper from a narrower angle and Giroud had a chance from a header from a cross by the excellent Gibbs.
The Arsenal goal came on 58 minutes and was well deserved. A fine interception from Vermaelen was carried forward by Cazorla who delivered a great through ball to Theo, standing in an onside position for a change. Theo took his chance well, opening his body up and giving Cech no chance.
Coquelin was replaced by Ramsey in the aftermath of the goal. The Frenchman had been well worth his starting berth. Arsenal continued to press for the equaliser and started to leave gaps at the back. Ba rounded a walkabout Szczesny on 83 minutes but Vermaelen managed to block his goalbound shot. The final 5 minutes of injury time saw a succession of Arsenal corners, but the finishing touch could not quite be found.
As predicted by BR, it was a game of two very different Arsenal performances, as good in the second half as we were poor in the first. How is it possible for the same eleven players to produce such different performances with only 15 minutes separating them? It has to be a lesson learnt that we have to come out guns blazing not just after the half time cuppa.
Szczesny– Couldn’t do much about either goal. His Almunia-esque rush of blood in the second half was worrying……7
Mertesacker – Made a few good interceptions in the first half. It was the mobility of the Chelsea attack from the flanks that he could do nothing about ……7
Vermaelen – Much better in the second half, pressing the ball and showing some signs of setting a captain’s example ……7
Sagna – Really poor in the first half and his attacking delivery was awful all game. Give Jenkinson a chance….5
Gibbs – Struggled a little against Oscar and Hazard first half. His second half display going forward was excellent. Gibbs is an excellent footballer …..8
Wilshere – Jack couldn’t influence the game in the first half and seemed content to allow Coquelin to do his spadework. Again, his second 45 was much improved as he took the fight to Chelsea …..7
Coquelin – My MOTM. Never stopped running for his team. A lone plus from the first half and was perhaps starting to tire in the second perhaps causing his injury …….8
Diaby – Lazy and slack in the first half. Better in the second when those around him could make up for his lack of match fitness …..6
Giroud – Didn’t really get much change out of Ivanonvic and Cahill the whole game. A real shame that first effort didn’t go in, it would have given the whole team a lift…..6
Walcott – No idea how to break the offside trap in the first 45. Much better when more direct in the second. Took his goal well…..7
Cazorla – Santi’s passing was off in the first half but he started to buzz in the second as him and Jack took control of the midfield…..7
B.R. – A super pre-match…..10
Ramsey – Looked lively and added some drive when he came on. Still tends to dwell on the ball when he needs to shift it quickly……7
Arshavin – Andrey didn’t really add much at all unfortunately…..6
Written by chas