[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=arsenal&iid=9908627″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9908627/samir-nasri-arsenal-2010/samir-nasri-arsenal-2010.jpg?size=500&imageId=9908627″ width=”380″ height=”293″ /]
Before going into the game, I must admit that I was not altogether that confident of an Arsenal success at Stamford Bridge given that we were without at least 3 of our first choice starters in Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen. It goes without saying that the notion is also guided by our poor record against them in recent seasons. While the result was not entirely unexpected, the performance was a marked improvement from the 2 hidings we got from Chelsea last season.
We succumbed to 2 clinical strikes from Didier Drogba (I know, the sequence is worrying to say the least) and Alex, one in each half. We again shaded the numbers in terms of possession and frankly were in control for most parts of the game but only failed to find the breakthrough. Early on, we did not allow Chelsea time on the ball (just as the doctor prescribed) and pressed very high up the pitch.
We got at their defence early on and Bacary Sagna came up with arguably his best cross of the season to set up Marouane Chamakh. What I like best about the Moroccan is his willingness to attack the ball rather than wait for it to drop. That got him ahead of Alex but his diving header just deflected off the Brazilian defender’s thigh and out for a corner. From the ensuing corner, Laurent Koscielny should have put us ahead but miraculously, he headed over when scoring would have been much easier.
That set the tone for the opening half as Arsenal wrested control of play with Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere at the forefront of everything good we did going forward. Andrey Arshavin had his powerful shot saved by Cech before Nasri wriggled his way past a couple of players but only managed to shoot wide of the mark. Another chance came right before half time as Arshavin lifted the ball perfectly into the path of Chamakh who decided that he needed to control the ball first and thus losing the impetus as Chelsea defenders were quick to recover.
However, before that we were already a goal down. Alex Song who was much more discipline in his role than the last 2 games, was guilty of being sloppy in possession and took far too long to release the ball. Ramires stole the ball and sent He Who Shall Not Be Named free on the left and the latter drove the ball across Arsenal’s penalty box. Who was at the end of the cross if not Drogba. Nothing Lukasz Fabianksi could do to stop it. The ball went in at the near post but the back-heel was fast and instinctive, there was really no time for the keeper to react.
That being said, I thought it was a foul on Song by Ramires and needless to say, referee Mike Dean did not have a good game. He could easily have sent off 3 players for stamping at the ankle of their opponents. It goes without saying that I hate these types of cowardice acts, even if it’s our own player. Sagna was as guilty as Michael Essien and Florent Malouda in committing those fouls.
The second half was pretty much the same as the first. We had most of the ball but lacked the penetration. As much as I hate myself for saying this but John Terry and his merry men were very happy to allow us as much possession as we can do knowing full well that we will find it hard create any sort of opening. Chelsea were only looking to counter and only left Drogba with Nicholas Anelka and Malouda up front .
Arsenal did manage to create something, the ball came to Chamakh inside the box and I thought that Ramires caught him. Even if Ramires got the ball, wouldn’t it still be a foul? Any player tripping another player should be a foul in my books, even if he got the ball first then only the man. It only means that the ball is still in play and nothing else. Chamakh also got at the end of a corner but failed to find the target.
Nasri and Song practically combined to let Chelsea kill the game. The former was already punished when not tracking He Who Shall Not Be Named for the first goal was found wanting in the second. With time and space on the right inside our own half, he chose to do an infield pass anticipating either Sebastien Squillaci or Koscielny to accept the ball, except it found neither. It went straight to Anelka who took it onto his path and drove at Koscielny. Our French defender was left with no choice but to bring his compatriot down after allowing him to skip past with the ball.
As Alex lined-up to take the free-kick, we all knew its going to be a thunderbolt. Chelsea put Malouda within our wall. That should have never been allowed to happen. I know Chelsea had every right to put a man in the wall but we should have made that man stand furthest out and not between our players. It worked like a cherry for Chelsea as Malouda broke away just as Alex was about to shoot and again Fabianksi could do nothing about the thunderous shot as it rippled the net. The image of Song ducking and moving away like he was protecting his face was nothing short of shambolic. I’m sure the shot would have stung but a player should put their body on the line for the club.
Behind every cloud there is a silver lining. In yesterday’s game, it was Fabianski. Yet again he showed assured touch and composure. That early flap when trying to claim a high ball aside, he was once again faultless and even saved a couple of one-on-ones. No doubt this display would add to his blossoming confidence. Wilshere was putting on a Scholes-que performance spraying the ball cross field to wide players albeit via a shorter distance. Against high calibre opponents, he was as calm and collective on the ball as he was playing for the U-18’s. He is nothing short of fantastic at the moment.
Unlike the performance a week ago against WBA, you can’t fault the application this time. Yet, there are still some defensive naivety which has cost us 1 point and poor finishing which has cost us the 3 points. Yet, the season is still young what with only 7 league played thus far. There’s plenty more games after this and no reason why we should not keep our optimism. Keep the faith.