Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal
Well, that was as sweet as it was unexpected.
It’s always nice to beat the Russians, and to do so in their own back yard was especially delicious. The omens hadn’t been good: Arsenal had not secured an away point since 26th October, and were leaking goals like a sieve. Chelsea had conceded 4 goals all season, Arsenal 18. Their goal difference was – still is – embarrassingly superior to ours. During the last two games – both defeats – we had looked calamitously bad and lacked fight.
So of course, it was typical Arsenal to pull off a win. Thanks to a quick-fire brace just after the hour, we grabbed control of a game it didn’t look like we were going to grab control of, and saw the last half an hour of the game out with surprising ease.
There was no lack of effort yesterday, but for the first 60 minutes, Chelsea were largely in control. Our defence was doing pretty well, with Djourou coming in to replace Silvestre to add a bit of mobility. With Sagna back, there was more shape there too.
We had a couple of decent chances too, van Persie forcing a smart save (before Denilson dived like an arse), and Gallas just missing out on a rebound.
Unfortunately, Almunia – who had not long before punched poorly, twice – rolled the ball out, too short, and possession was conceded. The ball was whipped back in and Djourou shanked it into his own net. Almunia takes all the blame I’m afraid and while he has had some sublime moments this season, he’s looked shaky (like the rest of the team, really) over the last month or so.
So our backs were up against the wall, and a goal down, I really couldn’t see how we would get back into it. Denilson, in particular, was conceding possession for fun, and against a muscular and experienced midfield, we looked as callow as hell.
Enter van Persie. Denilson passed to the Dutchman – who was yards offside – but the lino didn’t spot it and van Persie rasped it with his wrong foot into the top right of the goal. A sublime finish. I must confess that I yelped like a helpless seal. But it was nothing to the noise that I emitted when shortly after, Adebayor headed down to RvP, who swivelled and finished neatly. The cats in the neighbourhood covered their ears.
And from then on, it was really much easier to sit the game out than you’d expect. Chelsea had no further shots on goal – in fact, they only had one all game – and the three points were ours.
I’m not going to bang on about this kick-starting our season because we’ve been here before and it hasn’t done so. Not until we’ve won three on the nose will I mention the word ‘kick’ in conjunction with the words ‘start’ and ‘season’.
Other observations: Our defence grew stronger throughout the game, and Djourou, despite his own-goal, did well. I think he has merited a start against Wigan, to be honest. Djourou and Gallas could be our best central pairing, given time.
Our midfield was short of guile and experience, but we know that already. But they did improve after we went ahead and that was nice to see.
And up front, though Adebayor looked a little rusty van Persie had an excellent game. Again, that’s clearly our best attacking pair. When Adebayor reaches his best, and assuming van Persie manages not to kick any more goalkeepers, then we have a stong front line. So long as they get service, they will get goals.
Overall, a lovely shot in the arm for gooners. And I’ll be glad to see the back of November; it’s been a most peculiar month indeed. A month in which we managed to beat Man Utd and Chelsea, but lose to Stoke, Villa and Man City.