Why Ramires Was the Difference Maker for Chelsea Against Arsenal
In blinding snow, the Blues went ahead early thanks to goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard and never looked like letting up on their lead after that.
Arsenal did offer some resistance in the second half and eventually pegged back a goal through newly-signed striker Theo Walcott, but the goal was simply a matter of formalities as the Blues cemented third spot in the table with a 2-1 victory.
From the back through to the top of their attack, Rafa Benitez's side had a number of standout performances worthy of mention, but midfielder Ramires clearly was the difference maker for the West London club this weekend.
He was simply dominant throughout the middle of the pitch—both in attack and defense—and created the platform for the Blues to build off throughout the match.
Let's have a look at the performance of Ramires in this one and see how he was so instrumental in the Blues' big victory over Arsenal this weekend.
Demolition job on Abou Duaby
Especially early on, Ramires' biggest success was his ability to get to Gunners midfielder Abou Diaby and pressure him into making poor passes and decisions.
When Arsenal were looking to get the ball from their defense to the likes of Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, Ramires' ability to pressure Diaby and force him into mistakes proved pivotal in the Blues' blistering first half.
According to WhoScored, Diaby would finish with the lowest match rating from any of the Gunners players, despite recording 61 touches for the match.
The midfielder did not create a goal-scoring opportunity at all in the match—either passing or dribbling—and turned the ball over six times throughout his 75 minutes, more than any other player out of both sides for the entire match.
Where Arsene Wenger was no doubt hoping that Diaby would be able to push forward and help the likes of Jack Wilshere and Cazorla in attack, the French international was left trying to beat Ramires further down the pitch and away from the action.
The Chelsea midfielder brought energy, enthusiasm and a dogged determination to his tackling, and Diaby simply crumbled under the pressure of it all.
Turning defense into attack
One of the most defining moments in the match came in just the 15th minute, with the Gunners trailing 1-0 after Juan Mata's early goal had put them on the back foot.
Arsenal were looking to respond well by holding the ball and allowing the likes of Wilshere to get further downfield into attacking positions—reducing Chelsea's chances of dominating possession and field position of their own accord.
What should have been a simple ball into midfield for Arsenal, however, quickly turned into disaster for the Gunners following some brilliance from Ramires.
First, notice how far behind Diaby he is when the Gunners midfielder presents himself as an option for Per Metresacker. Yet with a blistering bit of pace and determination, Ramires quickly dispossess Diaby of the ball and sends Chelsea on the counterattack in the process.
Yet the midfielder's brilliance doesn't end there.
Despite his team already being on the counterattack with a two-on-two, Ramires continues to track the play and move into space. By the time Juan Mata has the ball at the top of the box, Ramires is free in space on the left-hand side.
He promptly gets the ball, beats goalkeeper Wosjiech Szczesny and is fouled—leading to a yellow card for the shot-stopper and a penalty for Chelsea.
Frank Lampard would convert, Chelsea would lead 2-0, and Arsenal would be left in a hole too big that they wouldn't be able to ever climb out of it.
All because of the brilliance of Ramires turning defense into attack; refusing to give up on the play at either end of the pitch for the West London club.
Other comments and conclusion
Ramires is one of the few genuine defensive midfielders that Chelsea have at the moment, and here, he showed just how good he can be this year.
His ability to hold the center of the pitch and allow Mata and Lampard space to push forward when needed was central to the Blues' midfield dominance here. The statistics paint a dominant picture as to just how dominant Ramires was in defense here, and how important that was for his team.
WhoScored have Ramires finishing the match with a nine tackles and three interceptions—both of which were team-high achievements.
EPL Index have the midfielder attempting a team-high 20 ground duels in the match, and winning 14 of them—numbers which clearly benefited Chelsea here.
Considering the the midfielder hasn't played as consistently as he would have liked this year—splitting time with John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard and David Luiz—Ramires' performance here proved that he has to played as often as possible for the West London club in 2013.
The Blues are going to be in a tough race to finish inside the top four, as well as challenge for the Europa League title. As a result, they're going to need the defensive and offensive contributions from Ramires that we saw this weekend as often as possible.
It seems a no-brainer to play Ramires over Luiz in defensive midfield when the choice is there for Benitez in the latter half of the 2012-13 season..
Especially if he can allow the likes of Mata and Lampard to be as effective as they were separately and together against the Gunners this weekend.
What did you make of Ramires' performance against Arsenal?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre
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