Indefensible defence and a lesson in possession

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea

Had Giroud not skewed a very decent chance to equalise wide in the dying breaths of the game yesterday, we might all be taking a different tack this morning. But it didn’t happen and taken as a whole there’s no getting away from the fact that it was a hefty bump back to earth.

Possessed

From my vantage point we never had control of the game and that’s what it boils down to. Chelsea were more composed but above they kept the ball really well. The Opta stats suggest that we edged possession 51.4% – 48.6% but from where I was sitting it was us hurrying our passing, stretching to retain it or scrabbling to win it back. Chelsea also harried really well to retain it. That might explain why Cazorla had such a quiet day – not that he was the only one.

That old chestnut

Nevertheless, things might have been different had we defended better. I do think we have made big strides already this season but yesterday it was a return to the dark old days where set pieces induced what can only be described as a case of the heebie-geebies. Wenger didn’t much like what he saw either:

Defensively we were just not at the level you have to be in a game like that, which is where we were punished today… We did not attack the ball, on either goal. The difference between Chelsea on set-pieces and us was the way they were in the air – it was obvious today.

The bottom line is that Koscielny and Vermaelen had games to forget. I was one of the many – if Twitter is any guide – who thought dropping Mertesacker was a reasonable shout given the mobility of Chelsea’s attack but clearly that didn’t work out. We should have gone with Robolegs, who is having an outstanding season, but it’s easy to say in hindsight. Prior to the season starting I’d have had Koscielny and Vermaelen as my one and two, but it speaks volumes about Per’s form that I’d now be inclined to have him as the lynchpin at the moment. If yesterday was any guide we should have gone on form and form alone. I’ve just watched the goals again and both are disasters. I’ve gone squiffy thinking about it and I can only hope that Bouldy keeps them in for defensive detention this week.

I must say though that I was again impressed with Gibbs and Jenkinson who were tenacious to the end. Our midfield had to shift around once Diaby went off – you guessed it – injured but neither Oxlade-Chamberlain nor Ramsey nor Walcott nor Cazorla were able to wrest the momentum of the game away.

Up front, neither side had bags of shots on target which makes our defensive lapses – and I suppose our inability to take the chances that did come our way – the more frustrating. Fair play to Gervinho for a sensational finish and for already matching his goals tally for the whole of last season, but he doesn’t feel like the long-term solution up front to me. Nor did bringing on Giroud have the desired effect but he didn’t have much time to get into the game, either, and by all accounts most of his goals last season came as a starter and not as a sub.

We’re now some distance – seven points – off the top already but it’s not time to don the hairshirt yet. We were second best in possession yesterday, defended badly and missed a clear-cut chance to get at least a point. Room for improvement on all three counts.

Not a great day, basically.

8 thoughts on “Indefensible defence and a lesson in possession

  1. Not sure if I’m the only one that thinks this, but it seemed to me Chelsea wanted it more yesterday, they worked much harder than we did which I find rather odd.

  2. We need to move on, forget about the ‘7 points off the top’ & focus on the teams we’re competing with for 4th. That’s where our league season is. Again. It’s just where we are as a club. Denying it is madness. And it’s why the Totts result was a horror for us yesterday.
    The flaws in this side (that are obvious to everyone except Arsene) not addressed have screwed us again. If you ever want to predict where Arsenal will go wrong, check out arsenal.com pre-any game. It’s amazing. Arsene talks about how we have loads of options of front – leads to a game where our lack of options at centre-forward kills us. Arsene talks about how we’ve no defensive midfielder cos we don’t need one – leads to Chelsea breaking at speed, over & over again showing why Arteta’s lack of speed/aggression leaves him unsuited to play that role in this team. (not meant in any way to be a criticism of him as a player)….& why we clearly do need a player in that role. (watch the build up to the free for their 2nd goal if you don’t believe me)
    We’re in Groundhog Day. Forever doomed to be a couple of players short because of our manager’s stubbornness. So near in some ways but still miles away.
    Cue loads of abuse for me no doubt for over-reacting. Amazing how AKBs didn’t view their own ‘all our defensive issues are solved’ posts as over-reacting though…..
    Think about this : the same number of wins & just 2 points more than we had after 6 games last season.
    I’ll say the same thing I said this time last season : if you offered me now an end of season where we retained our CL spot, won a domestic cup & Arsene agreed to ‘move upstairs’ I’d snap your hand off…..

  3. Yesterday’s result was all of our own making, stupid losing of possession, stupid free kicks given away and a lack of fight. Arsene seems to have a culture of making players/teams think they are better than they are (Adebayor/Bendtnar/Nasri/Clichy) maybe this is a wake up call.

  4. During the period when we scored I was really impressed by Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Arteta, and of course Gervinho’s finish. Oxlade-Chamberlain really caught the eye with his first touch.

    For moans:

    Cazorla’s touch and control are every bit as good as Cesc’s (or Mata’s), but Cazorla doesn’t look like half the goal scorer Cesc is.

    I wish Gervinho would look up and pick out teammates who’ve made runs into good positions.

    Ramsey has to be more consistent (i.e., play like he did against Man City every time).

    And yes, I missed big Per.

  5. Fair points – but I still maintain we are better, or are going to be better, than last season. I do worry though about our strikers. Giroud has not done enough to reassure me yet.

  6. And maybe it’s simply that Chelsea were better than us. Shouldn’t overlook that – their £80m midfield was hard to overpower.

  7. We will be better. But we’ll actually finsh lower. Chelsea are much better. And we won’t catch the two Manc sides either. It’s 4th I best I’m afraid…..
    Totally agree with it being simply Chelsea being better than us. It’s soul-destroying reading the amount of blogs (& comments on them) talking about how we were the better team. I genuinely think there’s a generation of Gooners who are almost brainwashed into believing everything Arsene says. Terrible stuff. Watch the game & form your own opinions please.
    As regards Chelsea’s midfield being 80m quid…it’s disgusting & wrong in every way how much them & City are spending. And the chances of UEFA manning up & acting on it are virtually zero. But……..we have been in a position for 3/4 years now where every season there are glaring weaknesses in our squad not being addressed while at the same time the manager is not spending his full budget. That to me means 2 things :
    1 – we lose our right to complain about their spending. If we spend all we have & can’t compete, then we can complain. If we’re not spending our full budget, how can we complain ?
    2 – the manager is not doing his job well enough. People will strongly disagree with that no doubt but I think the facts speak for themselves.

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