We all knew how tricky the January schedule would be for us but we didn’t prepare ourselves once again. Chelsea outsmarted us in their 1-0 win and won all three points thanks to a goal from Diego Costa in the first half. The damaging blow from the Spanish striker came before his goal however, forcing Per Mertesacker to make a professional foul and Chelsea got themselves the advantage they craved.
Arsenal worked hard and put everything in to find a way back but we just couldn’t score. We are now third, three points behind Leicester and level on points with Manchester City who have a superior goal-difference.
Here are the key points from the game:
1.Our defending was dreadful again.
Whether we agree with Mark Clattenburg’s call on Mertesacker or not, we must say our defending was again not good enough. Mathieu Flamini didn’t offer enough protection to our back four and his lack of pressure on the opponents midfielders (this time it was Willian) caused us a huge problem. An offside trap can’t be played without pressure on the ball and it gets even worse when Per Mertesacker, arguably the slowest defender that has ever worn an Arsenal shirt, is part of it.
Then again, it’s not just down to Mertesacker and Flamini as our other defenders should have dealt better with Branislav Ivanović’s cross for Costa’s goal. Laurent Koscielny has been looking shaky ever since the defeat at Southampton and was lucky not to concede a penalty when he barged into Fabregas in the second half.
2.We didn’t score against Chelsea…again.
In the last eight matches against Chelsea in all competitions we have scored a single goal – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strike in Community Shield. While in the last six matches against Chelsea in all competitions at the Emirates we have only scored just once too – it was Gervinho’s strike in a 1:2 defeat in 2012-13 after Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass.
To make matters worse, we have failed to find the net against Chelsea in the last six league matches. The last player to score against Chelsea in the league was Theo Walcott in a 1:2 defeat at Stamford Bridge in 2012-13 after Santi Cazorla’s pass.
Neither Mesut Özil nor Olivier Giroud have managed to either create or score a goal against Chelsea since their arrival to Arsenal. The hoodoo continues and it is starting to become a real issue.
3.Theo Walcott failed to mark his milestone.
Indeed, Arsene Wenger’s decision to reward Theo Walcott’s ten years at Arsenal with a captain armband was the least of our problems but I can’t see the point of that decision. Theo is hardly a player that you can picture as someone having discussions with the referee or as a vocal leader in the dressing room.
However, as I’ve already mentioned, there were a few bigger issues regarding Theo on Sunday. He didn’t do much apart from getting into every Chelsea offside trap and his touch was generally too heavy. He was no outlet for Özil. It’s worth noting that Theo has scored just three goals in seventeen league appearances this season – a poor return for someone who wants to play as a striker.
4.Alexis Sánchez is back.
If there is a single silver lining in this awful defeat, it’s the fact Alexis is back after almost two months on the sidelines. The Chilean was brought on for Walcott midway through the second half and looked much sharper than the Englishman. Given that Özil has looked jaded in January, we will need Alexis at his best to keep our title challenge alive.
5.Arsene Wenger can still make things right.
Mr Wenger, you should have checked your mail. I warned you about how difficult our January would be almost two months ago but you still decided to put your eggs in that porous Mathieu Flamini-shaped basket. We have won just five points out of twelve in January because there was no early purchase. And no, I don’t count Mohamed Elneny because he is yet to make a debut.
There is a whole week of this transfer window for Wenger to turn things around. I understand we can’t sign a top striker who could match Sergio Agüero – after all, with Alexis back, we don’t need one – but at least we can get a defensive midfielder that will make sure neither Mathieu Flamini nor Mikel Arteta have to be called upon. I know that you don’t like spending big money, especially not in January, but how about this Polish guy from Sevilla named Grzegorz Krychowiak? He is top of the game and has already admitted that Arsenal has expressed interest in him (via Fourfourtwo). He was so good in 2015 that he was nominated for UEFA Team of the Year (via thenews.pl).
Mr Wenger, in case you have forgotten, the last time when Arsenal won the league, you signed a player from Sevilla in January transfer window. Do it again!
Our next game is against Burnley in FA Cup where we are expected to bounce with a victory. We can expect Wenger to make some changes. Gabriel de Abreu is likely to replace Mertesacker and we might see Mohamed Elneny in action for the very first time.