[heading size=”8″]Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2 – Frailties Exposed As Arsenal Endure League Cup Exit [/heading]Arsenal crashed out of the Capital One Cup after a 2-0 defeat against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Whilst it wasn’t an “end of the world” type defeat, any kind of loss to those bellends is a particularly unpleasant one, but one that we probably deserved to lose in the balance of the game.
Arsene Wenger made plenty of changes to the side that beat Crystal Palace at the weekend, with Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Nacho Monreal, Tomas Rosicky, Ryo Miyaichi, Nicklas Bendtner and captain Thomas Vermaelen all getting rare starts. Aaron Ramsey continued in midfield alongside Santi Cazorla, with Jack Wilshere also starting the game.
Chelsea enjoyed the majority of the early possession as Arsenal failed to get going, but chances were few and far between with most of the goalmouth action happening from corner kicks.
The visitors went 1-0 up in the 25th minute as they countered quickly off an Arsenal corner. They broke and the ball was challenged for just inside the Arsenal half and went airborne, landing just outside the penalty area. Wilshere gestured to Jenkinson that he had time, seemed to change his mind, and the right back was forced into a late header back towards goal, but it wasn’t quite strong enough and Cesar Azpilicueta pounced on it to beat Fabianksi. Poor defending and poor communication, but Chelsea was deservedly in front.
This seemed to kick Arsenal into gear and Monreal had our best (and only) chance of the half as he pounced onto the ball that Chelsea gave away deep in their half, drove on towards goal and his shot fizzed past Mark Schwarzer’s far post. Aside from this though there was little of note for the home side in front of goal, as despite some crisp tight passing in midfield there was no cutting edge up front with Bendtner showing just how little football he’s played this season.
The second half had a greater intensity to it as Arsenal had to push for the equaliser. Samuel Eto’o had the first chance and nearly doubled Chelsea’s lead as he cut in from the left and curled the ball wide, before Arsenal began a decent spell of pressure.
Chances from distance came and went for Cazorla and Ramsey, then Arsenal pressed well and won the ball high up field, but neither Rosicky nor Bendtner could get their shots away inside the area, despite the latter having plenty of time, and frustration began to reach boiling point in the stadium as the home side’s inability to break through the Chelsea defence became all the more apparent.
Wenger brought on Mesut Ozil for Ryo in an attempt to swing things in our favour, but within a couple of minutes Juan Mata scored the visitors second with a fine shot from the edge of the area, and that was enough for Jose Mourinho’s men to advance to the next round of the competition.
Late chances to drag Arsenal back into the game fell for substitute Olivier Giroud, on for Bendtner, who shot straight at Schwarzer after Wilshere’s tight run into the area. Wilshere himself shot wide from distance and Rosicky had another shot blocked as the Giroud chance was registered as the home side’s only shot on target all game, a woeful return for us in a home tie against any side in any competition.
Chelsea had chances late on to score again but failed to do so as they eased their way to victory. Wenger realised this and brought off Ramsey for Park Chu-Young for a very rare outing, before we were put out of our misery and the game finished.
It was only the Capital One Cup but it was still a painful defeat, as any should be when we lose to that lot. The frailties of our squad were showed up by a much stronger Chelsea outfit that executed a game play to beat us perfectly, without needing to be at their best.
The calls to rotate before the game were just and the starting line up was stronger than most expected, but the players called to action lacked the sharpness and cohesion that their opponents had, and that was ultimately our downfall. It’s easy to point the finger and blame someone like Bendtner who had a disastrous evening, but when you throw in a player like him who has had barely any game time all season and, let’s face it, isn’t a good enough player then what can you expect?
Bendtner got into some decent positions but it was ultimately his poor touches, decision-making and lack of awareness of his teammates around him that cost him. He suffered from those because he hasn’t had the game time to improve those skills and he hasn’t had the game time because he isn’t a good enough player for Wenger to give him that.
So it’s both sympathy and a regret, because you can’t expect players who get zero game time to be thrown in against a side as good as Chelsea and make a difference, yet we had ample opportunities over the summer to improve our squad in the departments required, mainly up front, to ensure that when games like this came along we had the reinforcements, like Chelsea do, to win the fixtures.
On a more positive note, I was thoroughly impressed by Monreal and he was the stand out of the “fringe” players and the only one who has given Wenger anything to think about with regards to first team selection. He’s a solid player, good in defence and attack, and the competition for left back between him and Kieran Gibbs is what we should strive to have in all positions over the field.
Cazorla was instrumental for us moving forward, and it was the most he looked like the Santi of last season compared to the other fixtures he’s played so far this campaign, which is a huge positive. Ryo was a worry, whilst I like the kid and hope he succeeds (as with every young Arsenal player we see come through the ranks), he’s far too weak to cut it at this level and he’ll never impact games when he can be so easily brushed off the ball as he was.
Jenkinson again showed his rawness. He was slightly unlucky for the goal, the blame will be largely pointed at him but the communication he received from Wilshere put him under a huge amount of pressure and ultimately he didn’t have the experience to cope with it.
Vermaelen will be disappointed with his return too but you could again say, in similar fashion to what I said on Bendtner, that given his lack of game time it was tough to expect him to come in and work wonders. Yet I’m struggling to see him being allowed said game time in order to find any kind of consistency, such is the strength of the Mertielny axis at the back, and you have to wonder how many more times we’ll get to see the Club captain start for the first team.
Whilst the defeat was disappointing, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve been knocked out of a domestic competition and it’s another trophy we won’t be winning, but it frees up some midweek football and allows us to focus purely on League and European fixtures until the beginning of January. And with injuries plus a thin squad, that might not be the worst thing in the world.
Next we play Liverpool as first meets second in the Premier League on Saturday, and you have to feel that this is will be a far greater point of judgment for this Arsenal team than what we saw last night.
We’ll need to sure up at the back and work hard on our penetration in the final third for when we meet them as that’s twice now, following on from the Dortmund Champions League game, where we’ve gifted decent visiting sides an early opening goal making the task of breaking them down a whole lot harder.
That can’t happen on Saturday or it could be another difficult encounter, and another home slip up against a rival side could start to see heads drop in the squad. But the Liverpool game provides a chance for us to bounce back and show we have the bottle to play and beat the big clubs in the games that count.
It’s something we need to start doing if we’re going to be taken seriously as challengers at this level.