Ok, we lost 2-0. I didn’t agree with Wilkins assessment at half time that Chelsea were “far” the stronger in the first half, and I felt that Chelsea more edged the first half with the second being far more even and hard to call. Overall I think they deserved the win but only by a fine margin. It looked far more a 1-0 or 2-1 than the 2-0 end score. Their second goal was somewhat a sucker punch, once again just as we seemed to be getting into the ascendency and looking likely to come back into the game.
I didn’t watch the punditry after the end of the game so I have no idea what they said about it overall. I actually felt that we played a lot of good fluid football, but converting this into wins against better opposition is the next big step for this promising and still developing side. This was one of those games, a bit like Dortmund, where I feel there is no reason to throw the toys out of the pram, but again, like Dortmund, I feel certain lessons need to be learned.
We started with a stronger side than I envisioned we would, most notably in the midfield where certain players started that I thought would be rested for the weekend. Chelsea also started with a strong side but we knew they would, what with a multitude of multi-million pound players and experienced internationals sitting in reserve. It was a bit ridiculous for Mourinho to feign disadvantage about the timing of the game with the sheer amount of back up internationals that Chelsea are able to employ, (obviously all within their genuine financial budget). This factor obviously had some impact on the game and, although they played some youngsters themselves, I still feel we “out-rookied” them. I don’t actually, however, feel this was the key component of where the game was won and lost.
Jenkinson certainly had a moment to forget and for some reason doesn’t seem to like the bouncing ball. He even had a moment before the fatal error where he didn’t confidently deal with a bouncing ball, so the warning signs were already there. I don’t know if there is any other historical evidence out there of a weakness in defending this type of situation, but what I do know is that I have seen him, at times, play like a top level full-back. In particular I think about the away game at Munich last year, and any full-back that can nullify the attacking threats of the Munich wide-men so well, must have something about them. He has not featured much this season so is maybe, as a young player, a little out of confidence.
I was personally never worried about the end result of this game so will not castigate this young man for mistakes in this one game, but the more worrying question for me is why Arsene has so rarely used him this season. Sagna is a top class full-back, no question, but if Jenks is the future why is he not seeing more action? Is there a more concerning “reading between the lines” situation to be considered here?
One of the first things that struck me was that, in our 4-3-3 system, we were lining up with Wilshere, Ramsey and Rosicky in our midfield 3. To me this feels unbalanced as I don’t feel any of the 3 are true holding midfielders in the way that both Flamini, and arguably Arteta, are. I feel that the holding midfielder is a specific type of defensive midfielder that can be considered different to another type of defensive midfielder. For instance Makelele is different to Schweinsteiger but both could be considered defensive midfielders. I have recently championed us to play more a 4-2-3-1 system with the deeper two comprising one who is more a pure holding midfielder with the other being more a box to box midfielder alongside him. Would this be our best system currently? One to be debated I am sure.
All 3 of the players mentioned above could be considered more the box to box type players, but I personally feel Jack is our best midfielder currently for the box to box role as he has a rare blend of both attacking and defensive strengths. More importantly I feel he is one of the best in the game at bringing the ball out from deeper midfield without getting caught on the ball, even with opposition players closing down quickly.
Wilshere has the ability to move very quickly from the position he is receiving the ball in, and so evades getting caught on the ball.
Rosicky is a close second in this role but is probably more suited to playing slightly higher, while Ramsey currently seems best in the more attacking areas of the midfield, and for me often doesn’t change position as quickly when receiving the ball as Jack does, so is more likely to get caught on the ball in a deeper position where the current trend is for the opposition to press quickly.
In this game I felt it fell on Jack to be our deepest (or holding) midfielder, and he was caught somewhat in a mish mash of roles, where his natural instinct to play some defensive duties but to bring the ball forward as well was slightly curbed by not having a more pure “holding” defensive midfielder alongside him. When he did try and move forwards with the ball it seemed to leave gaps in our deeper midfield area. Conversely Chelsea played Mikel and Essien, who for me represent the defensive holding midfielder, and box to box defensive midfielder respectively. Individually I feel they are both technically inferior to our midfielders, but maybe brought a better balance to their side in midfield. Would we have been better served having a purer holding midfielder in place of one of Rosicky or Ramsey, even if it was a player from the youth ranks?
The second thing that I noticed was that when we had the ball our passing and movement was quick and slick but we rarely stretched the play. I felt most of our play was too central, which allowed them to pack the central areas, and we didn’t use the width enough to create more space between their players. A Mourinho Chelsea will always be defensively disciplined so if you become too predictable they will normally just absorb it. It felt more like we were getting back to the tippy-tappy, threading it through the eye of a needle, type of play again, and in contrast I felt they always used the spaces out wide better than us. This always seemed to make us look more stretched and under pressure when they attacked us than when we attacked them.
I felt, once again, this was slightly similar to the Dortmund game, and I hope it is not developing into a consistent underlying tactical problem, that may not be so noticeable against more inferior opposition, but against better opposition makes the subtle difference to the end result. If it is a genuine tactical problem then it needs to be identified quickly before the next 3 games, as they don’t involve inferior opposition.
In conclusion all in all I am not overly disappointed. We played some good football and have a great squad with some key players still to return from injury. I still feel we are a developing side that is yet to completely find the right balance in our line-up, and the fact we are top of the EPL without, in my opinion, firing on all cylinders yet is a good omen. With our forthcoming fixtures in mind, however, we do need to get these subtle balances corrected and fine tuned now. Those areas that see you either win 2-1 or lose 2-1 against better teams need to be addressed imminently.
As for the player ratings I will let all you fine AA’ers debate that. I was not able to watch the game as intently as I would have liked for the 90 minutes to allow me to be able to individually rate the players accurately. My general thoughts were that Monreal and Santi played well, and Rosicky and Ramsey were both solid. If I were to go for a MOTM for Arsenal it would have been Wilshere who I thought always tried to make things happen for us and, despite being dispossessed on a couple of occasions, was the key player in much of our forward play, drive and tempo.
Written by GoonerB