Arsenal v Chelsea: a decent point. Has Thierry Henry lost the plot?

Arsenal’s winning streak came to an end yesterday after our attempts to break down Chelsea’s defense proved fruitless. And look, it’s not the worst way to end our run: we battled a point from the inevitable champions, while dominating the Blues in territory and possession. Yes, the result plays into Mourinho’s hands more than into Arsene’s, however, our chances of catching up always looked slim, even more so after Chelsea managed to grind out all three points against United. But I maintain yesterday’s draw can prove very valuable to us in the end.

Arsenal are now joint third, two points above United and level with City. But we have a home game against Sunderland in hand. Not a bad place to be in, considering the way our campaign kicked off.

Much like against Burnley, though for different reasons entirely, not much actual football happened during the 90 minutes, so I’ll just concentrate on points of interest.

The squad

Arsene named an unchanged side from his previous two PL games. Mertesacker was deemed fit and was reinstated straight away, Bellerin was preferred to Debuchy and Rambo had another outing on the right. All these players had a very good game. Mertesacker was solid throughout, dominating the air completely even after Drogba came on.

Ramsey, though by no means a winger, played nicely. Some of his lovely flicks kept our attacks ticking under difficult circumstances and his all-round game was much better than against Burnley. The Welshman looked better still when moved infield for the remaining ten minutes of the game. I especially enjoyed his ability to run past defenders with the ball, when Cazorla and Ozil struggled to do that all game. Aaron greatly reminded me of Wilshere in that regard.

Hector Bellerin in action against Chelsea

Hector Bellerin in action against Chelsea

Finally, Bellerin for Debuchy. While it’s not indicative of anything just yet, it was interesting to set the Spaniard get the nod. Does that mean he has become our number 1 or was it just because Debuchy needed a rest after playing 120 minutes against Reading? We’ll have our answer next week.

If the scales are tipped in Bellerin’s favour, I won’t be worried in the slightest. Hector had a brilliant game. Much like Coquelin, he has proved indispensable since the turn of the year. Both demonstrated consistency and ability to cope with whatever opposition, so I won’t lose any sleep should Bellerin win the race for that right-back spot. When a man keeps the player of the year in his pocket for the entire game, then he’s ready to play week in, week out.

Mesut Ozil

While not MoM for me (Bellerin stole the show), the German is definitely my pick for player of the month. Even yesterday, when space was scarce and goalscoring opportunities hard to come by, Mesut created three chances, made 107 touches (most any on-pitch player mastered) and completed 71 out of 76 passes. Instrumental.

Yes, he missed that late chance. I have to see the replays again, but I think shooting was never on Ozil’s mind. He tried a dummy in the hopes of Welbeck ticking it away, so I’d sooner blame Welbeck than Ozil.

Henry’s remarks

“I think Giroud is doing extremely well. But can you win the league with him? I wouldn’t think so”.

“He does a job, and he does it ever so well, but you can’t win the league.

“Arsenal were at the top of the league last season, but everyone was saying they are not going win the league.

“I think they need to buy four players – they need that spine. They need a goalkeeper, they still need a centre back, they still need a holding midfielder and, I’m afraid, they need a top, top quality striker to win this league again.

“He [Arsene Wenger] has to do it. You need to have this competitive thing within the group – to win the league, that has to happen.”

“Players need to perform, also. I will single out Mesut Ozil. Against a top-four team, that was his eighth game today – zero goals and two assists,” he added.

“That is not enough. Overall, since he has been at Arsenal, he has 14 assists. You look at Cesc Fabregas, he has 16 assists in one season. Players at one point need to perform.”

What a load of bollocks! Forgive me, but it’s true. And it makes me very sad to see Henry a) jumping on the bandwagon b) expressing common opinion without giving it much thought or analysis. Let me dissect this steaming pile of, erm, dung.

First up, Giroud. Only a week ago Henry was hailing the Frenchman, one game later, a game, in which Giroud was denied space, marked by two to three defenders at a time and basically devoid of service and wham! Suddenly Giroud had become not good enough for Henry. Let’s just ignore the fact he played against one of the most organized defenses in the world and forget about 18 goals in 28 games, shall we?

Mesut Ozil was again at the heart of everything good

Mesut Ozil was again at the heart of everything good

I won’t dwell on Mesut Ozil. His contribution goes far beyond goals and assists, yesterday he was among the best performers anyway and if Henry fails to see it, then I guess he should reconsider being a pundit. Or Sky should ask themselves a question why this man is being paid millions when he struggles to see the obvious.

Finally, “the spine of the team”.

Goalkeeper

Let me make myself perfectly clear: if an opportunity to snatch up someone like Lloris comes along, then I’d sell Szczesny in a heartbeat. But the newcomer will have to earn his place, in my opinion. Ospina has done nothing wrong. If Szczesny stays, then no, we don’t need a new keeper.

Centre-back

The acquisitions of Gabriel and Chambers combined with Mertesacker’s top performance yesterday should have flown under Thierry’s radar, otherwise he wouldn’t have said we need another defender.

We’ll only need one if Mert leaves. And the new guy should be behind at least Gabriel in the pecking order, maybe even Chambers. So even if BFG departs, the need won’t be very pressing.

Screening midfielder

As back-up to Coquelin, we probably need one. As long as Arteta leaves. Otherwise, we don’t. Haven’t Henry been paying attention to how well Coq played? That he is, indeed, statistically superior to ANY screener in the BPL? Or does Henry only bring up the numbers when they confirm what he says?

Striker

Just read my article (link).  We don’t (and we most likely won’t) buy a striker. It will signal an end to either Akpom’s or Sanogo’s career, greatly diminish Welbeck’s chances, consign a brilliant Giroud to the bench and may even affect Sanchez.

Oh, about Sanchez… Thierry remembers we still have the Chilean? Maybe he also remembers Sanchez was bought AS A CENTRE FORWARD?

Regarding what Wenger should or shouldn’t do. Thierry has been under the Frenchman’s guidance long enough to know better than advising Arsene. Wenger always does things his way, he never buys for the sake of buying and he rarely listens to anyone else’s opinion. For better or for worse, that’s just how he is (link).

What's he on about?

What’s he on about?

Thierry’s comments deeply sadden me. Mostly because I love the man for everything he’s done at, and for, Arsenal. From what I’ve seen and heard so far, he’s been pretty average at punditry. (link) Just the other day I said that, while he may turn out to be an average pundit, at least he’s on our side. That he’ll shield Arsene and his players from (often unjust) criticism on TV. And here we are. Henry criticizing the players, the manager and just basically jumping on the bandwagon. Without looking at a broader picture, without saying anything new or exciting. What a shame.

Final thoughts

I’ve seen a healthy portion of criticism aimed at how we weren’t good enough to win the game and I find it strange. You can’t realistically expect the team to win every game, and it’s not like we’ve suffered a humiliating loss yesterday. We got a point against soon-to-be-champions by demonstrating some maturity and determination. The way Chelsea celebrated the draw tells you who was closer to winning the game.

As I said, it can turn out to be a valuable point indeed, so I see no need to chastise the team for the performance or, indeed, the result. Leave it to the TV pundits.

Have yourselves a good week!

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13 Responses to Arsenal v Chelsea: a decent point. Has Thierry Henry lost the plot?

  1. tomchou April 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    Do agree that the one.point might be valuable at the end. I think one has to look at Henry’s comments in context. We might not need 4 at all but there will be additions . And one doesn’t have to associate Thierry the player to the Sky commentator. Still the league is not over for us. A FA cup final to look forward to and nailing the 2nd place would be nice.

  2. pedantic george April 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Great work

  3. Rakkai April 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    I think you are taking a defensive approach to Henry’s comments. He is probably as frustrated as must of the supporters for the fact that Wenger is yet to record a win against Mourinho which has to mean something and I agree that with a destructive centre forward,things would have been different . Giroud is a brilliant second option as a striker but not good enough to lead the time of our first team. He is good and will score but this is mainly due for the quality and intelligence of our runs which suits his intricate passing. If you look properly,.he doesn’t read ball flights that well in the middle of the park, has little pace and cannot take a player on which is one the reason he is not successful against top oppositions! Wenger has turned the corner to me over the last 2 years gaining depth of sheer class in midfield, better team balance and strong competition for places without breaking his philosophy . A couple of wise buys and we will gain real confidence that we will have enough to challenge throughout the season.

  4. mark April 27, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Typical, someone speaks the truth and you prefer to bury your head in the sand. Henry was spot on. Giroud whilst decent is not a top striker and even if he as we need another. We may have bought Sanchez as a striker but is he really a striker? And please don’t get me started on that lazy oaf you call Ozil. A few deft touches and people are salivating, forgetting about the amount of moves and chances his laziness kills.Not a premiership player in a million years, waste of £42m. And what has he done in the big games as Henry rightly pointed out? Coquelin is doing a good job but what happens when he’s injured? We will never improve if people like you always adopt this defensive attitude anytime anyone speaks the obvious truth. Then you’re talking about if you spread our current form over x period of time, what utter garbage. The only time span that matters is August till May, everything else is irrelevant. If Everton’s current form was transposed they would be in the top 4.Do you think Henry is saying all this out of love or hatred for the club?

  5. greg April 27, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

    Well said, yet I do believe we need a couple of players too, Arteta is good but is he still that good to play for Arsenal, I doubt, same for Per, let’s not frgive something here, next year EPL clubs will cash out on TV rights, bug sums, meaning endless spending powers, no fears of Financial Fait play, United, Chelsea, City and at least Liverpool will buy, they will buy big even if they saty on the bench 2/3 of the season, theirs subs might be enough to keep them winning. I am quite happy Arsenal position in the table right now and even more happy if they can bring another FA cup, but we do need quality subs and to be honest, Wellbeck is far from what I was thinking, Flamini can hold the pace with smaller clubs but definitly not the big boys, Monreal is doing pretty well but Gibbo was a deception this season. Our midfield remains strong, lots of qualities but often injured.

    I also believe Henry said that because he was pretty upset that Arsenal didn’t beat Chelsea, we know too well his love for the club and Wenger and like many arsenal fans sometimes words go out with no intention to really hurty anyone.

  6. Dave Seager April 27, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    Alex I will happily support your writing and I am fiercely loyal to those who where our shirt but…..

    I was at match and have not seen interview but I am fairly sure he has a point or 2. I love Giroud and have championed him from day one so I will not change now but we do need a new GK and we will need an alternative to Coquelin.

    As for the CB I am very positive on Gabriel and there is simply no way TH has seen enough to judge that one yet,

    However I also feel/know that relationship with AW is such that he will not be saying anything he is not fairly confident his mentor is set to address.

    D

  7. Omar Hasan Khan April 27, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    Hi Alex,

    I think we should also try to understand where Henry’s coming from with regard to what he said. Henry, and I’m sure you already know this, played in teams that were quite ruthless and if things weren’t clicking, then he himself would step up his game and try to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Giroud is not that player.

    Henry praised him again by the way, previous praise was not accompanied with a statement that Arsenal will win the league so it’s not as if he’s gone back on his word.

    I believe what Henry should have further identified is that Arsenal’s style of play has considerably changed since his time. It’s VERY pass-and-build heavy and Giroud fits in well there. However, when such a style is nullified, who will create that magic? That extra bit that will take you over the finish line. That’s what was missing versus Chelsea. Though, yes, we eventually got behind their defence in injury time to create that Ozil chance.

    As far as the spine is concerned, I think Henry wants to see recognised names in there. Henry had Seaman and Lehmann in goal, Adams/Keown/Campbell at CB, Vieira/Gilberto in CM, and then himself up top. Recognised names. He’s seen that era under Wenger and it was successful. He probably wants to see the same sort of investment now that’s an option. I like Ospina too, but yes, there are better than him out there. He’s praised Coq and I don’t think he meant replace him.

    Lastly, as far as the Ozil/Cesc comment was concerned, I agree that it was a little rash. It was throwing statistics without delving into the reasons behind them. Different types of players playing in different systems. I won’t go into those details. Plus he had a great partnership with Cesc so a bit of bias must have crept into that.

    Anyway, like another reader has commented above, Henry was probably just as frustrated and hurt to see us draw a blank and spoke his mind rather than jumping on the bandwagon. Credit should be given where it’s due and criticism where it’s due. Yes we can’t win every game, doesn’t mean we can’t look at areas for improvement if we don’t win.

    I’ll stop now, written a bit too much!

  8. Omar Hasan Khan April 27, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    Hi Alex,

    I think we should also try to understand where Henry’s coming from with regard to what he said. Henry, and I’m sure you already know this, played in teams that were quite ruthless and if things weren’t clicking, then he himself would step up his game and try to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Giroud is not that player.

    Henry praised him again by the way, previous praise was not accompanied with a statement that Arsenal will win the league so it’s not as if he’s gone back on his word.

    I believe what Henry should have further identified is that Arsenal’s style of play has considerably changed since his time. It’s VERY pass-and-build heavy and Giroud fits in well there. However, when such a style is nullified, who will create that magic? That extra bit that will take you over the finish line. That’s what was missing versus Chelsea. Though, yes, we eventually got behind their defence in injury time to create that Ozil chance.

    As far as the spine is concerned, I think Henry wants to see recognised names in there. Henry had Seaman and Lehmann in goal, Adams/Keown/Campbell at CB, Vieira/Gilberto in CM, and then himself up top. Recognised names. He’s seen that era under Wenger and it was successful. He probably wants to see the same sort of investment now that’s an option. I like Ospina too, but yes, there are better than him out there. He’s praised Coq and I don’t think he meant replace him.

    Lastly, as far as the Ozil/Cesc comment was concerned, I agree that it was a little rash. It was throwing statistics without delving into the reasons behind them. Different types of players playing in different systems. I won’t go into those details. Plus he had a great partnership with Cesc so a bit of bias must have crept into that.

    Anyway, like another reader has commented above, Henry was probably just as frustrated and hurt to see us draw a blank and spoke his mind rather than jumping on the bandwagon. Credit should be given where it’s due and criticism where it’s due. Yes we can’t win every game, doesn’t mean we can’t look at areas for improvement if we don’t win.

    I’ll stop now, written a bit too much 🙂

  9. Alex April 27, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    Okay, thanks for the feedback everyone. It was a long day, so I’ll be short on clearing up some points. And will, of course, try addressing all of you. Apart from the guy who has likened Ozil to an oaf. It’s not constructive and will lead us nowhere.

    Firstly, I was a bit emotional when writing the article. Mostly because I was stunned by Henry’s comments.

    I took the defensive approach not because I don’t think Henry has no point at all, but because he seemed to have just given in to public opinion without analysing whether it was right and to what extent. He just jumped on the bandwagon, which is sad. Thought he knew better. Doesn’t mean I don’t love Henry, of course I do, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything he says.

    I also tried to look at the situation from Wenger’s perspective. Do you honestly think AW will buy a GK if both Chezza and Ospina stay? Or a CB if Mertesacker stays? Or a DM if we keep both Coquelin and Arteta? Mikel is out captain, after all.

    Same with Giroud. Wenger always puts a lot of faith in his players, he won’t consign Olivier to the bench, esp after such a good season. Moreover, as I’ve written before, I believe Wenger has a project with strikers and I don’t think he’ll just give it up.

    It doesn’t mean I PERSONALLY think we can’t do better than Szczesny, Arteta or Giroud. Doesn’t mean I think they are the best there is. I’m not blind or deluded. I just don’t think it’s likely anyone would be brought in unless someone departs

    Thanks everyone

  10. Phil23 April 28, 2015 at 2:48 am #

    I agree in most with your article! My personal shopping list for Arsene would be 3 players. Only one of them in the part of the ‘spine’ of the pitch.
    Firstly, I think that we have been a little weak in the attacking areas in terms of fullbacks for our playing style. Munich and Barca have brilliant fullbacks who attribute to them breaking down teams who sit back. Bellerin is fast becoming my favorite player! I’m just so intensely grateful for his and Coquelin’s breakthrough. They have made it so that with a couple of signings we genuinely will be title challengers next season (maybe with no signings). Anyway, back on track now, the first signing I would like to see is Jose Luis Gaya. He is a player who is the same age as Bellerin, with the same limitless potential. He has an insanely low release clause of 13m pounds. Monreal would be hard done by a little here, but tbh his stock has never been higher (we could probably get 10m for him), he is about to hit 30 and Gibbs needs another chance before his form and morale completely drop.
    Next stop, a tall, strong b2b midfielder. Flamini must go, not to be replaced, as he has already been replaced by Coquelin. We only need one purely defensive mid at Arsenal, we aren’t Chelsea ffs. The impossible dream is Pogba. The near impossible dream is Javi Martinez. The more probable option is Schneiderlin. I know Kondogbia is flavor of the month but I haven’t seen enough of his passing game/stats to comment.
    Finally, I would love our marquee signing this season to be Marco Reus. He has said great things about us in the past, idolizes Rosicky, plays beside Ozil for Germany and has just lost his coach. Tactically I feel he would fit perfectly. An attacking midfield trio of Reus Ozil Sanchez would provide us with the best attacking midfield trio in the world. All three have pace, dribbling ability and the ability to pick a pass. If only we had a forward who was solely dedicated to linking up with these insane midfielders and using his strength to keep both central defenders occupied…

    With these three additions, we will have a much improved attack, as well as improved strength and height in midfield when needed. Anyone who questions our defence need to have a look at it since Coquelin, Bellerin and Paulista additions. This is in addition to Monreals form, Debuchy and Chambers purchases in the summer. Thats pretty much 6 additions in defence! P.s Last year we had Szczeny get golden glove, this season he has been replaced by an even better keeper. Explain why this is a pressing issue..?

    P.s.s if you haven’t learnt much about Jose Luis Gaya you should have a study! The idea of him and Bellerin bombing down our wings for years to come brings a tear to the eye. 😉

  11. Donnie April 28, 2015 at 6:58 am #

    I’ve always said don’t ask for an opinion from any players because 90% of them leaves little to be desired. I don’t know why players feels they have the right to criticize as soon as they stop playing. The guy lost it long time ago and if he keeps running his mouth he will lose all respect people have for him

  12. Victor Thompson April 28, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    I agree that Thierry is only an average TV Pundit. Compared to Gary Neville who wouldn`t have laced his boots as a player.

    I don`t agree with his analysis. Ozil was the classiest player on the pitch. As for laziness, he did more running than anyone on either team. He can control a ball and manouver for his pass in one movement without breaking sweat, which often gains him space where there was none. The pass he delivers will be accurate in direction, distance and weight on 75% of the time. You have to appreciate the subtleties of the game to appreciate Ozil. It is the difference between fine dining and fish and chips.

    The reason we did not win the game was down to Wenger`s tactics again. Terry and Cahill stuck to Geroud and nullified him. We had no one else consistently in the box or running at them. All the treat was confined to the centre of the pitch where Terry and Cahill were comfortable because it was all happening in front of them. They did not have to turn and run the whole game.

    We played narrow and Ramsey and Sanchez made it worse by coming inside which meant that their left back was hardly ever required to play as a left back. He bolstered the centre of the defence leaving no room to get through.

    Wenger went back to his old ways, waiting until the 70th minute before making substitutions even though it was clear before the half time whistle, that we were not set up to breach their defence.

    The space left by Azpilicueta on the right wing was crying out for Walcott and Ozil could have delivered diagonal passes to him forcing Azpilicueta to move out to mark him. That would have widened their defence and Terry and Cahill would have had to turn to cope with runners into the space left behind.

    Instead he brought Welbeck on whose first touch is poor and who does not make the full back stick to his position the way Walcott does. Can anyone recall one incident where one of our players actually ran at their defence? This is not a crticism of Welbeck. It is an analysis of “horses for courses”. Mourinho had Wenger sussed out from the start. His team was set up to do a job based on the premise that Wenger would not play Walcott. He stacked his midfield and central defence knowing that Wenger would react by locking horns in those areas where we would be tied up.

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