Arsenal: Chelsea Defeat Not End Of The World
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I was undecided on what the outcome would be against the Champions on Sunday. I was determined to enjoy the game regardless and just hoped that we would make a good account of ourselves in light of recent results against them.
Unfortunately by the end of the game, a familiar feeling of dejection and pessimism coursed through my veins. Carling Cup it is, I said...
Matters were made considerably worse after seeing Ashley Cole rubbing sea salt into our wounds, along with Mikel likening Chelsea's style of play to Arsenal's and the press generally beating us down with a wet cod fish.
At first glance, I too was convinced that this was another mauling at the hands of an efficient and robust Chelsea that had once again spoon fed us a lesson on how to play winning Premiership football. Yet after a few days reflection I asked myself did the score-line really describe the whole picture and were things quite as bad as they seemed for Arsenal...?
It remains important to weigh up the factors that contributed to Arsenal's loss before flying off the handle and butchering this league season before it has started:
Arsenal were in fact away from home and at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea boast an outstanding record and many a team including those of the 'Big Four' often lose comprehensively. Even outside the 'Big Four' The Premiership has become a really tough league away from home and you can't go anywhere these days expecting to win games.
The Gunners were also missing vital first team players including Captain Cesc Fabregas, their most experienced centre back Thomas Vermaelen, in form winger and goal threat Theo Walcott, main striker Robin Van Persie and first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.
Blaming a loss on injuries is no real excuse but missing so many core players surely limits the chances of winning away to the English Champions. I mean, if you took Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba out of the Chelsea team, and asked them to travel to the Emirates in the league, do you think the scoreline would have been two nil to Chelsea?
Every Tom, Dick and Harry agreed that Arsenal dominated the game on Sunday; in terms of possession and in taking the battle to the opposition. Chelsea were limited to the style of an away team, having to soak up bundles of pressure and play on the counter attack. The home team were reduced to three or four real chances during the whole game, coming from errors by Arsenal's inexperienced centre backs. They only really calved out one good chance, the Drogba goal, which was somewhat fortuitous to clip the near post and sneak just inside the far one.
It's apparent that Drogba's goal even if it wasn't called back for the foul on Song, the goal should have been prevented by the lacklustre Squillaci, as he allowed the striker to get to the ball at the near post first, he backed off and let Drogba get a strike on goal. Far better is expected at this level but you can't really blame him, he's played four games for Arsenal. The defender was also at fault for the missed Anelka one-on-one after comically dwelling on the ball whilst under pressure, a real no-no for a defender at this level and not acceptable in a game like this.
Koscielny also stupidly rugby tackled Anelka to the floor for the free-kick, when he needed to stand him up and jockey him away from goal. The precocious defender looked like a shell of man all afternoon and must grow up fast; he totally baulked at the sight of Drogba on Sunday.
These three mistakes that led to Chelsea winning the game, which were admittedly poor but surely would they have happened if Vermaelen was fit? Both new centre backs have only played a handful of games in English football and to be thrown into this kind of game, together and unmarshalled by Vermaelen, was always going to be hard for them.
In all cases, the central denfensive pairing played like a couple of bunnies stranded in the central reservation on the M1 but to be fair they are really inexperienced. Such new signings have clearly not experienced a game with so much pace and power before, and it overwhelmed them. I've seen enough from both these centre backs to expect that they will improve and that they will come back stronger. This was a harsh lesson for them.
Chelsea's goals definitely could have been prevented and to be honest they created little else during the game. However, it wasn't just Arsenal's defence that was to blame for the defeat. Arsenal should have scored several goals but you've got to take your chances at this level or you get you get punished. Yet on another day, Arsenal could have been out of sight by half-time.
Chamakh and Arshavin had numerous chances to score. So did Nasri and Rosicky. Koscielny blatantly should have headed in and we had a decent penalty shout waved away. This all with a team missing half its starters. There is reason for optimism.
Arsenal were nonchalant at times, very comfortable and the Stamford Bridge faithful were deafeningly quiet for large portions. Wilshere was pulling the strings and it seemed inevitable that Arsenal would take something from the game; rarely did Drogba and the 'amazing' Chelsea really worry Arsenal in open play. However, Arsenal were hit with two sucker punches, one in either half, which turned the game on its head and Chelsea took the plaudits but the result was definitely not as comprehensive as everyone made out. Arsenal just didn't take their chances.
Arsenal definitely need to come back next time with a renewed plan on how to beat Chelsea, not that dramatically different but they really need to be more ruthless because that's what Chelsea are. Chelsea's negatively and 'park a red bus in front of the goal' mentality showed that they fear Arsenal and their lack of creativity demonstrates that they aren't quite as dynamic as people believe.
They are there for the taking.
Rather than wallow in our misery and get all downbeat about this result, Arsenal should gain from it more determination to beat Chelsea. They need to learn from this setback, tweak the areas that cause problems and get core players back from injury. Then later in the season when Chelsea come to Emirates, deliver their own lesson on how football should be played.
Surely there's only so many times that Chelsea can fortuitously play Arsenal when they are missing so many key players and beat them in the same negative fashion, again and again?! Something has got to give..
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