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.
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.