It hasn’t been easy to play against Chelsea in the Abramovich-era, especially when one of he numerous horrible English referees Martin Atkinson is on duty. Today’s match was no exception as we suffered our second defeat Chelsea this season.
However, it would be too easy to put whole blame on Atkinson’s back. Our first half performance was terrible as we made just two decent attempts on goal – Giroud’s sitter in the opening minutes and Cazorla’s long shot. It’s a logical thing when you know that we had a mere 31 percent of possession in the first half and one of the best Croatian coaches of all times deceased Ante Mladinić used to say that “opponents can’t score a goal if they don’t have a ball”. We were struggling to make a clear-cut chance, our set-pieces – both those that were supposed to be direct and an indirect threat to goal – were useless like usual this season. Despite all hope and optimism – far-fetched or real – before matches against Top Three clubs, it is a reality that this Arsenal are not anywhere near the top. We can’t expect that to change unless our manager realizes he can actually spend 30 million pounds to sign a world-class player in either midfield department or attack.
Wenger sent the same first 11 from Swansea match with Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both out due to illness. John Terry didn’t play for Chelsea despite some reports that he would make a come-back against Arsenal.
The first chance of the game was ours. Walcott made a wonderful through pass to Giroud on the left side of the penalty box. The Frenchman was in excellent position to score but his left-footed shot ended wide. And, in the next attack Chelsea scored their first controversial goal. Ramires took the ball from Coquelin in the midfield by fouling the Frenchman but Martin Atkinson didn’t award a foul to Arsenal despite being very close. Azpilicueta sent a diagonal long ball behind our defensive line to Juan Mata who made a great first touch before blasting the ball into the roof of the net. It was 3rd goal Mata scored against Arsenal in four matches. Sagna was to blame for the goal but it should be said that Atkinson’s mistake was crucial part of whole attack.
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Cazorla tried to respond to his country-mate with a long shot but Čech parried it. Hazard made a problem to Sczszesny on the other side of the pitch but the Pole saved his shot. It didn’t take long for the Chavs to score again. Two Brazilians played crucial roles – Ramires took the ball from Diaby and combined with Oscar. Oscar passed the ball to Ramires on right side of our penalty box. Ramires went on to round Sczszesny asking for contact. Sczszesny fouled him and Atkinson pointed to the spot. Lampard scored to make it 2:0. We were approaching to the interval and mountain that we had to climb on looked like Mount Everest. Ramires could make it look like something only Felix Baumgartner could challenge but his shot went wide.
In the second half, inconsistency of both teams became our ally. Mertesacker and Walcott made attempts in the early stages of the second half but failed to reduce the margin. Gibbs made a decent cross for Giroud but the Frenchman’s header lacked power to test Čech seriously. Four minutes before the hour, we scored. Wilshere took the ball in the middle and passed it to Cazorla. The Spaniard made a wonderful splitting pass to Walcott who pulled a splendid finish. In the same action Coquelin got injured which forced Wenger to replace Le Coq with Aaron Ramsey.
Unfortunately, our spell of dominance got a little bit dry. Chelsea were dangerous from the counter-attacks – Torres made two excellent runs only to spoil them with heavy touch while Ramires was denied by Vermaelen in the decisive moment. Demba Ba – who went on to replace Torres – nearly scored a third goal against us in three weeks when he had beaten an offside trap thanks to Vermaelen. Sczszesny decided to make a rush-in in order to stop Senegalese striker who rounded him and would have scored if Vermaelen hadn’t been there to indulge himself with an excellent save on the goal-line. We tried to score the second goal as well but Cazorla’s and Vermaelen’s free-kicks from promising positions didn’t make any difference, while Walcott’s and Giroud’s attempts weren’t useful either. Giroud’s header that went over the bar was the last attempt.
We are yet to beat any of title contenders (Manchester clubs and Chelsea) this season showcasing that our team is far from being good enough to fight for silverware. Unfortunately, this is our reality and we have to deal with the fact that our manager is reluctant to spend any money to bring some reinforcements to our club despite the fact we have arguably the most mediocre team in 20 years.
If you think that I’m over-reacting, just ask yourself a question: how many players from today’s Arsenal would you select among Top 5 or even Top 10 on their position?
on an improved second-half performance…
Tactically we changed some things. Psychologically I felt we were more on the front foot. We had a similar start to Man City last week – didn’t really go for it, didn’t really defend well and gave too much room to Chelsea. On top of that, I feel we were a bit unlucky because it was a free kick on the first goal and it was not a penalty on the second goal. We were a bit unlucky. We didn’t play well in the first half. In the second half we came out with a different spirit, a different attitude and were much more dangerous and dominated the whole second half. Unfortunately, we didn’t come back. We didn’t make enough of our corners and free kicks and didn’t make enough of the chances we created. That’s why we lost the game. It’s very damaging for our position in the league and very difficult to swallow.
on the difference in first and second-half performances…
It’s similar to last week. After you discover that a team has fantastic quality and spirit. We come into the game when we’re 2-0 down. That’s worrying of course, because in the big games, once you start at 2-0 down, it’s very difficult.
on the first-half performance…
Chelsea played well and I feel we were not well positioned on the pitch. We were too stretched and individually gave them too much room to play. We didn’t defend tight enough. We were always allowing them to play when they wanted.
on the foul on Coquelin…
The referee gave many free kicks today. Some were much less than the Coquelin one. It’s frustrating. It doesn’t mean that we should have conceded the goal, but it’s frustrating because in the big games, these kind of decisions have big importance.
on the penalty…
He could have given a yellow card to Ramires as well.
on explaining the first-half display…
We had a physical problem to get going today. In the second half it was much better. When you play every three days, it’s difficult to know. There’s a psychological ingredient in there for sure. I felt that in the last two games that we didn’t really go for it from the start.
on being six points outside the top four…
The table is the table. We have lost two big games in the last week and that’s very damaging for us. We cannot afford to drop points anymore if we want to be in the top four. It’s a concern.
on if there is a leadership issue…
There’s a great spirit in the team. There’s great quality in the team. The team has to believe more in the quality we have. You could see with 10 men against Man City and today again that we can be dominant in the games. We have to [do that] from the start.
on critics saying the team can’t challenge for titles…
I wouldn’t like to comment on every opinion of people. What is important is that we focus on giving our best in the next game and our next game is on Wednesday.
on potential signings…
We’ll see what we can do. We are not close to signing anybody tonight or tomorrow morning.
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Wojciech Szczesny | 6.0: He didn’t react very well to the first goal (though it was the one that Sagna should take bigger chunk of blame), conceded penalty for the second and made a pointless rush-in that gave opportunity to Demba Ba to easily round him but Vermaelen was our savior. Sczszesny managed to pull-out some good saves, though.
Bacary Sagna | 5.0: He was horrible in the first half. He allowed Mata to go behind his back and it’s not the first time in recent weeks that Sagna had allowed his opponents to create problems for our goalkeeper. He made some improvements in second half as well as the rest of our team did.
Per Mertesacker | 6.5: He gave a decent overall performance but it is not very flattering for him to know that he made just one weak attempt with left foot despite having number of corners and free-kicks in second half. He was beaten by Torres in one occasion in second half but Sczszesny picked up the ball in front of Torres.
Thomas Vermaelen | 6.5: He made a couple of excellent defensive moves that saved our goal – he stopped a dangerous counter-attack led by Ramires and saved a low shot from Ba. Torres ran past him in same situation I mentioned in Mertesacker’s case.
Kieran Gibbs | 6.0: Much better in the second half and, again, he was much better in offensive part. He can be caught out of position easily with one-twos and that is something he should be working on.
Abou Diaby | 5.0: Invisible and responsible for Chelsea’s second goal. It seems that he couldn’t play well in two matches in four days. Maybe Wenger will realize we really need a new midfielder.
Francis Coquelin | 6.0: He was trying to do something in the first half and he was missed a lot after he went out due to injury. His ability to pass the ball and fight for it as well was important ingredient of our fight-back in the second half as well.
Jack Wilshere | 6.0: I like Jack a lot but he must improve his decisions since our defense had been left in troubles after his wrong passes. He made an interception that led to our goal while his approach is never disputable.
Theo Walcott | 7.0: He scored a goal with Henry-sque finish and if Giroud was wearing his shooting boots today, he would have an assist by his name as well. However, he spent too much time being offside and in couple of occasions he decided to shoot despite passing bring the much better option.
Santi Cazorla | 6.5: He made a wonderful assist for Walcott, a splitting pass that was absolutely stunning. However, that was his only moment of efficiency today. First half – horrible, with exception of a dangerous long-range shot.
Olivier Giroud | 5.5: He missed a sitter in the opening minutes that could take the game in other way as well as couple of headers in the second half. It seems to me that Giroud is going to be this side’s Kanu – loveable guy with ability to make a brilliant performance sometimes but not the one that leads team to the silverware.
Aaron Ramsey | 5.5: He made a couple of good moves but it is symptomatic that our rise ended when he went on instead of Coquelin as the Welshman slowed our passing game while our defense was more exposed as they lost their shield.
Andrey Arshavin | 5.0: Didn’t do anything. Totally out of form and match fitness.
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