Arsenal: Licking the Wounds from the Chelsea Defeat

Toni OkikeSenior Analyst IIOctober 1, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:  Chelsea's Fernando Torres and Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on September 29, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Everyone concerned with Arsenal is probably feeling pretty gloomy right now, as it's a default feeling that comes hand in hand with a defeat. Before the game, the Gunners gave us a million and one reasons to believe that this is our year—and it can still be. The splendid results against Stoke, Liverpool and Manchester City painted new pictures on the wall and even though we didn’t expect the team to leap past Chelsea, anything less than a draw would have being very disappointing.

Reality check, folks—we lost.

We lost to a manager who would look exactly like Lord Voldemort—if he was pale and without a nose, of course—and a team that has pantomime villains like John Terry and Ashley Cole. To top it all off, the defeat was by our own doing, as we shot ourselves in the foot yet again—an all too familiar feeling at Arsenal.

Well, life must go on and we certainly have some ground to cover in the Premier League, but all focus must be shifted to the visit of Greek champions Olympiacos in Wednesday’s crunch encounter against a team we certainly have some history with.

Bleacher Report's James Dudko believes that Arsene Wenger is to blame for his “tactical error” in replacing Per Mertesacker with Laurent Koscielny and this is a sentiment that has been shared by many gooners as well. In his post-match interview, Wenger was faced with that question and, as intelligently as ever, he had this to say,

“That is a decision which was based on the opposition we played. You can say it was a wrong one maybe, but I believe [that statement] is a lowering of the quality of the players who played, they are internationals. If you do not play Koscielny or Vermaelen and cannot win the game, you will ask me the same question.”

More gooners like mdgunner1, a writer for WaZoBia Gooners, were also critical of the Thomas Vermaelen-Laurent Koscielny pairing, as stated in his match report on the derby,

…I had my worries. We keep going on about the Vermaelen-Koscielny partnership as if it is the great partnership that we’ve all been craving to see since the Invincibles. We saw it last season and it was not very fantastic based on statistics…

…You can say all you want about the BFG but he gives us something we don’t have at the back- STABILITY. Vermaelen and Koscielny are like two hot-heads that can’t perform at their best when playing together in my honest opinion.

Many Arsenal fans want Koscielny’s head on a plate but I still feel that he and Vermaelen remain Arsenal’s best pairing in center back. No disrespect to Per Mertesacker, but the combined qualities of Vermaelen and Koscielny makes them a formidable force at the back.

The Big Friendly German contributes immensely to the squad with his height, composure, good anticipation skills and coordination, but the Vermaelen-Koscielny pairing compliments the Arsenal defense with its guile, aggression, technique, bravery, aerial prowess, marking, tackling skills and good anticipation as well.

To crown it all, both defenders have an eye for goal as Vermaelen still holds the record for the highest scoring defender in the Premier League. From time to time, Koscielny pops up with the goods and his goals against AC Milan and, more importantly, West Brom, were key for the Gunners last season.

This top-notch article by Blazing Cannon‘s Supreetkini throws some light into the statistical look of all three defenders and a lot can be taken from the piece. In his opinion, however, he opted for a Thomas Vermaelen-Laurent Koscielny pairing as his preferred choice and when he ran a poll as well, 61.73 percent of the Arsenal fans that voted followed suit with the TV5-LK6 pairing.

Koscielny was our best defender by a mile last season…so was Johan Djourou in the 2010/11 campaign. One game doesn’t determine how good or bad a player could be but it’s more than enough to give the fans something to think about.

Vice skipper, Mikel Arteta, has come out to defend Arsenal’s rearguard, as he has stated that the back line was not solely to blame in the wake of the defeat to Chelsea,

“It’s a hard one to take but we've conceded from three set pieces in the last two games. That’s cost us points and it’s not good enough.

“I don’t think it’s something to do with the defense. It’s about an individual defensive set-up in the game which is a free kick or a corner. Today we haven’t defended well enough and we've conceded two goals that have cost us the game.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility. You can’t fault one player on that. We have to clean the lines up quickly and you can’t just allow runners like that in the box.”

It’s okay for the fans to launch full-scale attacks on the players after disappointing performances, but it’s more heart-warming to know that Koscielny can count on his teammates to back him up through the bad times. We tend to forget that he almost atoned for his putrid outing with a header that slammed the bar but the offside flag killed that attack.

Steve Bould has done some great work this season in reshaping the outlook of Arsenal’s defense but he needs to go back to the drawing board to tweak a few things because conceding three goals from set pieces is rightly disappointing, as we had felt that this issue had been rectified.

Arsene Wenger has stated that his guns will recover from the defeat and I’ll be hoping that the club sends a clear message to the fans against Olympiacos. This will put the team in a good position to set sail to challenge for the Premier League title, starting with a much better performance against a very tough West Ham side with Sam Allardyce at the helm of affairs of the team.

The sulking has to stop and we need to move on.

Togetherness and spirit is easy in victory, the real test is in defeat. I am confident we will erase yesterday from the memory and move onwards and upwards.

This article is also featured in Toni Okike's Arsenal blog, Gooner Daily