In what turned out to be a rather anti-climactic finish to the long foreplay in the previous weeks; the two best teams in England failed to produce anything worthy of mentioning. Chelsea probably secured their fourth title in eleven years while Arsenal remain in the driving seat when it comes to the battle for second place. Here are the key points from the game.
1. Arsene couldn’t find the antidote for Mourinho’s game
We struggled to find a way to break the Chelsea defensive shape. Parking the bus might be the most boring tactic ever but also a legitimate one. Our midfielders couldn’t create clear-cut chances and it’s worth noting that the two most dangerous attacks from our side came via the full-backs. It was Nacho Monreal who created a sitter for Özil and Welbeck but neither of them managed to hit the ball and score a possible winner. Perhaps that’s the real reason why we didn’t win the game – we lacked width with Alexis and Ramsey unsuccessfully drifting inside, with too many sloppy passes and wrong decisions in the final third. That’s where Arsene got it wrong – Ramsey should have started in the middle next to Coquelin with either Walcott or Welbeck out on the wing.
2. David Ospina was lucky to stay on the pitch…
Arsene Wenger has admitted that we were lucky with the outcome of the clash between Oscar and Ospina. I’ve seen penalties given for the same sort of things. If Oliver had decided to call that one a foul, it would have been a penalty and a red card for Ospina. Luckily for us, Oliver probably thought that it was enough that Chelsea had been given an advantage so he didn’t use his whistle.
3….but we were lucky to have him later on
Yes, Ramires’ shot was rather meek but he was one-on-one with Ospina. The Colombian was calm enough though and saved the shot from the Brazilian. Our record with Ospina between the sticks remains amazing!
4. Hector Bellerin gave an excellent performance
The young Spaniard was my biggest worry but he did a great job today. He made a vital clearance when Oscar’s ball was going into our empty goal and created a good chance on the other end of the pitch. The Spaniard is going to be one of the best full-backs in the world and it would be great if he reaches that level playing for Arsenal.
5. Francis Coquelin did his job well again
I’ve already written about how sometimes you notice a player’s worth when he is absent. We nullified Chelsea’s threat in the counter-attacks today but once Coquelin was substituted due to concussion, our players had to make bookable fouls in order to prevent Chelsea from threatening. It might be a paradox but his performance underlined our need for another defensive midfielder this summer. Morgan Schneiderlin is the first name I can come up with but I would welcome any player that can offer a good cover for the brilliant Frenchman we already have in that area of the team.
6. Danny Welbeck’s finishing remains a big issue to solve
Even in a game like this one we could have delivered a final blow in injury-time. Monreal’s low cross was missed by Mesut Özil but there was still a chance for Danny Welbeck to score. The Englishman didn’t hit the ball and our best chance for victory was wasted. Welbeck is undoubtedly a huge asset in terms of pace and movement but his inability to convert chances is really frustrating. He has scored just one goal in 2015 – a really big one for our victory at Old Trafford though – and his conversion rate suggests he needs more than ten shots for one goal. That’s not good enough for someone who wants to be recognized as a striker or even a winger.
7. Nacho Monreal becomes a real hero for Arsenal
The Spaniard gave another great performance. Aside from that cross-cum-shot that didn’t pan out well in the second half, Nacho was solid at the back and created the best chance of the game for us.
8. Is there a place for Santi Cazorla in the starting line-up in a title-challenging Arsenal?
Now, it might sound harsh but Cazorla’s future at Arsenal might be the one of a cover for Özil or Ramsey. He is still a very good player capable of playing beautiful passes and scoring magnificent goals with both feet. The thing is, he hasn’t done it against Chelsea since his arrival from Malaga and we need to win the games against Abramovich’s favourite toy to win Premiership. Today, Ramsey had to be a square peg in a round hole in order to accommodate Santi in the middle and our attacking game suffered. Perhaps it’s time for Arsene to re-think Santi’s role in matches like this one.
9. Thierry Henry knew how to score but perhaps he sent the ball wide this time
Thierry Henry has stated that Arsenal need four new players to win the title – a new spine (a goalkeeper, a central defender, a holding midfielder, a world-class striker). Now, it’s a bit lazy to put things like that. I will always consider Thierry as our best player of all time – and I will promote the idea of him tutoring Danny Welbeck in terms of finishing so the Englishman fulfills his enormous potential – but he’s wrong.
Do we really need a new goalkeeper? Perhaps we do. In case Wojciech Szczesny keeps pressing the self-destruct button or allowing other people to make stupid decisions for him, we might be in need of a new goalkeeper. However, if our current goalkeeper is someone who has lost just one League game out of thirteen played, then you have to wonder what it is all about. A new central defender even if we have four of them with Laurent Koscielny being arguably one of the best in the world? A new holding midfielder for the starting eleven just after Francis Coquelin proved that he can play at the highest level? A world-class striker after Olivier Giroud has scored fourteen goals in the League despite missing three months due to injury? I don’t disagree that we need players in the aforementioned positions – except for central defenders where we have four good options – but we don’t need a new spine as spine would mean all new players would go straight into the first eleven. We need a few more bones to our title-challenging-body and that’s it.
10. Everton gave us a hand today in our battle for the direct place in the Champions League
Everton won the game against Manchester United today which means we are still two points ahead of United with a game in hand. That means if we win against Hull, Swansea, Sunderland and West Brom – and we play the latter three matches at home – we will end up third at worst. Third place would mean no Champions League qualifiers and a stress-free start to the next season. Manchester City are ahead of us on virtue of their better goal-difference but we have a game in hand. Perhaps we’ll get a favour from the unlikeliest of all sources – our neighbours Spuds host City next week and in case City slip at White Hart Lane, second place will be ours to lose.
So, our next game is against Hull City. If we win at the KC Stadium, we’ll have 70 points and three out of four remaining games at home. Hopefully we’ll show our quality from the winning streak that came to an end yesterday and keep our – still alive – unbeaten streak going.