Arsenal v. Chelsea Match Review & Ratings (Albeit A Little Late)…By: Perry | October 2nd, 2012
Sorry about the delay on this, since the match I lost internet at home and have been on the road for work. Now that I’m back, I’ll try to collect my thoughts on this match. Honestly, I’m still aggrieved by the loss because as most of you should know, we should not have lost this match the way we did. As I said in the Liveblog, losing the match is one thing (skillful shots, good counters, etc.), but to lose it not on one, but two set pieces really pisses me off. Where to start with the blame then, eh? Well, one could point to our lack of concentration on the actual set pieces. Where was the cover on Luiz on the first goal? We could also point to how dismal Don Vito was in goal on the day. I really don’t remember him moving, like not an inch, for the second goal. Defender missing it or not, you make the play on the ball regardless. You don’t stand there and rest your hopes on your defending making the play. Either that, or you yell at the top of your lungs (something I think Wojo would have done) to alert you defender you have the play and to get the hell out of the way. I could also point to Atkinson doing us absolutely no favors in making the calls during the match. He caught one out and out dive, but as sh31kh pointed out ever so eloquently in the Liveblog, Torres dove to get the call for the free kick which led to the 2nd goal. Diaby going out with a thigh strain 20 minutes in didn’t help, can’t say I’m shocked, but come on man, can you make it through a month without getting injured? A lot of blame to go around as to why we lost this match, but in the end, it was a lot of the same old on defending set pieces, something I’d imagine Stevie Bould had a few words to chat about with the club.
For much of the first half Chelsea were the better team, with plenty of movement, passing and attacking intent. Despite this strong start the Don Vito was rarely tested. But of course, just as we began to pickup tempo, our midfield was weakened by a injury to Abou Diaby after 17 minutes, spoiling his good start to this season. I knew at that point we were going to be in a world of trouble. I was at the pub with a sea of Chelsea supporters and yelled, “God damnit, now what?” and my Chelsea friend cheekily answered, “You lose.” Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought on to replace the injured Frenchman, who we now know will be out for three weeks with a thigh injury. 3 effing weeks. Unbelievable.
It was not long after that Chelsea criminally took the lead. At the 20 minute mark Torres turned in a Mata free kick with a well placed finish, despite Koscielny being between him and the ball. For anyone who thinks it was luck, think again, he knew what he was doing and he knew he had Kos outmanned and outmuscled. What’s worse is that this happened after David Luiz missed an unmarked header off the free kick and it landed in Torres path. This is exactly where having a bigger, taller, Diaby would have helped. Down in the box, locking out a guy like Luiz, Diaby could have likely gotten his head on that ball to knock it away, instead 1 nil Chelsea. You could see Kos was furious and confused why Luiz was not marked. Miscommunication much?
Upwards and onwards, right? Right. For much of the remainder of the first half, Chelsea held the our response to shots from outside of the area, with most attempts firing high or wide of the mark. Much of the threat came down the Arsenal right, where Ox and Young Carl worked to overload Cole and Hazard. These two provided consistent pressure and it paid off with an Arsenal equalizer just before half time. The Ox had a low cross which was turned powerfully into the roof of the net by Gervinho from 8 yards out, with the Chelsea CBs having retreated too far to put him under any pressure. Gervinho may or may have not been lucky on the goal, I still don’t have a verdict on it, but man did it look pretty. After watching him play this season, I think his best hope in scoring is closing his eyes, and hoping for the best, because sometimes it’s harder for him to miss than it is to score. In this case, and I hate to make the comparison to an old rival, Drogba-esque. A beautiful, 180 turn and gun strike.
A HUGE SIGH OF COLLECTIVE RELIEF ACROSS THE ARSENAL WORLD. 1-1 going into the half. Chelsea fans quieted at the pub, and the Liveblog ever so lively. Have to throw this out there, over the last two matches (Coventry and Chelsea), I’ve maxed out 2 separate free liveblog accounts at Blyve. We are seeing some real activity in this blog of late, and I want to thank you all for following and commenting. Right then, let’s move on to the 2nd half shall we?
After the break, we had more of the ball, but still were finding it very difficult to carve out clear opportunities. The Chelsea defence lead by John “the racist” Terry was staunch and determined. Though with all of our hard work to create a chance, it wasn’t long before our second half momentum was put to rest in another instance of poor set piece defending. Torres had been “brought down” by Thomas Vermaelen in the 52nd minute which after watching replays a few times over, I’m confident Torres made the most of it. Don’t agree with me? Watch his request for a call after he stepped on the ball and tripped earlier in the match, he really was doing anything to get a call on the day. Nonetheless, the call was made and it left us in a familiar situation…defending yet another threatening free kick. Mata then curled the free kick towards the far post, and a combination of a slight deflection off Kos and an extremely (I’m being really kind here) late reaction from Mannone saw the ball end up in the bottom corner. I’m not going to deep dive into how horrendous Vito was, but if you read my opening paragraph, you’ll get the picture.
At this point in time, I proceeded to tell the fellow Livebloggers I might be going to jail that day because I was tempted to throw my scolding hot coffee at some of the mentally handicapped Chelsea fans of whom I was still in the company of. I held my cool, put my hood up on my Arsenal sweatshirt, and remained focused on finishing out the match knowing we could still pull even.
Upwards and onwards, right? Right. With the goal scored in the 53rd minute, we still had plenty of time to get back in the match. We started to get our bearings right, and were creating some momentum and opportunities, but it was at this point that we ran into an inspired second half from Petr Cech, who first saved at full stretch a Podolski shot, and then a reflex save from a deflected shot by substitute Olivier Giroud. This wasn’t the end of the woes of Giroud for the day, we’ll get back to him in a minute. I was fuming at this point, not really with our team, but just out of frustration that the damn helmet head just decided to show why he’s the best keeper in the league.
Santi Cazorla who was himself having a bit of an off day, nearly created an unlikely equaliser when his jinking run and subsequent cross was prodded just past his own post by Luiz. The diminutive Spaniard’s influence was largely curtailed by a hardworking Chelsea midfield and a rather strong defence, but in injury-time came our best chance of the 2nd half when he created a golden chance Giroud. I thought 110% we were going to score, tie the match, draw the match, and be able to walk away with my head high, but instead the Frenchman skewed his shot into the side-netting having shown decent poise to round Cech. He literally had Cech beaten, wide open, unmarked goal and he just inexplicably shot it wide. This was one of those shots I spoke about earlier with Gervinho, where it was harder to miss than it was to score. Giroud did just that, he missed, he atrociously missed. I was devastated, to the point where I told the fellow Livebloggers I was shutting it down abruptly. I again, being the admin, held my cool and just nodded my head in disgust. At this point, my friend who is a Chelsea fan came over and patted me on the back and said, he’ll come good, he’s still a good player. Didn’t make it better, but still it was something to believe in.
So in the end, Chelsea will feel the performance against their first real test of the season a good indication of their own chances for silverware. For us Arsenal fans, we’re going to have to hope our set piece defending improves and that players who are paid to score in goal scoring situations bury the effing ball. But don’t get me wrong, I still have HIGH hopes for this team this year, and even though we lost this match, I’ll take homage in the fact that we lost on shite set piece defending, that’s on us to figure out, rather than a true Chelsea attacking threat. Our central defenders had a day to forget, but who would have thought our full backs would be playing so well. That was the area most were wanting reinforcements before the season began. Apart from two single bad moments in the game, I thought we were the equal of Chelsea. I know that is a big ‘apart from’ but on another day we could have won.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS FELLOW GOONERS.
Mannone: 4. For everything he’s done well this season, Saturday’s match makes me forget it all. He was terrible throughout this match. First goal, he wasn’t even ready for it and the second goal, he didn’t even flinch. He is not the answer. As for who is, Wojo is still world’s better, but we could probably do even better. In the end though, I’ll take Wojo over anything else we’ve got in the pipeline. Get better soon, Wojo, get better soon.
Jenkinson: 7.5 CO-MOTM. Continued with his solid defending and again made a couple of decent crosses that were not attacked by our forwards. His work rate lead to our Gervinho equalizer.
Koscielny: 4.5. At fault for both goals and frequently shaky. You could see Arsene’s logic in selecting the nimble Frenchman against the tricky Chelsea forwards but Mertesacker’s organisational skills were missed. This was a day Kos will want to forget quickly, and I for one hope he does because one match doesn’t make him a bad defender.
Vermaelen: 5. He gave away two bad free kicks just outside the box which resulted in two goals. Though I don’t agree with the call on the second one, he put himself in the position to cause it to happen and the goal followed thereafter. Much like his counterpart, he’ll want to forget about this one quickly. I do think there is a strong case for Per Mer to be inserted back into the starting lineup paired with the Captain, seems that partnership was blossoming into some special.
Gibbs: 8 CO-MOTM. Defended well and looked lively in attack. He, along with Young Carl, were the shining lights in our squad on the day. He partnered with Ox to create our only goal. Certainly looked better than CA$HLEY.
Diaby: N/A. Not on long enough to give him a mark but his absence revealed what many feared that the midfield just isn’t athletic enough without him. The team struggles to get the ball from good sides like Chelsea. Diaby is vital to whole shape and balance and if he can’t play who can replace him? I think when Wilshere gets back into rotation, he’ll be able to fill the void especially after hearing he’s apparently “beefed” up. 3 weeks for a thigh injury for Diaby, lets hope that is an over-estimate.
Arteta: 6.5. Had an ok day, nothing special, nothing poor, but he needs a Diaby-type to help him really elevate his game.
Cazorla: 6.5. Looking really exhausted as the match went on and you could see he was trying to hide his frustration. Regardless, he kept working hard even though he was having an off day himself. Missed a few opportunites, and gave away the ball a few times more than we’d like to see.
Ramsey: 5.5. When he had opportunities to really make a difference during the game he fluffed his lines. There was a reason he started, and we hoped his form carried forward, but outside of helping hold in the midfield, he really didn’t do much and actually put us in a dangerous situation after taking a yellow midway through the first half.
Gervinho: 6. Part of the problem, but also will have to be part of the solution. He has power and pace that must be harnessed for the benefit of the team. Incredibly nice goal, but also mind boggling frustrating with his endless dribbles that lead to absolutely nothing. He really has to do better with the ball.
Podolkski: 6. Seems to be that he will look really good when Cazorla can make some plays, but needs to work harder at making his presence known singularly. He had a great opportunity and took it well, but helmet head saved the day for the Blues.
Oxlade–Chamberlain: 6. Biggest impact came when he drove forward. He is an attacking midfielder in essence and when asked to win the ball and drop deep he just isn’t the same player. He provided the ball on the Gervinho goal, and man did it all look pretty. The good thing about him, he has a ton of room for growth and should get better and better.
Walcott: 5. Yet more evidence that he is not a winger. Is 4-4-2 the answer to the midfield and Walcott problems? I think if we’re not going to start Giroud centrally, now is as good as ever to give Walcott a chance considering we got a decent run of games to be able to try a few things out against weaker sides.
Giroud: 5. Patience is still required, but really should have scored with that wide open opportunity. I don’t blame him completely though, I think it’s high time he starts every match to build his confidence and also for the mere fact he opens up lanes for others as was evident when he, Podo, Cazorla all started together earlier in the season.
Like I said in the Liveblog comments, I wasn’t going to be kind to our players this time because this loss really should never have happened, at least not the way it did.
The good news is that we’ve got a good run of matches in our favor in the league with an away match at West Ham where I think it would be wise to start Giroud up front and then a week and half later away against Norwich where I think it might be fair to try Walcott out the central striker. Two matches where we can try a few different things with our formation and players. I’ll never say any match is easy, but on paper these are winnable matches for us and should give us the ability to try new things.
Next match is tomorrow against Olympiacos at the Emirates for the next group match of the UCL. If we win this one, we can give our fringe and elder statesmen a chance to play in the later matches of this group. I should have the Liveblog running from my office. Look forward to your comments below…
COME ON YOU GUNNERS!