Arsenal will be ruing missed chances as the Gunners ended up dominating proceedings and had the better chances against London rivals Chelsea. Both Robin van Persie and Koscielny hit the woodwork in the first-half with the Dutchman also having a strong penalty claim late in the match, but it was not to be as both sides erred on the side of caution for large spells of the match. Both sides walked away sharing the points.
With Chelsea resting a number of their big-guns as a result of their busy schedule, it was clear that our London rivals were playing more-or-less for the stalemate. Tipped to be a free and expansive match, it nothing of the sort as both teams failed to find their fluidity and crispness on attack. Although in saying this, the Gunners did up the ante in the latter stages of the tie but were unable to apply sustained pressure on Chelsea’s goal.
A couple of positives to take out the performance though is that while Arsenal are only six points ahead of closest rival Newcastle and Tottenham who each have two games in hand, the Gunner’s already have the points in the bag meaning it is on both Toon and Spurs to perform and catch up. Also Arsenal can be proud of their defensive performance tonight and will certainly be a significant factor in coming weeks. Props must go to both Koscielny and Gibbs for outstanding performances.
On the negative front, Theo Walcott seems to have suffered a hamstring injury that is likely to keep him out of action for the rest of the season. It is a shame as the Englishman can be the difference in games against lesser opposition where he utilises his pace to good effect. It looks likely that young Alex Oxlade-Chamerbalin will have a more significant impact on the run-in towards the end of the season, but will want to improve on what was a hot and cold performance.
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We now look forward to the upcoming match against Stoke, who will certainly cause some trouble with their aerial threat. Thereafter it is onto Norwich and West Bromich Albion, all matches of which are must wins for the Gunners!
on whether it was a fair result…
It was a very unfair result but it is a result. I think [we should have had a penalty], I think also we had chances. At the end of the game we had the chances and they had zero. I cannot remember them having one chance. Having said that it was a little bit of a strange game because before the game I thought it would be an open one – we had to win, they had to win. They decided to lock up the game and catch us on the break only, with two wide players who are quick, and Torres.
on his team’s performance…
On our side I felt we had a very solid defensive performance. Going forward we didn’t find our quick passing game and the regret we have today is that we played offensively with a handbrake and not as clean technically as we can do. That is why we didn’t open them up enough. It was a bit similar to what we saw against Wigan and that’s a regret I have today. They had three defensive midfielders with Romeu, Malouda and Essien in the middle of the park so it was very difficult to play through there. It was very physical as well. They adopted a little bit the system they played against Barcelona – certainly they wanted to practice for Tuesday night.
on whether tiredness is creeping in…
No, I feel that we were a bit nervous today because we lost against Wigan and you could see it played a part in the fact that we played with the handbrake in the first half. To have an open game the two [teams] must go for it, but Chelsea never came really out.
on Theo Walcott’s injury…
It looks like a serious hamstring. First we assessed the hamstring, he wanted to go on and stay on the pitch, and I think he should have gone off straight away because the second time it was a real hamstring [injury]. I think now for him it will be tough to come back before the end of the season. It is usually 21 days [minimum]. He should be OK to play for England – he just will have a good rest. You suddenly become favourite to win the European Championship! But I don’t think he will be ready to play for us.
on whether his players were trying too hard…
No, I just felt we were a bit nervous today because we knew we could not afford to lose the game. We didn’t pass the ball quickly enough. Chelsea are experienced enough to force you to play the ball where they want you to play it. We couldn’t open them up enough and our change of pace in the game wasn’t good enough.
on Robin van Persie…
He played his 50th game [of the season] today and he gave absolutely everything again today. He was unlucky in the first half, he had a free kick he deflected and it was a clear-cut chance. Then when he was through I think he rushed his decision making a bit, when he took it with his right foot, because he had Diaby coming in completely on his own. It was not easy for him because he was completely on his own at some stages with not enough support. And he was caught offside one time and I am not sure he was.
on the race for Champions League places…
What it means is that we have to win the rest of our games and we have to look at the results over the weekend as well.
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs
Walcott Rosicky Ramsey Chamberlain
Van Persie (c)
Wojciech Szczesny | 6.5: Was eager to rush out from his line on several occasions and did so to good effect, besides his howler in the opening exchanges. Otherwise a relatively quiet performance.
Bacary Sagna | 6.5: Would probably have had conceded a penalty if Ashley Young was his man, but was waved away. At times looked to be struggling against Kalou, but recovered on most occasions.
Laurent Koscielny | 8.0: An absolute beast! Made a number of great tackles, aerial headers and last ditch tackles and was worthy of his man of the match performance. Unlucky to only hit the wood-work with his free header late in the first half.
Thomas Vermalen | 7.0: Somewhat overshadowed by Koscielny, but always managed to keep Torres in check and was not afraid to get physical.
Kieran Gibbs | 7.5: Must now be the preferred first choice left-back over Santos. As always was willing on attack, but also managed himself extremely well on defence.
Alexandre Song | 7.5: The Cameroon midfielder is certainly finding his touch on the offensive and played a delightful ball for Van Persie in the first half. Excellent distribution also.
Tomas Rosicky | 7.0: It is becoming a common theme that the creative Czech seems to be our likeliest source of a goal. Unusual he was subbed instead of Ramsey, although it was reported he was suffering from illness over the past few days. (65′)
Aaron Ramsey | 5.0: As I thought the Welshman wasn’t able to replicate Arteta’s defensive cover. While he did cover a lot of ground, he was relatively ineffective and lost the ball cheaply on way too many occasions in dangerous positions.
Theo Walcott | 6.0: Full of running, but again was hot and cold. Looks to be out for the rest of the season after pulling up with a hamstring injury and subsequently coming off in the 60th minute. (60′)
Robin van Persie | 6.0: An off day for the Dutchman who failed to convert a number of good chances. Missed a tap-in two-yards out, dwelt on the ball too long after a sublime ball by Song and failed to hit the target with his right foot.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 6.5: Had flashes of brilliance, but will have to improve his consistency as he often had lapses throughout the match. (70′)
- Notable substitutions
Gervinho | 5.5: The Ivorian did well when he came on for Walcott. Linked well with his team-mates and caused some threat when running at Chelsea defenders. (60′)
Abou Diaby | 6.0: Was hit and miss from the central midfielder. Guilty of giving the ball away in some dangerous positions, but also provided some spark on attack.
Andre Santos | 6.0: Lacked direction and looked out of sorts on the left-flank. He did bring energy, but was overall ineffective
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