Chelsea vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned from Blues' Victory
Courtesy of early goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard, the Blues never looked like were in jeopardy of losing this match, despite some second-half resistance from the Gunners—which included a superb finish from winger-turned-striker Theo Walcott.
The Gunners simply had no answers to the midfield strength of the West London club, and they could not generate the potency in attack required to win this one.
Interim manager Rafa Benitez might not quite have the support of the Chelsea fans yet, but with results like this one, he'll certainly go a long way toward success.
If only we could say the same thing about his North London counterpart.
Here's six things we learned from the Blues' important win this week.
Arsenal Not Good Enough in Attack
Despite being clearly stronger in the second half than in the first, Arsenal's attack again proved itself to be nowhere near competitive enough to win the tough games it needs to win.
Olivier Giroud isn't scoring goals and Theo Walcott doesn't have the physical strength or ability to handle two or three defenders on his own.
Without the likes of Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Mikel Arteta, the Gunners attack looked bereft of options in the first half and was only better in the second half because of Santi Cazorla's and Jack Wilshere's continued determination.
It isn't just about missing clear-cut chances anymore for the Gunners; their attack seriously needs improving if they are going to finish in the top four this year.
That might be positional, formation-wise, or it might be in the transfer window. Either way, Giroud and Walcott aren't getting the job done, and it's simply insanity from Arsene Wenger to think that the same action is going to produce different results.
Or produce any results at the moment.
Chelsea Brilliant in Midfield
For all of the Gunners' sputtering in attack, Chelsea's central midfield was simply superb in this one and was the clear difference between the two sides.
Juan Mata was excellent as per usual, but it was his combination with both Ramires and Frank Lampard in getting the ball up the field quickly that was most significant.
Granted, they were only playing against Abou Diaby, who turned in another poor performance, but their ability to win the ball back and effectively distribute it across the pitch left the Gunners with no answers at times and unable to play their way back into the match.
Even when the North London club began their second-half resurgence and Wilshere and Cazorla started attacking more, Ramires still won the battle in midfield and Mata still proved a handful in attack—something that simply continued on from the first half.
Considering that the Blues were without David Luiz and John Obi Mikel, this was a particularly strong midfield performance from the trio mentioned.
They were without doubt the reason Chelsea won this match.
Fernando Torres Needs Confidence
This isn't meant to be a put-down on Fernando Torres at all (like it seems so easy to do after watching the striker struggle again to get it going in attack).
This is simply an observation about his poor form, and it clearly comes from his lack of confidence and self-belief in his ability to score goals often and efficiently.
Torres' movement and, in particular, his unwillingness to take the shot on is something that won't help him ever find his golden touch again. He seems tentative on the ball, unwilling to take on the chance for fear that if he does and fails, he'll be lauded as a transfer flop and waste of space.
What Torres needs to recognise is that those stigmas are going to be there whatever he does, so he needs to embrace his ability and try and make something happen.
El Nino was at his best in this one when he was running at defenders and using his pace to beat the Gunners' wide men and cause problems in behind. The finishing wasn't there because the confidence wasn't there, but he still did well to get himself into a position to create the opportunity in the first place all because he backed himself to succeed.
Luis Suarez averages 5.9 shots per game. Demba Ba averages 4.5. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney both sit around 3.7 shots per game.
Fernando Torres is at 2.2—the same as Juan Mata.
Leon Osman takes more shots per game than he does.
Maybe it's time to trust in his ability again and see what happens. The worst he can do is put it 20 yards over the crossbar, which he's already doing.
It can't hurt to try.
The Gunners Need to Spend
Another thing that's clear out of this one is that Arsene Wenger is absolutely kidding himself if he believes that this is a team that doesn't need improving.
From the goalkeeper all the way to the top of the attack, the Gunners are second-rate at the moment and proved themselves to be in dire need heading into the remaining few days of the winter transfer window and back half of the season.
Wojciech Szczesny isn't keeping as well as normal. Their back line is strong on paper, and in defense, but it can't consistently keep clean sheets.
Abou Diaby was pitiful here, with the same being said for Olivier Giroud and Walcott's first half anyway, up until he scored Arsenal's only goal.
Looking at the Gunners bench, however, was the real tell that this is a team that needs some sort of improvement. There was no option for Wenger to turn to, no Demba Ba or Edin Dzeko-esque player that has the ability to change an attack and revitalize a side's chances again.
— Dan Talintyre (@dantalintyre) January 20, 2013
No, here we had the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Carl Jenkinson, a trio highly unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.
Wenger needs to do something in the winter transfer window if the Gunners are to have any chance of finishing in the top four this season.
The Gunners Need a Leader
Something that they don't need the transfer window for yet still desperately need, however, is a leader—a man to direct their attack and lift their team when they're getting beat.
In the first half, Chelsea were up 2-0, dominating possession and leaving the Gunners with no real hope or thought that they would be able to come back and win.
The only man who was at all looking like creating something was Jack Wilshere, and he was too busy doing the work of three men in central midfield.
Thomas Vermaelen isn't the leader that Robin van Persie was to the club in the sense that he can change and impact a game by involving himself. Wilshere or Cazorla are the two men that can most likely do this, but when their team needed them to do it, neither really stepped up to the plate here, and it cost them a big chance to come back and win.
It took until half-time for Arsene Wenger to stir his troops up once more; Arsenal needed their leader to be doing that on the pitch when they went down 2-0.
Instead, Vermaelen was awfully quiet, Cazorla went missing in action out on the left, and Wilshere had no help from a lethargic Diaby in the middle of the pitch.
It's all well and good for Arsenal to have a captain for the coin toss, but if they don't have a leader for when the times are tough, they aren't going to come back at all—simply because they won't believe in their ability to come back.
They might as well just call heads every time.
Will the Blues Hang on to Theirs?
Thus having talked about the importance of Arsenal having a leader, it seems only natural to finish on the question of whether Chelsea will hold their leader or not this season.
Frank Lampard once again proved why he is an invaluable asset to this Blues side, dominating in both attack and defense throughout this one and proving to be a calming influence when the Gunners attacked more efficiently in the second half.
The England international combined beautifully with Ramires and Juan Mata, and for the most part, he shut out Santi Cazorla's brilliance in the Gunners attack.
Lampard finished with a goal to his name courtesy of a penalty, was a perfect 4-of-4 on his tackles and only misplaced four passes in the attacking third all night—numbers that still don't do justice as to his importance in this one.
The Blues would seemingly be mad to let the club legend leave the club over the summer transfer window to go play football in Major League Soccer, or anywhere for that matter.
They don't need him in terms of skill; they can always buy more of that and already have enough midfield talent to survive without Lampard.
But given the life and cohesion that he brings to the Blues, it seems almost unfathomable that they would let that leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the year.
Especially for free.
What did you make of Chelsea's 2-1 win over Arsenal?
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