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Not today Drog

If you’re wondering about the title, it is a reference to my yesterday’s preview on why Arsenal need to beat Chelsea. Nothing about maintaining the gap to Manchester United, nothing about overcoming our recent bout of dire results against them and certainly nothing about shutting John Terry up. It was all for the good of mankind and the preservation of mother nature’s wonderful Earth.

What a game it turned out to be. It was the right kind of game to showcase the excitement of the Premier League. Not the kind of dire chess game two weeks ago at Old Trafford (I’m pretty sure the result had no effect on my choice of comparison). Big games are supposed to be like this. The atmosphere at the Grove was fantastic from start to the end, long may that continue in other smaller games.

I would not classify this so much as a revenge but more towards the fact that we showed up. Far too many times in the past seasons, we’ve allowed the Uniteds and the Chelseas to dictate the pace of the game. This time around, Arsenal ran the show. Pressing from the first minute to the last. Not allowing a single player in blue time to settle on the ball. As I keep stressing, application is more important than talk. If the world’s best team can chase and harry without the ball, our players cannot complain when asked to put in such shifts.

The return of Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie to the starting line-up was vital. The former might still look a little off the pace sometimes during the game but otherwise showed his ability on the ball to pick out the perfect pass. The latter’s movement ensured that Terry and Branislav Ivanovic partnership had no targetman to mark and were dragged all over the pitch.

Theo Walcott was preferred over Andrey Arshavin and it was a tactic that work. Not only did the Englishman track back to support Bacary Sagna, his pace also ensured that He Who Shall Not Be Named‘s attacking instincts were curbed to the bare minimum. Attacking is certainly our best form of defence.

Johan Djourou and Lukasz Fabianski completed the changes that Arsene Wenger made from the one that started 2 weeks ago and probably in view of the Wigan game in just 2 days time. The big Swiss’ partnership with Laurent Koscielny was so good that they managed to keep Didier Drogba under wraps. The only time they couldn’t get close to the Ivorian, Chelsea scored. Drogba’s freekick nicely placed for Ivanovic to head home, albeit with the help of some slack defending from Koscielny. As a pair, they are far more mobile than when Sebastien Squillaci is in the side. This, I believe is the best central pairing minus Thomas Vermaelen.

Alex Song once again went out of his way to go against my advice and I’m thankful he did. Whatever role you may define him in, after his latest goalscoring exploit, it is hard to tell him just to sit in front of the defence. His well taken shot, just before half time was the confidence boosting shot that Arsenal needed. To be perfectly fair, he was a defensive midfielder throughout the game with only the goal and the last minute run being the only time he ventured forward.

Walcott and Fabregas were involved in the second and third goals, swapping roles in each of those. First, Walcott took advantage of Michael Essien’s misplaced clearance and ran clear through goal before laying it on a platter for Fabregas to slot into an empty net. Then Walcott nicked the ball off a shell-shocked Florent Malouda and this time he received an inch perfect pass from Fabregas before slamming in the third for Arsenal.

Jack Wilshere’s performance also deserve a special mention. He was tenacious in his play and did not look overawed facing the Essien-Lampard combination. The way he uses the ball so intelligently despite being pressured belies his real age. The fact that Song was defensive today allowed Wilshere to play his natural game and he can be seen driving forward for most part of the game.

Even with the win, we are still 2 points off the top and having played a game more. Though the game represents something else. That this team is capable of matching with the best in the league if they bring they A-game to the match. Not just for the big games but also for the others like the next one against Wigan. Match preview tomorrow.