Chelsea 2 - 1 Arsenal
Looking to close the gap on the top four, Arsenal travelled across London to face Chelsea at a snowy Stamford Bridge. The Blues have proven to be tough opposition in recent years, so with both teams out of form, today’s London Derby was set to be close. In the end, Arsenal just didn’t have it in their locker.
The first half was nothing short of a nightmare for Arsenal. Immediately after kick-off, Chelsea passed the ball around with ease, unpressured by the Gunners. They pierced the Arsenal defences within a matter of seconds, with Eden Hazard looking particularly dangerous.
In the fifth minute, Theo Walcott played a good pass to Giroud, setting him free in the box. Arsenal desperately needed a goal to alleviate the pressure, but the Frenchman’s shot went wide of the far post. It should have been an easy finish.[quote_right]”Theo’s goal had provided a much-needed boost to an already improving Arsenal display, and for large patches of the second half, The Gunners looked very likely to equalise.”[/quote_right]
Less than a minute later, a blatant foul of Coquelin was ignored by the referee, and Chelsea played a long through-ball to the feet of Juan Mata, who was not being tightly marked by Bacary Sagna. The Spaniard’s first touch was sublime, and he slammed the ball past a helpless Szczesney, showing Giroud how to finish a chance.
The game should have been stopped for the foul by Ramires on Coquelin, however the fact of the matter remains that Arsenal were not switched on defensively, or indeed, offensively.
Bacary Sagna looked disinterested, and Abou Diaby was playing with a nervous disposition. Santi Cazorla was once again giving balls away regularly, offering nothing in the final third except a very well taken long-shot, which was parried by Petr Cech. Besides that, Arsenal looked toothless in the final third.
Arsenal’s problem was compounded when just ten minutes later, Ramires found himself unmarked by Sagna yet again. Szczesney raced out, but Ramires’ quick movement of the ball forced Szczesney to bring him down. Luckily, it was only a Yellow card.
Frank Lampard stepped up and tucked the ball away confidently, sending Stamford Bridge into jubilation for the second time in ten minutes.
Chelsea continued to threaten throughout the first period, whilst the Gunners wasted chance after chance. Arsenal were yet again faced with a mountain to climb going into half time.
The second half held some drastically improved football from Arsenal. Francis Coquelin built upon his impressive first half to cut out any Chelsea attacks and distribute good passes through the middle. Jack Wilshere was also rejuvinated, and was not looking to give up.
In the fifty-eighth minute, a relatively poor Santi Cazorla played an exquisite ball through to Theo Walcott, putting him one-on-one with Cech. The Englishman opened his body up and curled the ball into the near corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. Game on.[quote_left]”In the end, Arsenal’s continued attacks were shut out by a defensively solid Chelsea side. A terrible first half had handicapped the Gunners, damning them to yet another defeat.”[/quote_left]
Theo’s goal had provided a much-needed boost to an already improving Arsenal display, and for large patches of the second half, The Gunners looked very likely to equalise.
Olivier Giroud however was not having a good day at the office. Chances were spurned time and time again, and as time ticked on, Arsenal really needed to find a goal. Arshavin was thrown on for Diaby, and Ramsey replaced an injured Coquelin, to try to galvanise an Arsenal comeback.
Unfortunately, no such galvanisation took place. Arsenal’s determination wavered, and the attacks became less and less dangerous as the final whistle loomed.
In the final moments, Demba Ba, who replaced Fernandos Torres in the second half, made a brilliant run behind Mertesacker, and rounded an oncoming Szczesney. Thomas Vermaelen however, positioned himself expertly in the open goal, and managed to block Demba Ba’s shot on goal.
In the end, Arsenal’s continued attacks were shut out by a defensively solid Chelsea side. A terrible first half had handicapped the Gunners, damning them to yet another defeat.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
Couldn’t do much for the first goal, and was left to deal with Ramires entirely alone for the penalty incident. He made some important saves throughout the match, but should have done better against Demba Ba in the closing minutes. A mixed bag.
It hasn’t been Sagna’s season, and today he may have reached new low in terms of quality in possession. He lost the ball countless times, and his crosses were below-par, even for him. He looked uninterested at times, but also showed patches of good work rate. Jenkinson needs to be called upon.
Although he didn’t make any actual mistakes, the pace of Chelsea’s front line was simply too much for poor Mertesacker. Almost grabbed a goal early in the second half.
Our Captain seems to have put his poor performances behind him after three excellent performances in a row. He tackled well all game and did brilliantly to deny Demba Ba a goal.
Kieran was once again exceptional going forward today, but added to his game by being defensively solid for a full ninety minutes, harassing Chelsea players whenever he could, and making great sliding challenges. Fast becoming a top quality left back.
So soon after returning from injury, perhaps this game came too early for Abou. He was nervous and reckless at times in the centre, giving away the ball and getting caught in possession. Subbed.
MOTM. We needed a stellar defensive performance from Francis today, and he over-delivered. Coquelin put in some great challenges, and dribbled his way out of danger on a few occasions too. His passing was also faultless, making sure Wilshere was well fed. Huge prospect.
You always know that Jack will give 100%, and today was no exception. He hustled all game, trying his best to create chances for Giroud & Walcott. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the impact we needed to equalise.
Santi was played out on the left again, but drifted inside anyway. His pass for Walcott’s goal was sublime, however his overall performance was poor. Misplaced passes galore, paired with poor defensive work in the first half. Needs a rest.
Theo took his chance beautifully, and very nearly inspired an Arsenal comeback. He did well defensively also, but needs to bring himself into the game more by drifting inside, especially when he is being isolated.
A very poor performance from Giroud today. Chances passed him by all game, and he failed to take advantage of any of them. He had the first major chance of the game, which could have changed the course of the match. Not short of confidence at least, after a hopeful longshot late in the second half.
Replaced an injured Coquelin and looked extremely nervous. He gave the ball away twice in the Arsenal half, but did manage to make some good passes forward.
Had one spell on the ball, which he ran out of play. Epitomised Arsenal’s day.
[title]Singing The Blues[/title]
Yet again, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot with defensive errors and poor organisation in the first half. Sagna, Diaby, Cazorla & Giroud all had extremely poor starts, and against a team like Chelsea, that will never go unpunished.
Arsenal need to pick themselves up and re-gain their lost confidence. We simply cannot afford to drop any more points. Extravagant wins are not needed. We just need to get our heads down, and win games proffessionally. Chelsea taught us a lesson today, let’s hope we learn it. Next up, West Ham.
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Photograph: Guardian - Nick Potts/PA