Oct 032010

Chelsea 2 (Drogba 39, Alex 85) Arsenal 0

At first glance, it looks all too familiar – a comfortable win for the hosts, with us failing to break down their defence, a victory for power and organisation over technical passing. Oh, and Drogba scored again.

But in many ways, this was very different from the heavy defeats Chelsea inflicted on us last season. On those occasions, we dominated possession but created practically nothing, and our defending was woeful enough to play right into their hands. In short, we never looked like beating them or even containing them.

Today, we stretched them far more, and until the final few minutes when the game was up, had as many chances to score. But credit to Chelsea – give them a sniff and they pounce. Both goals were brilliantly and clinically taken, the types of finish you need to win big games, and when opportunity presented itself to us, we fluffed our lines.

It may be a cliché to say the first goal is crucial in football, but it never holds truer than in these encounters. If Chelsea get it, they can happily sit back and soak up pressure, drawing you in before hitting you on the counter. Their defensive organisation makes that work. But if you get the opener, they are forced out, away from their gameplan, and they can lose defensive shape as a result.

Of course, it is easier said than done, but we’ll never have a better pair of chances to make it happen – Chamakh shot fractionally wide within the first twenty seconds, and then Koscielny inexplicably back-headed over from two yards out, with Cech nowhere. Barely a minute had passed.

Later, Nasri shot just wide after a mazy run, and Arshavin forced a stunning save from Cech. Chelsea were rocking – we were closing down superbly and dragging them out of position all over the field. But with every missed opportunity, you sensed we would regret not capitalising on our superiority.

The inevitable arrived – Nasri switched off, allowing Cole to run beyond him while Malouda occupied Sagna, and Cole’s cross found Drogba at a difficult near post angle. At first I thought his finish was a fluke, but that is doing him a disservice – it was a superb piece of improvisation to backheel the ball off the inside of the post, past a stranded Fabianski. It was against the run of play, but it showed us exactly what we were missing.

We had even more of the ball in the second half, but as I said earlier, with Chelsea now ahead, they could soak up pressure and counter, and as a result we created far less. In fact, the best opportunities came to the hosts – Anelka pounced on the ball after Squillaci dallied, rounded the keeper and then rolled wide at the near post before Cole had a goal disallowed for offside, which was marginal at best.

But at 1-0, we were still in it, and our fighting display continued. The best chance fell to Chamakh, who headed Rosicky’s cross wide, minutes before Alex lashed in an unstoppable free kick. Yes, the shot went through the wall, but it was a gap Malouda vacated, and those blaming Song are being overly harsh.

With the game gone, we lost our shape badly, and only impressive saves from Fabianski to deny Essien and Cole stopped it becoming a rout, which would have been highly unfair.

As it is, we were given a lesson in taking your chances. Of course you can point to the absentees – Cesc and Van Persie would surely have made more of the dangerous positions we found ourselves in, and Walcott would have pinned Cole further back, but we still had a team capable of causing plenty of problems, and they found themselves unable to make their mark.

Our crossing was particularly woeful, barring Sagna’s excellent delivery inside the first minute. Time and time again we failed to beat the first man, and corner after corner was easily dealt with. Arshavin had an off day – occasional flashes of brilliance too often aligned with basic errors and sloppy passing. And the less said about Clichy’s two long range efforts, the better.

But there were a host of positives too. Sagna was excellent, Diaby also decent until his ankle was crunched by Essien. Wilshere held his own amongst far more experienced players, and Fabianski kept the score down and could do nothing about either goal. But more than that, our attitude was spot on – the players pressed and harried throughout, showing the sort of fight that was lacking last weekend, and despite what seems like an endless run of defeats to Chelsea, can come away with their heads held high.

This was not a sloppy performance, we were not vulnerable at corners, we were not physically overrun. We just missed our chances, and they took theirs. Sometimes football is that simple.

We have two weeks to stew over this, so I’ll leave it there for now. My final point is to the Sky pundits – there is a world outside the Premiership, you morons. Jamie Redknapp and Andy Gray both based their pre-match analysis on neither of our new centre backs having ‘ever faced the likes of Drogba before’, another example of extraordinary ignorance from men paid to inform us about the game. Where did Chelsea sign Drogba from? Marseille. Where did Squillaci played his entire career prior to 2008? France. Sigh.

Today was a blow, but it wasn’t terminal. Stay positive.

  22 Responses to “When the first goal is so crucial, you cannot miss sitters”

  1. this is a really great article, full of positives but not being particularly too biased either. i hope it gets some more recognition, and ill be sure to follow this blog more often. :)

    we are arsene wenger’s red army!

    • Thank you – I try to be fair, and sometimes you have you hold your hands up and appreciate what the opposition did. But there’s plenty to be positive about.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with the article. The boys played well, just lacked the cutting edge. So disappointed at looking the better side for most of the game but that lot always looked like they had a measure of control. Thank God Cashleys goal was disallowed :P Up the Arse!

  3. I watched the 2 games from last season. Especially at the Bridge, we had several chances to score. More than they had. Difference was we were better in defence today.

    • I concede that we had some chances at the Bridge, and certainly that we had a huge amount of possession, but I don’t recall a hatful of chances – some good positions, but not clearcut chances.

      I guess the difference for me today was that in both matches last season, once Chelsea took the lead the result was never in question. But this year they seemed less comfortable dealing with us – we stretched them further and for me, created more.

      Last year we gifted them goals, this time they earned them.

  4. Trash! Kiip on makin xcuses for wenger’s shortcomings..the man’ tactically inept,he has lost his winning drive n has surely impacted HS lack of ambition in HS players.he should shape up or ship out.y’ll should stop coverin for that man..God!ARSENAL FC is not a financial institution.its a club!Let’s call a spade,a spade,is chamakh really the striker we need? I feel for the likes of fab,rvp etc I blame the fans!if wenger n d board won’t sit up, Boycott the game entirely!since they hv chosen to ignore their fans! Gd nite..its still gunners till d day my number’s called!

    • *sigh*

      I hear this ‘Wenger is tactically inept’ tripe quite often. This is the man who revolutionised the English game, playing a style the Premiership (at least in the modern era) had not before seen, and won trophies with it. Tactically inept? Do one.

      Writing off Chamakh already, when he’s offering something we previously didn’t have and has three goals already? Precisely the type of overboard fickle ‘fan’ that is sadly becoming the norm.

      Go ahead and boycott any game you like, you won’t be missed.

  5. Thank God, a blog that is actually worth reading. I am sick to death of all the so-called fans bitching and moaning whenever we lose, and act as nothing has happened when we win. Great job mate, keep it up!

  6. I thought that Fabianski should be mentioned too in this article. His contribution was not little against Chelsea.Watch the match again and you will know that he played with confidence and was decisive. The way how he handled crosses had shown that a confident Fabianski is a good Fabianski. He had neither punched the ball away but caught it firmly. Fabianski should be our no.1 at the moment and I don’t see a reason why wenger should replace him with Almunia.

  7. Yo Pete, what Wenger has done for the game in general and for the club many moons ago cannot compensate for a draw against Sunderland and a loss to WBA. It does not compensate for the lack of killer instinct in the team. Make a man for man comparison between the Arsenal team and these 2 teams we just couldn’t beat. Compare their resumes and the money they earn. Wenger’s previous achievements do not compensate for having no ambition and drive. It cannot be the basis for accepting Wenger’s excuses for 6 seasons running. Wenger has developed a loser mentality – satisfied with being on the periphery of success. And that laid back mentality is rubbing off on the team. He is in his twilight years as a manager. He has lost the plot. He is just feeding his coffers till its time for him to hang up his trainers. Lets face it – Arsenal are just not good enough. The trophy cabinet will remain empty until Wenger is replaced. We Need Jose Murinhio – a winner – a no nonsense manager who will make players fight for their place in the starting line up. Its about time you guys faced the facts and stopped making excuses for a manager whose main priority is sucking up to the Board. No real, passionate Arsenal fan will accept what we are witnessing today especially given the kind of money the club pays these monkeys.

    • “what Wenger has done for the game in general and for the club many moons ago cannot compensate for a draw against Sunderland and a loss to WBA”

      That is truly one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard. Years and years of fantastic work doesn’t mean as much as two matches?

      Get a grip.

      And no ‘real, passionate’ fan accepts what is going on? What irritates me about that sort of statement is that you think you speak for all fans. You don’t. You speak for a section of fans.

  8. I thought the team performance was overall pretty good, we created some pretty good chances and even the defending was reasonable. The first goal was always going to be decisive. The only thing I wonder about is that this is the third goal in three games which Cashley Cole has assisted against us. Chelski’s been most dangerous down his flank for a couple of seasons now. Whoever is the right forward, Arshavin last year (who had switched flanks) and Nasri today need to be aware of him. They switched off and Cashley was free to pick out his cross. Maybe Eboue needs to start on that side in order to be more secure defensively.

  9. You know, apart from the fact that I hate losing (and I particularly hate losing to Chelsea), I don’t find myself all that down after the game.

    At the end of the day, you just have to hold your hands up and accept that things don’t always go your way. We were neither outplayed nor out-muscled, and deserved at least a point. Not bad for a team with half its players injured.
    Hardly a mention has been made of the fact that the spine of the time was absent; Almunia (rate him or not, he’s the regular #1), Vermaelen, Fabregas and Van Persie.
    All the doom and gloomers out there answer me this: would Chelsea have fared so well minus Cech, Terry, Essien and Drogba? I don’t think so.

    Of course you have to be disappointed with the result, but the performance? Considering the personnel missing and the new centre back pairing, in years past they’d have destroyed such a makeshift side.

    I think the team’s finally coming together… though whether we can keep our better players fit long enough to actually win anything this year remains to be seen.

    • I agree – I’m gutted we lost but nowhere near as down as after last season’s defeats. The signs are good. There is issues to solve, but it feels like we’re making good progress.

  10. I like the author of this post, no knee-jerk “sack Wenger” cry like some other plastic so call Arsenal fans tend to do after a defeat. Instead, good analysis of the game.

  11. @wengerbasher,

    Quite a lot of Liverpool fans saying the same thing on their ex-manager Rafa and couldn’t wait to call for his head. Now they got their wish, and see what happens! If u don’t think Wenger is up for the job, who else do you think is? how about sack Wenger and hire Roy Hodgson? I am ashamed to have fellow Arsenal supporters like you.

  12. As disappointed as I was to lose to Chel$ki AGAIN and that horse -face Drogba scoring again, I remain hopeful by the performance shown. We just need some luck with our injuries and players turning it on when it matters! Great article. Expresses all the thought that I had chained inside my head.

  13. @ Pete,stop livin in d past..get bk to the present.Wenger has infected u all! So we can’t survive witout Wenger?havnt we won trophies b4 him?y’ll act lyk Wenger is indispensable! Well, he’s not! AFC is nuthn but a joke ds days’thanks to wenger,the board n ppl lyk u Pete!

    • Ever notice how so many of the most fickle fans write in text speak?

      I’ve never understood why people use text speak when space isn’t limited. Hard to read, and completely pointless. There we go.

      Look, you’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to disagree. I just happen to think there is a large section of Arsenal support who won’t fully appreciate Wenger until a few years after he’s gone.

  14. Great article very well balanced I all these big games the first scorer generally goes on to win the game and we were unlucky yesterday plus were missing some of our top players.

    I have faith in Wenger and Arsenal and it will be only a matter of time before we win trophies again… the club is in excellent shape not just financially, the squad I think he improved on last season and the youths coming through are amazing

  15. Pete,call me wateva u lyk..I don’t care..but do u hav a crush on Wenger? U sound lyk a groupie for chrissake! If criticising Wenger makes me a fickle fan,its al gd,atleast I dnt hav another man’s (u kn wat) in my mouth..Arsenal for life!

    • And therein lies my point. The minute someone disagrees with you, you take the obscene route of reply.

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion – you, me, the man at the pub, everyone. Just don’t be a dick about it.

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