There are ways to make this piece an epic one. Considering the result, it would not be too hard to do that but also because of the result, there’s no need for any of that. The 5-3 drubbing we dished out to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge should take all the headlines and praises. It was our first away win of the league season and what a way to do it.
As the scoreline suggest, this was a mad game and an emotional roller-coaster for everyone involved. It was a case of trying to outdo each other in terms of who has the worse defence. Luckily for us, we only took part in the mini game in the first 45 minutes while the home side was still trying to win that challenge up until the final whistle.
There were no major surprises sprung by either manager in the starting line-up. Arsene Wenger persisted with the same back four that has won the last 2 games, which meant a place on the bench for Thomas Vermaelen. Knowing that it was a makeshift unit, Andre Villas Boas set his team to take full advantage of it.
Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres must have been instructed to use their pace to get behind of our fullbacks at every opportunity. Frank Lampard and Mata were the provider in those cases, looking to play the ball over the top quickly behind either Andre Santos or Johan Djourou. To be fair, it was a tactic which worked. We’ll just have to thank the stars for Chelsea’s poor finishing and some inspired piece of goalkeeping on Wojciech Szczesny’s part.
At the other end, Theo Walcott’s pace was pinning Ashley Cole back and like previous meetings, the former seemed to have a penchant when up against the Blues. He scored his first for Arsenal against Chelsea and was outstanding in last season’s reverse fixture. Walcott delivered 2 tantalising crosses first for Gervinho, then for Robin Van Persie. Neither converted but take nothing away from the quality of both deliveries. It must be noted that at this point, I was thinking back to the Laurent Koscielny’s missed header last season and fear that we may rue those missed chances.
Just when we seemed to composed ourselves after a difficult start, we go behind. Not that we don’t have any experience in that regard. Mata delivered a pin point cross for Lampard to head home the first of the 8 goals thriller. Per Mertesacker, for all his positional brilliance, was caught out for this one and must take the blame for conceding this one.
Parity was restored 9 minutes before the end of the first half. Aaron Ramsey provided the moment of inspiration, faking a shot only to perform a reverse pass to Gervinho. The pass was perfect and so was the timing of the run. The offside trap was broken and we were in for a chance. After missing the initial chance with Walcott’s cross, Gervinho decided to lay it off for RvP to tap home.
Going into half time level would be an acceptable state of affairs but we were denied even that. Corner to Chelsea and John Terry scored from it (he would later redeem himself). Again Mertesacker will have to bear some of the responsibility for this one too. Failing to track Terry and was not close enough to him to put in a challenge. Conceding at the stroke of half time is never good and one wonders the psychological impact of that goal on the Arsenal team.
Something was needed during the half time team talk to spark the players into life. While at times, we looked menacing going forward, we lacked the defensive solidarity when defending. It could be some inspirational speech from Wenger or could even from RvP. I’m not discounting the chance that Stan Kroenke went in and said something. Heck, both Bob Wilson and Robert Pires could also be in attendance, using their birthday to rouse the players. Whatever was done, it worked.
We came out in the second half with much more purpose and intent. We went from being behind to leading the game in the space of 10 minutes. First, Alex Song provided the accurate pass to free Santos on the left and the Brazilian continued a long tradition of Arsenal left back to have scored at Stamford Bridge (only a money-grabbing, currently playing in the blue shirt has not been able to do that). Then Walcott made a goal out of nothing. It was unbelievable how quickly he got up after a tumble to slalom past 2 Chelsea players, before slamming the ball past a hapless Petr Cech.
Chelsea were deflated, try as they might, they could not find a way past a far more resolute Arsenal defence in the second half. Laurent Koscielny again the star in the back four but the improvement from the others deserved plaudits as well. Santos, Djourou and Mertesacker never allowed another player in blue get past them. In front of these 4, Song was immense. Covering every inch of the pitch and doing what he does best.
We were in control of the match and looked on course for another win when the referee decided to interfere. Andre Marriner has already created much ire out of me as he was giving most decisions Chelsea’s way and none ours. Although, his decision not to send off Szczesny’s wild lunge at Cole outside of the penalty box, probably helped us. He goes on to balance that by deciding that Santos was not held back by Romelu Lukaku and allowed Mata space to take a shot. It was deflected and moving at all sorts of angle. Scores were level with 10 minutes to go.
Then, it was about Terry. Somehow, he did not realise that by diving when no one is around him, he was never going to get Marriner to blow the whistle. In came, RvP who easily rounded the Cech for our fourth goal. RvP later put the icing on the cake with a swerving shot which came from a counter attack. That was game, set and match.
While RvP and Koscielny will take most of the plaudits, our midfield combination was nothing short of awesome as well. Ramsey was industrious and again showed what a great talent he is. Mikel Arteta may not look spectacular but he kept possession well and did all the simple things. Song, as aforementioned.
There’s been a few big margin victories for teams expected to contest for the Premiership. We were involved in one of those drubbing as well. In the context of the title, it may not mean much and can be considered freak results. However, I do hope great belief and confidence can be drawn from what we achieved yesterday. 8 wins in 9 games now and we must keep the run going.
Only one team in London.