The First Deadly Shin

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You know how in some matches, it gets to the point in the proceedings when the realization hits you that, barring something out of the blue, both teams could toil away all they like, but neither is going to score in a month of Sundays?

Well, for a match of yesterday’s magnitude – current champs v former champs, plus all the other baggage – I felt as relaxed as anything during the second half. Stuck my feet up and waited for the game to end, (without a goal), I did.

Then of course an offside Drogma shins it past Jens Lehmann into the goal, and given the game was destined to remain goalless until that freak intervention, the game might as well have ended then and there.

I think in most areas of the pitch we proved there is nothing to get in a tizz about – we defended well (a few Senderos wobbles aside), we passed well – but we were insipid up front, and that’s what some people are going to focus on this morning. If you save your first shot on target until the 76th minute, you have to accept that a fluke, clumsy goal can finish you off. It did us.

Naturally, you have to give some credit to the defensive unit of Chelski for that: It’s the same defensive unit that let in 15 league goals all last season, plus two new additions (very expensive left-back and even more expensive holding midfielder). But we didn’t test them half enough, we were way too cautious for a team that prides itself on knowing how to score, and that’s the main disappointment this morning.

Once again, we looked for that elaborate final ball rather than shooting, and with shooting opportunities at a premium anyway, it made the whole job harder. Nor did starting with one striker (Pires played behind Henry, in an unusual role).

The boss, usually careful not to be too critical, made his true feelings felt after the game. “The overall level of the game was not satisfactory for me,” he said, “It was disappointing. I expected a much better game and we had a lot of possession but lacked incisiveness and physical pressure on their defenders”.

Most tellingly of all, he added, “We basically gave the game away. I would love my squad to have a bit more belief and not accept just to lose games like that”.

And before I end – where was Reyes?


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.