This match on paper was exciting for Arsenal fans, despite Martin Atkinson being appointed to the match. Chelsea despite their skill and good results are visiting Arsenal without Didier Drogba.
No matter how bright the light, how nice the opportunity, a careless mistake ruins the game. Well two careless mistakes.
I really wanted to pick a Man of the Match, but I can barely bring myself to do it. I’m going to name Per Mertesacker. I’m a firm believer in fundamentals in defence, it’s why I love Tony Adams, Bould, Keown, Winterburn and Dixon so much. Had Mertesacker started the match I venture that the result would have been different. I really believe that. It’s easy to say that now, and hindsight is 20/20, but I have been preaching this on podcasts and forums for the last two weeks. Both Koscielny and Vermaelen had off days against Chelsea, it happens, it’s part of a long season, 32 more games to go.
If I have to pick a player who played I will go with Mikel Arteta. He made some nice tackles, drew some fouls and distributed the ball fairly efficiently. His number of touches was decreased as Mertesacker was not there to put the ball to him. While that seems innocuous it is important because it meant that Arsenal were trying to play more through balls. Arsenal’s passing statistics were below normal figures because Arsenal was trying to force the ball through and catch the Chelsea backline rather than work the ball up methodically like normal. Arteta did well to earn Oscar a yellow card, had he not found ground as he did, I doubt there would have been any discipline.
Podolski was really absent for large stretches, case in point is that Podolski was the last Arsenal player in get a touch in at the 13’. Through 30 minutes Podolski had barely been involved. It was not until the second half that Podolski got lively. He was subbed off when he was hitting his strike and his substitution did not feel appropriate for me.
Gervinho where was that last week? Receive, touch, turn, and bury that shit. After that Gervinho’s play got stale. He caused two offsides by just walking back, rather than jogging back into an onside position. Brutal effort, but he spent a lot of energy the previous two matches, might not have had enough energy to start the match. Awarding a free kick in the 18’ for the shoulder from Ca$hley would have been a little extreme, but the home fans at the match felt aggrieved by Atkinson.
Cazorla did another solid job of providing service, but he did not see the ball as much as I would have hoped. He had three chances himself to at least challenge Cech, all squandered. In the 50’ he snatched at the ball when he had time to settle, in the 71’ he should have shot earlier and used the defender as a screen. Instead he held on to the ball and ran across the box and took himself out of a good shooting position. In the 89’ he made a fundamental shooting error by pulling his shoulders back when he needed to keep his shoulders over top of the ball to drive it low ad on target.
Ramsey made a lot of errant passes. The phrase, “He tried too hard,” may actually apply. His ‘cross’ to Diaby was woeful, scuffed it along the ground for an easy clearance by the near sided Chelsea defender. He also needs to recognize that if support is not beside him that he can swing the ball wider across the pitch where someone will be open. Easier said that done, I know, but still, he cannot run himself into dead space with no support. He is not a good enough dribbler or quick enough to escape the defenders. Ramsey’s composure from the previous weekend was totally wasted. The prime examples are the back-to-back passes he botched in the 62’
Diaby never had a chance to get in to the match. He did make a good run, only for it to be wasted by a Ramsey scuffed cross. People are saying that losing Diaby was the difference. Diaby would have had influence, but losing him was not the difference between winning and losing. Arsenal are playing a team system losing one person is far less tragic for Arsenal than it is for Manchester United or Liverpool. The part of Diaby’s performance that we missed with his substitution were shots from distance; his shot in the 12’ was well taken and helped to keep Cech’s positioning honest.
Jenkinson was in tough in this match, his performance was adequate. He was not caught out of position as much in this match, but he was outclassed at every turn by the movement of the ball by Chelsea. Ca$hley skinned him once and he could not control Mata when he snuck out to that wing. His crossing was lack lustre, but so where his options in the box to head in the ball.
The Goat! A new award, specifically for Laurent Koscielny. Koscielny is a skilled player with a tremendous upside, but fundamentally he makes mistakes that cost Arsenal. We have seen it a lot and I have been harping on this for some time. We salute Koscielny for the goals he scores, but for each goal he scores often another one can be directly attributed to his blunder. In this match, he caused two. For an individual who wins as many aerial battles as he does, he forgot what his primary responsibility is in zone coverage, to clear the ball. He turned his back on the play, he also did not communicate with this teammates to assure that adequate coverage was in place to cover David Luiz an aerially gifted individual. The second goal I attribute two-thirds to Koscielny and one-third to Mannone. It’s simple, if you go for the ball without telling anyone, you have to play it. He gets a touch in and it might have hit the post otherwise. The culpability on Mannone was due to him not getting over with the haste that the situation required, especially given the time he had to get over there. Koscielny also had a spectacularly poor challenge in the 64’ which should have resulted in another goal, but Torres botched to save Arsenal.
Vermaelen was not quite sharp, he tried to make some aggressive passes that were caught out. He made some smart challenges, and he got a yellow card for making a necessary challenge. Some people are laying some responsibility on Vermaelen for the goal as it was his cynical challenge, but causing that foul prevented an open play opportunity and I hope he continues to make that challenge if it is there (though I would prefer that Arsenal are never caught out like that in the first place)
Gibbs was not crossing the ball well. A large portion of how I analyze his performance is based on his ability to cross the ball. His defending is quite solid, and his shooting abilities and link play have been consistent for most of the year. Where he differentiates his weekly performances is his ability to cross the ball with pace into dangerous places. This did not happen, but also because Arsenal did not flood the box with enough options.
Mannone played a pretty solid match, but made two mistakes that I do not think Szczesny would have made. The first was not communicated the lack of back post coverage on the Torres goal. The second mistake was the lack of haste to go for the ball and lack of communication with his defenders to ensure the ball was cleared.
Oxlade-Chamberlain came on at a very awkward time, he was cooled from the warm-up period to have to strip down and get back into the match. He made a lot of passes that lacked conviction and accuracy. They came up short, were off line and often found teammates behind their stride. Bringing him on for Diaby and moving Ramsey centrally was a mistake in my opinion. I think we all knew that based on the bench that Walcott and Giroud were going to come on, so the OxCart would have played centrally at the end. For my money, I would have had him in the middle the whole time he was on. It would have prevented some of the confusion of later moments in the match.
Walcott was heavily scrutinized by me and one of my mates, this is because I have been defending Walcott’s playing abilities on the ArsenalCanada.ca forum when others are saying that he may as well be sold because he is not adding enough to the club. In this match he did not see enough of the ball to make much happen. Everytime he did see the ball he tried to start up a one-two only to have the return ball never arrive. It’s not his fault, but there are already grumblings that he is not doing eough.
Giroud is going to make some people’s naughty lists because let’s face it, points are on his foot and again are gone. He classily scored a goal midweek and could have easily scored in the same fashion against Chelsea, but he took the ball wide and lost his angle and his space to eliminate Cech. Cech did well to close down, but he should have been put to the sword by a measured chip.
The match was a good test for Arsenal, one which they through away by not playing how they practice. It was tough to adjust for the “Grassman” aka Hazard; I call him the Grassman because he must love the smell and feel because he spends so much time on the floor. It is a little pathetic.
The Torres fall in the box was not a penalty. It’s simple, Torres in the act of shooting, kicked Koscielny. Koscielny made not gesture to interfere with Torres, did not reach out for the ball, he was shadowing Torres. Atkinson had a chance to impact the match and did not take it; I must say I am relieved! His one refereeing blunder was the card to David Luiz, that was a little sad, but mildly understandable given the match score and circumstances.
Arsenal’s shooting in the match lacked the fundamental success of previous matches. I do not know if it was scouting on Cech that caused that or the immense respect that players have for him. Arsenal score goals by shooting low, forcing mistakes and spilled balls. The sheer amount of shots that went over the bar was disappointing because Chelsea’s defence is as capable of scoring an own goal or deflecting one in or knocking in a spilled ball as anybody. Hell David Luiz nearly turned one in on the near post in the match.