Arsenal v Chelsea
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: December 23, 2013 8:00 PM BST
Tonight was a huge game for Arsenal, one they certainly didn’t want to lose, and a chance to reclaim their place at the top of the league. It’s been a bad run for Arsenal recently, with one point from two Premier League games and the loss against Napoli. This was a chance to set that record right or at the very least not let it continue.
After scoring twice against City, Walcott retained his place in the starting eleven. With Rosicky in place of the suspended Jack Wilshere, and Vermaelen for the injured Laurent Koscielny. Other than that everything was as would be expected.
The game kicked off with both sides seemingly unwilling to commit men forward, and looking like it was going to be an extremely tactical game. Nothing more than you’d expect from a Wenger v Mourinho battle. There were a few misplaced passes from both sides, Ramsey and Rosicky in particular on the Arsenal side, both teams grew into the game as the half went on however.
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The referee on the night was Mike Dean. An official that Arsenal fans are by no means enamoured by. This seemed set to continue as his cards stayed firmly in his pocket after some robust fouls by the Chelsea players.
Neither team were looking particularly threatening, Arsenal’s best chance coming from a Sagna cross. The ball looked perfect for Olivier Giroud to tap home, but Cahill made a diving lunge for it, and just managed to put it out for a corner. Chelsea went down the other end minutes later to create their best chance of the half, Hazard lifting a ball over the Arsenal defence and finding Lampard. The Blue’s midfielder looked destined to score as he rifled his shot past Szczesny, but it thundered off the bar and back into play.
Mike Dean’s officiating was again called into question when Mikel came in with a horrendous challenge on Arteta. Both players went in hard to win the ball, but Arteta got there first. Mikel’s tackle was high and late, and looked as if it easily could have been a leg breaker on another day. Dean ignored the Spaniard’s screams of pain though, and let play continue.
Further on in the same move, Özil showed good feet to work his way into the Chelsea box. He laid the ball off to Walcott who had his feet unceremoniously swept from under him by Willian. It looked like a certain penalty, but again Dean waved play on.
Late in the first half Ramsey almost gifted a goal to Chelsea. After being driven into a cul-de-sac in the Chelsea half, he played a blind pass back. It fell straight to a Chelsea man and a four on three counter ensued. Willian got into a good shooting position but his eventual shot was tame and straight at Szczesny. The Welshman breathed a sigh of relief. A fairly quiet half for the most part, nil nil at the break.
The second half Arsenal looked more threatening, while Chelsea seemed content to sit even further back and try and hit the Gunners on the break. This tactic almost paid off for them when Gibbs and Sagna were both caught out of position. But Ramires and Hazard were both let down by poor touches and Arteta was able to shepherd the Belgian out of play.
The Spaniard was then a victim of another terrible challenge, this time from Ramires. And Dean finally decided to get the cards out, giving the Brazilian the first yellow of the match. The cards were then a bit more free flowing with a couple of Arsenal players picking up cards for fairly innocuous challenges.
Giroud hadn’t had a huge amount to work with throughout at the game, but his and Arsenal’s best chance came when a great Ramsey lofted pass bounced up perfectly in front of him. The angle was tight but there was a gap at the near post, he sliced his shot wide though and fell to the floor holding his head in disbelief.
He was given a chance to redeem himself late on, when a great one-two between Gibbs and Rosicky resulted in the Englishmen being set free down the right side of the box. He cut the ball back across goal from the byline, and Giroud was there to poke it goalwards. Cech pulled off a great save though and somehow managed to tip it just over the bar; how much he knew about it is another question completely.
What was very unusual to see was Arsene Wenger failing to make a single substitute. It seemed as though he was fearful of the Chelsea counter attack, and didn’t want to disrupt the defensive positioning of the team.
There were some tense moments for both teams in the dying minutes, but the game finished nil nil, both teams taking a share of the points. Chelsea move into fourth with their point, while Arsenal are second to Liverpool only on goal difference. With a tough match against an in form Newcastle side up next, Arsenal need to regain some of their winning form from earlier in the season.
on the big decisions…
I can understand [why Chelsea think the referee did well]. I think the referee did not have a great game.
on the difference of opinion…
It’s Christmas so let’s give everyone his own opinion and I can have mine, but what can you say? We dropped two points tonight and that’s what we want to focus on, to win the next game.
on the penalty shout…
I think it was a penalty, honestly. If I am wrong I apologise but from outside it looked a penalty. I haven’t seen it on video. Chelsea defended well, they were well-organised and we didn’t find our zippy movements to play through the lines as we can do. But I think in the second half there was room to win the game. Overall they were happy with a point, we were not happy with a point, but we couldn’t take the few chances we created.
on the tackle on Arteta…
Honestly I have to watch that again on television. On the pitch it looked bad but the referee was in a good position. I have to watch that again.
on dealing with defensive opponents…
We have to find a way, to sort that problem out. I felt we were a bit edgy because we conceded six goals at Man City. It played a bit of a part in our head at the start of the game. In the second half we took control of the game and we had two or three chances where maybe we could have done better. You could still see that the two games we played at Napoli and at Man City had a little part, a little weight in our heads. But the fact that Chelsea gave us that problem, we want to be strong enough to deal with that.
on Giroud missing late chances…
The three games he played in six days had a big weight in our recent results, but since then we had nine days when we could recover and I think tonight he was not tired. I will have to rest everybody at some stage. Bendtner or somebody else [will have to start at some stage].
on not making substitutions…
Because I had plenty of offensive players on the pitch and we were in the need to attack. I had Walcott, I had Ramsey, I had Ozil, I had Giroud, I had Rosicky, and because we didn’t play for nine days none of them looked really jaded. That’s why… I felt we had the balance defensively and we had four or five offensive players on the pitch, let’s continue to do that. And we had the chances, of course. When you don’t score you don’t score.
on how he sees the title race…
It’s tight as you say. But it’s down to consistency. We go through a patch that is a bit more difficult, I agree with you, but part of a successful season is how well you deal with that. I must say the spirit of the players is unbelievably focused, we have a great desire. We go through a period where it’s a bit more difficult but with that spirit we’ll come out of that.
on whether he will ever beat Mourinho…
That’s good for the media story.
on whether four games without a win affects confidence…
Look, it doesn’t help. But let’s be serious. If after the first game against Aston Villa I would have told you that at Christmas we would be top of the league, you would have said you are absolutely mad, so let’s not go completely overboard as well. We are where we are, we have gone through the last three games, which were a bit more difficult. We still have played Everton, we have played Man City and we have played Chelsea.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“Watch what Dean books an Arsenal player for. Words can’t express my hatefor him. It’s van persie-esque… Though clearly not that bad.”
“Arsenal with the best chance of the game. Just wide by Giroud. More please.”
” Jose said the ref had a great game. Arsene: ‘Of course.’ ”
“Anyway, we’re (basically) joint top at Christmas. I wasn’t expecting this, doubt many were, so let’s not get too bonkers.”
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Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen(c) Gibbs
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