As you probably know, yesterday was the first game I attended live. And boy what a good game that was. I wasn’t able to write a preview because of the whole “changing countries” thing, but if did, I would have to mention our atrocious record against Chelsea. We last won a game against the Blues in 2011 (the 5-3 at Stamford Bridge), our last home win happened in 2010 (the 3-1). Since then the best we managed were occasional draws. Last season we lost twice without scoring a goal. Actually, I’m not sure we scored any goals against Chelsea since that 5-3. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t.
However none of that matters now. It’s history, it’s in the past, it’s consigned to virtual books. As I didn’t watch the game on TV, my review will be different to the usual musings. But I will duly break it into sections. Starting with:
I was sitting behind Cech’s goal during the first half, and then Cortois during the second, so discerning what was happening on the other side of the pitch was challenging. However, the sheer amount of time we spent in the opposition half, accompanied by 3 goals (2 of them coming inside the first 15 minutes) and the fact Chelsea had one moment near Cech’s goal during the opening 45 minutes gives me a shrewd idea about how good our players have been.
Think we could have scored even more, Cortois did well to prevent another Walcott goal, Alexis fired one wide from a promising position and Giroud couldn’t keep his side-footed effort on target late on, but I really can’t have any complaints about the players taking their chances. I do know for certain most of our on-target shots ended up in the back of net.
Mustafi and Koscielny have been great (at least in the first half)
Both defenders have spent the game on the front foot and did well at stopping any advances at our goal. Mustafi headed the ball away more times than I care to remember, while Koscielny took it upon himself to eliminate Costa as a threat. The Frenchman was so wonderfully cynical without getting a yellow card and only fouling Costa a couple of times in the entire game, that the striker snapped at the end and earned himself a booking for dissent. Now he’s just one yellow away from a suspension, 6 games into a season. Wonderful.
On a side note, it was interesting to see Holding picked ahead of Gabriel for the bench. It really is starting to look like Gabriel won’t make it with us, just like Chambers probably won’t. It’s a real shame, Gabriel was exciting early on, the Everton game in the cup stands out especially, but he just didn’t gel with Koscielny (something Mustafi appears to have accomplished already) and never got that mad streak out of himself. He’s aggressive, which can be a good quality for a defender in itself, but he’s also reckless at times. He’s also prone to losing his position. Oh well. You can’t have every signing working out well.
Finally, while we are on the subject of our defense, I was really nervous about Monreal prior to the game, because I know Willian can be a handful for anyone. Couple that with Iwobi’s usual defensive workrate and we could have had a Mane-like failure. While I can’t say whether Iwobi has been more diligent this time around, I do know Willian didn’t enjoy himself and was hauled off at the hour mark or so. On the other wing Bellerin and Theo proved too much for Hazard, and the Belgian was also subbed, together with Willian.
Coquelin went off
Our French destroyer appears to have pulled a muscle going into a challenge he successfully completed, and he couldn’t continue. He jogged off himself with the physio by his side, so it shouldn’t be anything serious, but of course it’s a blow. Here’s hoping he’ll return after the break at the latest, because Xhaka, for all good qualities, is not Coquelin (surprise!)
Another one of our midfielders didn’t even make the bench for health reasons. I’m talking about Aaron Ramsey. He should have been back after the September break, instead he’ll now return after October break at best. I understand we are being careful with him, however I can’t help but worry about Aaron’s ongoing hamstring issues.
Our second goal was awesome
The first one has been brought about by Alexis’ pressing Cahill into a mistake (Luiz went on an adventure at the time and couldn’t cover for Cahill), the third involved moments of magic from both Ozil and Alexis (that turn from Ozil, ooof), but the second one? It was classic Arsenal. Vintage Wengerball. A series of quick passes near the box, followed by Iwobi releasing Bellerin and the Spaniard cutting a cross into Walcott’s path. The Englishman was left with a simple task of tapping it in.
Cech looks imposing even from the back
For your information, it’s not easy. Cortois looked sorrowful in comparison. Although it might have something to do with Chelsea letting in 3 goals.
Anyway, Cech was calmness impersonated. He didn’t have much to do (his save from Batshuayi shot late on was brilliant, though), but his attitude rubbed off on our defenders. Even when a Willian shot fizzed just wide with the score still 0-0, Cech didn’t move a muscle.
The guy to the right of me only had two things to say
During the first half it was an instruction aimed at Cech (“take your time”), during the second it was aimed at any our player close to goal (“shoot”). It was exceptionally hilarious to witness him do that when Xhaka was on the ball some 30 yards away in an uncomfortable position. I do know Xhaka scored two rockets, but you can’t honestly expect him to do that every game. We shouldn’t turn him into our Coutinho, who appears to have a cart blanche on the ball in this regard.
I have seen us win by a 3-goal margin quite often. I have seen us go 3 up before half time a number of times. I have never seen us do either vs Chelsea. Maybe my memory is failing me, but I don’t think we’ve achieved such a thing once in the 12 years I’ve been supporting the club.
That fills me with endless joy, multiplied tenfold by the fact I’ve witnessed it live, with 60 thousand fellow Gooners (alright, less, but you get the idea). It’s a bit of a shame no one took it upon himself to start the “One Arsene Wenger” chant, as it was a great performance on the back of Arsene’s anniversary, but that’s a small complaint. I’ve given Arsene a lot of stick lately, now I owe him words of gratitude for such a performance and the win. For persisting with the same squad and getting it right. For making the day out unforgettable.
Back here to cover our Basel game (hopefully) unless I’m drowned in the tide of taking up a completely new course in another country.